Steven Wells Remembered

His final column.

By Steven Wells
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 295 | Posted Jun. 29, 2009

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As commenter 293 below wrote at 9:04 this morning, "FUCK!!!!!!" Two years ago today our friend, colleague and (in ways we're just fully understanding now) mentor Steven Wells passed away. We still miss him dearly. And, of course, we're not alone. Just look at these Tweets

He meant a whole lot to a whole lot of people. Tweet your favorite Swells memory, column or story today with your caps-lock on in his honor. Here, we revisit his final piece, which he wrote just 10 days before shuffling off this mortal coil.

Editor's note: Our friend and colleague Steven Wells died Wed., June 24, 2009 of the cancer he had documented so well in two cover stories for Philadelphia Weekly. On June 14, he submitted this column.

Why is it that the people with the most profound stuff to say are also those who are the least capable of being able to express that profundity?

I am talking about us. The mutoids. The abyss starers. The already organ-bagged cancer boys. While we are in some mere state of deterioration, our ability to comment is still possible. It might even be occasionally interesting. Certainly every writer who has ever contracted cancer has thought so. We can make cancer jokes. Existentialist jokes, even. The world is ours!

But then as one nudges closer to the edge, in the eye of the tiger storm (Tiger Storm, quite possibly the worst line and the best band name ever written), one is more inclined to shit oneself (literally and figuratively) than to throw shit at the system. Which is wrong and weak and lazy but kind of understandable. As is my wife’s fury this morning upon her discovery that a pair of pre-adolescent oiks destroyed a 95 percent-completed jigsaw puzzle (of cats) in the family waiting room. Even as her own dear husband was having his savagely jigsawed abdomen dressed in a hospital room but two doors away.

But life isn’t that banal or that stupid. Life isn’t about grit and grime and squalor. Life is getting angry at destroyed cat jigsaws. Life is the amazement at seeing the Vanity Fair title erupt as a scarlet mohawk-cum-quiff across a dainty Johnny Depp’s forehead, and the drooling anticipation of watching a Brian McManus-recommended terror-comedy on my computer later tonight. And of course the sight of tireless, tie-less and tire-burning liberal rioters taking to the streets of Tehran.

I speak as someone whose greatest craving at this exact moment is not world peace and universal democracy or a rational and global redistribution of wealth, but a can of ice cold ginger ale.

And of course all this bollocks is written by an idiot who has polished his image as an existentialist, atheist hard-man and anti-mope, forever sneering at the tribes who wallow in self-pity—the gothers, the emo kids, the Smiths fans—the whole 900-block-wide marching band composed entirely of the white male urban middle classes who are convinced that (as the most affluent and pampered human beings who have ever walked the planet) theirs is a story worth hearing. Blissfully unaware that they are but a few generations away from regular visits to the doctor who would wind parasitic worms from their beer bloated assholes using sticks. (Check out the AMA logos, those smiling beasts are not snakes.)

You could blame this fallacy on poor education, cultural deterioration, or simple moral decline.

Me? I blame it on sunshine. I blame it on the moonlight. I blame it on the boogie.

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Comments 1 - 295 of 295
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1. Cyn DerBlock said... on Jun 24, 2009 at 11:59PM

“Steven Wells was one of my favorite things about this city, and one of the best voices in it--he embodied the no-nonsense, bitter, fuck-all-you-bastards-let's-go-get-pissed attitude that all but defines this podunk metropolis. I'm going to miss that anticipation at the sight of his by-line.

Hope he went out swingin'.

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2. Daniel Robson said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 03:45AM

“Swells, I never met you, but it was a pleasure to work with you and correspond nonetheless. You were a prince among men, an honest voice in a crooked media, and yet so good at pissing people off that most people won't even recognise it. But as you well knew, most people are cunts, and as a man of personal taste in an industry where personal taste can make grown editors cry, you never pandered or diluted your voice.

There'll be fucking on the streets of heaven tonight. God bless you, Steven Wells.”

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3. Timothy Nunn said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 03:53AM

“i will forever remember your fascinating usage of the english language during my formative college years...when i would wait anxiously for my week old nme to be delivered via air mail to the were an inspiration and a source of humour then...and now...godspeed mr. wells.”

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4. DJ Smudger said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:08AM

“RIP Swells: one of the most entertaining writers ever

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5. Andy Barding said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:09AM

“Oh shit, Swells. What did you have to do a stupid thing like die for? God bless you old son.”

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6. David Quantick said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:13AM

“I wrote with Swells in the NME and for UK TV for several years. He was as abrasive and hilarious and brilliant in real life as he was in print. I'm going to miss him a lot.”

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7. Stiffy said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:17AM

“RIP Swells. Fond memories of sharing a muddy trench (OK marginally more comfortable portacabin) at Glastonbury 2000 while you punched a laptop into submission and filed the most entertaining Glasto diaries. Glad to hear you've been ruffling the feathers of our US cousins but sincerely sorry for your family's loss.”

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8. idg66 said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:19AM

“A man with a big mouth and an even bigger heart. Unlike so many people in the music press, here was a man who never took himself or the music seriously. Thoughts go out to his family and friends... Let's never forget his raucous laugh and love of a quarrel.”

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9. Mat Snow said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:22AM

“I've known Steven — hell, we always called him Swells — since I edited his work on the NME in the UK in the '80s. As a writer, he was a natural, one of the great British talents, and as a human being, beneath the bluster and wind-ups, a true sweetheart, a kind and decent man. His old friends back in Britain who've heard the news are devastated. All our condolences and love goes to Steven's wife, Catharine. There will be glasses raised in his honour and memory tonight.”

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10. Griff said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:26AM

“I too wrote for NME (post-Swells), but before that – as a punter – Swells was the man I turned to first in the paper when I was a kid. Scabrous, abrasive, acerbic and wildly, wickedly funny. An iconoclast. And always, almost always, very, very right. We'll miss him more than we'll ever be able to quantify.”

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11. Heather said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:29AM

“Catharine, Im thinking about you girlie. Swells you will be missed. Wherever you are, Im sure you have an opinion on how its being run - get it sorted!”

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12. John H said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:30AM

“What a privilege to have read your columns when I was just getting into music 15 years will be missed and fondly remembered.”

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13. Nick Small said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:35AM

“Swells, you spent years trying to shock me, and now you have. Your writing brought tears of mirth, now there are tears of real distress. As your partner in GobTV, I was married to you for years, but I'm sure my grief doesn't get near that of the saint who finally married you "4 real".
I haven't seen you for a few years, even though we've spoken more recently, yet I still find myself quite devastated.
You were a fierce talent sunshine. Ever since our first meeting, reading about you on the bog in my father's copy of the Leveller, you've inspired. You got stuff out of me as a director that I'd never have done without your insane prodding and poking.
A brilliant writer, a real humanist....Candice and myself will miss you always. Muh love and thoughts with your family in Philadelphia, and the one down the road in Hebden Bridge.”

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14. Graham, Reading Uk said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:38AM

“It was a pleasure having met you all those years ago in the 80's Swells. You along with Attila broadened my mind nad taught me about radical anger and social justice. And that not all skins were neof's.

Redskin's forever. RIP Swells.”

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15. Steve Novak said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:45AM

“This emigrated frog followed you from the pages of NME to PW, Guardian and all. What a joyous trip and a wonderful one. I and all my friends on four continents, to whom I regularly sent your pages, will miss you.
Merci pour tout!
Sylvestre aka Steve aka le montois de Détroit”

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16. Horace Steenblatter said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:52AM

“At least your lips are now removed from the Sons of Ben's collective anuses. RIP Steven Wells.”

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17. Attila the Stockbroker said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:55AM

“Oh bloody hell. My dear old ranting sparring partner, can't believe I'm never going to read/hear/see your unique stroppy supremely rational irrationality again. I emailed you a poem the day you died, you bastard! I found out about this just before leaving for Glastonbury, and i shall be ranting there in your memory and drinking LOTS of beer in it too....


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18. Anonymous said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:59AM

“I used to read Swells in the NME as a spotty indie kid during the eighties and then played football with him in Regents Park in the nineties. He was a bad tempered, shouty man but hilarious and, as we found out one week when a little kid playing with us got clattered by a much older lad, a compassionate and kind hearted soul.”

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19. Tim Footman said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 05:05AM

“Swells once told me to stop bloody whingeing.

As usual, he was right.”

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20. Rob said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 05:09AM

“Awwwwwwwwwwwww Swells. You made me laugh so much.


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21. Simon Blackmore said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 05:09AM

“As a music PR there are many journalists that you work with, but there are very few journalists that you work with AND admire AND always look forward to reading. You can probably guess which of those I would consider Swells to be. RIP big fella - you were right by the way, Pink would definitely have eaten me for breakfast”

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22. London Irish said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 05:14AM

“Terrible news, he was an absolute inspiration, incredible use of language allied to the big ideas - one of the main reasons why I was attracted to journalism. Please whoever is responsible, get his collected writings published in book form!”

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23. Andrew Paterson said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 05:34AM

“Very sad news, even though the only timew I met you in the flesh was when I bumped into you at a Spearmint gig and spilt beer over you - and you were very gracious about it. Goodbye, you hilarious old curmudgeon, you.”

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24. AsboChimp said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 05:36AM

“RIP Swells. Thanks for the laughs.”

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25. Paul Bowen said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 05:49AM

“I didn't know Steven, not properly, but we met several times in Bradford and London through shared passions bringing us together. One of the funniest and most caustically angry writers of...ever really. Just as funny face to face too. I am so sad he won't be around any more and that he won't be there as our generation grows old, raging with us against the dying of the light.

Goodbye Steven.”

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26. Kitty Empire said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 05:50AM

“The worst cliche about someone who has recently died? "He was so full of life". Well, I can't think of anyone more full of blood and bile and vim and mischief and rage and humour. Swells just *should not* be dead. It's just inconceivable. He was like a Tasmanian Devil of words. I had the ridiculous privilege of crossing paths with him for a few years at NME and commissioning his rants after reading them, week in week out, as a kid. Rest in peace? Peace?! As if. NEVER SURRENDER.”

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27. yolanda said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 05:54AM

“Crap horrible news. RIP Swells.”

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28. Everett True said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 05:55AM

“Swells was a total tower of strength for me when I needed one, and as fucking funny and infuriating and brilliant as shit the whole time I knew him. Absolutely so one of the good guys, it hurts to think of him dead. RIP mate.”

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29. Anonymous said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 05:59AM

“Swells. Thanks for all the abuse, all the kicks at football and the strange idea that you thought I was head of dance at Channel 4. I'll miss you mate. Long live the battle poets! Catherine, we're all thinking of you. All the best. Dave”

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30. Job de Wit said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:02AM

“An inspiration and a fantastic writer, right up to the very end.”

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31. James Partridge said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:06AM


Lasting memory from when he kipped on my sofa after a gig in Ipswich in about 1983-ish. I'd lovingly typed out the lyrics to 'English Rose' by the Jam and stuck them on the wall. He read them carefully, thought about it for a few beats, before delivering the verdict..."That's shit, that is". Boy did I squirm. Great man.”

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32. Paul Trynka said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:14AM

“What a long, strange & glorious trip life is. But this was the one Steven Wells story I hated reading. The world of print is that bit more boring and flat, today.

Thanks for everything you've given us, Swells.”

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33. Steve Sutherland said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:16AM

“When I became editor of NME in 1992, it was not exactly the most popular appointment ever. The staff were up in arms and off to work for the BBC em masse but those who stayed just grinned and said this fierce-looking, gap-toothed skinhead called Swells would have my guts and bollocks for garters. I must admit, the prospect scared me half to death.
Well, he did stay and as it turned out he was the most generous, professional, eternally adolescent writer I've ever had the pleasure to work with. As long as the subs didn't fuck with his copy, he was a total gent. And they didn't. They were too much in awe of him and his BIG SHOUTY CAPS.
Whether he was outing Happy Mondays for homophobia or goading vegetarians (one of his very favourite pastimes) Swells' prose burned with a fierce energy which, much to his amusement, tons of wannabe scribes would try to emulate to get a job on NME.
And when they met him, he'd say, "Fuck off. Find your own voice."
Good advice. Great man. Rage in peace.”

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34. nigey said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:22AM

“Truly sad. met him once, at a gig... Years ago in Cardiff. What a lovely bloke. RIP”

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35. Ian Gittins said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:25AM

“He was always great company. It's typical of Swells that his very last column was moving, fantastic and full of pitch-black humour. RIP.”

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36. Suzy Corrigan said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:27AM

“In tears here; Swells was easily the kindest man I met working at the NME and probably the very funniest. My condolences go out to everyone who shared him as a friend.”

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37. Sally...sister of steven said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:28AM

“Just to say his family are devastated, but having seen Steven last week he truly amazed me, his strength, his anger ( and why not ) and my god his humour were all alive and well. I can't even begin to imagine how he did that. I love you Steven and Katherine .... Sal xxxxxxx”

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38. Sally said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:30AM

“P.S. ... Steven, I'm sorry you couldn't 'fuck cancer' after all ... xxxxxxx”

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39. Brian McCluskey said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:32AM

“Gentleman, scholar, funny argumentative bastard...RIP”

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40. paul sillett said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:33AM

“shit news.....a smashing fellah and a brilliant red skin, remember them???

he helped put not a few skinheads on the straight and narrow, quite the

original thinker. His early rants about Tetley Bittermen and He/She's Perfect

captured our hearts, always a staunch Anti Nazi League member, he was

a gem.......his early days ranting with Atilla, Benjamin Zephianiah, Little Brother and

Joolz were fucking great. .RIP Swells, we wont't forget you.”

