He was one of my favourite music journalists ever. People will scoff at this and remind me of Paul Morley or Greil Marcus or Lester Bangs or countless legendary articulate literary types.
But I’ve never been all that literary. I always looked forward to Swells’ ranty swearing and pretension-busting championship of pop music.
He also a wrote a lot of the NME’s more political pieces in the 80s, when the music press still had something resembling a backbone. I’ve reproduced his piece on the anarchopunk riot following Conflict’s Brixton Academy gig here, but he also wrote a load of stuff on the Jello Biafra vs Tippa Gore censorship trial and many other things besides.
I distincly remember him on Janice Long’s Radio 1 show taking some christian woman from the National Viewers and Listeners Association to task about her complete lack of knowledge of popular culture. And seeing him do a few readings at the Clerkenwell Literary Festival when he was pimping his Attack Books pulp fiction imprint (which included people like Stewart Home and Zodiac Mindwarp on the roster).
I met him once, after doing a talk about the Association of Autonomous Astronauts. He was very enthusiastic about the AAA’s Italian sub-group, the SHITS (SkinHeads as Independent Travellers in Space) and seemed like a top guy on a personal level.
There is something very reassuring about him going to the grave still taking the piss out of Smiths fans and goths, whilst simultaneously praising rioters in Tehran.