Seething Wells was one of the best known ranting poets. Along with Attila the Stockbroker he broke ranting poetry to the nation. His real name was Steven Wells.
He was an angry skinhead type with an Anti-Nazi League tattoo and in poetry as a fight terms never used a razor when a sledgehammer would do. The Yorkshire Post described him as ‘about as subtle as a nail bomb exploding in a crowded room’.
His spleen was vented on sexists, toffs, vegetarians and in a series of poems: Tetley Bittermen. Tetley’s was a beer brewed in Yorkshire and the Tetley Bittermen were ‘typical’ Yorkshiremen portrayed in their ads. Swells never was much of a drinker, perhaps that added to his anger?
This is still one of my favourite ranting poems –
Drizzling rain, heavy fog
Being swamped by the Drug Squad
A police dog sniffs-out vitamin pills
These build your muscles
“What’re these Punk? D’you take drugs?”
The constable snarls
The dog looks puzzled
I’m quite fond of puppy dogs
It’s pigs that should be muzzled.
He had a couple of records, a split single with Attila, Rough, Raw & Ranting which was live recordings from Wandsworth in 1981, and a split single with Little Brother, The Rising Sons of Ranting Verse in 1982. There’s also a book split with Attila, they do half each, called The Rising Sons of Ranting Verse from 1985.
I gigged with Swells, or Spotty Swells as we knew him, plenty. As I was the younger skinhead herbert at the time, my ranting moniker Teething Wells was a play on his name. He was also obsessed with the board game Risk. That probably says quite a lot in itself. He was always an intense performer who enjoyed annoying wankers.
From poetry he went to write for the NME, before it morphed into Smash Hits. He frequently wrote as Susan Williams. Swells also moved in pop video production and became a publisher of Attack! books. He died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2009.
I think the last poetry gig he did was one for Short Fuse on a night where all the poets had the surname Wells. We could only find 3 so Salena Godden read as Salena Allbeingwells.
Young poets Wayne ‘Sleng Teng’ Smith and Emily Harrison will be interested to learn he was born in Swindon. In common with John Hegley, he also worked as a bus conductor.
Seething Wells is actually a place in Kingston Upon Thames.