Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sunshine, moonlight, good times

The journalist Steven Wells ("Swells") died the day before Michael Jackson. Swells was a Northerner, a vituperative, angry, uncompromising character who wrote for the NME in its heyday in the 1980s, a time when I bought it every week, read it religiously, and cut out pictures for my bedroom door and to paste them onto the envelopes of the letters I sent to my friends (I was fond of a silver pen on a black envelope at the time: I wish I'd kept pictures of those slaved-over masterpieces). I wrote to the NME letters page about something (an interview with the Fire Engines, as it happens). I was over-enthusiastic, and Swells, the letters editor at the time, published it, but wrote a sarky comment after it. It destroyed me. But that's because he was a god to anyone who loved music: even if, often, he was objectionable and just plain wrong.

Swells' last column for his newspaper, the Philadelphia Weekly (watch out for those blue eyes), is a typical example of his trenchant style: and in an extraordinary coincidence he quotes Blame it on the Boogie as his last line.


nmj said...

I did not know of Steven Wells, I was not an NME reader, but having just followed your links I think I would have loved him.

'Life is getting angry at destroyed cat jigsaws.'

That is fabulous.

LottieP said...

I don't think I loved him, NMJ, but I certainly admired him. The NME journalists were a cynical, funny and scathing lot - if you were a Smiths fan you had to take a lot of criticism, and they'd wage war on various bands with righteous fury. I remember an entire issue devoted almost solely to whether Paul Simon's Gracelands should be boycotted or not (being in breach of the sanctions against South Africa at the time) - never mind the music, feel the politics.

I still kind of admire that vital, cynical, principled voice, but I also think it a shame that anyone's music tastes should be dictated to by the loathings and prejudices of others.

nmj said...

hey lottie, i'm sure if i'd been reading him regularly his remarks might have seemed a bit too caustic at times, i would have become weary, but reading those two links yesterday was SO refreshing. his utter honesty & lack of sycophancy in the 1999 glastonbury column made me chuckle. i feel geeky that i had not heard of him.

Claire said...

Au contraire, nmj - you would have been geeky if you had heard of him.