Is Tony Wilson even worth thinking about? Or 24 Hour Party People really sucks!

24 Hour Party People (2002) kept coming up in conversations I was having as I wandered around the UK, and so I have finally checked it out, although I am no fan of director Michael Winterbottom. This particular film with its super self-conscious po-mo ersatz drug patter is more like his A Cock & Bull Story(2005) than Wonderland (1999) – and let’s not even get into the puke-inducing television journalist-centred Welcome to Sarajevo (1997), or the pathetic ‘pop cultural’ 9 Songs (2004). Winterbottom’s 2002 effort focuses on Tony Wilson – a Manchester based television journalist, unsuccessful businessman and would-be hipster. It goes without saying that no matter how Wilson’s PR minions attempted to gloss his life story, it always ended up looking really boring to me.

What 24 Hour Party People rams home is how Tony Wilson suffered from terrible musical taste; and it is unfortunate that via Factory Records he was mildly successful at hyping some piss-poor tunes into the British pop charts. Aside from a clip of The Stranglers early on and Blackfoot Sue’s Standing In The Road playing in the background during one scene (Wilson had nothing to do with either act), all the music on the soundtrack is truly awful. From Joy Division via A Certain Ratio and New Order to The Happy Mondays, the ‘sounds’ Wilson promoted were uniformly dire (and let’s not waste time looking at Factory’s much-vaunted ‘design’, which was in reality a shower of shite, although it worked as pseudo-corporate branding).

Manchester produced its fair share of decent bands in the late-seventies – Slaughter and the Dogs, The Drones, V2 – but there isn’t any mention of them here (despite the involvement of Wilson’s business partner Rob Gretton with Slaughter); instead, when it comes to non-Wilson controlled musicians, we get the likes of Mark E. Smith of The Fall and Howard Devoto of The Buzzcocks and later Magazine. So if we’re not being subjected to unbelievably dull super-commercial crud by The Mondays, we get the relatively well-known end of the crap that would appeal to a pretentious ex-Cambridge University student like Wilson, rather than Manicured Noise or The Passage (who were just as bad but not half as ‘famous’).

Factory Records had about as much to do with rock and roll as Stalin did with human liberation. The exception proving this rule was their release of a record by New York’s incredible ESG – but there is no sign of them on the 24 Hour Party People soundtrack. But then I’d imagine that ESG, like the more interesting elements of The Hacienda that had been copied from New York clubs, reflect Rob Gretton’s tastes rather than Wilson’s. Likewise, the fact that there is no sign of The Royal Family and the Poor (supposedly the ‘weirdest’ act’ on Factory Records) in 24 Hour Party People, is illustrative of the way the movie is pitched firmly at the mainstream and will only appeal to those who dig Hollywood crapola (and simultaneously accounts for the one-line put-down of John The Postman, who may not have been a great singer but was a curious phenomena).

Anyway, rather than wasting your time on 24 Hour Party People (assuming you’re lucky enough not to have seen it), you’d do better Watching Paint Dry. But moving on, seeing the film reminded me of one of Wilson’s little scams pulled against yours truly. Tony Wilson was an impresario, and I found myself doing a panel talk with him, Mark E. Smith, and John King from the Gang of 4, at The Hacienda in 1996. When I arrived  in Manchester I was shown a local newspaper by some of Wilson’s PR people, who were very pleased to have found a tame journalist who’d been fed made-up quotes falsely attributed to me in which I was erroneously reported  slagging off their boss (I really wouldn’t have bothered while he was still half-alive, he enjoyed this sort of thing too much). It seemed to give Wilson a real kick to be the subject of fake vitriol attributed to me by the Manchester press.

Needless to say the panel talk I did with Wilson was a real bore, and I’m not sure the transcriptions of it now circulating on the internet are entirely accurate. Never mind, as 24 Hour Party People makes blatantly clear, Wilson preferred legends to factually accurate history…. let the dead bury their dead (Wilson died in 2007), we will blaze a trail to new modes of being… And if Wilson thought that what went on around him was a party, he’d have no doubt considered his own funeral a real ball had he been ‘conscious’ enough to enjoy it…

And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!

About mistertrippy

Stewart Home was born in south London in 1962. His mother Julia Callan-Thompson was a showgirl and club hostess. He has never held down a regular job for more than a few months at a time. On those rare occasions when he's been forced to work, Home has taken employment as a factory labourer, agricultural labourer, shop assistant, office clerk and art class model. Deciding he didn't like working in factories as a teenager, Home pursued cultural and political interests, writing many books and participating in even more gallery exhibitions.
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20 thoughts on “Is Tony Wilson even worth thinking about? Or 24 Hour Party People really sucks!

