Billy Bragg on the death of Steven Wells, poet, activist and erstwhile music critic, who died last month.
” … If there is anyone out there who wishes to take up his mantle, they’ll need more than just a snarky sense of humour and a potty mouth. The comment sections of every website are full of posts from cynical jerk-offs who get their kicks from upsetting people. Swells could be hurtful in what he wrote, but his contrarian stance was never mere posturing. It was underpinned with an unswerving belief that things could be better – culturally, politically and globally. He just wanted people to feel like he did at the paucity of talent on display – outraged to the point of engagement. To that end, he was willing to take it further than many of us are prepared to go – in your face, down your trousers and up your arse like a shit-eating rabbit on speed.”
How much of a loss is this? Depends if you read British music magazines in the 80s and 90s. Or appreciated a voice that didn’t hesitate to cut through the bafflegab and call out the pseuds.
Here’s an excerpt from a piece Wells wrote last year:
“… So this is how punk ends – not with a bang but with a jumper. Today, all over the world, thousands of punks, goths, emos and other ferociously tattooed, face-pierced miscreant bastard folk-devil scum will take to the streets to protest their disgust with war, oppression and bourgeois conformity by crocheting hideous green twat-hats with stupid ear flaps.
I’m talking about World Wide Knit in Public Day. Which, by its very name, suggests that knitting is a sordid and disgusting practice best done behind locked doors and drawn curtains. Which it is …
If you need a hobby, take up spitting.”