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41. Vaults Bar said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:34AM

“Grew up with Wellsy & used to see all the poets on stage.. Attila still around? Wow... have a rant for us all at Glastonbury.”

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42. Jeffrey Barg said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:35AM

“As Steven would say: "Oh, fuck a duck."”

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43. Alec Meer said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:43AM


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44. Brian Wilson said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:57AM

“sad news. very much enjoyed his journalism - he took no prisoners. acute and insightful, as well as eternally adolescent, puerile and scatalogical.


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45. Gillian Porter said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:59AM

“So sad to hear this news, I hadn't seen or spoken to Swells for a long time but he still pops into my head a lot, and usually makes me laugh out loud. There are lots of brilliant memories, Manics gigs, nights with Shampoo, the Orkney Islands with Idlewild ("Lock Up Your Puffins" I believe was the headline) ... as other people here have said, he was a very decent, lovely man (although could be frightening at first!) and will be missed by many. Lots of love and condolences to his family.”

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46. Caralyn said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:09AM

“What crap news...”

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47. BryantAmper said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:11AM

“Goddamnit this sucks. Why you? Why not Perez Hilton or some other twat ? - .."with dogs or dead gazelles ! But never again with Seething Wells! " :(”

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48. Ian Fortnam said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:14AM

“No one else did self-righteous fury that could make you cry with laughter quite like Swells. I was also privileged to work alongside him at NME, Vox and later at Metal Hammer. And I, like Kitty, commissioned him from the standpoint of long-standing, abject fandom. Every last gobbet of Swells' bile was laced with twinkle-eyed mischievousness. Angry? Yes. Spiteful?
Never. I'll miss his rapid-fire tirades of unflinching good sense, but every word he ever wrote will continue to crackle with his singularly vital spirit.
So long then, Swells. It's been... really, really, REALLY loud.”

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49. Joel McIver said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:21AM

“Swells raised the bar. RIP.”

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50. kas mercer said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:22AM

“i went on many a pr trip with Steven, and it was always a battle of wits which he of course won every time. This news is SO sad, A great writer. A good heart. All my condolences go out to his family,”

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51. Marc G-J said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:22AM

“You were a nowty fucker with beautiful eyes. So long, Seething.”

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52. brendancalling said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:22AM

“steven I will always remember you for your foul mouth and your tributes to Tom Paine. that and your liberal use of the words "fuck" and "twat". I loved your columns.

Shit. this is a really fucking sad day. Dammit.”

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53. Mark Beaumont said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:23AM

“When I first started writing for NME, Swells would chastise me every time I wrote anything that wasn't extreme enough. "You don't 'open the door', you 'kick the door into a splintering heap and leap through spewing AK razor-fire', get it?" For him music journalism was all about over-statement, vitriol, attackattackattack. He was a total inspiration to me; almost everything I've written since has been done with the thought in the back of my mind 'would Swells approve of this?'. The last of the great gonzos and a unique, inimitable legend (and Christ knows, I've tried). There's a new star in Heaven tonight, and it's kicking all the other stars in the bollocks for being mung bean-munching ning-nang-nong hippies and Bis fans.”

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54. Stuart Bailie said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:23AM

“He was a funny and authentic voice. Chuck D was an admirer and so was I.”

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55. Richard Smith said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:31AM

“Love you, Swellsy. You made me want to be a writer - and look where I am. Endless love - and thanks for the gags. xxxxxxxxxxxx”

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56. Tina Korhonen said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:32AM

“I only did one job with Swells: A in Leeds around 2001 - but read lots more of his features and reviews. What a great person and writer!”

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57. Amanda Freeman said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:34AM

“Dear Swells. You romanced me for 5 years in the 90's. You wooed me with ranting punk poetry and flowers. You wouldn't let me listen to the Smiths in the house but then I wouldn't let you play Napalm Death so it seemed like a fair swop. I wanted to hug you and throttle you in equal measure but you were without doubt the most funny, inspiring and downright decent bloke one could wish to meet, a huge champion and defender of women in general and the only boyfriend my Mum still asks about. God bless you - although you'd hate me for saying that. RIP Swells. And Katherine - I bet you had a blast. My thoughts are with you XX”

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58. Neil Cameron said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:41AM

“Every NME article I read in the late 1980's and early 90's which I really loved were written by the great man.
Swells was more of a rock star than anyone he interviewed.
I met him once at a gig in Glasgow and he loaned me a pen. Legend.
RIP Swells.

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59. Anonymous said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:51AM


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60. Carl Loben said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:51AM

“Steven Wells RIP
Swells’ bludgeoning purple prose was what inspired me to take up music journalism myself. When I was trying to get in on the inkies in the early 90s I sent him some stuff I’d written, having met him at a gig. He sent back a three-page critique pointing out where I was going wrong, and soon after I got in on the rival to NME at the time – Melody Maker.
Whenever I ran into him after that – in the lifts at IPC (MM was a floor above NME), at gigs, on the football pitch (NME used to play MM at six-a-side once a week for a while) – he provided some inspiration in some form or other. Whether spouting some blurb about an attitude to adopt, quipping about a social more or just having an unsolicited rant, it was impossible not to be affected by the man.
His foaming-at-the-mouth punk style – using plenty of hyphens in a can’t be-arsed-to-think-of-the-academic-word-so-I’m-just-gonna-rant stylee – was inspirational, as well as the way he contextualised bands in the politicosphere, made up words, championed the margins, lampooned the mediocre, railed against perceived wisdom…
I didn’t always agree with him – at times he appeared too much like a paid-up member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) – but generally he was spot on, and I loved the way he wound people up and polarised opinion. Constantly kicking against the pricks.
I’ll never forget him exposing the sexism and homophobia of the Happy Mondays when all the other middle class NME writers were fawning over their laddism in a cultural tourism kinda way. He championed the riot grrrl stuff, extreme metal, queercore, bands like Cornershop and Skunk Anansie and loads more, and generally wound up a load of indie bands by slagging off students, liberals, Travis and other such pet hates.
The last time I saw him was at a film preview in Soho near the beginning of the decade. He had a hilarious rant about ecstasy and rave music (by now I’d moved onto DJ magazine) and I looked forward to running into him somewhere else in the future.
It’s strangely fitting that he’s passed away just before Glastonbury festival. I ran into him there one time when he was doing a piece for the NME on all the alternative stuff up in the green/healing fields. He was taking the piss – obviously – but really he had a great heart and was on the side of the underground against the establishment.
He got into writing (provocatively) about sport, moved to Philly, yet still blogged for the Guardian and I’d be pleased to catch him provoking and entertaining on the GNL pages.
Swells, you were an inspiration and you will be sorely missed.

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61. Alfie from the council flat said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:57AM

“Very sad. Now who's going to bash the dumb Septic Tanks? Oh right, the rest of the English press! Carry on mates and let's keep reminding the Seppos that they're worthless and retarded!”

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62. george berger said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:00AM

“Truly sad news. RIP”

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63. muffinsteel said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:02AM

“So sad to hear this. Your voice will be missed.”

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64. Steve Double said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:04AM

“Fuck.. another man down.
I'll offer up a candle to the memory of Mr S. Wells this evening and take time to remember all the arguments and debates and wind-ups and LIFE that we shared once upon a time.
I hope you find peace out there Swells.”

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65. Scott Dickensheets said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:11AM

“I remember once fielding an angry call from someone claiming to represent one of our paper's advertisers---he was SO pissed at something Steven wrote for us that he snarled, "If I EVER see his name in your paper again, I'm pulling all my ads." I ran Steven again the next week, and fuck that caller---never heard from him again. He was just the sort of creep who needed riling by an uncompromising guy like Steven (I didn't know him well enough to presume to call him Swells). Carry on.”

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66. Graham Martin said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:12AM

“Swells, you were the finest music journalist that ever lived. A true inspiration. Every week you knocked the shit out of us Smiths fans, but I'm afraid to say we loved you for that, and much else besides. Rage in peace, big man.”

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67. roberta said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:13AM

“I had the great pleasure being edited by Steven Wells. He was a gentleman, a talent, a people-person and game for the wildest stuff. Steven got me to write about wrestling, thinking that the art writer would bring something different to the table. It was a funny/risky/great thing to do and I loved him for asking me to do it. Shortly after my mother died several years ago I told Steven I'd be away for the funeral. About a day later a bouquet of flowers arrived at my house with a card from Philadelphia Weekly. I don't know but I'm guessing Steven organized the flower delivery. I'm so sad to hear this news.”

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68. Andrew Winters said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:17AM

“Swells was definitely one of the good guys and in my brief time writing for Sounds, definitely someone high up there in everyone's esteem. A case for empassioned writing about music if ever there was one. Sorry to let you go!”

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69. Hardeep Phull said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:24AM

“I commissioned Swells to do a piece for me once a few years back- when I worked as editor at a piece of shit listings mag in Central England. It was the sort of publication that only 10 people picked up, and most of them to use as lining for their cat litter box. Swells knew that, but wrote the feature as though it was going to be the cover story of NME, Rolling Stone, Forbes, Vogue and the Saturn Daily Examiner all at once. Shows how much writing meant to him.
Thanks for words Swells. But more than anything, thanks for your enthusiasm.

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70. Daniel Wylie said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:29AM

“My music wouldn't be his thing but he was my kind of writer. Baws oot exciting.”

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71. sally timms said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:36AM

“swells was one of my room-mates at bellevue house in leeds in the 1980's. as others have said, beneath the bluster he was a truly kind and thoughtful person with a great sense of humour, and also a singular writer. i saw him a couple of years ago and he was just the same, full of energy and provocation...i'm shedding a tear for him now and send my deepest sympathies to his family and lovely wife.”

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72. Justanothermusichack said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:42AM

“Swells, I'll be picking up my much-treasured copy of Tits Out Teenage Terror Totty to re-read soon enough. Growing up at the tailend of Britpop in the suburbs was made infinitely more amusing every time I saw your extreme, brutal, uncompromising and hilarious work in NME. Most of the bands you championed were pony, but your attitude was always second to none. I'm gutted I never had the chance to shake your hand and chat some crap about Asian Dub Foundation or Idlewild with ya, I daresay you would of cut me down to size as hilariously you did every other dickhead in print. Oh and maybe I'm a broken record, but your work was a huge influence on my decision to become a music hack.

Nuff, nuff respect.”

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73. Steven Turner said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:42AM

“I intend to get falling down drunk and put Meat Loaf on repeat at my local boozer's jukebox tonight in his honour. The world is one very entertaining journalist/writer/blogger worse off.”

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74. June said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:46AM

“RIP Swells”

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75. Stephen Kelly said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:48AM

“Good-bye Swells. You were one of the best and an inspiration. You'll be sadly missed.”

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76. Ted Chippington said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:50AM


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77. Tim Walker said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:55AM

“The bit about the can of ginger ale made me cry.

I'm sorry I broke your dinosaur.”

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78. Swineshead said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:00AM

“Whether you agreed or disagreed with his rants (I was often furious after reading them), you couldn't deny he was as funny as fcuk. RIP.”

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79. Robin Bresnark said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:02AM

“Much though I adored his music writing back in the day (Swells was a huge part of the reason I went on to write myself - albeit for 'the other side' at Melody Maker), I found his more recent work even more astonishing. The warmth of his actual character - the Swells you'd drink with - was shining through more and more beautifully all the time.

I have a feeling he'd have ended up like a Kingsley Amis or a Philip Larkin, writing stories about farting ghosts while the world read on enchanted. The loss is incredible. The memory is glorious.”

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80. Raj said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:05AM

“You shall be sorely missed mate, rest in peace.”

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81. A fan said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:07AM

“I was so sad when I heard the news this morning. Swells, you never failed to make me laugh like a loon, and you had such an inspiring passion for this music we call pop that whatever you wrote was well worth reading, even if I didn't always agree with the starting point. I will miss you greatly.
Love to your family, RIP XXX”

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82. Claire said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:11AM

“Tuesday morning papershop in rural Norfolk, find the page with angry CAPS, read and laugh and feel there are others like me in the world. For this I thank you departed sir.”

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83. AnthonyJ said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:12AM

“My wife and I were only talking about you the other day - much to my surprise I just cried my eyes out reading your column and all the comments that have followed it. RIP”

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84. Nick said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:13AM

“Back in the mid-nineties Swells directed the video for the band I was in at the time. Instead of the a foul mouthed, aggresive pain in the neck I was expecting (from his journo work, which I consumed greedily throughout my teens) he was a sweet man. Lots of energy, very supportive...the video was pretty dodgy though... inflatable bananas all over the place...I suspect he was taking the piss...RIP Swells”

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85. Anonymous said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:13AM


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86. Mary Anne Hobbs said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:14AM

“god bless Swellsy...
i worked with him in the halcyon days of the NME.. the days of Madchester and Seattle grunge..
he was fearless, gifted... peerless...
i had no idea he was ill until today.. and i'm so sad to hear that he's gone..
his family and friends have all of my heart
Mary Anne Hobbs, BBC Radio1”

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87. Ben Myers said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:22AM

“I can think of no other writer in the British music / magazine business in recent times who has inspired so much love, fear, emulation, discussion, argument, hatred, enthusiasm and passion.

