First of all, I should say that part of the reason I have strong feelings about Tony Wilson's death is that in a way, he reminded me of my Dad. He died of cancer of the kidneys, today and that makes me doubly sad. Not only that he has died, but that he died of such a shitty, craphouse thing. I saw a photograph of him a month or so back, and I knew he didn't have long. I think you only need to see death once, in the face of someone you love, to then recognise its evil signature wherever you see it. Death had already claimed Anthony H Wilson.
Tony Wilson reminded me of my Dad because he had a strange, knowing charisma that shot through any room he was in. If he was around, all social gravity revolved around him. He had immense self assurance,and was not a small man, either - you knew when he was around, not only because you felt his cocksure energy, but because he physically dominated the room. He was an intellectual, but also a devourer. A sucker-in of anything and everything. Lending his love, or his hate (this is the John connection - things with Wilson were either amazing, brilliant - the best thing he'd ever heard, or they were total shit, and not worth wasting the mental energy on) to whatever cultural goings on were... going on. but so, so much more than that.
It cannot be overstated the incredible influence Tony Wilson had over the cultural life, not only of Manchester, but quite possibly the UK in its entirety. For a time, the output of his labours dominated the charts, and even those who did not join Factory (The Smiths being the obvious contenders there, but also of course the Roses) could be said to have only gained prominence because of the pioneering work he did, pushing the musical arts in Manchester - pioneering.
When I moved up to Manc, one of the pilgrimages one had to make was to the Factory building. At that point covered head to foot in Happy Mondays posters (for "bummed", I remember). then the Dry Bar, just off Piccadilly (and down the road from a very fine 2nd hand record shop). And of course, the Hacienda. Factory not only dictated Manchester's social scene, but it dominated its cultural way of life. something immensely important to north-westerners - a sense of superiority over Liverpool.
Tony Wilson was a passionate man. He presented arts programmes to promote the things he loved, and he started a label, as a (positive) reaction to the first Mancunian Sex Pistols gig. What happened next was almost uncontrollable once it been got going..
Damn I'm too tired to carry on. Day at the seaside. Exhausted.
The man was an icon not only in Manc but everywhere. A name synonymous with hard work, gravitas and cockiness. He had a lot to be cocky about.
I was very sad last night so ignored the downsides of Tony Wilson. Taken as a whole, they were... well, unfortunately they were important to everyone around him, but not important enough to him. He was so confident, so sure that Factory was of such importance, no one would ever fuck them over, everyone would believe and they were building creative castles that could not be blown down. Unfortunately, when an outsider looked at their books for the first time, their hair went white (I know, I talked to him!). He was a financial disaster area, and he didn't bother encouraging anyone else to fill that gap. His brand of confidence was so brassy that oftentimes, people would wince. He was almost American in his bravura - something that the English don't take to very well. But - and this is very important - he was also very funny.
And he had great taste in women, too, as I remember.
Listen - his downsides were human, but his upsides were fantastic. He wasn't a brain surgeon, Nobel Prize winning scientist or a Shakespeare, but what he had was a glorious sense of enthusiasm, a creative energy and a brilliant ability to pull things together. Manchester, and music in this country, would be a much, much more dull place if he had not been there to help rev it up. I was reminded by John Harris on the Today programme this morning that when you got to the box office at the Hac, there was a framed picture of Wilson greeting you at the door. What a gloriously stupid thing to do. Heh.