Anthony Wilson, the Madchester music magnate, has died at the age of
57 due to Cancer of the Kidney.
Sad news indeed if you were a fan of Manchester music, or “Madchester” as
Wilson referred to it. Wilson started out as a gritty broadcaster at local ITV
broadcaster Granada, then moved on to develop his musical production and
entrepeneur career starting with Factory records and the infamous Haçienda night
Factory Records was responsible for creating the momentum of the Manchester
music scene, which included The Happy Mondays, Joy Division, New Order, OMD and The Space Monkeys. Wilson then split with his business partner to create a new club in the heart of Manchester, the Haçienda. The “Haç” attracted key acts from Factory’s own roster to Madonna (for her first UK appearance). Unfortunately, it also attracted a drug and gang culture that ultimately cost it it’s business. The club closed in 1997 and quickly fell victim to the swift redevelopment of buildings that defines the Manchester skyline, and is now a residence
Tony Wilson was fiercely loyal to his Manchester roots, and this is reflected
in all his work. Whenever Manchester was showcased onTV, Wilson would be there. He became, perhaps not entirely representatively, the face of Manchester music.
As a committed local, one could bump into the man walking in the city. He was
recently diagnosed with Cancer of the Kidney, but was refused £3,500 a month
treatment to treat the condition from the NHS after chemotherapy failed. Bands,
including The Happy Mondays, raised the money on his behalf before his
Wilson truly represented the musical entrepeneur. He had the drive, the
contacts and certainly the attitude. He often came across as being arrogant,
even when referring to those bands who made his money, once calling artists
“tossers”. He was clearly a money driven man, but was capable of creating a
music scene and business which changed the face of music.
As any entrepeneur can tell you, failure of business if often par for the
course. Factory failed, then the Haçienda and then a reinvented Factory Too and
Factory Once. Factory currently refuses to die, and is in the form of F4
Records. Not all of his acts went into the record books, however, The Space
Monkeys being a case in point. Their success was limited in the UK, though they
did benefit from significantly more interest in the US.
So while I didn’t personally appreciate his brashness, his all authoritiative
view of my beloved city, I do mourn his passing and reflect on the musical and
business legacy he has left behind.