Steven Wells (1960-2009)
Another Dead Hero
by: Daniel Cairns
Picture this. You're 14 years old. You're too terrified to talk to girls, and you're more interested in Star Wars and Nintendo than football and sport. You've probably just started masturbating too. In which case, you're fucked.

However, you've just started getting into music too, and not just shitty stuff that you listen to because your parents or dumbass friends like it. You're getting arty with it. You've become obsessed with Radiohead and Pulp, and you want to find more bands like that. So you start to read about music. You use your Dad's knackered old computer that you've riddled with porn related viruses to read the latest news about Blur or whatever crap you like when you're a child. Then you use the money from your shit summer job to buy magazines about the shitty bands that you so admire. Every young music loving idiot has gone through the same thing.

Being British and middle class to the point of farce, my first flirtation with printed musical media was the NME, waaaaaay back in the heady days of, ooooh... 1999.

Now don't get me wrong. The NME has about as much musical relevance as a pint of cum, and most of their writers are cackhanded pseuds. However, there was one guy who made it worth traipsing two miles to the nearest newsagent with a handful of pennies to buy a copy.

That man was Steven Wells.

Steven Wells (or Swells, as he was nicknamed) was an anomaly amongst the writers of the NME, in that he seemed to hate every fucking band that he came across, unless they were loud, angry and snotty. He was also enormous fun to read. To a young, angsty friendless brat like me, he was a hero. He went on passionate rants about why The Smiths were the worst thing to ever happen to music, and wrote reams of prose explaining that all would be well with the world if we turned to Black Sabbath and the Sex Pistols. Of more relevance for us, he championed bands like Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror. The man had it going on.

I was a young indie child. I bought the NME because I wanted to read about Oasis, Elastica, Radiohead and Suede. A few months later though, thanks in part to the not so subtle influence of Swells, they didn't figure into the equation so much. Queens of the Stone Age were finding their feet, whilst raucous noisemakers like Amen and Raging Speedhorn were on the ascent. I found this stuff a million times more exciting than the dull bands 'de jour'.

Swells always seemed to agree with me as far as bands like these were concerned. They had energy and a 'fuck you' attitude that made me realise it was perfectly normal to be frustrated and angry. Because of this, I saw the man as something of a kindred spirit, something to aspire to. However, it wasn't just his music taste that inspired me. The man was like a verbal pipe bomb, ranting about everything from politics, to dogs, to masturbation, to Morrissey and Disney. He employed a vernacular that was akin to an ADD riddled pitbull with an MA in English Literature. At a fleeting glance it was puerile nonsense, but more in-depth reading revealed he was blessed with the verbal dexterity of a speed-addled poet laureate.

During the course of about two years I bought NME religiously, mainly to see what lunacy Wells would transcribe next. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. The man was a raging cacophony of righteous (and frequently hilarious) fury, whether it be comparing the Disney movie "Dinosaurs" to communist propaganda, getting into tiffs with Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch, or asking Shaggy why he wasn't into 'pussy-munching'. He was a man who wasn't afraid to take imbecile scene hogging chancers down a peg or two either, and he took delight in railing against everything from fans of The Smiths to, er... fans of The Smiths.

It wasn't just journalism that was privy to his misanthropy. Wells stuck his fingers in (and contaminated with glorious abandon) many pies, ranging from novel writing (his book "Tits Out Teenage Terror Totty" is something of a collector's item), publishing, video direction and TV writing (he contributed to the seminal BBC Comedy "The Day Today"). He was a true renaissance man, albeit one that said fuck. Profusely.

While I stopped reading the NME once I hit puberty and became a full on metal bastard, I never stopped reading his articles. Like me, he moved on from the NME and did freelance for publications like Metal Hammer and Playlouder, before settling on an excellent sports column in the Guardian newspaper. Even with these other publications, he maintained his playful, larger than life way with the written word. His most recent columns appeared in the Philadephia Weekly, where he chronicled a harrowing, yet self-deprecating account of his battle with lymphatic cancer.

A battle that -- I'm sad to say -- he lost on Tuesday the 23rd of July.

Wells leaves us in a time where we frankly need more of his type. As I write this, music is plumbing new depths of idiocy, the world finds itself ever further embroiled in apocalyptic turmoil and the likes of Perez Hilton thrive like the snooping snivelling little cuntrags that they are. Staunchly left wing, he would have been outraged to see the increasing amount of fascist pondlife coming into prominence, and God knows his pen would be frothing with rage.

But alas, the ink cartridge of that mighty pen is spent, and he's taken the next step on the cosmic journey.

His deranged, onomatopoeic ranting was too much for some (he garnered as much hatred as he did admiration), but the influence he's had on music journalism (and journalism in general) can't be denied. He's inspired a generation of waffling imbeciles who delight in the written word as much as they do music. Who could forget his incredible review of My Vitriol's _Always: Your Way_? In tribute to the great man, I'll reprint it here in all its glory...

"Fuck bollocks wank fuck shit AAAAAAAARGH!"

This isn't so much an obituary as an account of why aggressive music has lost a very real champion. He embodied -- more than any other British journalist -- true punk ethics. He was never compromising, always honest and never changed. He maintained his integrity up to his final article for the Philadelphia Weekly.

If there's a Heaven, they're going to get a hell of a headache.

So folks, I suggest you all google 'Steven Wells articles', sit back and laugh like a madman at his deranged, bitingly acerbic rantings.

Rest in Peace. Fuck The Smiths.

(article submitted 5/7/2009)


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