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Madchester, Tony Wilson Is Mr Manchester, He IS Factory Records!

Updated on March 24, 2013

Tony Wilson: Factory Record's Accidental Entrepreneur!

This is Madchester. The place of Brit pop, Joy Division, Happy Mondays and New Order. More importantly, this is about the real Mr Manchester - Anthony H Wilson or Tony Wilson to his friends. Without him, where would Factory Records be?

Well, thinking about it.... Didn't that go bankrupt? Well, he was known as the 'accidental entrepreneur'!

After all, it is not the destination that is important, but the journey.

This is what was important to Wilson.

Manchester became Madchester because Mr Manchester didn't know, as he has said, 'what the f@ck he was doing!'

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With love and respect to Anthony Wilson

Courtesy of Bitque
Courtesy of Bitque

24 Hour Party People On DVD

24 Hour Party People is a film about the rise and fall of Factory Records. It takes you through a chaotic, but funny, time of changes in the Manchester music scene. From Joy Division to Happy Mondays, much of the story revolves around the great Tony Wilson himself. Starring Steve Coogan, who actually has Wilson to a detail, watch how the story unfolds and join them through their adventures - and I mean adventures - from somewhere to nowhere. Check out the trailer here and buy from Amazon who offer free delivery on many of their items.

Tony Wilson - Original Footage from 1984

Did You Know?

Tony Wilson's mobile phone went off during a live report. He apologised and said that that had never happened before, as he proceeded to switch it off and place it back into his inside pocket.  In typical professional Wison style, he returned to the news report as if the incident hadn't happened at all.

Tony Wilson, A Middle Class Upstart

I was too young to know of the enigma that was Tony Wilson had helped to manufacture an open ended philosophical approach upon ordinary northern folk. The birth of the ‘Factory’ phenomenon, which gave rise to an upstart revolution, thus allowing young (very) talented and educated artistes, the space and support to supersede the previous beaten generation.

Extroverted statements of punk had been smouldered by the encouragement to show feelings and portray everyday, associated affections of personal tragedies and realities. Not to say that self-pity was on the agenda. Just easily understood gripes of pain felt by young, developing – well you and me could acknowledge rejection, broken relationships, masturbation, humdrum offerings of a self deprecating, imploding society.

Respect to Mr Manchester and My Mr Culture

Tony, a socialist in values and beliefs helped shape the way forward for self-made idealism. To try may be to succeed. Joy Division personified this belief and were as individualistic and as far reaching as any band could get. Thank you Tony. Your influence is still felt and yearned for as much today as then. Never afraid to ‘nail his colours to the mast’, this true supporter of regionalism is much loved and missed.

  • Repect to ‘Mr. Manchester’ and my ‘Mr. Culture’.

Anthony H. Wilson lived for 57 years. Born in Salford, Lancashire, he lived in the Manchester area for most of his life. He passed his eleven plus exam and gained entry into Grammar School. His early passion was expression of the English language and literature. He gained experience as a teacher when he left the prowess of Cambridge University. If you want to read more please click on the following link from Wikipedia - Tony Wilson for source.

Tony Wilson, A Media Mogul

He worked in the media, contracted to Granada TV, part of the ITV network system, based in Manchester. Always entertaining and never afraid to take risks with his, or the reputation of the TV company, made for compelling viewing.

I won’t go into all the roles and relationships that Tony forged during this period of time. It has been well documented in books and films (24 hour Party People and Control) and my purpose is just to introduce to a well meaning, brave and hilarious man.

My first knowledge of Tony was the controversy created by The Sex Pistols being guests on his show. I was a young teen and shocked by what I saw. Then I was hooked on the legend of Tony, wondering who was going to appear on the following show.

1984 Banter at the Hacienda with Tony Wilson and Paul Morley

Did You Know?

Tony Wilson was confused. Which camera was he to look into? A red indicator light wasn't switched on. This would tell him which camera to speak in to when live. As there was a break over to children's t.v., he proceeded to blaspheme the camera woman for making this mistake. He wasn't very happy.

Unfortunately, he didn't realise that the sound mic was still on. From the speakers of televisions from all over 'peak time' children's t.v. land, Wilson's dulcet tones was heard. Quite an education for the youth of Manchester, don't you think?

The best complaint, Wilson reports, was from 'a lady from Cheshire who rang in to say that her four year old son was running around the living room screaming at the top of his voice saying "Mummy, where's the f@cking red light!"'

What is this Factory Records Anyway? This explains all.

Tony Wilson Was Manchester - The Culture, The Music and The People

He must have been a popular local man, based on the fact that he chaired, led and presented many TV shows. My family and friends liked Tony for being forthright. Well, he appeared to be, to the avid viewer. People felt like they knew Tony. He was ordinary in demeanour. He was passionate about music, art, culture, Manchester United and improving the social scene for like-minded northern folk.

