Where were you when Steven Wells predicted the death of Michael Jackson? 3:00am, 28 Jun 2009
Where were you when Steven Wells predicted the death of Michael Jackson?
"Fuck bollocks wank fuck shit AAAAAAAARGH!".
This is the earliest music review I can remember. It comes from the Single Reviews section in the NME at the very tail end of the 90's, and is a review of the single 'Always Your Way' by My Vitriol. The reviewer? A fat, anarchistic bastard named Steven Wells. He died of Hodgkins Lymphoma on 24th June, in Philadelphia.
This week will be a one remembered for different reasons by different people. US actress Farrah Fawcett-Majors succombed to cancer. US entertainer Ed McMahon died from pneumonia, bone cancer, pretty much you name it. And of course Michael Jackson passed away from heart failure in the early evening of Thursday 25th June 2009.
I'm not going to use this blog simply as a forum for my opinions of Jacko - there are plenty of others out there, probably able to express their feelings on the subject more eloquently than me. In brief, he wasn't my hero, but someone who's creative work I largely admired, and 'Bad' was the first album (yes, on tape) I ever asked for from my family. He had a big impact on my love of music. Not everyone shares my opinion of him. That's cool. 'Sides, the guy's sold millions of records already, he never needed my help there. He needed help from someone, though.
I first heard the news that Jacko was in hospital as I got in to a taxi at Newcastle (I'd missed the last train home after watching Julia Nunes), so by the time I got home, my first mission was to find out whether it was a hoax or not. At this point, what mainsteam logic tells you to do is get yourself to a solid professional news source and wait for some official confirmation. So I switched on the BBC news and sat down to wait... but the more I watched, the more it seemed like they were creating news out of absolutely nothing. Endless live footage reels, tickertape bulletins and a load of guests could not disguise the fact that they were in essence saying the same thing over and over again. The same old words went round on the newsreel, the same crowds were gathered outside of the hospital, even the same guests were being asked the same questions - just worded slightly differently. Kudos to Uri Geller, who at least managed to make himself out to be a little human (albeit a slimy and somewhat disturbing one) when he revealed he gave in to temptation and hypnotised Jacko to find out if he'd "touched" any children. Everyone else seemed to have been afflicted by Terminal Diana Disease - a form of amnesia where the death of a public figure makes people totally forget the critical pasting they've given to that person over the last few years. Symptoms may include weeping, public appearances, charity/trust donations, and renewed association with that person after unceremoniously ditching them in the past - as well as nausea and vomiting in onlookers.
So when they rolled out the obituary footage, so obviously put together about five years ago by some work experience kid who they had no idea what to do with, I took refuge in the internets. Specifically Facebook and Twitter. This was the first time I've been on Twitter when something this big has gone off. As you guys know, we started our Twitter account only a couple of weeks ago as a trial run for reporting at Download. After I was hooked and insisted we keep it - partly because I like the sound of my own voice, partly because it can be an easy way for scrubs like us to score some news. Whether or not they admit it, a lot of more professional music websites consider Twitter an invaluable news resource - at any time, what you might read on any website is maybe 40% from Twitter, 50% from press releases and 10% stuff they've researched themselves*. However, that fact distorts what Twitter is - essentially a giant rumour mill, full of RT-ed news, self-promotion, half-truths - in short, the best of humanity. Gotta love us.
First stop, the news sites: Reuters, TMZ, CNN, BBC, WTF, OMG, ROFLCHOPTER. At least the timing was perfect, Jacko's death confirmed just as I got online, and with several more discerning (ie. less likely to post urban myths as news) sites picking it up, it seemed genuine.
On then to Twitter, where the first few out of the hundreds we follow had started to pick up on it. Because normal people are less interesting than famous ones, the statements poured out like the Thames - fast, big and, um, full of used condoms. Fred Durst, naturally, brought the win, when he posted the following two shots of himself, from when he recently acquired some memorabilia: http://yfrog.com/0v60781914j and http://yfrog.com/3ww6wsj. However, what struck me most was how difficult it was to tell the river from the ocean.
markhoppus first album i ever bought was thriller. with birthday money. on cassette. for my brand new sony walkman. truth. rest in peace.
35 minutes ago from web
jameyjasta Say what you want to say about MJ but Off The Wall & Thriller are untouchable. R.I.P.
35 minutes ago from mobile web
SDuPreeBemis Prepro called off tonight because apparently Weston threw up 6x today from heat exhaustion while working outside. Also, I guess MJ is gone.
33 minutes ago from web
lynchland I'm wondering if the press, who loved to bash MJ are all suddenly going to change their tune now? The whole thing seems suspicious to me.
41 minutes ago from twhirl
lynchland Do you think people will start wearing one white glove as a symbol of mourning? Or maybe buy a pet monkey?
