12/31/2014, 11 a.m.: This article has been updated and expanded from its original version.
We at New Times were saddened to hear of yesterday's passing of our columnist and friend, Steve Wiley. Steve might be best known for his years as the co-owner of Hoodlums Music and Movies, which helped sate Tempe's musical appetites for about 15 years in two different locations. While many Arizona State University students came into musical maturity under his tutelage, he had another talent outside the music world -- writing.
Wiley died of a heart attack on the morning of December 30. He leaves behind his wife, Beth, and five children.
Wiley, a North Dakota native, graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1987. He worked as a manager at Wherehouse Entertainment for almost eight years, and then at Zia Records for another three. Hoodlums opened in 1998.
He first started writing "Parent Hood," a column on pop culture written from a parent's perspective, in late 2012, and since May 2013, he has been writing "Record Store Geek," a bi-weekly look at music from his perspective as a music business vet. His writing was always light-hearted, usually funny, and often dipped into moments of profound depth, using music as the stepping stone for insights into the world as he saw it.
Beyond the normal editor-writer relationship, Steve had close ties with several New Times editors. Managing Editor Amy Silverman and Staff Writer Ray Stern are close with Steve's family, and Culture Editor Becky Bartkowski worked at Hoodlums.
"Steve Wiley was a fantastic father, a dear friend, and a great writer. There's no way to express how much he will be missed," Silverman says.
"I wish I had something quippy and smart to say because I think Steve would've liked that. But today I'm sad," Bartkowski says. "He shared music that he loved with me and so many other 'pups.' He'd listen to new artists and offer his unapologetic opinions -- and then rattle off recommendations. He'd pick Marvin Gaye over Mayer Hawthorne and explicitly banned me from playing Bjork in the store. Being a hoodlum at Hoodlums was a big deal to me. And I'll always be grateful that Steve brought me into the fray."
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As a music writer, he was agile, and sort of counter-cultural in sentiment. He disdained pompous music critics (see Five Statements Guaranteed to Annoy Music Elitists) and celebrated the music that spoke to him, regardless of popular opinion -- note how his 40 '90s Albums That Still Hold Up doesn't include Radiohead or Nirvana. He also struck against the pro-vinyl music industry trend, writing simply that "CDs sound better."
"Yeah, I know. Vinyl has that full analog sound that you love so much. I love it, too. When it sounds like that. Which isn't very often. .. To get that awesome vinyl sound, you have to keep your albums in great shape, which most people do not do. I know, because I've looked through five zillion used buys over the past few years," Wiley wrote.
His final column for New Times, Is the World of Music Better Now or Better Then?, wasn't as cantankerous as it might have seemed. Wiley took an even look at things, and came to a satisfying conclusion:
Well, it's pretty damn great now, and it was pretty damn great then, so I could just call it a tie and go listen to some music.
But they don't pay me those big blogger bucks to sit on the fence.
So I'm going to say that music today, in spite of all it's access and technology, is not quite as good as music "then."
Not enough to prepare my "things were better in Grandpa's day" soapbox...
... but I'm still going to say, "You damn kids don't know how lucky you've got it."
Wiley and Kristian Luce opened up Hoodlums in 1998. The store was located inside the Memorial Union at Arizona State University, allowing Wiley and Luce to expose countless ASU students to quality music. A fire inside the Memorial Union in 2007 destroyed the store's inventory and forced the shop to close. The two partners had to decide if they wanted to continue their business in a new location. They eventually did, opening a location at Guadalupe Road and McClintock Drive in Tempe, where they were located until closing their doors for good in 2012.
"[After the fire], I went to the other indie stores to shop, because I need a record store. Kristian did, too. That's why we reopened, because we're not the only ones that feel like this," Wiley later wrote of the decision to re-open.
One of his loyal customers was John Dixon, Arizona music historian and record collector who consigned and sold many records at the store through the years. He also played DJ (as DJ Johnny D) at in-store events on occasion.
"He was a guy who seemed to love his kids more that anyone. So its just devastating, because I know that was one of things he said he was really looking forward to was spending more time with his kids when the store closed," Dixon says.
"[Wiley and Luce] were just so energetic and so positive and they would have all of these live shows and all of these in-stores.
"He was this great music geek and knowledgeable guy. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people he interacted with and talked to about music or influenced in some way like Kristian did as well."
His former colleagues in the record store world remember him fondly.
"Steve was an inspiration to many. He lived life to the fullest- always laughing and debating, and sometimes both at once," recalls Kimber Lanning, owner of Stinkweeds. "He was a mainstay in the Phoenix music community who was greatly admired and who will be deeply missed."
Local photographer Devon Adams was a friend of Steve's and called him a "cornerstone of the Arizona music scene."
"I met Emma Pew in store when they [Black Carl] played a small private show a few springs ago before seeing [Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers] perform for a small crowd, too, there a month later. Steve, Roger, Roger's dad, and I shared Mexican Moonshine while they signed autographs for the fans. Wiley was a class act and will be missed."
Benjamin Leatherman contributed reporting to this story.
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