Steven Wells

Steven Wells (10 May 1960 – 24 June 2009)[1] was a British journalist, author, comedian and punk poet born in Swindon, Wiltshire.[2] He was best known for ranting poetry and his provocative, unapologetic music journalism.[3] In June 2006, he wrote in the Philadelphia Weekly about his treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma.[4][5] After being in remission for a short time, he was diagnosed with enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma in January 2009[6] and died on 24 June 2009 in Philadelphia.[7]

Steven Wells
Born(1960-05-10)10 May 1960
Swindon, England, United Kingdom
Died24 June 2009(2009-06-24) (aged 49)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Pen nameSeething Wells, Susan Williams, Swells
OccupationMusic critic, journalist, screenwriter, poet, novelist, film producer, publisher, comedian
GenrePunk lit
SubjectRock music, Punk culture, politics, anti-fascism


Wells was born in Swindon but moved to Bradford at an early age. The son of a company director, he attended Hanson comprehensive school in Bradford,[citation needed] but left with minimal qualifications in 1977 and later worked in a factory and as a bus conductor. It was at this time that he became involved with punk rock, including the radical socialist Leeds art-punk band The Mekons.

In 1982, he began performing as a ranting poet and comedian under the names Seething Wells, Swells and Susan Williams. He was a support act to various northern English punk bands, such as The Fall, The Mekons and Gang of Four, along with fellow ranting poets Attila The Stockbroker, Swift Nick, Little Brother, Mark Miwurdz, and Porky The Poet.

After moving to London, he began to write for NME, initially under the name Susan Williams. He championed socialist soul/punk band The Redskins; American hardcore punk bands such as Black Flag and the Butthole Surfers; British bands that merged thrash, hardcore and heavy metal, such as Extreme Noise Terror, Napalm Death; and certain pop artists, such as Daphne and Celeste.[8] However, Steven was also critical of some artists and individuals such as Richard Branson, and when covering his appearance in issue #160 of the British Transformers comic, mockingly called Richard "the world's richest bearded git" and Transformers a "crap comic", even though the Transformers franchise has since gone on to become popular internationally.[9]. In the 1990s, he diversified, occasionally writing comedy (for shows such as On the Hour[10] and The Day Today) and other non-music related journalism.

In 1992, he and Nick Small formed GobTV, a music video directing partnership. GobTV videos were characterised by extreme visuals, rapid edits, a 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.[11] The partnership ended in 1996. In 1999 he started the Attack! Books publishing house and his debut novel was Tits Out Teenage Terror Totty. His illustrated history Punk: The Stories Behind the Songs was published in 2004.[12] In 2009 he contributed a story to the Love Hotel City anthology.[13]

Wells became a sports columnist for The Guardian,[14] FourFourTwo, 90 Minutes, The Quietus music website and the Philadelphia Weekly, and was in the process of writing several books.


There were many tributes to Wells after his death.[15] Musician Billy Bragg wrote: "The antithesis of the bonehead racist, he was in fact an articulate left-winger and unlike the bully boy who only picks on those weaker than him, Swells chose to target the powerful, the popular, the hip and the cool."[16]

Music journalist Everett True described Wells as "a tastemaker. He informed people's opinions, challenged them, led them, changed them…most of this by default, by sheer force of his personality and peerless ability to entertain.".[17]

Boff Whalley, of anarcho-punk band Chumbawamba wrote: "Seething (Steven) Wells died two days ago. Then tonight, starting to write this, I find out that Michael Jackson has died. One of these two men owned a ranch called Neverland and had three children called Michael Joseph Jackson Jr, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince Michael Jackson II. The other one was the King of Pop."[18]

Gareth Campesinos!, singer for the indie rock band Los Campesinos!, wrote on his band's website that "...[T]here have been a few things that have stood out above others in Los Campesinos!' short history that have made me think "shit, we're really doing this", and one of them was the first time I read Steven Wells ranting against us. That we were on his radar, and that he deemed us worthy of his bile was an honour"."In October last year, Swells wrote: "I have seen the future. It's Garry Bushell being kicked senseless by Gareth from Los Campesinos! forever. So it's not all bad." I promise, if I ever get the chance, for the only good thing I can think of to ever come from Swindon, I will do that".[19]

Welsh rapper Akira The Don devoted an entire mixtape to Wells shortly after his death, with the song "He Was The Greatest" entirely about Steven Wells in particular. The Wildhearts' 2009 album Chutzpah! is dedicated to Wells.


  1. ^ Obituary: Steven Wells, The Guardian, 29 June 2009
  2. ^ James Brown (25 June 2009). "Steven Wells: the brilliant NME writer with no real interest in music". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
  3. ^ "Wikipedia kills legendary journalist". The Register. 25 June 2009. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
  4. ^ Wells, Steven (21 June 2006). "The English Patient". Philadelphia Weekly. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2007. A man gets lost in the Philadelphia health system
  5. ^ Wells, Steven (25 June 2009). "Steven Wells Says Goodbye". Philadelphia Weekly. Archived from the original on 17 September 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2009. His last column.
  6. ^ Wells, Steven (31 March 2009). "Cell Out". Philadelphia Weekly. Archived from the original on 1 February 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2009. Looking for dignity in the fight against cancer.
  7. ^ McManus, Brian (30 June 2009). "Steven Wells: In Memoriam". Philadelphia Weekly. Archived from the original on 31 January 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2009.
  8. ^ "Flickr Photo Download: Steven Wells interviews Daphne and Celeste". 21 April 2005. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  9. ^ Transformers: Space Pirates: published by Titan Books, 2003
  10. ^ "Comedy – On The Hour". BBC. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  11. ^ Promo: house magazine of the UK music video industry, 1995
  12. ^ Wells, Steven. Punk: Loud, Young and Snotty – The Stories Behind the Songs (Stories Behind Every Song). Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1-56025-573-0.
  13. ^ Stevens, Andrew. Love Hotel City. Future Fiction London. ISBN 0-615-26034-9.
  14. ^ Ingle, Sean (25 June 2009). "Steven Wells: a few memories of a unique and acerbic voice". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 26 June 2009.
  15. ^ "Steven Wells 1960–2009". Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  16. ^ Billy Bragg Remembers Steven Wells Archived 7 September 2012 at
  17. ^ True, Everett (13 July 2009). "You write to make an impact". Drowned in Sound. You write to make an impact.
  18. ^ "Chumbawamba Musings - Seething Wells, Not Michael Jackson". 26 July 2011.
  19. ^ "Heart Swells: RIP Steven Wells". 25 June 2009. Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2010.

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