Tony Wilson - A Life

Selected memories of the heroic Factory founder
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Last year the world was shattered to hear of the death of Tony Wilson, the staunch Mancunian impresario whose lifelong obsession and dedication to music resulted in a new breed of bands from his beloved city and a whole new way of life for music lovers around the world.


Granada Television, So It Goes, The Sex Pistols on TV, Factory Records, Joy Division, The Hacienda, A Certain Ratio, New Order, Happy Mondays, DRY 201, In The City and much, much more... The life of Tony Wilson: so much to answer for.

"T had such an influence on me prior to even meeting him. From the late 70s onwards Manchester had an aura of musical anti-establishment difference; it was, dare I say, sexy, in its post-industrial, pre-Urban Splash grime. All of that I can trace to T and the music programmes for Granada, the label that released the best music, mostly, and his aggrandisement of the club that redirected the course of club history. He would have laughed me out of the bar if I had said this to his face but I will miss him dearly."

JON DASILVA, THE HACIENDA

"It’s a very, very, very sad day! I’m devastated! My heart goes out to Yvette, Oliver, Hilary and Isabel. I’m thinking of you all. My heart is broken. Say hello to Rob, Ian and Martin for me please Tony. Rest in peace. God bless."

PETER HOOK, NEW ORDER

"Right from So It Goes to gigs at The Russell Club, graduating to buying Factory’s records whenever they came out to getting off my head in The Hacienda, then appearing with the Roses on The Other Side Of Midnight, I owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Thanks for being in my life Tony Wilson, you will be sorely missed."

MANI, STONE ROSES / PRIMAL SCREAM

"You could never sum up a giant of a man like Tony Wilson in a sound-bite but it was a great privilege to co-anchor UpFront and Granada Reports with him. TV often tries to manufacture on-screen partnerships but from the moment I met him I loved him. He was hugely charismatic. It was never dull with Tony around and you could never predict what would happen next. He inspired a whole generation of young people and was a fantastic ambassador for the North West. One of the kindest, loveliest men you could ever meet, Manchester without Tony Wilson will be a very strange place. I will miss you so much."

LUCY MEACOCK, CO-PRESENTER, GRANADA TELEVISION

“Tony’s enthusiasm for Manchester and its music was infectious and inspirational. He really believed in everyone creatively and supported us all in a variety of ways. And he’d soon convince anyone who doubted him that they were in fact wrong to do so. I feel privileged to have known him, and worked with him only a few weeks ago at an awards ceremony where his unique, cutting wit was as evident as ever. I’ll really miss those times when I’d bump into him and end up chatting for ages."

GRAEME PARK, THE HACIENDA

"I remember one night in The Hacienda, telling him about a new band called Happy Mondays. He just said, "Michael, darling. If you like them, sign them." That was how he worked, always supporting you. I also went to his house one night to ask for a pay rise (we earned very little as DJs in those days) and he said, "We need a DJ who becomes a star that people look up to. You can do that MP." Six months later he swanned into the DJ box hugged me and said, "I knew you would do it darling." A chaotic genius and inspiration to all around him, it will feel very different coming home knowing Rob and Tony are no longer there. Those two have done more for my city than anybody else."

MIKE PICKERING, THE HACIENDA

"Tony Wilson was always more than an employer. His vision, ethics and love for those around him have shaped my life and outlook. He couldn’t fly, didn’t have x-ray vision or super strength but to me he is truly a hero. Everything I am, everything I have or will have I owe to Tony and Rob."

LEROY RICHARDSON, MANAGER, THE HACIENDA / DRY 201

"The last time I saw Tony was at Coachella outside LA when he was introducing the Mondays. He was very frail, painfully thin and should not have been there but that was him all over. He was passionate about the things that he loved, the Mondays were performing their new album for the first time and wild horses couldn’t have kept him away. He had a huge grin all night. He never did anything for the money, always the love. Manchester owes him so much, and will never forget him."

ANDY ROURKE, THE SMITHS

"Tony gave Manchester belief in itself."

PETER SAVILLE, DESIGNER

"Tony changed Manchester and made Mancs proud to be Mancunian. Not only did he change Manchester but the western world would be a different place today without him."

MARTIN MOSCROP, A CERTAIN RATIO

"I think that one of Tony’s greatest achievements has been In The City. Hundreds of bands such as Coldplay, Muse, Oasis, Placebo, The Fratellis, Stereophonics and more owe him and Yvette a great debt. A great champion of new British music is no more and everybody involved with In The City intends to make 2007 a worthy tribute to Tony."

PHIL SAXE, A&R DIRECTOR, IN THE CITY

"Every time I met Tony he had a story to tell. He was a great enthusiast, always singing the praises of the people he was working with. He was always full of ideas and believed that ideas were important, yet he never took himself too seriously. How many people would let Steve Coogan play them in a film?"

MICHAEL WINTERBOTTOM, DIRECTOR, 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE

To discover more about Tony Wilson's legacy read the rest of our special series of features on Factory Records

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