Every time I saw him in the lifts at IPC (I was at Melody Maker, Swells at NME) I felt all of the above. I used to think "Wow - look. There goes a proper writer."

I was far too impressed to attempt to talk to him.”

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88. St. John Barned-Smith said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:30AM

“When I was an intern at PW, Swells gave me an idea for a cover and then smacked it around until it was fit to print. He was so funny and sarcastic - I couldn't listen to him for more than a minute before I'd lose it laughing.

Thanks Swells!”

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89. Danny said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:30AM

“Really sad news. By miles the best music writer, stood out a mile at the nme, particularly after Quantick and Udo went. HIs Asian Dub Foundation live reviews were beautiful, energising testaments to the power of music and music writing. Also I´ll never forget being in a mate´s kitchen with the rest of our band, crowded round the paper reading the singles reviews and laughing our tits off as the songs went totally disregarded and Swells went on about crocodiles or something.

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90. Donno said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:36AM

“I'm fucking stunned, here... Last time we spoke, he was in the hospital, but I still didn't see it coming... DAMN... You will be sorely missed, Brother.

Whatever happens after we die, I'm sure you're giving someone or something somewhere some shit. Bless you for it.

Rest in peace, brother. Rest in peace.”

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91. John Brewin said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:37AM

“I met Steven only once, in a pre-World Cup kit launch junket in 2006. We had a few beers in a Berlin Hotel Bar straight after, which was a hugely entertaining couple of hours. Steven turned it in earlier than me, saying he had to be up early to fly back to Philadelphia and that he wanted to phone his wife.

It was only when he emailed me a couple of weeks later that I realised he was "Swells" from the NME that I used to read as a teenager.

Very sorry to hear the news.


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92. Old Flashy said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:38AM

“Shit. Sad news. On speed. x”

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93. Norman Strike said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:42AM

“I am devastated to hear of Swells death and too upset to say much more just now.”

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94. Andy said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:42AM

“Goodbye Steve

One of the most important music journalists in British pop history”

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95. Ian Tilton said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:48AM

“Saddened to hear the news. Great memories of working with you in Iceland - puffin and reindeer for breakfast !?!
My heart goes out to your family and close friends, at what must be a really difficult time for them all. Rest in peace, Swells.”

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96. Pieter M. van Hattem said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:54AM

“While working with Steven on a piece years ago I remember coming out of the photo pit looking a bit worse for wear and before I could open my mouth he said "If you compare that to coming out of a war zone or something stupid I'll smack you. You photographers are the biggest bunch of whiners."

And well, it's true. Hopefully I've tempered the whining a bit. I'm glad I was able to cross Swell's path.”

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97. louis ferdinand said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:59AM

“what a shame. he was really something special.”

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98. Jon Langford said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:05AM

“I don't know if you were the worst flatmate in history but you came pretty close. Still picking the potato skins and orange rind of the ceiling of my brain. Sitting in the dressing room at Bryn Mawr college in 2006 with all those bright young students hanging on your every hilarious word was a treat (and you used to hate students!)
I miss you already you big mouthed git”

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99. Kilp Yavr said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:06AM

“I rarely agreed with him in print, but recognised him as a kindred mardy-Yorkshire-bastard spirit and always enjoyed his NME articles (in contrast to the rest of the rag).

My mate was his accountant and and once got him out of a spot of bother with the Inland Revenue by claiming his used crisp packet collection on his expenses. Kudos!

And I fancied Susan Williams summat rotten...

RIP Steven.
Kilp Yavr, Yorktown Heights, NY”

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100. steve winkler said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:13AM

“i only met steven once in the mid 90s in london. we had a couple of pints and a long and interesting chat about the collapse of eastern bloc communism, german re-unification, pop music (he hated most of the stuff i was into) and footy in general (leeds utd. in particular). he was a right character, utterly outspoken and extremely funny.
r.i.p. & no pasaran, swells. sincere condolences to your family and close friends.”

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101. Jill Mingo said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:14AM

“Ah, Swellsy, I say this with tears in my eyes...I'm going to write "Legalise Cannibalism" and get it out there. Meeting him when I did truly inspired me to be as ME as I've ever been with THREE exclamation marks!!! I just only wish I'd have been able to tell him this to his face. Still, I think you know. RIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! x”

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102. Paul Mathur said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:31AM

“RIP Swells. It's not fair.”

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103. Dave Simpson said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:32AM

“I first encountered Swells on the 4th of January 1981- I believe the night the Yorkshire Ripper was arrested. Somehow this seems significant. Sutcliffe's reign of terror was coming to an end, "Seething" Wells was just beginning. That night, he educated a New Order audience about the horrors of Tetley Bittermen. After that he routinely cropped up supporting the Fall and then every band around, playing - it seemed - every gig in Christendom (and a few in the other place). Of course I loved his writing, but the Swells from those days sticks with me right now: ranting poetry in hand, combat trousers, shaven head, a glint in his eye that said "I'm gonna KILL all you BASTARDS. You will LAUGH until you DIE."
RIP with love and respect. And this from a "bloody vegetarian."”

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104. Rick Lennox said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:35AM

“A great guy, great writer and also directed a video for me once. Will really be missed. One of the best journos in the 90's for me. RIP fella”

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105. Anonymous said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:40AM

“This is so sad to hear. You went out swinging, though, giving it to them all the way. We should all be so lucky and so brave. And to keep our politics in the age of the Great Self, like you did.
RIP Swells.”

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106. Jake Norrish said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:42AM

“Mr Wells, great thanks for the many guffaws which I inflicted on my fellow train passengers when reading your musings and reviews during the 90's. condolences to all of your friends, family and fans. Its no surprise to see so many tributes both here and on the Guardian site. Here's hoping that the NME give you the tribute you deserve and that your family are coping with their loss. xx”

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107. Kristy Barker said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:46AM

“My condolences to Swells' family and friends. He'll be massively missed. RIP.”

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108. Yetanotherhack said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:47AM

“The sole reason I ever wanted to get into journalism, we shall never see the likes of him again, sadly.”

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109. Attack on Bzag! said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:50AM

“This is really really sad news. I first met you at Cosmo's in Leeds at an ANL benefit. You sold me a Molotov Comics. not long afterwards I walked out of school to do my own fanzine, which you helped me with. You opened the door to me at the NME. And I wish I'd written and said 'thanks' and 'good luck' last year when I'd heard you were ill. A true one off. I last saw you picking the ball out of the back of the net at Spitalfields. It's fair to say you were a better writer than goalkeeper.

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110. Greg_A said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:54AM

“Goodbye Seething, I for one will miss your ranting.”

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111. Becca Trabin said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 11:02AM

“I haven't known Steven for very long, but as the editorial assistant at PW I can admit that I got yelled at by our associate editor for being slow on deadline days because whenever I had to enter corrections for Steven's pieces, I couldn't not read them. I read them as they came to my desk and then entered Liz Spikol's corrections, most of which were just removing 3 of Steven's 7 or 8 uses of "fuck."”

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112. Dominik Diamond said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 11:09AM

“Farewell one of the great uncompromisers. I don't think I could ever flick past one of your bylines for fear of missing a beautiful incendiary wordbomb. My sympathies to your wife, family and friends too. RIP Swells.”

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113. terry gee said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 11:15AM

“Thanks mate. For a while you were the only other skin I knew that wasn't a nazi.

I always turned to your stuff in the NME first - I loved the time you did the letters page - laying into to all the whiny fuckers.

In a very small and almost insignificant way you made me what I am . . .. a bit of a cunt really.”

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114. carol freeman said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 11:20AM

“As mother of an ex girlfriend I'm so very very sad. Two hours partnering Swells playing some frightful Christmas game was an experience not to be missed. His quick mind and constant vitality though exhausting kept this aging brain cell in trim. His 'real self' was hugely endearing though he'd hate me saying so. Such talent and so lovely a man will be missed by all who knew him, not least his wife who I don't know but who must be devastated. You are in my thoughts right now as is Swells. I'm really really upset by this news. Go well.”

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115. Danny said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 11:26AM

“Jill Mingo you exist! When Attack! Books started I joined the club and Swells sent us a load of Attackamon writer profiles "for your porn strewn student bedsit" "it´s not a bedsit, it´s a flat" etc and I just assumed you were one of the made up ones. Is that you eating bacon in the photo then? Get Legalise Cannibalism written!”

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116. Divya P. Tolia-Kelly said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 11:27AM

“RIP swellsie. miss ya loads.
mad dog divya (housemate and chef, 80s, Neasden)”

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117. Mike Diver said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 11:30AM

“The only good thing about Bang Magazine. And that's the worst thing I can think to say about Steven (having never met him). Which must say something about how brilliant he was.”

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118. Alex Needham said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 11:38AM

“He was a massive inspiration all the way through my teens and when I finally met him at NME he didn't disappoint. As a punk purist, he ripped the piss out of me for growing a beard and when I came into the office in a neon green and pink stripy polo shirt he announced "You look like a tube of Refreshers. Are you on drugs now, or were you on drugs when you bought it?" Hilarious and outrageous, he was about as far from the stereotype of the po-faced lefty idealist as it's possible to get, but his unshakeable socialist principles informed everything he did and his empathy for outsiders was very real. In other words, he was one of the good guys and his gift for sending people into apoplexy while making them laugh (and think) was undiminished right up to the end. Goodnight Swells, you are already so sorely missed xxx”

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119. James McMahon said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 11:40AM


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120. vicarious bliss said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 11:50AM

“as quite possibly one of his main 'targets' to whom he directed much of his spleen and vitriol at the time (white middle-class 14 year old Smiths fan veering towards H Monday's rave-dom in the pursuit of coolness etc...), I loved the abuse, and I'm sure it made me who I am today (white middle-class 30-something etc etc).

one of a kind,

thanks & god bless (he'd have hated that !)


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121. cattio said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 11:57AM

“I only wish I could write with the kind of fierce abandon, entertainment, relevance and clarity that you had. I'm glad to have met you, and to have the privledge of saying I worked with you - even if that was only in a minor way and for a brief moment. You're fucking amazing. Condolences to your wife and family. Goodnight Steven*”

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122. james parker said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 12:00PM

“RIP swells. read you as a teenager, met you (once) from behind the register at the virgin megastore in oxford st, will be eternally grateful for your kind review of a book i wrote. never agreed with any of your musical choices, but what a lovely noise YOU made.”

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123. Chris Midweeker said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 12:00PM

“RIP Swells, you funny, funny bastard.”

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124. vicarious bliss said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 12:06PM

“sorry to post again, but I wanted to give Swells the last word, as he describes learning of his cancer in the PW :

"Anyhoo. I put the phone down and let out a huge, self-pitying “Why me?” The answer, of course, is the same as the answer to Travis’ shit-awful 1999 international breakthrough hit, “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” Because you’re a fucking dick. Now shut the fuck up and grow a pair."

Geezer !

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125. usedwigs said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 12:22PM

“damn. he was a good man.”

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126. Ian Wade said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 12:24PM

“I may've been but an occasional footsoldier, but it was always a joy when hurricane Swells came in and basically slagged everything off that the team had been worshipping. RIP fella”

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127. John Robb said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 12:28PM

“We met in the punk rock wars, we fought the enemy with our bare hands, words were our weapons...Swells was the opinionated, ranting, spittle flecked, hilarious socialist punk rock purist whose writing was the ink splattered equivalent of The Clash at their finest.
Rest In Peace doesn't seem right for someone who was pure adrenalised ideas and action...”

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128. Simon Guildford said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 12:28PM

“Rest in peace, Swells. You and Johnny Cigarettes were the only people whose work kept me reading the NME way back when; half the time I agreed with you and half the time I thought you were full of shit, but you were always intelligent, thought-provoking, interesting, opinionated and, above all, very funny indeed. You'll be sorely missed.”

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129. Neil Ferguson said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 12:31PM

“Swells, you gaptoothed gobshite, why the fuck did you have to go and die on us? I even had a couple of new jokes for you (the one about the Tourettes-afflicted librarian was hilarious...) You were, and are, an inspiration, totally infuriating and hysterically funny at the same time. Can I also just point out that our Allison, who apparently has never laughed out loud at professional 'comedy' took one look at the phrase, "Fuck me, my head just exploded," in one of your increasingly unhinged Playlouder columns, and promptly wet herself. Now that's talent. Your use of the phrase, "Uter cuntmare," was inspired. By the way, you were dead right about Daphne and Celeste...but utterly wrong about Teenage Fanclub.
Condolences to Catherine and your family, God bless pal.”

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130. Elene said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 12:42PM

“So sad to hear this. We were directors together along with Slade at Pig. Swells was always the sweetest guy with the most beautiful blue eyes, rattling away at that keyboard, brainstorming at a million miles an hour.”

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131. Kirk said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 12:43PM

“I had the privilege of recently meeting Steven. Boy, what a spirit!!!!! (threw in a couple extra bangs there for the man, but will leave the caps lock off out of respect) I had *no idea* he had such a legacy of shaking the shitbag, smacking people across the face with words, having such an amount of common sense it hurt him, and using such fierce verbal kung fu.

RIP you word warrior!

Condolences to Katherine, family, all who will feel this loss personally.

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132. Neil Tennant said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 12:44PM

“One of the most passionate people writing about music. For that, we all thank him.”

