NF: He’d contacted me to express his admiration for a particularly vitriolic piece I’d written about GW just before the 2004 presidential election. He also asked if there were any writing gigs going at PW . I met with him at Dirty Frank’s, realized it was the same Steven Wells whom I’d read in the NME on a weekly basis back home in Britain, laughed my arse off, and practically ran back to PW where I begged, nagged and cajoled my editorial superiors that taking Swells on board would be a very good idea. They did. And it was. A tip of the hat is in order to PW for hearing me out and taking him on.
He was a foul-mouthed borderline genius, with an uncanny ability to drive readers into pop-eyed fits of rage, and yet be hysterically funny whilst doing so. He took a blow torch to the fluffier, cozy NPR aspects that PW (and so many alt weeklies) had, was ridiculously productive, was an inspiration to myself and countless other writers, could be megalomaniacal and blushingly modest about his not inconsiderable achievements, wound up all the right people, had a political and moral compass which was faultless and, lest we forget, underneath all the ranting bluster, was a genuinely lovely bloke and an absolute sweetheart. And—and this is very important—he proved that gratuitous swearing is both big and clever.
BMc: That seems like a good place to end. Love ya, Neil.
NF: Nancy boy.
The paper you now hold in your hands, PW, has been around for 40 years—more or less. Like most media stories, it’s a bit more complicated than that. No matter the changes, though, there is a through line in the paper’s history: a renegade spirit and a determination to give voices to the voiceless.
Savage Love: Sondheim is solace