Long-time SoB chronicler Steven Wells died Tuesday after a battle with cancer. While many people have helped us fly the SoB kite higher and higher these last few years, he was the person that threw it up in the air.
He wrote about us in Philadelphia Weekly, FourFourTwo, and The Guardian…apart from a small little blurb in Sports Illustrated he was the source of all our solid media credits for months. He was at our first tailgate - he took the well-known picture of all of us there. He saw what we were really doing and what we were capable of doing before any of us did, I think. He gave us relevance.
Apart from what he did for us he was an amazing writer as well…he had the most unique voice in his pieces, and possessed an incredible ability to weave a story. He championed American soccer to his English countrymen, because he’s seen what’s been going on here (especially in the stands) and loved it.
He was the person I was looking most forward to seeing at the first game next year; I envisioned handing him another can of Phoenix Pale Ale at our second “first tailgate” in 2010. He is going to be missed.
From Gareth of Los Campesinos:
Steven Wells hated us.
Though I scowled and said he was an over the hill idiot when he started slagging us a couple of years ago, I knew, deep down, a lot of it was true. I DID have shit hair and in hindsight my embracing of ‘twee’ was embarrassing, and something I dislike in others now. He hated our band, and I respected him all the more for it. As a middling touring indie band we do a lot of interviews. And though I am always very grateful that people care to speak to us about our band, most of them are mind numbingly boring and repetitive or somebody taking a journalism degree being kooky in an attempt to make a name for themselves within student media. Whenever we’ve passed through Philadelphia, I’ve hoped he’d be in attendance, or would be there to interview us and give us the same treatment he gave B&S in the ’90s. Every time we’ve played in Philly I’ve glanced around the venues looking for some snarling bald man in a corner.
From James Brown at the Guardian:
It is perhaps fitting that in the week the NME editor joined the BBC to develop the multi-platform brand of Top Gear magazine, the most political and confrontational NME writer of the late 1980s and early 1990s should die from cancer. Steven Wells, or Swells as we knew him, was the most impossible person to work with because he knew no form of compromise, had little true interest in music, was narrow-minded and his personal hygiene and dress sense left so much to be desired that the company nurse once appeared and ordered him to remove and burn his stain-covered tracksuit bottoms. Naturally all of this made him a provocative and popular NME writer.
Swells worked at the NME because it gave him a voice — he had joined at a time when it featured articles about Right To Work Marches and CND and he expected it to stay like that forever. If he had any connection with music it was as a medium to express political comment and also occasionally to give him an adrenalin rush. If he ever did discover a new band he felt passionate about it was usually after they'd already had a hit album.
From Sean Ingle, Guardian Sport:
When Steven's emails started to become irregular we feared the worst. But his death on Tuesday, at the age of 49, still comes as a terrible shock. Journalism has lost a unique voice and guardian.co.uk/sport one of its most acerbic columnists. Many will remember him for his punkish rants and warts-and-all reportage, part Johnny Rotten, part Hunter S Thompson. But, particularly in his last few years, Steven was far nimbler and more tender than that. In his guardian.co.uk/sport columns he would urge everyone to boycott the Olympics one week and then fret about the crisis in US cheerleading the next, while his two pieces for Philadephia Weekly, which I would implore you to read, showed he could be mother-and-new-baby tender too.
Despite his fiery, come-and-have-go reputation, Steven was never a problem to deal with. He never complained when a piece he'd sent in on spec was swatted aside, or when subs or lawyers hacksawed his scribblings. Indeed, after we published his piece on the-then 16-year-old Wayne Rooney (part of which you can read below) he rang the desk up to tell us it was "best piece of subbing he'd ever seen". Probably because we hadn't touched a word as it was so good.
Damn. Steven Wells was THE funniest, ballsiest, take-no-prisoners writer to grace the pages of Philadelphia print media in recent memory. His long, tragic battle with cancer was no secret, he wrote about it with the same unflinching honesty, hair-on-fire rage, savage wit and gallows humor he wrote about everything. Sir, it was a privilege and an honor. You will be sorely missed. Good night Mr. Wells, wherever you are.
From D-squared Digest:
Swells was utterly reprehensible in many ways; self-obsessed, totally wrongheaded on most important issues, often quite callous and with a pretty juvenile tendency toward provocation for its own sake. But at least he wasn't fucking boring; at the end of the day this will also presumably be Julie Burchill's defence when she faces the Great Scorer. RIP.
Our friend and colleague Steven Wells died two years ago today of the cancer he had documented so well in two cover stories for Philadelphia Weekly. On June 14, he submitted this column.
We are, of course, digesting the death of our friend Steven Wells. And we've been touched to see tributes pouring into the comments section of his final column. Before he was an abrasive and controversial PW writer, Steven was an abrasive and controversial music writer for a variety of English press, perhaps most famously for NME in the 1980s. His UK and music colleagues this morning are offering up their tributes.
Cancer has reared its head in a particularly ugly way in the past two weeks, first claiming a high school friend of mine, then Gary Papa, and now PW music scribe Steven Wells. I can say without a doubt that Wells (I didn’t know him personally, so it doesn’t feel quite right referring to him [...]
In 2007, Steven Wells made a series of YouTube videos -- rants, of course -- about America, the War on Terror and politics.
Billy Bragg Remembers Steven Wells
“You write to make an impact.”
Steven Wells in NME
Audio: A Snarling Poet
A Few More Tributes to Steven Wells
Steven Wells' Greatest Hits
Steven Wells on Video