Saturday, August 11, 2007

BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Tributes paid to 'Mr Manchester'

BBC NEWS | England | Manchester | Tributes paid to 'Mr Manchester'

Maybe it's just the nature of life that we tend to notice death at a time of new life. Certainly I have noticed before, one life passing away as a new one starts. In fact it has struck me so often that yesterday I found myself walking down the road pondering casually the the rather morbid question "who will it be this time?"

Perhaps it is Tony Wilson. Not only did I grow up with his face on the local news, but more importantly he launched bands that defined Manchester music at a time when music meant so much to me. Factory Records - especially in its early days - was the definition of cool. Even the artwork of the record sleeves made you want to buy them.

I never got to see Joy Division but from their very first gigs (their 3rd in fact, barring the New York gig) I followed New Order. Literally, from sporadic gig to sporadic gig. And on at least one occasion I found myself standing next to the big man, at The Ritz - always an iconic Manchester venue - wearing a scruffy mac'.

Then came Fac51 - The Hacienda. An acoustic nightmare unless it was full, and later plagued by drugs, but it still had the most kudos of any venue outside of London and perhaps even including London. I saw quite a few gigs there. (My ony regret is that I had 2 tickets to see the Smiths there in October '83 but as my girlfriend couldn't make it I didn't bother going alone!)

Later still came the Happy Mondays. I once recorded a demo engineered by someone who engineered their sessions. He told me they spent 10 hours trying to record one vocal and failed. Sounds about right. But the Happy Mondays remain a symbol of Manchester in the 90s just as New Order were in the 80s.

Without Tony Wilson and enthusiasm for what could be achieved in what back then was considered by the London-based music industry as an irrelevant backwater, none of this would have happened.