It is with profound sadness that I read this morning the passing of Swells
aka Steven Wells, journalist, polemicist, slayer of all things, iconoclast,
and wonderful writer & critic...
Inasmuch some crime-noir writers have travelled with rock, punk, concerts,
cd¹s and all, some music critics have carried on the rebel yell themselves..
Steven Wells was one of those and his columns from early NME to Guardian and
Philadelphia Weekly were always prime reading time...We will miss him
A great great voice is smiling at us from above now, pint in hand I hope...
Montois de Détroit
Here is his last one:
Steven Wells Says Goodbye
His final column.
By Steven Wells Add Comment|Comments: 12 |Posted Jun. 25, 2009
Editor's note: Our friend and colleague Steven Wells died Tuesday 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
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 wife¹s 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 isn¹t that banal or that stupid. Life isn¹t 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 Depp¹s 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
Here¹s the wicki on him:
Steven Wells (196023 June 2009) was a British journalist and author,
latterly based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Born in Swindon, England in 1960, Wells moved to the northern English city
of Bradford with his family in 1968. Leaving school with minimal
qualifications in 1977, Wells worked in a factory and as a bus conductor
while becoming involved with punk music, including the radical socialist
Leeds art-punk band The Mekons. In 1984, he began appearing as a punk poet
and stand-up as a support act to various Northern punk bands, such as The
Fall, The Mekons, Gang of Four along with fellow ranting poets Attila The
Stockbroker, Swift Nick and Porky The Poet where he performed under the
names "Seething Wells", "Swells" or "Susan Williams". In this last guise, in
which he would sometimes wear a dress, he received fan mail from Kathy Acker
who saw Susan as a fellow radical female writer.
Later he moved to London and began to write for the NME, initially under the
name Susan Williams. In this guise he championed socialist soul/punk band
The Redskins along with American hardcore bands such as Black Flag and the
Butthole Surfers. Later on he championed British bands which merged thrash,
hardcore and heavy metal, such as Extreme Noise Terror, Napalm Death and the
various bands that followed them. He also championed disposable pop artists,
such as Daphne and Celeste, as successors to the punk aesthetic. In the
1990s, he diversified, occasionally writing comedy (for shows such as The
Day Today) and other non-music related journalism.
In 1992, he formed GobTV, a music video directing partnership, with Nick
Small. GobTV videos were characterised by extreme visuals, rapid edits,
political agenda and humour. GobTV made promos for The Wildhearts, Manic
Street Preachers, and Skunk Anansie amongst others and were the top UK
directors in 1994 and 1995. The partnership ended in 1996,
but the influence of the GobTV style is evident in music video some ten
years on.
In 1999 he started the Attack! Books publishing house. His debut novel Tits
Out Teenage Terror Totty soon followed. His illustrated history Punk: The
Stories Behind the Songs (ISBN 1-56025-573-0) was published in 2004. In 2009
he contributed a story to the Love Hotel City anthology (Future
In later life Wells was active as a sports columnist for The Guardian,
FourFourTwo, 90 Minutes, the Quietus music website and the Philadelphia
Weekly, and was in the process of writing several books. In June 2006, he
wrote in the Philadelphia Weekly about his treatment for lymphatic
cancer. He died of the disease on 23 June 2009.
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