Tony was approachable and honest enough to champion local causes and talents to the point of exposure in the media spotlight. It appeared that he would invest his time and effort into helping others as much as himself.

One of the reasons that Manchester became a hip, cultural capital of Britain in the late seventies and eighties was down to Tony, Factory Records and the Hacienda nightclub. Thank you again Tony.

Joy Division: Control on DVD

One of my all time favourite films, Control is a unique black and white movie that reflects the darkness that was Joy Division.  Focused around the short life of Ian Curtis, the bands singer and lyricist, the story will take you through his transition from school boy to man child.  Through sadness, depression and his fight with epilepsy (for which the depression was probably a drug side effect) his genius unfolds.  If you love Madchester culture, then you will love this film.

Buy Control With Free Delivery

Love You Mate!

Sadly, the irony to this story is that he died relatively young following a brave battle with renal cancer. He was a free spirit and helped to make my youth, twenties, thirties and now more enhanced. Take Care. Love you, mate! Thank you for the music.

One legacy, which Tony would have championed challenging ideas - based on debates and future talent - is the Tony Wilson Experience. You would be doing yourself a favour by reading more from here!

Did You Know?

Tony Wilson, in his endeavour to sign Joy Division to Factory Records, wrote and signed their contract in blood.

Special thanks to the Guardian for the use of this photo
Special thanks to the Guardian for the use of this photo

The life that surrounded Tony Wilson could be described as Madchester - what other term would be appropriate, after all?  The Happy Mondays, Crispy Ambulance, New Order, Joy Division (for which Wilson would always advocate as one of the same) and many others were locked into a scene where everyone was on a journey but didn't know where they were going.  It was the thrill of the ride that excited Wilson and as he held Manchester in his heart, the heart of Manchester respected and loved him back - despite being a self proclaimed scapegoat.  He hasn't been dubbed Mr Manchester for nothing, you know!

© This work is covered under Creative Commons License


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    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Thanks Laura - very interesting:)

    • profile image

      Laura Slater 

      8 years ago

      New book on Tony Wilson: Mr Manchester and the Factory Girl by Tony's ex-wife - looks worth a look??

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Moncrieff - it is always a delight to keep Wilson's memory alive! He had a great input in music history.

      You know - the funny thing is that I have just met Hookie at the Latitude festival. He was signing and promoting his book - I am yet to read it, but am working on it! He was a real down to earth guy and I even caught him 'watching from a distance' a band on the sunrise arena for new bands. His interest never waines.

      It was also interesting that at the same festival, on attending a signing for The National (a hugely influenced Joy Division band), when I asked the drummer who influenced his drum beats, he pointed to my Joy Division t shirt and said, in a thick Ohio voice 'Stevie Morris... he is my great friend and influence'. So, you can see, that if it wasnt for our Mr Wilson, where would today's bands be?


    • moncrieff profile image


      9 years ago from New York, NY

      Great tribute to Tony Wilson!! Sad he's not around anymore. I love madly the entire Factory scene, Peter Saville, New Order, Happy Mondays, Martin Hannett. In fact, Sex Pistols shifted my music tastes towards that new type of music, before I listened only to the Beatles, the Doors and all that.

      I didn't know those funny facts about AHW. I loved every bit of the videos: an excerpt of Thieves Like Us, a young Peter Hook at the Hacienda, even Paul Morley is excused.

      What they did really influenced my way of looking at music and life, the freedom and boldness of trying things freely and without commitments, relying purely on feel and, of course, magnificent talent... I loved the question: "why do you give fascist names to your groups?" Hilarious. And him saying, "I can't write, I can't sing, I can't bookkeep..." And yet, it all worked around him (well bookkeeping didn't go so well).

      I remember flying in spring 2002 to Europe and they were playing a 24 Hour Party People Special on the loop for those 8 hours of flight on one of the channels. Quite good.

      I go to a local sushi bar for one reason: they always play Enola Gay, Perfect Kiss, Love Will Tear Us Apart and Love Viligantes. Well it's also the closest to my work.

      Thanks for the great hub and keeping the memory.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Tony Wilson was a legend, Billy, it is a sad loss to the music scene. :(

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      9 years ago

      Had to come back here and reread after my Ian Curtis hubs - great days, great music :)

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Billy... if you havent seen control yet, this really is a must! It really captures the time, I believe:)

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub - loved that music scene and factory records -the Hacienda and all that. Love will tear us apart ranks as one of my all time favorite songs. 24 hour party people is a pretty good take on it all there - especially the Happy Mondays I think.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      He was pretty special expats. Thanks for reading :)

    • expats profile image


      9 years ago from UK

      Having been brought up in Manchester I got to hear about Tony Wilson quite a lot. He was certainly rather 'unusual' but he had a lot of admirers.


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