36 minutes ago from twhirl
Scroobiuspip yo p.s. A huge story like this may be the perfect distraction for Irans mediablocked badness to increase.Share links.Dont let it slip by.
23 minutes ago from web
JordanETID celebrity deaths are to tweeters what christmas presents are to little children. or what little children were to michael jackson. i had to.
about 1 hour ago from web
It was left up to Thrice to make the post that summed up pretty much what I felt...
OfficialThrice Weird. A world with no MJ.
about 1 hour ago from twhirl
And then sh*t allll went down, y'all. Amongst all the tasteless jokes - some funny, some unfunny - the tears - some real, some fake - and endless celebrity commentary... Perez Hilton and Pete Wentz started a fight**.It all started when Wentz took offense to Perez Hilton posting on Twitter about his sadness at the loss of Michael Jackson, and how people should not continue to post rumours about other celebrities passing away that day. Wentz's love of the pasty-faced one is well known - the guy's band has even covered 'Beat It' - and it seems that seeing someone who'd made a living off slagging off his hero suddenly appearing to make a massive volt-face got on his wick. "u can't make ur life tearing someone apart, who is a human being, and then flip on a dime and say respect and mourn him." Perez Hilton replied with "You're right! I agree with you! I should say spit on his/her grave and laugh! Ha ha. Ding dong. The witch is dead!" The debate went on with Wentz saying there was a "disconnect" between Perezís postings before and after Michael Jacksonís death, something about Perez not being able to make certain comments because he didn't know MJ personally... The back and forth continued, with Perez calling himself a "monster"... After a while this seemed to calm down, but then things escalated again when Wentz posted "Is this real or forged" With a link to a screenshot of a post removed from Perezís site earlier. Perez replied: "That's real. And as soon as I realized the severity of the situation and my mistake I fixed it instantly" He also later added "I'm like the McDonald's of the Internet. I'm fine with that. I serve a lot of crap. But I make people happy. And I offer salads." And "I will let you have the last word. Say whatever you won't. I'm done arguing. I'm sorry it devolved to this." All the posters leaving negative comments at Perez Hiltonís website so far donít seem to be taking the same attitude***. To the credit of both Perez and Wentz, both apologised for the spat once they had calmed down.
In many ways, this highlighted the weirdness that's surrounded Jacko as much in death as it has in life. Celeb deaths are weird things as it is - the custody of the children, the did-he didn't-he over a drug administered supposedly before death, both staples of this kind of thing we saw in Wacko's passing. However, this time there was more to it - almost a sense of collective guilt in the reaction of many. It brings to mind the Heather Crumley wrote for us a few years ago on Pete Docherty versus Craig Nicholls from The Vines, and how people react to their rockstars going off the rails [click here for the article, it's still eerily relevant today] - pop star unable to pospone dates due to public demand, despite his ill health, fans bitching back and forth... And then this. Anyone remember the death of Diana, Princess of Wales? In an interesting twist of irony, the Michael Jackson star famously pictured with all those tributes on Friday isn't even the right one - MJ's own star has been resting under a red carpet leading to the premier of Bruno for the last few days (thank you PopBitch).
What would Swells have made of all this? Swells never really liked music after all - reportedly he saw it more as a vehicle for political thought. I bet he'd have fucking hated it. And possibly loved it at the same time. The social commentary would have probably made him laugh his ass off. But then I can't comment. I never knew the guy, I just admired his work.
Whether you want to remember this week for the death of three celebrities, a music reviewer who didn't really like music, or 200 Iraqis and, well, God knows what's happening in Iran, you can't deny this has been a weird week in the history of the decline of Western Civilisation. I guess there's no sane response to all of this... except what Swells himself wrote back in 1999 in his My Vitriol review. After all, as Sean Adams from Drowned In Sound pointed out...
"Hrm, was Steven Wells a prophet? His last comissioned words were "I blame it on the boogie." http://bit.ly/no697"
* ["88.2% of statistics are made up on the spot" - Vic Reeves].
** Why does Rock Midgets.com have both Pete Wentz and Perez Hilton on Twitter? Um...
*** [Mud-splattered aside: It's not been the best week for Perez as it is - after five years someone finally snapped and punched him, and then the Gay rights charity to which he offered any legal winnings declined his donation. His video response didn't help either.It was equally comforting and hilarious; comforting that someone in the media had the naivety to think that what they did wouldn't have that kind of impact on someone; hilarious that he was the one to say it. Violence is never the answer, absolutely, but Perez is damn lucky to have been doing what he does for five years without anyone getting physical. The ten minutes of angry rant probably did more to harm public opinion of him that help it. Hurt as you are, if you're going to respond to someone who's accused you of lying, surely it's better to make a dignified statement and leave it to the lawyers, rather than risk looking like a whiny bitch with a victim complex?].
…posted by Ruth Midget