Thursday, June 25, 2009

Steven Wells: 1960 - 2009

I'm probably at least the 5,000th person today to write the words, "Steven Wells was the writer who made me want to become a journalist," but hell, it's true.

For the uninitiated, Swells, who died from Hodgkin's lymphoma on Tuesday aged 49, was a spitting, ranting genius of a scribe, and, when I started reading the NME back in 1995, easily the best writer they had on their books. His pieces were characterised by balls-out irreverence, extreme sweary imagery, a disgust for all things twee and tame (Belle and Sebastian usually got a pasting) and, most memorably, SHOUTY CAPITAL LETTERS (today's report on The Quietus, which he wrote for more recently, had the excellent headline "Swells Dies: Caps Lock Buttons Sigh in Relief").

His final piece is published here and you can see from the comments how well loved and respected he was in the industry (amongst others, Kitty Empire, Everett True, Steve Sutherland, Mark Beaumont, Dominik Diamond, John Robb, Barbara Ellen, David Quantick and Attila the Stockbroker all weigh in. And Brian Wilson, but that may be a nom de plume).

Anyway, all nostalgic, like, I had a root under my bed and found an NME from October 1996. Lo, behold and phew, there was a piece by Mr Wells waiting for me. An extract, for you, then. It's from a wonderfully snarky interview with Power Station, a so-called supergroup consisting of self-confessed love addict Robert Palmer, Chic drummer Tony Thompson, and Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor.

They've just finished only their second album in more than ten years and during its recording, John Taylor, also ex-Duran Duran, had to quit because of a bit of a problem with the old proboscis-rotting showbiz sherbert. Then producer Bernard Edwards, also ex-Chic, caught flu while on tour in Japan and died in his sleep. Are you listening Noel Gallagher? You whining WIMP!

Yes indeed, they're called The Power Station and they're here to show you mewling, puking, zitpit-cratered, baggy-trousered, snot-sleeved, scabby-kneed, dope-addled no-hoper teenage slacker scum the POWER of ROCK created by MEN whose bollocks have dropped so far that they hang down by their kneeds like saddlebags.

That's one way of looking at it. That's certainly the way The Power Station see it, as they and your correspondent munch our way through exquisite Japanese food in an exclusive west London restaurant like the jet-setting, royalty-shagging, racehorse-owning bourgeois bastards we are.

[…]

Is it better to be a pop star or a rock star… Hang on, for some strange reason all three of them have burst out laughing.

"I'm a singer," says Robert, suddenly very serious. "He's a guitarist. He's a drummer. I really don't know what you're talking about."

Andy, you have, without a doubt, been a pop star.

"Well someone chooses to call you that, to pigeonhole you and plan your life out for you blah blah blah blah blah…"

FUCKING HELL! What THE STINKING HELL IS going on?!!? The guitarist of DURAN DURAN will not admit to once having been a pop star?!? I mean how many exclamation marks can NME print in one issue?!?!!!???!?!?!!!!!!!! The Power Station are not rock stars or pop stars, they are 'musicians' Why? In God's name, WHY?!?! People worship rock stars! They adore them! They are desperate – in their panting, turgid and drippingly moist millions – to have savage, uncomplicated and utterly mindblowing SEX with rock stars and they want it NOW! I mean, 'musicians', for crying out loud! Do you know anybody in their right mind who would even piss on a 'musician'? But we digress.

So, yep, RIP.


More:
NME tribute: Rage in Peace
His Guardian Sport highlights
The Daphne and Celeste reunion campaign starts here

Monday, June 01, 2009

Hay fever

Perhaps this is a little strange, but within five minutes of arriving at Hay-on-Wye for the books festival, I was thinking, "I need to come back next year." The place emanated immediate good feeling.

Books - and copies of The Guardian - were everywhere, although the sponsorship and presence of Sony, who were attempting to flog their e-reader, provided a vague challenge to such paper-based gaity.

Browsing at Hay

Providing my brain with exercise were, in this order: James Marsh (director of one of 2008's films of the year, Man on Wire) and Adrian Chinn (producer of etc etc), Graham Swift, Chris Patten, David Simon, Kate Summerscale and Simon Schama. Hey, Swifty, can you sign my digitally downloaded copy of Last Orders, please? Just scratch your name onto the screen with this scalpel, it's fine.

When Macca, my companion for the weekend, wasn't snacking on sugary treats - the man's sweet tooth, I discovered, was insatiable - he was raving about The Field. The Field was not, as you might have thought, David Simon's idyllic follow-up to The Corner and The Wire, but an actual field next to the festival grounds, filled with a host of golden, um, buttercups, several easygoing cows, and much peacefulness.

Buttercup, Hay

[Checks for udders.]

Cow in field at Hay

In the evening a light pointed to at top of this tree, making it look eerily like an enormous piece of broccoli. I don't like broccoli, but I liked this tree.

Lit-up tree at Hay Book Festival 1

In summary, then: see you next year.