The Quietus, a website devoted to covering and reviewing popular culture, has a massive tribute to Steven Wells today. Steven had been a contributing writer at Quietus, and a number of contributors there shared their thoughts about his passing.
A few excerpts:
From David Stubbs:
So, this would have been the late 90s. I was working for the NME at the time. I'd just answered a call in one of the cubicles in the male bathrooms and, duly relieved, hands washed and dried, mirrors checked for eyebrow dandruff, had returned quietly to my work station. A minute or so later, another figure exited the bathroom and re-entered the office – I'd been aware of someone in the cubicle next to mine. He did so, however, rather less quietly. "David!" he boomed, fixing me with that unwavering glower of his, "You use far too much toilet paper." I'd no idea I was being monitored. I didn't think I'd been excessive; Steven Wells, however, begged volubly to differ and left no one in any corner of the large, open plan NME office that he did so, delivering me a short and public sermon on the subject. I can't remember the gist of his argument – I was too busy fighting down a burning sensation in the cheeks – but I believe he may well have linked my supposed profligacy with the Andrex with my vegetarianism, something else he despised with Orwellian fervour. I think he suspected that if the workers were to rise up, they would better to so fortified with steak pie than lentil croquettes.
From John Robb:
Swells was the first of my mob of roots punk rock yob orators to get on the music press. And our paths would criss cross over the years. He hated loads of bands I loved and sometimes didn't seem to like music at all. Whatever he said he said it well and he wrote genius wild copy with adrenalised abandon and wound the readers up with the sort of rage that we had bought into punk rock for. Even his recent Guardian blogs brought the same sort of reaction but the writing was always perfect. The rant as a work of art.
From Sarah Bee:
To the untrained eye it might look like someone had poured a load of pellets into a swear gun and merrily blasted away at a wall for a few hundred words, but make no mistake, there was a bulldozing intellect behind the fuckingfuckery. It infused and elevated the swearing. When Swells swore it wasn't in the feeble, neutered way the rest of us swear - it was a hearty monolithic kind of swearing that beat profanity down until it became poetry.
From John Doran:
On Friday I gave up trying to write about Swells, lost in a maze of tolling bells, stopped clocks, super bright candles that burn your eyebrows off and headed to a job I had in the evening - DJing to a car park filled with 600 lager-marinaded AC/DC fans in Wembley.
It was an enjoyable afternoon dropping classic rock and metal to a bunch of people demented with excitement at having their tri-yearly day out without the kids. But half-way through a particularly good run ('Down Down', 'Suffragette City', 'Jailbreak', 'Problem Child') a dark cloud passed through me. 'What would Swells do?' asked the stupid part of my brain. 'I've no idea' said the honest part.
I stopped AC/DC mid track and immediately everyone started booing. After some fumbling with my lap top I shouted: "Fuck Michael Jackson but fuck you even more if you don't like this. This is for Swells" and played 'Rock With You' by the recently deceased King Of Pop.
Immediately two guys started charging toward me. One with a gold tooth, a park tan, an iron cross and the T-shirt of a skeleton flipping the bird reached me first and got me in a headlock.
"Fucking brilliant!" he screamed into my ear. Even from my bent double position I could see the crowd had split into the disco dancing and cheering and the beer throwing, booing and marauding. Without letting go of me he turned round and floored the other guy who was obviously less enamoured with the temporary interruption to the feel good blues rock of the day.
"Fucking brilliant! Now play some ABBA." He could see that I was about to say no and said: "You will play some ABBA, you will dance with me.We will go mental. Properly fucking mental. And if you don't I will kick the fucking shit out of you."
"'Does Your Mother Know' or 'Dancing Queen'?" I asked. You've probably gathered by now that this isn't a metaphor but just some stupid things that happened in sequential order. But there was a brief moment where dancing, booing, fighting, drinking, ACDC T-shirts and pop disco combined in some new disharmonious art form. Disco man and rock man laid into each other and went careening into the sound gear and only stopped when they buckled a stand causing a large speaker to fall on them and knock them temporarily senseless.
When order was restored with Boston's 'More Than A Feeling' I felt dark again. Swells at his weakest was ten times braver than me at my strongest.
Our friend and colleague Steven Wells died two years ago today of the cancer he had documented so well in two cover stories for Philadelphia Weekly. On June 14, he submitted this column.
Billy Bragg Remembers Steven Wells
“You write to make an impact.”
Steven Wells in NME
Audio: A Snarling Poet
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