Caught By The Reaper – Tony Wilson

28 December 2007 // Music //Remembrance

Tony Wilson, Factory Records, Manchester, February 20, 1950 – August 10, 2007

Tony was a journalist but will be forever remembered for his antics in the music industry, a place where his intelligence, wit and anti establishment attitude were not always tolerated but did actually make a difference. He was also someone that I knew. This is what I wrote at the time;

very sad news this.

I was told of Tony’s passing on Friday night and he’s hardly left my thoughts since.

It wasn’t a surprise, he had been ill for sometime and I was told recently that he was coming to the end. Still shocked me mind.

I knew Tony and I liked him very much. I worked for him for a while. I had a company called Capersville that handled press for bands and labels. We looked after Factory from mid ’88 – 1992, starting with the Mondays best album Bummed, then New Orders best Technique. It was a great job. To be in Manchester so much at such a very special time for the city was a real buzz especially as I was hanging out with a lot of the folks who had made it happen.

I’d known about Factory since their first record was released, A Factory Sampler in 1978. I would have been sixteen. It was the time when the punk singles you were buying became post punk singles. I bought it, my mates bought it. We liked the stickers and the sleeve. I wasn’t sure how much I liked the music but, you know, it was interesting.

I followed Factory forever and that was pretty much always my feeling towards their records. The Distractions; YES. Joy Div; OF COURSE; ESG brilliant; I loved the Life 7″ and that great run of club records around 1982 (Marcel King / Yashar / 52nd St / Quando Quango); Everything’s Gone Green, Ceremony, Temptation, and shit, I even liked The Stockholm Monsters. Plus a lot of “yeah whatever”. Still, it was always there and always evocative of it’s birthplace. I liked that.

I went to The Factory a couple of times. Went up from Nottingham to see The Human League in ’78 and also saw Dexys there for the very first time (supporting The Specials). It was cool, especially to a sixteen year old in a nightclub out of town for the first time. I saw Pete Shelley at the bar. It was fucking brilliant. We used to have to walk the streets all night or find an all night cafe before getting the first bus home in the morning.

I liked the atmosphere of the city. It was old and dark and imposing and it looked like everyone had left there years ago. Very melancholy.

A year or so later I thought of living there. I got a bus up and bought the local paper to look at jobs and flat prices. I walked around the city looking at posters on walls. THE FALL plus support LENNY BRUCE FILMS at The Kim Philby Club. That one sticks with me. what a cool name for a club. and who was Lenny Bruce? I’d heard the Fall and the jury was out, in fact I’d seen them the previous year and thought they were rubbish. Had to check out Lenny Bruce. Shit, I loved him. Read everything I could. Huge influence. Wasn’t ready for the move mind, felt lonely already.

See, this was all Wilson. Him and his mates. The records, the Factory club. The Kim Philby was them too. So I got tons to thank that man for and that’s before he gave me a job.

The first time I met Tony was at my interview. It wasn’t really an interview but I didn’t realise that until I left the office. 86 Palatine Rd. An address I knew by heart. I had it on so many record sleeves. That’s where I went to meet Tony and fellow directors Tina Simmons and Alan Erasmus about the job. Dave Harper took me. He was about to be the ex-Factory publicist, on his way to RCA. He recommended me. Knew I loved the label and knew I really loved the Mondays.

So we got to to the office, said hello to Tina and Alan and waited two hours for Tony to turn up. It was OK for a while, sat looking at great posters (Leigh Festival) and rare records (“have you got Rob Gretton’s dental records here?” (FAC99)) but fuck he was late and I was a bit nervous. So, he arrives, “Sorry I’m late darlings”, he says. Quite an entrance. Chucks his coat down, sits in front of me and proceeds to tell us all about his day. Whilst making a huge spliff. Which he smokes himself. He asks me about myself, a little bit, then he’s off. The most unorthodox job interview imaginable.

I so wanted the job. Couldn’t believe it was happening really. On the way back in to town I asked Dave when he thought I’d hear anything. “What about? The job?”, “Yes”, “Oh, you’ve got the job” he said.

So, that was the start of a very amazing adventure. During which I saw Tony in fantastic full effect on a regular basis. He couldn’t shut up. Or keep still. He was full of ideas and theories and was determined that they had to happen. He knew that the Mondays were important. As a band, Shaun as a poet. For the city and for progress.

I’ll never forget being with him when he had just picked up the artwork ideas for the Madchester EP. Madchester, for fuck sake. He couldn’t contain himself. I think The Bailey Brothers had coined it, but he loved it*. It was like a great big plot coming real. A fuck you, to everyone else, especially to London. His dream come true. And it did.

*PS Phil Shotton & Keith Jobling aka Monday’s video makers The Bailey Brothers.

JB

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