Tony Wilson, owner and genius behind Factory Records, has died... and I think I killed him!
I quoted him twice last week; once to add a quote of his to my email signature, and again in a chat to a friend, and then the bugger goes and dies! I didn't even know he was sick!
His death is tragic and significant because his contribution to music and, in turn, late 20th century British culture was immense, acting as mentor and manager to groups that may not have had similar success elsewhere, and his devotion to music over money was evident in the decisions he made. Who else would be willing to lose $1 per copy of the twelve-inch single of New Order's Blue Monday - which ended up being one of the biggest selling twelve-inch singles of all time - purely to get the complex design of the gatefold sleeve right...?
If you ever get the chance, rent "24 Hour Party People". Watch it once, and then once again with the Tony Wilson commentary for the real story. It's not a perfect movie by far, but it's worth looking past that to get to what is an amazing story about an amazing bunch of people at an amazing period of musical history. Even moreso once you understand the "when the legend becomes truth, print the legend" moments which are pointed out through winces and, at least once, gritted teeth. The portrayal of Wilson is unkind but carried out with unconditional love and respect, the guys who play Ian Curtis and Shawn Rider are eerily dead-on and the soundtrack is totally unbeatable. They don't spend enough time on the individual elements (Curtis' heartbreaking story is an entire movie in and of itself) and there are many parts of the movie that are just plain inaccurate, but it's well worth a watch. I hated it the first time I saw it, and ended up loving it and all its flaws after watching it with Wilson's sarcastic input. Call him pretentious, call him - as the movie poster did - a twat, but there's no denying the man's vision, or his passion and belief that he was right about most decisions. Undoubtedly the smartest man in most rooms he graced and at least a decade ahead of everyone else.
I'm not an overtly emotional fellow, but when radio legend John Peel died, Sirius' First Wave channel put together a slapdash rip-and-read Wiki-fact tribute and played "Love Will Tear Us Apart", one of the many singles Peel championed. I found myself rather unexpectedly overcome and had to pull over to the side of the road so I could bawl like a baby. I really, really hope I don't hear it again in the next few days...
Incidentally, the Tony Wilson quote I added to my email signature: "I used to say some people make money and some make history - which is very funny until you find you can't afford to keep yourself alive." Little did I know at the time he meant that literally and not figuratively; The Happy Mondays and other Wilson-backed bands were springing for the $7,000 per month experimental cancer treatment that wasn't covered by the National Health Service. An unusual turnaround that the Mondays be paying for Wilson's drugs...
Here's to you, Anthony "don't call me Tony" H. Wilson. May he go to the great Haçienda in the sky bearing the final FAC code.
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