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133. Barney Tabasco said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 12:44PM

“RIP Swells. Tis a sad day indeed. You were there through my formative music loving years and made the NME essential during that period. Condolences to family and friends.”

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134. Another fan said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 01:03PM

“The best damn journalist the NME ever had, or ever will have.

RIP bro.”

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135. Nick Page aka dubulah said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 01:08PM

“Met Steven quite a few times, had hardcore rows and laughs with him,
made videos with him, interviews with him...he was
a very passionate, argumentative man with a dark sense of humour, but
always underpinned by a stong humanity...never frightened to have a go at bigotry and stupidity...
and he loved spacehoppas.
RIP Swells”

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136. Barn said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 01:11PM

“Swells was one of a kind. More one of a kind than anyone I ever met. He made me laugh so much, even when he was abusing me on the football pitch. His wit and words were brilliant, but they would have been nothing without his big heart.


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137. sarkany said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 01:28PM

“From all the old punks in South East London - another brave fighter for the individual voice and collective effort heads off to the Great Squat in the sky.
You will live on in our memories . . . . condolences to all your family and friends, who will miss you being on the same planet even more than we will . . .”

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138. Correspondent said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 01:34PM

“I always approached Swells' NME pieces with a mixture of relish & awe. Others have highlighted his socialist principles & basic humanity (the way in which he let the Happy Monday's hang themselves for their homophobia was exemplary). I didn't always agree with his articles (who did?), but he was fearless in saying what he thought; while some on the NME during the 80s (no names, no packdrill) were still scribbling sychophantic sixth-form dross about Weller's Style Council, he was one of the first to declare that the emperor had no clothes. He didn't give left-wing pop stars an easy ride, quite the contrary in, fact; the Housemartins were teased, Billy Bragg was scorned for his reformist ways, Costello was dismissed as a has-been (in the mid-80s!) & Red Wedge was dismissed contemptuously. However, it was as nothing compared to the rage & anger he directed at Margaret Thatcher & the system she represented. My condolences to Steven's widow & family; he was truly a one-off.”

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139. Barbara Ellen said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 01:35PM

“Swells, I didn't even know you were unwell and I am devastated. The last time I saw you were lying in a muddy puddle in Glastonbury begging me to rescue you and take you back to my nice clean hotel away from the 'horrible hippies'. I did, and we spent a mad night sitting on the carpet, still in our wellies, drinking and bitching. You were a true NME original and will be remembered with genuine affection by writers and readers alike. BE xxx”

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140. Anonymous said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 01:38PM

“I do believe he described my band as having "yellowed teeth and smelling of piss" amongst other such charming observations.
He was totally offensive ,sparklingly great company and quite quite brilliant;as a writer and as a man.
There you go Mr Wells. A well deserved five star review.
Thanks for the inspired writing,the brutal truth as you saw it, the passion and the wit. You went out like Cary Grant. You really did.x

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141. Brian McManus said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 01:50PM

“Hi all,

I spoke with Steven's wife Katherine this afternoon, and she's very moved by the outpouring of support shown both in the comments here and the gobs of tributes creeping out of every corner of the web today. She's asked that I ask anyone who knew him here if they might send scanned pictures of Steven from the 80s/90s. They will be used at his memorial service in a slideshow we're planning so, please, if you have them—or anything you might have you think could add—please email me at

Much appreciated. Thanks so much. Look forward to hearing from you.

Brian McManus
Philadelphia Weekly, music editor”

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142. Buzz said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 02:14PM

“I first encountered Swells through the NME, back when it was actually about something - and even then, he stood out as a lone, screaming voice of righteous anger. The world's a poorer place now”

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143. Mick Carroll said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 02:32PM

“RIP Swells.

Always passionate. Always funny. There won't be another.

Condolences to the family.”

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144. Dr Spookster said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 02:53PM

“Bearing a remarkable likeness but not nearly a smidgen worth of talent or wit. Swells was one of my litererary heroes and a singular reason for buying the NME. I am genuinely touched and upset by his passing. My thoughts are with his family. His final piece is written with the usual wit, humour and tinged with no small amount of sarcasm. Wherever bound Steven rest in peace or anarchy. Spook.”

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145. Ben Graham said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 03:30PM

If that dreadful hippy cliche about all the dead rock stars jamming together in heaven is true, then Swells is there now telling Jimi and Jimbo and Kurt that they were whinging drug-addled hippies when they were alive and they're no better now so get over themselves. Steven, you were right all along. If only we'd listened! Much missed.”

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146. Jon Paul Davies said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 03:33PM

“So many of Swells' phrases are still with me 20 years later. 'ticking timebomb of hatred', 'face contorted into a vicious rictus of hate', 'should be shot in the face and left to die in the street like a pig'. Such a massive influence on me and many like me. Playing Napalm Death's Scum at full belt in your honour while typing this. RIP Swells, truly one of a kind.”

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147. Alexis Petridis said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 03:34PM

“When I was a teenager, the first thing I used to do when I bought the NME was go through it looking for Swells' byline.I could go on all day about his stuff from the late 80s - the interview with Tiffany, the piece on Richard Allen's Skinhead books, the columns he wrote with Quantick - but he was brilliant, acerbic and hilarious and blessed with a style that was entirely his own right to the end. Never met him - wish I had, partly because he was self-evidently one of the good guys, partly because he was an inspiration - someone who made me want to be a journalist. RIP Swells, from a fan.”

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148. johnpaul said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:03PM

“I didn't know him well personally, but having worked with Steven, did have the honor of being called an "old cock sparrow" on more than one occasion, as well as overhearing, from across the office, some of the most hilarious, inappropriate things ever uttered by a human being.

I was always a huge fan of his writing. How many writers can take on a topic such as cancer, in such harrowing, grisly detail, show us what it's like to experience it, and yet make us chuckle out loud? That's talent. RIP, ye olde cock sparrow.”

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149. Dave Zirin said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:03PM

“I'll miss you Steven. I wish I'd thanked you more for your professional support. I wish we could have spoken more often. I wish....I wish....I wish. I wish I wasn't being so damn maudlin. Miss you, ya wonderful bastard.”

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150. Seaneen Molloy said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:11PM

“Swells was one of the people who made me swoon, rage, laugh, nod and shout at the top of my voice in disagreement via his extraordinary writing in my formative years. His passion, energy, humour was infectious, intoxicating, challenging. A true one off. Saying, "rest in peace" doesn't seem quite appropriate. Night. x”

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151. Mark (Miwurdz) Hurst said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:11PM

“Remembering all those heady nights on the poetry and booze circuit. That time we got stuck in the lift in a tower block in Acton.. Good times. Rant in Peace.”

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152. Goz said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:18PM

“Though we wade through rivers of shite
It's rage and passion that keep our lives bright.

RIP Swells”

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153. Gill Sutherland said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:22PM

“In the 90s the NME office was divided into art and production at one scabby end and writers way up the biohazardous other end, with rubble and goblins filling the no-man’s land between. Swells made it his business to visit us lowly sub-editors whenever he happened to call in at the office. He’d stomp in like a kamikaze warm-up act, “Hullo Subs! What’s happening?!” He’d poke around your desk, picking up the proof you were working on, read bits out, invariably declaring it shit; unless it was his own, in which case he would reread it, marvelling at its brilliance. After he would plonk himself down in a swivel chair and await reaction. I could never tell whether he thought we were oppressed workers needing his benign patronage or crazed grammar-obsessed fascists needing a bit of Swellsian taunting… Sub-editors of the world unite to say: goodnight guv’nor, it were fun!”

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154. Jack Barron said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:43PM

“Bloody hell Swells ...
I got to know Swells by seeing him rant with people like Attila The Stockbroker and through his writing on NME. He turned me onto bad language and The Redskins.
Then I started working for NME. Swells was as loud and stroppy as his writing. Unlike a magazine though, you couldn't shut him up.
I was everything he didn't in theory like: I was bang into drugs, a champion of Happy Mondays, and old enough to remember hippies.
Apart from The Redskins, the only band we both agreed on were The Butthole Surfers.
I stayed around his London flat a few times. The first time I watched him roll a spliff and smoke it I was gobsmacked.
"Hold on Swells," I said, "what is all this hippie-shit that you are doing?"
"Fuck off Jack, you are deluded. But don't worry, everybody who works for NME is."
I couldn't argue with that.
Swells was a top gentleman.

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155. Andrew said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:43PM

“Aw, poor Steven and family... very very very upset about this (but not in a Princess Diana way). I've been familiar with his work and persona for a long time now. Used to read his contributions to the NME with total glee. His music taste was shite but he was RIGHTEOUS!! The politics and humour were always on the money. Kinda lost touch when he left or I stopped reading the NME, can't remember which came first. Think they may be related. Felt like bumping into an old mate when I realised he was blogging on The Guardian site and others. He did some great work for PW, and of course those pieces on his illness piss all over those (UK reference) quality newspaper Me-and-my-cancer columnists. Increasingly he was coming on like a post-Grundy Alistair Cooke. Someone anthologise this man now! It's a sad day for punk rock. OFFICIAL.”

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156. Cheesemaker said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:46PM

“I stopped reading the NME years ago because people like Swells had stopped writing it! None of them are fit to fill your boots. The world is a lesser place without you in it. Rage In Peace, you'll be a miss.”

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157. Nick said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 04:51PM

“Swells lanced my teenage indieboy ego on the letters page of the NME nearly twenty years ago. Good for him. He's already really fucking missed.”

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158. Road Rage said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 05:23PM

“I'm glad and sad to read this final column – which is really brave, despite what you say about that – so typically generous, and so untypically restrained. It was of course truly great fun for a couple of years reimagining – with you, Tommy, Stewart – and then making a reality (no research; chapter a day) that crazy vision of a hyper-real fin-de-siecle pulp fiction, with Attack Books. Last time I saw you was on Strutton Ground SW1; excited about moving to the US, still wondering what to do with the half dozen boxes of books left over. Sincere condolences to your wife and family, and ice cold ginger ale all round. Cheers and lots of love, Road Rage (does a nickname count when only one person uses it? if not, lots of love, Tony) x”

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159. Nick Small said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 05:39PM

“Swells, Farrah Fawcett and Jacko in a lift to the hereafter together. Oh to be a fly on the wall.”

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160. Tony said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:12PM

“Swells used to wind me up no end when I read his columns. Thats what a brilliant writer does!!

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161. Sean Adams said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:13PM

“"I blame it on the boogie" - even to the last he was more on the money than he could even know.

Swells was the reason I wanted to become a writer and therefore responsible for everything that followed. I just hope someone will now compile an amazing compilation of his writing so that I can rifle through it forevermore.”

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162. julie said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:17PM

“sleep tight bro you certainly made your mark. Miss you more than you could ever have imagined x”

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163. vicarious bliss said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:22PM

“so typical of the big man to check out the day before MJ ! St. Peter is gonna be working overtime at the pearly gates in order to stop some serious queue-jumping and (justified) abuse...

give it to 'em SW !!!



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164. Martin Lewsley said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:50PM

“I don't think I ever met the guy but if I did I probably wouldn't remember it. Can't remember much of that time because it was so good. RIP Mr Wells. Part of my youth you were.”

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165. Alan Turner said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 06:58PM

“RIP Swells. With fond, early 80's memories of great gigs at The Mad Hatter club, Southport and The System club, Liverpool. Great debate and drink afterwards to the early hours. I reckon I came out on top on the Red Action / Socialist Workers debate. Respect to immediate family and friends. A comrade to be sorely missed. Venceremos. Another day, another word indeed. Alan.”

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166. John said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:09PM

“Really REALLY pissed off. One of the good guys.”

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167. John said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:15PM

“And was that really his last ever line? Fuckin' genius. He's laughing now.”

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168. Mike Pickard said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 07:16PM

“RIP Swells.
You'll never know how portentous that last sentence was...”

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169. Tony F Wilson said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:05PM

“As a survivor of the Hip Hop wars Steven was always an early journalistic hero of mine. I met him when I was 17 and doing work experience at Radio 5 - I interviewed him for a short feature on stage-diving. He was hilarious, a total gentlemen and even suggested I should try and write for NME. I never forgot it and shan’t forget him.”

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170. PZ said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:06PM

“I enjoyed reading his work for years....another huge loss.”

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171. Anonymous said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:07PM

“He would have found it absolutely amazing that he died on the same day as Michael Jackson.

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172. tim from Radio Clash said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:13PM

“A terrible loss. I grew up reading Swells and his ranty yet totally OTM reviews. Honest, scathing and very very funny.

And fuckme, he predicted Jacko kicking it:

"Me? I blame it on sunshine. I blame it on the moonlight. I blame it on the boogie."

I hope he's laughing and pointing at the freak right now...”

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173. Anonymous said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:22PM

“Oh, bollocks. I didn't give permission for this to happen. The Greatest living Englishman is no longer living.

Come back, Swells, you nutty old bastard.”

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174. Chumbawamba said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 08:58PM

“Lovely man. Lovely. Talked too much, but lovely with it. And through the two decades when we were all told that music ought to be bland and uninvolved, he carried on with his yapping bolshie ranting and reminded us that essential parts of British culture are cynicism, anger and irony. And the irony of taking down Michael Jackson with him... with much love x”

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175. Russell Brown said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 09:51PM

“I met Swells up at NME in the 80s, having become a fan of his prose from afar. He struck me as a genuine no-airs-and-graces friendly bloke, with no time for being "cool". And you certainly couldn't say that about everyone who writes in the music press ...”

