Saturday, September 08, 2007

Anthony H Wilson

Being born and bred in Granadaland, I grew up knowing Tony Wilson through the seventies as the slightly edgy but essentially straight reporter on Granada Reports, the local news 'magazine' show on after the national news at six. The first time I realised he had any interest in music was in 1975, when I spotted him at a Who gig at Manchester Belle Vue strolling in like he owned the place. As 1976 turned into 1977 Tony slowly began to subvert the local news through his presentation of the 'What's On' slot on Granada reports, beginning to highlight gigs by the new 'punk' and new wave bands and occasionally showcasing these bands, no doubt to the general bemusement of the audience and, no doubt, his fellow presenters. I remember one evening when, apropos of completely nothing, he produced a copy of 'Two Sevens Clash' and urged his teatime audience to rush out and buy a copy. I doubt the region's housewives did rush out in their droves to investigate the latest dub grooves but he certainly ignited a spark in at least one 17 year old boy, who was thinking there must be more out there than Hotel California. Somehow on the back of all this he persuaded Granada to give him a late night slot to expand on this theme and 'So It Goes' was born. Famous now for giving The Sex Pistols their first TV slot, this show alone must take huge credit for igniting the spark of creativity and innovation that gave rise to the punk scene in both Manchester and Liverpool in the late 70's/early '80's. And if that wasn't enough, he then conceived, launched and ran the creative triumph/commercial disaster that was Factory. Whilst Joy Division/New Order may have been talented enough to have made it without help from him, without Wilson's extraordinary self-belief and indulgence of his bands, we'd never have been able to appreciate the beauty of The Durutti Column, the anarchy of the Happy Mondays or the sheer eclecticity(!) of the rest of the Factory roster. Twat? Probably. Prat? Almost certainly. Most important shaper of the pre- and post-punk musical landscape outside of London? Definitely. Take care Tony - the Hacienda may be an apartment block now but it'll always be FAC51 to me.

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