One of the television programmes that I will not be writing about in my annual pick of the year blogs will be the BBC’s latest rockumentry The Seven Ages of Rock. I saw a couple of episodes and found them an incredible mixed bag. The episodes on Prog-rock and Heavy Metal (which is not really my thing) I found interesting & informative. The episodes on Punk and “Indie” (which i am very much a fan of) were frustrating and taken from a particular viewpoint. The indie episode started from the viewpoint that “indie” was an invention of The Smiths, being a case in point.
I mention this now because at the weekend, arguably the father of “indie” music (if we must call it that) Tony Wilson passed away. As well as being a television presenter in the Granada region, he also started a record label with some money that he came into. The intention was that new bands would put out some singles on Wilson’s label before signing with a bigger operator, as had been happening with the previous independent record companies which had sprung up in the wake of Punk. All this changed with the arrival of Joy Division, and their manager Rob Gretton.
In an earlier blog, I had Tony Wilson as one of the 5 people/acts who really, really earned an outstanding contribution to music gong at the Brits. Apart from the acts that appeared on the Factory roster at one time or another (Joy Division, OMD, New Order, James, Happy Mondays to name 5), they lead the way for other independent record labels, which in turn helped their acts to thrive. Mute had Depeche Mode from the start, as well as Goldfrapp, Rough Trade was the home to The Smiths, while Creation was home to Primal Scream, the Boo Radleys, Teenage Fanclub and Oasis before it sold itself to Sony in 1995. As a result, the British music scene flourished in the late 1980’s, breaking free of the shackles of the major labels.
It was not just in guitar music that Wilson and Factory led. In 1981, New Order were touring the USA for the first time. Danceteria in New York made such a big impression on the Factory entourage that they began planning their own version in Manchester, much to the chagrin of Martin Hannett who was hoping that Factory would invest in Studio technology, particularly a Fairlight sampler (Wilson & Hannett fell out over this, Hannett returned to the Factory fold in 1988 to produce the Happy Mondays “Bummed” album). The result was FAC 51, or The Hacienda, which 6 years later was at the epicentre of the boom in Acid House.
Personally I am sad as a little individuality has gone out of the British Music scene. I’d have also preferred Wilson to find the next great thing rather than Simon Cowell.
See You Later.