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176. Anonymous said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 10:12PM

“Aaawww now how the fuck did that happen? I'm sitting here at my desk reading this article and the thoughts if those who knew and worked with him, people whose names now come leaping back out at me from some forgotten corner of my teenage years...and now I'm crying. How did the death of this guy that I never knew affect me like this? Maybe it's because of the brilliance of the violence-strewn, senseless genius that erupted from his brain in those columns of his. God how I miss those hilarious ranted stories that he and Quantick produced every week. The ones that made me want to write and the ones that made me read in a totally different way. I had only recently discovered his columns here and in the Guardian. I stopped reading the NME after he left and these columns have reminded me why. Now they've been taken away as well. Sorry to sound like a maudlin, whiny cry-baby Swells. I'll try to pull myself together.”

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177. DJ PUMPIO said... on Jun 25, 2009 at 11:19PM

“Swells, you where an utter legend, your barbaric, thunderous rants made me buy the NME for years............RIP big man.”

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178. Ian Mac said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 02:37AM

“er ... is this comment above some attempt at 'irony'?
Wells was the first person I turned to in my cherished NME every week and, as a gay teenager, was someone I found to be an inspiring anti-homophobic truth-teller.
I'm gutted.”

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179. Fen Davidson said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 02:46AM

“Swells - so today Michael Jackson passed away I am sure you would have something to say about that, always enjoyed reading your stuff, having a gossip at a gig and a beer or 2 and the promo trips! You are already missed and my thoughts go out to your family. RIP fella.”

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180. Chris King said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 02:51AM

“A cantankerous bugger & brilliant wordsmith who could send my blood pressure skyrocketing & reduce me to uncontrollable laughter, often at the same time. Having read his last column I'm in tears, though I'm not laughing.”

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181. Steve Drewett said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 03:07AM

“This news has greatly saddened me. When I read of all the people who Swells inspired but never had the chance to meet him, I feel greatly honoured that I knew him and spent quite a lot of time in his company in the early Eighties.
I remember him winding up Chris Dean/Moore, then NME Journalist and soon to form the Redskins, he would often reply to him by shouting "WELL YOU'RE JUST A HACK CHRIS! When Swells started writing for the NME I would throw it back at him saying "WELL, YOU'RE JUST A HACK SWELLS!". It never failed to get him going.
I had never met anyone who could be in wind up mode for every waking hour of his life. Not stupid wind ups mind, but inventive, inspiring, iconoclastic, abrasive, irritating and sometimes even annoying but he was fantastic and I loved stepping back and watching interactive with some poor pompous fool. Classic.
Then, when he once gave my band Newtown Neurotics 'Single of the Week' in the NME, my life became sublime, gonna miss you mate!”

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182. welsh punk said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 03:34AM

“i'd die fo' me country
says a patriotic dickhead
well go ahead
you make me sick
slash your wrists and slash the statistics
'the number unemployed fell today
200,000 bled away
then they were stripped cold naked
shaved their heads
stopped the thrashing of severed nerve endings
by boiling the buggers in sterilised lead
stacked them by bunkers in dumb grey ranks
introducing the human sandbag
a major donation to the nation's salvation
the sandbag that rots
and absorbs radiation'

this depression won't fade away
it'll trickle in streams
down blood clotted drains
one way
or another

first part delivered at a hundred miles an hour, top of the voice. second part in a low mutter. fucking genius.

cheers swells. love the frock.”

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183. Rob F said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 04:31AM

“Growing up in the 80's reading the NME and Swells was ALWAYS The writer you could rely on to be funny, intelligent and confrontational. I wonder if he ever realised just how much he shaped the lives of so many young people? I wouldn't think half the things I think about music, culture & politics without his writing. Reading the (frankly unreadable) NME these days makes you realise what the world is missing. RIP”

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184. nick grant said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 04:34AM

“terrible news...
Swells was a wonderful comrade and even in his NME prime - with an image of vitriolic bluntness - tender and sensible and caring enough for us to trust him to babysit our infants - now 25 and 22. He delighted the kids when performing in our back garden as part of my 40th birthday party in 1991.
He was fuelled by the most righteous of anger which we still share as older revolutionary socialists. Despite loss of contact in the last two decades I cannot contain the sorrow of a world without him.

And what do we make of the prescience of his final written line? A reference to a certain Michael Jackson soon to follow him from this planet.
Now there's a journalistic encounter I'd pay big money to sit in on!”

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185. Don Watson said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 05:01AM

“I met SWells in Leeds when we were both would be writers published in stapled and photocopied magazines of our own invention. Later when was on the NME staff, it was me who discovered that the new mouthie Julie Burchill-type stringer from the North Susan Williams was in fact the very same skinhead come baby seal lookalike in whose surreal kitchen I had drunk health hazard coffee and listened to mad and inspired rants about the virutues of the original version of 'Helter Skelter' as he cleaned his copy of the White Album with a brillo pad and Jon Langford did grotesque caricatures of us all in which Swells was sprouting tusks.

People at the NME started a rumour that we were in fact brothers because we knew all the same people, had a huge shared history and squabbled perpetually. Before he went to America we used to defy advancing middle age and play football in Regent's Park. We still do but it isn't quite the same without someone at the back advocating 'MORE SHOUTING'.”

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186. Dave Wibberley said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 05:12AM

“It was always so reassuring to read your words. Your analysis was always right and your ears were never wrong. I haven't read the NME, or indeed needed to, since you stopped writing for it.

Your final and marvellously prophetic sign off was an extrordinary and brilliant end.

This is a crappy day all round. It really feels like the day the music died.

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187. John Hyatt said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 05:38AM

“Swells, no homily.
Strength to your family.
Ignite the great beyond
and report back.

Thanks for your floor
back in '84
Belle Vue?
The girl thanks you too”

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188. North Walian said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 05:46AM

“Saw Swells waaaaay back in 83 or 84 (can't remember now) compereing a miners benefit at Leeds Uni, The Membranes ,The Three Johns and the Redskins, what a night, I danced my socks off in a revolutionary frenzy, I was still young enought to think we were gonna change the world. My favourite ever gig.

I'm glad Jon Langford and John Robb are here, all we need now is Chris Moore.

Seething, you were a real good guy and you knew how to grab peoples attention, you'll be missed. I feel sorry for your family and close friends they've lost an original.”

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189. Dan in London said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 06:19AM

“RIP mate - you made the NME worth reading and made a teenage music nut laugh a great deal in the 90s.”

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190. Cid said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 07:04AM

“Loved him in the NME back in the day, made Wednesday afternoons a bit brighter, in the dark depths of school common rooms surrounded by arseholes. Oh he was a bit of a cunt at times, no question, and took aim at many things I loved, but the sneer was infectious. I'd say he'll be missed but I've neither heard of nor thought about him for years, so he won't by me. I'm sure he cares a lot.”

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191. Len Brown said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 07:04AM

Swells was and is one of the most memorable people I've ever met. I first bumped into him at the ICA in London in 1983. I'd moved down from Newcastle and, strapped for cash, had gone out to see a band called The Box, born from the ashes of Clock DVA. After a bile-spitting set of agit-prop aggressive poetry, faster and funnier than either Little Brother or Attila The Stockbroker, 'Seething' approached me at the bar and demanded I bought one of his dodgy fanzines. I only had enough for a pint not for poetry. But the sight of this scowling Yorkist bonehead at close quarters helped me make up my mind.
A year or so later, when he first appeared in the NME offices, others cowered in the face of this menacing-looking man, usually dressed in black, with a socialist star tattooed on one arm. But in truth, he was a sensitive skinhead and proved to be one of the brightest and wittiest writers of our generation. As a sub-editor charged with reading Swells' coruscating copy (in a vain attempt to prevent the paper from getting its arse sued on a regular basis), I spent most of the Eighties in comedic, anarchic conflict with him. He wrote as he spoke, with vigour and verve and bitter humour and precious few lulls or even pauses for punctuation or breath. Fellow sub David Swift and I would reluctantly take turns to approach Swells and tell him what we'd had to edit out and why, which usually resulted in a passionate rant against censorship, white liberals, the ownership of newspapers, New Men, capitalism, The Smiths, London, major record companies, Thatcher and Reagan, the Powers That Be and anything else he could bring into his radical stream of consciousness. You couldn't win against Swells; if we edited legally-controversial stuff out he'd rant at us but when we didn't edit out legally-controversial stuff he'd punch the air joyfully and rant at us that we'd lost the plot and were putting the paper in mortal danger. Some of his journalism, notably the Culture Vulture columns he wrote with David Quantick, was fantastic and said more about the madness of pop culture at the time than anything else in the British media. (Morrissey described Swells' 'Suedehead'-era guide to Richard Allen's teen-exploitation novels as "quite brilliant". Swells' writing often was.)
After the Eighties, when I'd moved into TV production and Swells was directing promos, we'd collide from time to time in various television studios and editing facilities. Whatever our last argument had been about - usually Morrissey or the state of British television - he just wouldn't let it lie. The last time I saw him, on a Manchester- Leeds train, he just sat down next to me and launched straight into yet another condemnation of New Men and how they'd paved the way for New Labour and the death of Civilization etc. It was as if I'd only seen him half-an-hour earlier. No such thing as small talk with Steven 'Seething' Wells.
My single favourite memory? A bizarre Battle of The Bands competiton in Lincoln in the late 1980s. I was one of the judges and Swells, surely due to some clerical error, had been booked as the compere. Apart from ranting from the stage about my daft musical tastes and my inability to spot arse from elbow let alone bands, he then managed to wind up the audience and bands to fever pitch with comments on the utter crapness of everyone involved. When I and my fellow judges picked the best band - a dire prog-rock outfit from Scunthorpe called Duck In Fog - Swells vocally (he now had control of the only microphone) disagreed and instead praised a local Lincoln band, possibly called The Smalltown Nobodies. Suddenly it all kicked off. Lincoln versus Scunthorpe. A pitch battle. Chairs and punches thrown, plastic pints of beer being spilt over prog-rock heads, equipment smashed up, officials trying to wrestle control back from Swells. As I legged it to the fire exit, in fear all warring parties would turn on the judges, I turned to see Swells in his element, laughing like a madman, centre-stage with that great shit-eating skinhead grin, revelling in this descent into total anarchy. "Fucking brilliant," he kept saying, "fucking brilliant!"
Len 'The Enemy Sub' Brown

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192. John Green said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 07:09AM

“Best writer the NME ever had.

Punk IS dead.”

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193. Peter from The Farm (Liverpool) said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 07:36AM

“Can't believe it, one of the great writers and also hilarious in real life.He was quite simply a 'social terrorist' and we loved you even though we had some great arguments we always ended up hugging. RIP Swells”

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194. Reda Maher said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 07:51AM

“Never met the man but his work and banter inspired me to become a journalist. The new breed of teenage illiterates writing for the NME should take note at his honesty, belief and lack of fashion-inspired bullshit.

Bollocks. See you on the other side x”

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195. Stu said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 07:56AM

“I'll echo John Green's sentiments - Swells made the NME great. Introduced me to great music and had a massive effect on a spotty teenager in the 80's. Couldn't care less about Jacko's demise - whereas this is terrible news. RIP Swells.”

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196. Leslie Gilotti said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 07:57AM

“I'm gonna miss you Swells. I'm glad I had a chance to know you. Rock in peace, you screaming fuck-knuckle.


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197. Conor McNicholas said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 08:16AM

“I had the honour of knowing Seven Wells and of being on the receiving end of both his venom and his kindness.
My first time working on NME wasn't as Editor but was years before doing two abortive weeks on the newsdesk. In the Britpop hangover the NME office was a faintly terrifying place to be - no music, just scowls. Newcomers were treated with active distain. Only three members of staff deigned to talk to me, the old guard - Tommy Udo, Dele Fedele and Steve Wells. Swells took me under his wing and invited me to his Vox And Roll night at Flithy McNasty's. I watched him spit out his verse in awe. I ended the night in a lock-in in a pub in Kings Cross with Dele. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. A few months ago I got a proper chance to thank Swells for his grace. Bloody glad I did now. Not that he gave a shit to be honest, wasn't his way. But the thing was, Swells might have spat vitriol but he had no time for cliques or bullies. He treated all-comers as equals... well, as long as he thought their head was in the right place. If he didn't you were screwed. I've never known a more rightous or right man. Him going is crushingly sad. The world is a poorer place for his passing.
Rage against the dying of the light. SWELLS R.I.P.”

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198. Conor McNicholas said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 08:19AM

“I had the honour of knowing Seven Wells and of being on the receiving end of both his venom and his kindness.
My first time working on NME wasn't as Editor but was years before doing two abortive weeks on the newsdesk. In the Britpop hangover the NME office was a faintly terrifying place to be - no music, just scowls. Newcomers were treated with active distain. Only three members of staff deigned to talk to me, the old guard - Tommy Udo, Dele Fedele and Steve Wells. Swells took me under his wing and invited me to his Vox And Roll night at Flithy McNasty's. I watched him spit out his verse in awe. I ended the night in a lock-in in a pub in Kings Cross with Dele. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. A few months ago I got a proper chance to thank Swells for his grace. Bloody glad I did now. Not that he gave a shit to be honest, wasn't his way. But the thing was, Swells might have spat vitriol but he had no time for cliques or bullies. He treated all-comers as equals... well, as long as he thought their head was in the right place. If he didn't you were screwed. I've never known a more rightous or right man. Him going is crushingly sad. The world is a poorer place for his passing.
Rage against the dying of the light. SWELLS R.I.P.”

