So it Goes: Tony Wilson R.I.P.

Tonywilson_rip
Too many of these lately. Tony Wilson was a know-it-all prat but that certainly doesn’t mean I didn’t respect him. The way he ran Factory records — split the money 50/50 with the band, artist freedom, amazing sleeves, etc — didn’t make him much money but it came from the right place and even when his tastes were questionable (there was a lot of crap on Factory) you could never say he wasn’t passionate about all of his bands and music in general. Can you be a total genius and a total knob? Tony Wilson was living proof.

The Guardian has many tributes, from the likes of Paul Morley, Alan McGee and more.

Here’s a two-part memoriam the BBC aired last night, including interviews with New Order’s Steven Morris and legendary sleeve designer Peter Saville:

Factory Records output was spotty at best, with about four truly great bands (two of which were pretty much the same band), many bands with one or two great singles, and a lot of other groups that sounded exactly like their moneymakers. Here are a few of them whose names aren’t Joy Division, New Order or Happy Mondays. I’m not saying it’s all good…

MP3: The Durutti Column – Sketch for Summer (from Return of the Durutti Column [FAC 14])

MP3: Tunnelvision – Watching the Hydroplanes (FAC 39)

MP3: A Certain Ratio – Knife Slits Water
(FAC 62)

MP3: Section 25 – Looking from a Hilltop
(FAC 108)

MP3: Shark Vegas – You Hurt Me
(FAC 111; MySpace download, sorry about the quality)

MP3: The Wake – Of the Matter
(FAC 113)

MP3: Abecedarians – Smiling Monarchs
(FAC 117)

MP3: Quando Quango – Genius
(FAC 137)

MP3: The Railway Children – Brighter
(FAC 167)

MP3: Miaow – When it All Comes Down
(FAC 179)

MP3: The Wendys – Pulling My Fingers Off
(FAC 297)

MP3: The Northside – Take 5
(FAC 308)

MP3: The Adventure Babies – Camper Van
(FAC 319; Factory’s last signing before going belly-up)

The ultimate tribute to Anthony H. Wilson’s genius and knobbery is Michael Winterbottom’s fantastic 24 Hour Party People, featuring a brilliant performance by Steve Coogan as the man himself. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and remedy that soon.

My one run-in with Mr. Wilson was during a week he agreed to fill in for BBC 6 presenter Andrew Collins weekday show, Tea Time. He was talking about the current state of metal, and I emailed in to say that I’d much rather listen to the Darkness than Alien Ant Farm or System of a Down any day. He read my message on air and then ripped me apart for a good minute, going into an impassioned campaign about how System of a Down were one of the best bands around and that I was a total philistine to say otherwise. I felt about this small at the time, though I’d still rather listen to the Darkness, but to have Tony Wilson eviscerate me on-air was kind of a thrill.

11 Comments

  1. Tony aka [Anthony H] Wilson was indeed a tremendous champion for good music and the Manchester scene in particular but he could also be a dickhead. In 1979 I was on the door [entry £1] at the old West Indian Centre on Carmoor Road, Manchester at an Anti-Nazi League fundraiser. The headline band were Manchester legends The Naughty Boys with support from The Worms, whose leader Wayne seemed to have caught Tony’s ear [or eyes]. Tony arrived during the Worms’ set and asked me how long much longer they’d be playing. I told him I didn’t know and he paid the entrance and went in during what turned out to be their last song. He was back at the end of the song highly agitated and demanding his entrance money back – a measly pound! I just said to him “You need a pound?” and he left sheepishly…………

  2. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, Bill, but I think Tony was absolutely right regarding System of a Down. I absolutely loathe nu-metal as a general rule, but the albums I have by them are generally great, as are their lyrics, which have more in common with Crass than the whining of oh I don't know, Korn or some other awful band like that.
    Generally speaking, though, I agree with your sentiment. Even now, I'd also rather listen to The Darkness (or any of their '70s or '80s precedents) than just about any nu-metal act. Well the Darkness' 1st record anyway.

  3. i'm glad someone had the brains and balls to point out that "there was a lot of crap on factory". too many (young?) bloggers these days seem to think everything released on labels like factory, rough trade and creation was a classic.
    also, in the spirit of stewart's comment above, here's a good piece with some similarly funny anecdotes: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/organgrinder/2007/08/….

  4. Thanks for posting Hydroplanes.
    We only released one single with Factory (some might say Thank God) but at least Tony Wilson gave us and many others a chance and you could'nt help but warm to his enthusiasm. Any mention of money at the time or later on was usually met with 'It cost more to press than we made' but to be honest when you're 18 you don't give a shit ,you were just happy to have your song committed to vinyl,in a posh sleeve and be able to say you'd met 'that bloke off the telly'

  5. I need some sound bites of Tony for a British mix that I am making. Can you please upload them and the videos again. They do not seem to be working now…

  6. What a great blog, you write so interesting things about good stuff
    i would like to stay in touch with your blog, thanks!!!
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