RIP Tony Wilson
“It’s very sad. He died as a result of something unrelated to his cancer,” said Professor Robert Hawkins, Wilson’s doctor at Manchester’s Christie Hospital. ”His cancer was responding well to treatment, but obviously did contribute to his poor health.”
Wilson was born near Manchester in Salford and attended Cambridge University. A former presenter for independent British TV network Granada, started Factory in Manchester in 1978 with partner Alan Erasmus. Its initial release, the January 1979 double-7” A Factory Sampler, contained songs from Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, Durutti Column, and John Dowie. In May of that year, Factory released Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark’s debut 7”, “Electricity” b/w “Almost,” but the synth-pop duo left the label for Virgin Records soon thereafter.
Factory’s first LP was Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, featuring “She’s Lost Control” and “Disorder,” in June 1979. The following April, the group released the single “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” the morose, strangely transfixing song credited by many with starting the genre that became known as post-punk. The next month, just two weeks before Joy Division was scheduled to leave for its first U.S. tour, Curtis, who suffered from epilepsy, hung himself in his home near Manchester.
Factory re-released “Love Will Tear Us Apart” in June 1980, and it climbed to No. 13 on the UK singles chart. Joy Division’s second LP, Closer (“Isolation,” “A Means to an End”), followed in July. The three surviving members, guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook and drummer Stephen Morris, elected to continue and re-christened themselves New Order, adding Morris’s wife Gillian Gilbert on keyboards.
In September 1985, Factory released “Delightful,” the first single from a local group named Happy Mondays, whose exuberant fusion of rock, soul, hip-hop and house music became the sound of the bourgeoning “Madchester” scene centered around the Hacienda and the vast amounts of Ecstacy its patrons were ingesting. The Mondays’ three albums, 1987’s Squirrel and G-Man 24 Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile, 1988’s Bummed and 1990’s Pills ‘n’ Thrills ‘n’ Bellyaches, were essential components of the rave culture that took British youth by storm in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Partially due to the chemical appetites of its artists, Factory constantly struggled financially, and its parent company declared bankruptcy in November 1992. The label’s last release was, appropriately, the Mondays’ swan song Yes, Please; a large part of the album’s budget was rumored to go toward lead singer Shaun Ryder’s growing crack habit.
The Hacienda closed in 1997, and Wilson became involved in municipal politics in Manchester, helped organize its In the City music festival and went back to television, where he presented (hosted) XFM Manchester’s The Sunday Roast show, as well as the sports-themed Ground Rules and talk show Oxford Road Station for the BBC.
Wilson is survived by partner Yvette Livesey and an unspecified number of children. – Chris Gray