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199. Jeffrey Barg said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 08:29AM

“I was a little pissed at MJ for stealing Swells' thunder, till the last line hit me:

Even in his last words, Steven was predicting the future.”

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200. Elizabeth Lockman said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 10:23AM

“@Jeffrey Barg

That BLEW my MIND.”

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201. Boocock said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 10:57AM

“Sitting on my front door step cleaning his Doc's in the Cov sunshine, grinning at a Chapeltown Road bus stop in the Leeds rain, running across the Manningham grass to kick a football in Bradford, steaming forth on stage. I can't believe I'm not going to bump into you again lad. We'll all have to try harder now that your not going to do it for us. Goodbye old lad.............”

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202. Miles said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 11:59AM

“I saw Seething at the Ritz and read Steven in the NME.
We'll keep fighting.”

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203. John Keenan said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 12:04PM

Swells regularly used to come down to the 'F' club, Leeds, and ask if he could read a couple of his rants inbetween the bands. Always eager and enthusiastic, a commanding figure with his close-cropped head, sharp, piercing eyes and craggy compexion; possibly the angriest young man of the punk generation. He always had something to say and wasn't afraid to offend when it was needed. A great loss.

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204. Gary Buswell said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 12:08PM

“I'm gutted. It's not often you get the feeling that somebody so utterly and completely irreplaceable has slipped away. He was a total inspiration and a unique voice in British pop culture who never faded.
It's a shame he never managed to finish his second novel Holy Joe, not least because he'd promised me and a couple of friends that we'd appear in it as characters who'd be obliterated horribly in typical Swells style.
Hopefully someday, someone will do him justice and compile all the best bits from his 20-odd years as a journo, writer and ranting poet and create a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking book, then he'll claim his deserved place as cult legend, one of the best and most extraordinary british writers in recent times. He should not be forgotten.”

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205. Trader Woody said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 12:20PM

“I'm one of those NME readers who read the paper rabidly (along with Melody Maker and Sounds - Wednesday was the greatest day of the week!)and just feel like a part of me has gone.

I never met Swells, but he once called me an idiot in the letters page. I'm sure he had a smile on his face as he typed that, as he saved his vitriol for far more deserving targets. (I was just being an idiot) I disagreed with vast amounts of what he wrote, but agreed with even more. He was always a writer that I had to read - never skim through - and he put todays hyperbolic but passionless writers to shame.

I'm truly saddened by all this and just wish the best for his family and friends.”

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206. Nicky Harper said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 12:48PM

“Oh Swells. The kids and I will be playing a memorial game of Risk in his honour. There will be ginger beer and lots and lots of shouting. Trouble is I got the board out and it seems we are missing some of the pieces we need for our mission to conquer the world. How did that happen?

Feel privileged to have known him. My kids adored him. Been re-reading some of his pieces laughing out loud with tears in my eyes. Old sod.”

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207. Alistair Hulett said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 12:48PM

“Whenever I got hold of my latest (imported) copy of the NME back in the 80s over in OZ, the first thing I always did was look through and see what articles, interviews and reviews were in there from Swells that week. I read and marveled at his insightful and often hilarious appraisals of bands I'd never seen, or was even likely to, given that I lived on the other side of the planet from Britain. Steven Wells gave me immense delight in a fairly grim economic decade, and I've often wondered where he had moved on to. So sad to hear of his untimely passing today. This man was brilliant and he made life better in lots of ways for many of us who never met him but loved the brilliant way he wrote with such passion and wit about what he loved and what he hated in the music biz and in politics. RIP Swells.”

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208. Rob Beasley said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 02:02PM

“I was amongst the Rock Against Racism bunch that used to put Swells in front of a audience so he could rant at at them, talking about Morrisons carrier bags and Tetley bittermen. I've got fond memories of him on tour, shaven headed with a glint in his eye and fire on his tongue. He then showed me the 'sights' in Leeds when I went to college there - the best pub, the best scene. Top man.
We'll miss you. Attila: time for a tribute gig!

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209. Martin Horsfield said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 02:20PM

“Reading NME in the late-80s, the Cult Of Swells was everywhere: the letters page was full of hapless saps he'd offended in some way, and his singles reviews were hilarious.

In later years, when I worked there as a sub, Swells would breeze into the office and greet us with, "Hello wage slaves!" before going off on one about the latest musical offence to have crossed his radar. His copy was the same as his patter: tangential, expletive-strewn but always full of original thought. It was a pleasure to untangle his trademark CAPITAL-LETTER-AND-HYPHEN-LITTERED shoutfests, and make them still read like Swells without getting our asses sued off.

In short, he did all that could be asked of an NME writer: his copy was an essential read whether you liked the subject matter or not, and whether you agreed with his perspective or not. He outraged, he entertained, and he never bored us.

Look on his works and cower, Tarquin shmindie blogger.”

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210. Cath Carroll said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 02:30PM

“Heartfelt sympathies to Swell’s family, I hope you find peace, Steven was so very special. I worked with him at the NME in the late 80s and loved how he was always engaged in life in its every detail, and -beneath the shouting- always kind. His special grace was his willingness to be surprised – and when things turned out as expected (mostly shite), he took infectious delight in being appalled. He didn’t believe in comfort zones. Last time I saw him was when he came to stay with us during an assignment in Chicago. We were just leaving the corner diner when he decided it was time to ask a colourfully invasive question, at the top of his voice. Our fellow diners all looked up. “What?” said he, as I gave him the I-can’t-believe-you look “Is it an embarrassing answer?” Then he turned to the elderly waitress, who had taken on a look of great alarm in case he asked the same thing of her. He gave her a brisk friendly nod and just said “Thank you very much. That was delicious.””

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211. conall hogan said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 04:02PM

“His last line; "Me? I blame it on sunshine. I blame it on the moonlight. I blame it on the boogie." Did he know something we didn't? Miss him already,”

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212. Tommy Udo said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 04:02PM

“I'm devastated. He was an ally, an inspiration and a great pal. I miss having somebody to go to the flicks with and somebody who wasn't afraid 0to order horse steaks in a Korean barbecue. I don't believe that in all the times we were at City Lmits, NME, Metal Hammer etc we ever really discussed music very much. But we argued a lot about WWII red army tanks, pulp thrillers and bodybuilding supplements. I saw him at the end of 2007 when he and his wife Katherine came to visit me in hospital. I always assumed that I'd see him again, either when I went to Philly or when he came back to Blighty for a visit. I feel that the world has become a slightly lonelier place for me now that he's gone. We're thinking a lot about Kathrine, and to the rest of his family that I met only briefly at the wedding.”

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213. Gordon H said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 06:06PM

“Sorry to hear of the death of A Rising Son of Ranting Verse - sadly missed”

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214. joeldermole said... on Jun 26, 2009 at 08:49PM

“Hi folks:

Music editor Brian McManus has asked me to pass on a couple of pieces of information about Steven's passing.

First: Flowers. Flowers for the family can be ordered through Fox's Jenkintown Flower Shop and Greenhouse

Second: Memorials. The family would welcome donations in Steven's name to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Thanks for your love and support of Steven.

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215. Clint Mansell said... on Jun 27, 2009 at 12:15AM

“A genuine one-off!As annoying as he was amusing!Annoying because he knew EXACTLY how to get a rise out of you and amusing because,lets face it,it needed to be done!
Swells interviewed my band a many number of times,we made two videos with him and Nick-they were loud,surreal and unhinged in all the right ways!They got the twins from Neighbours in and got me to wear a full body fishnet stocking!Not a pretty sight,I can tell you!
Unsurprisingly,his final writings carried on,unflinching,into the great beyond.
Good man!”

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216. Mark said... on Jun 27, 2009 at 03:25AM

“Can only echo what has been said above. Some of Swells writing from NME has stayed with me to this day, the one that spring to mind is a live review of the Chemical Brothers which was a single stream of thought sentence talking about how loud they were for the best part of 400 words - 'a klaxon... inside a concrete mixer...mixed with the mating call of a blue whale' or something along those lines, strewn with his trademark CAPS and not mentioning a single song they played or thing they did on stage. It was simple awesome.

You'll be missed Swells...

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217. Sonia Leal said... on Jun 27, 2009 at 04:29AM

“'you lok like a paedophiles nightmare' and 'you look like a docker in drag on streoids' were two insults he gave to a colleague and both times he was absolutely spot on and sent me crashing to the floor in fits of laughter til I could hardly breathe. Whilst most folk have a trap door to that stream of consciousness that is forever droning on in our mind Swells threw through himself through it with a loud hailer. I can't remember having any disagreements with him although I'm sure there were many as I have memories of standing nose to nose shouting in each others faces, I would call him a Stalinist, he would call me an 'arriviste', I would call him a reactionary and stand back and watch him explode.
He was one of the best verbal sparring partners I ever had... and he is very missed. I feel very lucky to have known him. My thoughts go out to his family and friends,”

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218. Paul Howard said... on Jun 27, 2009 at 10:16AM

“Very sad to hear about Swell's passing. He was the first name you looked for when you bought the NME back in the 80's/90's. As a Smith's fan he would have me fuming most of the time. But back I went, week after week. He appeared at an anti-apartheid gig we organized in '86, and was absolutely hilarious. I don't think he even took his train fare off us. A gent, and a constant wind up.

My deepest sympathy to his partner, family, and friends.”

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219. Cate Jago said... on Jun 27, 2009 at 01:23PM

“I joined NME in 1992 from 'oop North. I was one of the few 'ladies' in a very male editorial office. Swells enjoyed battering my Northern countryside 'ways' in order to 'toughen me up'. In many ways he kept me going!
He was wonderful, funny, and brilliant. He was rude, cheeky and had such a good soul.
I hope he's still kickin ass where ever he is now.

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220. tomasz. said... on Jun 27, 2009 at 03:19PM

“Like so many other people have said, you made me want to write and you made a pissed-off teenage music obsessive feel like he wasn't alone in rejecting weak shit just because it was the hip new thing around. And you consistently wrote your absolute arse off. Sleep well at last mate. tomasz.”

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221. malcolm bennett said... on Jun 27, 2009 at 07:24PM

“cunt made his living pretending to me anyway. but i'll never ever forget the seven year search he made to find me and the cigarettes he sent me in gaol. to be honest, we used to laugh that the cunt had robbed my style, but i didn't care because he honestly helped to save my life. see what happens when you leave london!
mi corazon”

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222. bentfinger said... on Jun 28, 2009 at 06:23AM

“i remember getting a handwritten letter he posted to me about 8 years ago, written quite possibly whilst high on narcotics. capital letters, exclamation marks, in the middle it went AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!FUCK!!!!QUACK!!!!!!!
and then continued as normal. i need to dig that letter out.”

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223. Igor Goldkind said... on Jun 28, 2009 at 06:32AM

“I'm a friend of Seething's from London in the 90's. The waking world has lost another advocate. Good bye dear, angry friend we never had enough beer or revolution for either of us.”

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224. Brad Furt said... on Jun 28, 2009 at 12:08PM

“Swells was a great supporter to Bradfords 1 in 12 club in its early years and his words along with those of Little Brother will always remain poetry.
RIP Cadillac guy.”

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225. Igor Goldkind said... on Jun 28, 2009 at 03:21PM

“To Katharine"
Thanks for your reply. I don't mind telling you that I've been distracted and tearing up all day. Steve and I weren't really that close personally, just professionally and thru banter. He placed allot of pieces about comics in NME when I was promoting Watchmen and coining the term graphic novel in the late 80's. Steve's critical nouse had allot to do with establishing credibility for that genre.

I was also good friends with Kathy Acker when he knew her and am still in touch with his contemporary Charles Sharr Murray.

Steve's passing has hit me much harder than I could have imagined mainly because I will always think of Steve as seething alive. A crucible of burning discernment in a sleeping world.

I'm an expat American, BTW, and it fits perfectly that Steve would marry a compatriot as his spirit (like Paine), was a never ending rebellion against hypocrasy and the complacency of power.

How fitting that he flew away from a Philadelphia perch.”

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226. Gordy said... on Jun 28, 2009 at 07:21PM

“A fitting tribute in the Observer from Barbara Ellen: "Michael Jackson death was a cultural shock, Swells an emotional one".

It's true. When someone like this passes, you feel like you've lost a comrade, someone who could reach across the reader-writer divide and actually bring enlightenment and improvement to your life, albeit in capital letters, rants and put-downs.

Writing is so safe these days and it just got a little bit safer.”

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227. Sarah Taylor said... on Jun 28, 2009 at 07:23PM

“Swells presented my first ever series for BBC Radio 4 almost 20 years ago. I've been making programmes ever since but he remains for me, one of the most outstanding writers I have ever worked with - and one of the most fun to work with too. As a new producer I was slightly terrified of him and his reputation but he turned out to be the kindest presenter with no stroppiness. I do remember the stained tracksuit trousers! I am shocked and deeply saddened to realise he's now gone.”

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228. Karen Brown said... on Jun 28, 2009 at 09:13PM

“A lovely bloke and one of the great funny writers, who was genuine, hilarious, passionate, loyal and a loud mouthed bastard. Back in the 80's he would jump out from behind pillars at 3 Johns gigs and berate you for being soft , for not buying James Brown's fanzine, and (god forbid) for being a music business nonce with an expense account. I can see his nobbly head, dirty pants, and blue eyes. A big sweetheart. So sorry for his wife and family. Couldn't really care less about Jacko, Farrah, Ed, Sky, but Swells I'm having a cry for.

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229. Jim Wirth said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 04:32AM

“Like a lot of other people here, i was a freelancer with Swells - at NME in the 1990s - and remember with considerable fondness our occasional one-sided conversations next to the pigeon holes.
He seemed to like me cause I was young, nervy, more northern than him and knew about Oi! but still made an early, cruel but entirely accurate bid for my epitaph, saying to me apropos of nothing one day: "You - you're just Johnny Cigs lite."
The only time I ever got close to a retaliatory blow was telling him he couldn't be punk rock because he liked the Beatles.
You couldn't really argue with him, and if you tried you couldn't really win.
However, like Mark E Smith - and I bet he'd hate the comparison - Steven was a much nicer man in person than you could ever have imagined.
A total hero.”

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230. rab uk said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 06:20AM

“rip steve.remember all the arguments we had abt immigration,punks and everything you believed in.will miss you.regards from aky and all at hanson school,bradford,uk.sorry to all his friends and family”

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231. Jimmy Ainsworth said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 07:35AM

“As a massive fan of Swells' work in the '90s in the NME, I'm really sad to hear of his passing. His coruscating, searing prose deserves a better tribute than this awful, sub-sixth form guff I'm typing into the interweb right now.

More importantly, reading through some of his columns to the right, and the comments from those who new him, how his death is not just the end of a brilliant writer, but a tragedy for his family and friends. RIP Swells, our thoughts are with those you had to leave behind. xx”

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232. Dave said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 11:03AM

“He gave 100%.
Thanks Swells, your a don, wether we liked it or not.”

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233. Matthew Phipps said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 12:19PM

“Cannot but smile when I think of him and particularly his NME review of Ambition (?) by Julie Burchill, which ended "Essential summer reading". Fabulous. Will someone please put together a Greatest Hits.”

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234. redmanthinks said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 12:19PM

“RIP Seething. You opened my eyes. Thanks.”

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235. Ziyad Georgis said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 01:22PM

“I was lucky enough to get to know Swells in Leeds in the early 80's when he was a punk poet. I was an easy target for him, editing the music pages for the university paper - though he would write for us, and he allowed us to interview him. We used to meet up in London at the NME office and at gigs, even on the tube when we both lived in Kilburn. Swells was the same in print and in person - always a pleasure to be around. He once told me that Sething Wells was a suburb of Surbiton - then the epitomy of middle-class Thatcher's Britain. I thought that was another windup - until I found it on the map. Typical of Swells - impossible to tell whether he was winding us up or not. RIP Swells and condolences to your family”

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236. Roger Sargent said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 02:25PM

“Absolutely in bits reading through all this....As well as working with Swells on countless NME jobs I also lived with him for a couple of years. I used to get cow eyed looks of sympathy from pretty much everyone. I won't lie, he was often mentally exhausting, and left his eyebrow clippings all over my toothbrush....but that was also hilarious and fun to live with. He always beat me on command and conquer and made me play football on Sunday morning no matter how bad my hangover was. He was my agony uncle on numerous occasions...likening one ex girlfriend of mine to Montserrat. Contrary to what one person has written he was fastidiously clean and spent more time in the bathroom than most girls I know....or me even. Like all the people who were lucky enough to get to know him I will treasure the memories. FACT!”

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237. Anonymous said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 02:33PM

“Forgot to say...greatest writer of all our generations.”

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238. Janette Garthwaite said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 02:36PM

“Only heard today this sad,sad news. I first met Swells thru the Three J's, Leeds '83 and I fell into the laser like beam of those beautiful eyes then felt the scalpel sharp cut of his judgement on my place -"You're an Inbetweeny!! Too young to be a hippy, too old to be a punk!" (cue rant for hours etc). Didn't put me off. I came across him lots as an Indie PR but the time I best remember was a junket to Berlin in '91. The BID music seminar wanted UK journos to liven up their dishwater dull discussion panels, who else but Swells! And polar opposite David Stubbs of melody maker. We made an unlikely trio roaming Berlin with 3 words of german between us, him with piles desperately seeking fibre and haemorroid cream! It was Swell! Love you, now off to cry buckets. My thoughts are with his beloveds.”

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239. Peter 'Murder By Guitar' said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 03:12PM

“Sad news indeed. I met him once in the passing at an all day punk gig in Leeds in '84 and an interview with him(done by another scribe) appeared in the 4th issue of my zine. The guy reeked of ENERGY 'til the end..a one-off.”

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240. JOhn Broadley said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 04:21PM

“The biggest loss to the music industry this week - ironic final words in his last column were so.”

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241. Aki Nawaz Fun Da Mental said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 06:38PM

“From 1978ish to now- from Bradford to Pakistan- defying death and eating goats bollocks in Lahore-he was stalking our work and politics all them years-- saw him as friend and a great journalist-- all i can say is, he was unique, one of a kind and I know he is gonna hate this but May Allah have a great conversation with him- love him to death and beyond - easy our kid -sure all the Bradford Punks send their love to your family”

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242. Kerry Sutch said... on Jun 29, 2009 at 06:41PM

“An inspiration and a lovely man. You'll be very much missed but always remembered with a smile x”

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243. Anthony Thornton said... on Jun 30, 2009 at 03:23AM

“Can't believe it really. As a teenager he was the writer who you had to read, whatever no-mark loser saddo was getting a kicking. He knew his own mind and could not and would not be swayed by peers or personality. Rare then, almost non existant now. He was righteous and although not always right, the words would leap off the page and bury their talons in you: he had to be read.

Later on I got the pleasure of meeting and working with him. He was funny and warm, always hilarious and always full of amazing ideas that he had to share. I spoke to him recently over e-mail and every line was brilliant, even though it was for an audience of one.

Obvious really, but boy could he write.”

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244. Paul Moody said... on Jun 30, 2009 at 03:34AM

“What to say? So sad. Just back from Glasto where talk among friends and colleagues was much more about the genius and kindness of Swells than any other recent events. Two memories of the man, for what it's worth, to show his kindness and unique ability to cut through the crap. At the NME during Britpop, he came over with a knowing grin and simply said "you're the oregano in the stew." Years later, backstage at Leeds, he summed up my band, Regular Fries, in a sentence. "What are you doing?" he demanded. "You should have a hit or split up -otherwise you're just in the way." RIP Swells. Simply the best, better than all the rest.”

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245. Sue Harris said... on Jun 30, 2009 at 05:59AM

“I spent two nights with Swells in Vilnius and Warsaw for an NME feature about the Bomfunk MCs (who’d have thought?). I was nervous. He was a gent.”

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246. Gillian said... on Jun 30, 2009 at 07:54AM

“I am so, so sad to hear this.... I was absolutely terrified when I had to meet with Steven back in the early 90's when I was at Digital Hardcore Recordings. I was in awe as an avid fan of his writing for the NME and have remained so ever since. Brilliant, brilliant writing... but he was actually very lovely to me that day.
My partner's Dad died of the exact same disease two months ago - both a 'small percentage of the small percentage of celiacs' that develop T-Cell Lymphoma... My heart goes to Swells' family.”

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247. Norm Waz said... on Jun 30, 2009 at 08:40AM

“Your writing in NME used to wind me up no end but it was never ever boring. Thanks for making life a little more interesting.”

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248. Victoria Rees said... on Jun 30, 2009 at 09:37AM

“Swells.... it was an honour to sub your copy and to argue with you about the Pixies.


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249. krofynn said... on Jun 30, 2009 at 12:11PM

“If any help is needed with medical bills, I'm sure many of those who have written in, and many who haven't, would be ready to donate if a fund/account was set up. RIP and sympathies.”

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250. Alice Nutter said... on Jun 30, 2009 at 01:20PM

“Every time I met Swells he was awkward, provocative and he asked questions designed to pick you apart. But at the same time he dared to give a shit about the world, he didn't care what was fashionable he just cared... not that he was sentimental - though I suspect he secretly was. With his mix of class politics, crushes, quips, digs, weird tangents and huge heart he was a one off. I'm sad that he's no longer here.”

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251. Jenny Ross said... on Jun 30, 2009 at 03:45PM

“I can't believe he's not with us anymore. He was the only person I've ever met who's more tactless than me and I bloody loved him for it! We once wrote a pilot together for a show called Paranoia which, predictably, wasn't commissioned. Writing with him was a revelation, his was always on, always brimming with insulting adjectives, and such an inspiration... even if he did make me use the side door because he suspected me of being a hippy. I hope he's ranting up a storm in heaven... oh, crap, I said something hippyish again! Love ya Swells and Katherine if there is somewhere we can make a donation please do let us know, for medical bills or otherwise. He was one of the best and I shall never forget him.”

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252. Nick White said... on Jul 1, 2009 at 09:39AM

“one of the most feared journos to go on a trip with. spent a very memorable 10 hours on a flight to LA with him and (nameless) photog-who he wound up relentlessy and non stop for 3 days! brilliant.
called me a "paid liar" once
I'm honoured.”

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253. Alan Woodhouse said... on Jul 1, 2009 at 10:43AM

When I started at NME in 2000, I had been reading the mag for years, and was in awe of your legend. But you were actually one of the nicest blokes I had ever worked with - your bark was worse than your bite. Until you discovered I didn't eat meat. I wish I'd never gone to lunch with you!!!
I'll never forget you - you were an inspiration then and you're an inspiration now.

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254. Ben Harding said... on Jul 1, 2009 at 05:35PM

“Swells knew that he thought that most of my band's output was shit. Until we wrote 'Homophobic Asshole' - and that was when GobTV insisted on making the video. and recruiting everyone from John Peel to Sinead O'Connor to appear in cameos. Not sure he even liked the music, but he knew that we meant the sentiment and the message. A man of more utter integrity you could not wish to meet.

The world's a darker place.

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255. Nicky Harper said... on Jul 1, 2009 at 06:12PM

“sorry to post again but I would like to know if there are any plans to hold a memorial service in the UK. Sure I'm not the only one who would like to make some noise to see off our friend and fill the silence we are all experiencing since he left.”

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256. Tel Sutton said... on Jul 1, 2009 at 09:13PM

“Well, I have a lump in my throat and, even though no-one is in the room with me, I'm speechless. I just found out about five minutes ago that Susan Williams is gone. Fuck. No other word for it. Fuck. He always like that word when used within the right context. This, I believe, is one such occasion.

I thought he was in the clear and was just talking about Steven to The Way's old bassist, Jon White (since gone on to fame and fortune with 'Groove Armada' and 'Faithless') the other day. How, once, we had booked Swells some bass guitar lessons with the 'BBC Rock School' bassist and all-round cheeseball, Henry Thomas, simply because Swells couldn't/wouldn't get our interview we'd done at his (and Martin Hewes of The Redskins) flat in Wembley into the NME. Henry Thomas had phoned Swells to ask him why he hadn't turned up to his lesson... needless to say, bang on cue, the phone rang in Mexborough and, sure enough, it was Swells on the blower, ranting and raving, calling us cunts... W”

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257. Tel Sutton said... on Jul 1, 2009 at 09:16PM

“We had him on speaker-phone and all the band were listening in, pissing themselves. It was a classic case of revenge.

That wasn't my first encounter with Steven. Oh no. The first was when my mum bought me a book, 'The Rising Sons of Ranting Verse', for Christmas in 1984. I had just formed The Way the previous week and shit, these two knew how I was thinking. I loved the way you had to turn the book upside down because, in many ways, John and Steven were the original Ying and Yang of gobby fuckers. It was the middle of the Miner's Strike and I lived one mile from Cortonwood. This little book of 'poetry' never left my side for weeks on end.

We hated him. We loved him. Just how you want your journalists. Fucking fearless. Taking no heroes or prisoners. Only inspiration.

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258. Tel Sutton said... on Jul 1, 2009 at 09:18PM

“Attila... You, Steven, Swift Nick, Porky, JoeS, Chris Dean... you know how much a big part you played in shaping my ideology as a young man. It's stuck with me all my life. Our gigs together, along with people like Little Brother, Kev Seisay... they were everything to The Way. We weren't arsed about 'record deals'. We had something to say and I know we got through to some in a way todays bands will never understand.

Once you'd met Swells he was someone you didn't forget... larger than life and, hopefully with a reprint or three, just as large in death. I'll miss him and his command of the English language more than any other journalist. Fuck Paul Morley and Tony Parsons -in the 80's, he was our Lester Bangs. Funny, rude, insensitive but blimey, he meant every word that hit that page. In this age, where complimentary gifts buy you magazine space and bands are as disposable as a soiled ass-wipe, it's no wonder Swells felt the need to fuck off out of the country.”

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259. Tel Sutton said... on Jul 1, 2009 at 09:20PM

“I doubt the Briddish public and the airhead readers of the Noughties NME would have been able to decipher 1/10th of the lexicon Swells would have used to spew vindictive over today's muzak/films/novels/art.

A little part of me just left the building and I know John, as much as anyone, feels that too.

Goodbye Susan, the Bette Davis of banana-eating bastards.
Tel Sutton (ex-The Way and now spewing out a subtler kind of bile with 'The Special Guest Stars').”

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260. Georgeous said... on Jul 2, 2009 at 04:53PM


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261. Mick Mercer said... on Jul 3, 2009 at 11:33AM

“What you failed to do with so-called 'poetry' you made up for with storming writing at the NME, just about the only genuinely funny writer they ever had. The fact you had no taste in music didn't matter. With other writers it was always something of which they should be ashamed but your manic style was entirely laudable, and you could only be a fine influence. A shock to hear about this. RIP Swells.”

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262. Andy Strickland said... on Jul 3, 2009 at 02:44PM

“When you read and watch and hear the piss weak efforts of today's music writers/broadcasters (BBC Glasto coverage anyone?) it makes you realise that we had some real characters and passionate music fans back then and were all lucky to be a small part of it.

One tip: why wait til they're gone before you tell them this stuff?

Andy Strick”

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263. AntiCraftDen said... on Jul 3, 2009 at 05:48PM

“Even though I disagreed with most of Mr. Wells' opinions regarding knitting and crochet, I'm grateful that he had the guts to not only write a retort to the first round, but to write another retort after that...that kind of chuzpa is rare anymore...

It's still "crochet" though.”

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264. Sarah Bee said... on Jul 4, 2009 at 08:53AM

“Bloody late to this one, but I just came back to re-read this and try once more to get it through my head and so thought I'd add a bit. I've been up late every night this week just running on the hamster wheel, trying to write it out. One obit isn't really enough. Don't have any wicked anecdotes to bring, but I spent a fair bit of time with Swells in the last gasp of the 90s when I started at Melody Maker and the early bit of this decade. While he was indeed the ferocious argumentarian and eviscerator documented here and elsewhere, he was kind and sweet to me and always an ally in a harsh and blokey industry.

I missed him when he left the country and always hoped I'd see him again for coffee and shouting and a hug. Our emails had tailed off and I will always kick myself for not keeping up enough to find out he was ill again, cos it means I didn't get to tell him he was fucking awesome. But fuck it, he lived awesome. G'nite chuck. My thoughts are with Katherine.”

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265. londoninflames said... on Jul 4, 2009 at 10:07AM

“RIP Swells, Britain's greatest music journalist.”

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266. Jason Gale said... on Jul 4, 2009 at 02:42PM

“Christ. You've brought a tear to me eye many a time Swells. But never like this. The world's a poorer place...”

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267. Hypernation said... on Jul 5, 2009 at 05:38PM

“So goodbye then Steven. I loved On The Hour, The Day Today, Terror Totty and your bitter sh*it-eating pop-star takedowns.

The world is a poorer place for your departure, albeit a slightly quieter one.”

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268. Steve J said... on Jul 6, 2009 at 04:47AM

“Just found out on Saturday that he’s dead, can’t believe it. I used to read the NME religiously for about 5 or 6 yeas in the 90’s. Swells was a writer I grow to know and love, his pieces were always the first I’d turn to. Yes, he got carried away with the length of his sentences, his use of capital letter and exclamation marks but which of us did not enjoy getting carried along with him. R.I.P. Swells, there never will be another quite like him. To ask for another would just be plain selfish.”

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269. Badgerfodder said... on Jul 7, 2009 at 11:36AM

“Can't believe it - only just found out.

You were so wrong about the Pixies, but so hilariously right about almost everything else.


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270. Paul Wellings (ex NME) said... on Jul 8, 2009 at 11:46AM

“Swells was seen as a complete nutjob. But underneath all that bravado was a sweet pussycat. I first met him when my minor band the Anti Social Workers toured with him, Attila, and the Redksins during the Miners strike benefits. He was always getting in arguments with his liberal-baiting and outspoken personality. When I joined the NME as a humble hack I reviewed him live and thought he might be an MD's son playing at being a revolutionary socialist. But he got a rave review - his poetry was jaw-droppingly good. He returned the favour by interviewing my band and producer the Mad Professor in an NME feature which is one of the best examples of gonzoid journalism I've read (viva substance abuse). I paid tribute to his scorching writing in my modest little book 'I'm a Journalist...get me out here' about life on the NME in the 80's. I last him on a tube train in London but regrettably didn't speak. Hasta la victoria siempre compadre! RIP.”

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271. Chris P. said... on Jul 8, 2009 at 04:37PM

“Dude !”

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272. jason traeger said... on Jul 11, 2009 at 03:17PM

“I had the good fortune of being hosted by Swells on my first trip to London back in 1987-8. What an awesome experience for a punk kid from the States. Swells, the world is poorer without you but richer for having known you. All my love to Swells, his family, friends and fans!”

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273. Megan Alden said... on Jul 12, 2009 at 04:44PM

“My Dear Swells,

Having read your somewhat harrowing and of course at times hilarious diaries etc, it is with heartaching sadness that I realise I have to say a final goodbye.

I somehow thought that one such as you would go on forever. I thought that we would cross eachother's paths again and catch up. Ahh!! Sod's law!!!

All my love to you, Katherine, your Mum and Dad, sisters, brothers and friends,

Love from Meg / Little Meeg x”

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274. John Brennan said... on Jul 17, 2009 at 06:27AM

“Bellvue house Leeds
swells rips open apacket of bacon with his teeth
Are you gonnawash your hands, swells ?
there is no time in the abyss time freezes, boredom cannot exist
death is for the living and those who still love
There is an empty space
Blame it on the boogie
Love Elvis Brennan
Now wash yer fucking hands, Swells

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275. Andy - Random 80's NME reader ... said... on Jul 18, 2009 at 10:12AM

“Heard the tetley-bitter call in the early-80's but tried not to piss my life against the wall inspired by Swells in-your-face laugh-out-loud rib-eating passionate invective. Rage loudly in peace mate - Your passing is something worth shouting about above the pulp-pop Jacko blather !!

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276. Juanita Evans - my email to steve said... on Jul 21, 2009 at 05:06PM

“From: Steven Wells (
Sent: Tue 4/28/09 6:02 PM
To: Juanita Evans
Thank you very much for writing. Your email cheered me up to no end. I'm
trying really hard not to die anytime soon but I can't promise I won't
pop clog eventually (I'm hoping for a robot body maybe, what do you
Once again, many thanks for writing,

On Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 1:21 PM, Juanita Evans wrote:
Your article on your cancer...was the f'ing best! I read it 3 times...not
because of your demise, but because no one has ever described cancer in that
way...EVER! If you ever decide to a book...I'd be the first to buy it (hint hint). Don't leave me here to read all those faggy,violin-playing-in-the-background, cutesy articles the other papers publish! At least find a predecessor with your wit, humor and don't-give-a-fuckness, to carry on the torch for you.
>Short and sweet...DON'T DIE STEVE”

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277. Mark Davess said... on Aug 4, 2009 at 03:43PM

“Living in Russia, I completely missed this news until today, finding it by chance mentioned in an aside about who we have lost this year, in a Guardian article. I'm afraid I didn't even know he was ill. Not long ago I was listening to Steven's split e.p. (as 'Seething Wells', which is how I mainly know him, despite his later career in journalism) with Atila the Stockbroker, and laughing aloud to it, not realising he was gone already (you can find it here - ). He came up to me once, before performing support to the Dead Kennedys, and gave me this in your face practised poem/spiel about his fanzine, which I think I bought from him. I wonder if I still have it. Totally took me aback, seeing as I was a quiet 16 year old. An 'in your face' guy, in the best possible way, I guess, and you don't imagine them dying, but of course they do. Sad. Reminds me I need to get out more and show my face.”

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278. PaulF said... on Aug 4, 2009 at 08:18PM

“In Thatcherite Britain with a pint glass in one hand and a fist full of prose in the other, Seething Wells' rants were legendary. RIP”

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279. Martian said... on Aug 11, 2009 at 07:02PM

“Crikey! How tragic.... Just goes to show what sort of planet I'm now inhabiting these days when everything in the news and media and inter-web passes me by - [i.e. drifting along in my own bubble and time zone most of the time you see, perhaps the best way of coping with the relentless amount of shit this world constantly throws at you from every direction] - until a chance perusal of a music mag in the racks at WH Smiths belatedly sets the alarm bells ringing and the eyebrows arching with gusto. Thanks to one of these monthly music mags, I now discover 6 weeks after the event that Swellsy has left us all.....

I don't really know what else to say, except that this here contributor has been pretty much influenced by a lot of what our Swellsy has been doing for the past 25 years or so. I've laughed my tits off on countess occasions at his wickedly sadistic way with subverting the syntax, his hilariously on-the-nail record reviews, his gargantuan rambling rhetoric,..... [cont'd]”

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280. Martian said... on Aug 11, 2009 at 07:15PM

“......his relentless hunger for ranting nine to the dozen, his skewed thinking, his gleefully misanthropic view of the mediocre, etc etc..... So much so that, I have long regarded him as an inspiration just from reading his turbo-charged rants !

The man was a one-off, and there will probably not be another like him. Too many journos these days spend far too much of their time brown nosing their subjects, playing safe or deciding what hair gel to apply in the morning. Swellsy's big motormouthed delivery was sufficient to send all of them packing with their tails between their skinny legs. Love him or hate him, Steven Wells really IS the Marmite of all music/rock journalists. The fact that a lot of my old mates cannot stand him or his style of writing says all you need to know about him. The guy was a fucking genius, I take my hat off to him because, thanks to him, I've developed into an opinionated gobshite too.

RIP me old china...”

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281. Anonymous said... on Sep 7, 2009 at 06:51AM

“LESTER BANGS rip off merchant, even died YOUNG to copy him.”

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282. Wendy the Barnsleyer said... on Oct 21, 2009 at 08:54AM

“We shared the back seat of a legendary National Express coach trip up North in the 80s. Kindred spirit Reekious havoc im pace x”

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283. Tim Jarvis said... on Oct 25, 2009 at 07:38PM

“Only caught this tragic news recently. Swells you challenged me more than most others I knew in London and I think I am stronger for it. Thanks. I can't visit Berlin without remembering you. I think we were one of the last NME crews to have to use Checkpoint Charlie. You were aggressive, articulate and sensitive in equal measures.”

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284. Sandra Croft said... on Oct 27, 2009 at 07:05AM

“The only music writer I have read recently who managed to so eloquently and accurately capture the pathos of our musical time. I especially enjoyed any of his Radiohead rants, wished he had made those Thom Yorke memoirs into an actual book. The words he wrote we true and funny for the ridiculous times we live in and spared no one who took it all too seriously. As it should be. RIP Steven Wells.”

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285. Swells Tribute Movie said... on Oct 31, 2009 at 09:44AM


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286. Phaneendra said... on Dec 21, 2009 at 05:53AM

“Love U Lots”

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287. Jyoti said... on Jan 8, 2010 at 03:54AM

“just found out out steven wells' death, two days after hearing about roland s howard. it's a bit too much.
swells was my favourite writer at the NME and made me cry with laughter each week. towards the end of 1987 i had become so infatuated with him that i was motivated to write a letter to the the magazine to tell him so. he published it (i think public enemy were on the cover) and made it the letter of the week. i jumped up and down on the train when i saw that.
where will we find such people again?”

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288. thefatgit said... on Jan 29, 2010 at 09:26AM

“somewhere back in the '80s, there's a rotund young teenager laughing on the bus on a wednesday reading a piece that you wrote and smiling the rest of the day forgetting the torments of school just for a while...

...don't stop fighting don't stop laughing wherever you are.”

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289. BadScooter said... on Mar 16, 2010 at 07:55AM

“The 14 year old me hated Steven Wells' opinions. He hated Steven Wells' articles. 'Why is he so angry? Why doesn't he listen to the music?' I then grew up. I understood. The 28 year old me cried when he read that he died. RIP Swells.”

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290. WILSON PARK said... on Apr 8, 2010 at 06:07AM

“Contemporary rock music journalism desperately needs writers who can cleverly combine humour, surrealism, bile, insight, opininions and attitudes with intelligence, articulate comment and everyday poetry. Swells could do all that effortlessly......he's irreplaceable and greatly missed, but let's not cry over him, let's just laugh and enjoy his writings (they will be collected and published, won't they? THEY HAD BETTER BE ! )”

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291. Sarah said... on Jun 28, 2010 at 05:46PM

“On 24 June 2010 I dusted off the turntable and played a 'single' titled 'The Rising Son of Ranting Verse' featuring Seething Wells and Little Brother ... it took me back to early 80's Bradford .... Miss you Swells.
BTW what news of 'The Collected Works'?”

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292. splendid isolation said... on Oct 19, 2010 at 10:48AM

“I even tried to mimick the Yorkshire aacent when, as a troubled teen I recited "Cadillacs In Bradford2 by the bedroom mirror. Swells meant a lot to me. I can never understand why all the good decent folk are taken from us so early. I'm almost as gutted learning this as I was when Peel passed away.”

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293. Sarah said... on Jun 24, 2011 at 09:04AM


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294. bitvert said... on Oct 24, 2011 at 10:28AM

“Swells is a rabble rousing shit kicking rentagob genius.
I am sure he is giving God a hard time.

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295. Jon Wilde said... on Jun 24, 2012 at 12:05PM

“He could be the most infuriating person alive but the world of letters and, indeed, the wider world are a lot poorer off without Swells around to kick against the pricks.”


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