  1. Zen Master K says:

    Wilson may have had rubbish taste in music, but he was a demon in bed, so maybe you could concentrate on that in any future blogs about him.

  2. Justin says:

    You bad man K! Factory were always a better concept than actual design. The menstrual egg timer (fac 8) was probably the label’s best release (no pun intended). Having said that I still have a soft spot for FACT 165, Anna Domino. Tony Wilson’s funeral was also catalogued as FAC 501

  3. mogs says:

    Best release on Factory was the first release, the ‘Factory Sampler’ 2 X 45, and even that was only half good, the still-a-bit-punky Joy Division and Cabaret Voltaire sides, which were unfortunately paired with the embarrassingly unfunny John Dowie side and the dull as ditchwater Durutti Column side.

    Oh, and the Blurt side of A Factory Quartet was okay, but again I didn’t care much for the rest of it, I remember being particularly unimpressed with The Royal Family And The Piss-Poor.

  4. Old Rope says:

    The music spewing out of Factory was largely boring, I concur. How comes no one has made a hip funny slick film about the birth of Treasure Isle or Studio 1 in Jamaica? Two labels with much more to offer the lexicon of musical ‘istory, innit?

    Or how about Stax? Motown received a treatment recently with the rather dull Dreamgirls or whatever it was called

  5. Cyril Smith (late) says:

    Stax, Jamaica, other exotic space cakes, Factory made in Britain (North), GUV, winter gales blustering against the sides of the house and so on… Yes, the film maybe be a whole load of Tosh Ryan, but was Punk (with a capital) not all about opportunism, with Factory being opportunists par excellence? You gotta admire Wilson for that? Also for hooking up with Martin Hannett, the Factory file rouge through producing Spiral Scratch, Slaughter and The Dogs, co-running Rabid, arranging the lapels of Jilted John (singular phenomenon that makes pop music what it is i.e. the one hit wonder), obsessed with the snare drum as “the essence of rock’n’roll”, tampering too much and too little with Joy Division, spending endless nights listening to Radio 4 cricket report on smack with John Cooper Clarke, discovering ESG in a moment of non non nosce te ipsum and having the good taste to pass out under the mixing desk when he was meant to be producing U2. As the man himself would say : never mind 24 Hour Party People, shake up your critique and make it a bit more cocktail party!

  6. Simon says:

    Justin, wasn’t the menstrual egg timer concept Linder Sterling’s of Ludus? She put the “Bloody Linda” (a menstrual cocktail) behind the bar at the Wilson club too. Tony’s idea was his bloody finger.

  7. Cyril Smith (late return) says:

    FAC 8 Linder Sterling Menstrual egg timer design

    other top Factory sweaters tied around the hips

    FACt 30 The Sex Pistols The Heyday
    FAC 61 Lawsuit involving Martin Hannett
    FAC 69 BLANK
    FAC 98 Swing, the Haçienda hairdressing salon
    FAC 99 Molar reconstruction, Rob Gretton’s dental file
    FAC 115 Second generation notepaper
    FAC 198 Vermorel Stereo/Porno 1988

  8. I could never work out who Tony Wilson was referring to when he referred to Shaun Ryder being a better lyricist than “that Scouse misogynist”

  9. plus..I am really struggling with Bill Drummond’s 17

  10. mistertrippy says:

    Some great points here in these comments… and yes surely Studio One or Hi or whatever are a lot more important than Factory… And thanks for the extra thoughts about Martin Hannet. Oh and Linder has the Buzzcocks art work connection too surely… as well as now being wife and man with Michael Bracewell (more of an eighties man I guess)….

    Oh Wilson was probably referring to some drunk no one has ever heard of who never did anything… or maybe he didn’t know William McGonagal came from Dundee and thought he was from Liverpool…. And if he meant Adrian Henri he was wrong….. (not that I think Henri was misogynist but he did go on about schoolgirl knickers rather a lot…)

  11. I have to admit to rather liking a few bits on Factory, but no two ways about it, Wilson was a cunt of the highest order.

    I was lent a copy of ’24 Hour Party People’ about 6 months ago and haven’t got around to wathing (or returning) it yet. Which reminds me, I’ve not seen it anywhere since I moved house…. or got as far as opening my copy of Drummond’s ’17’ either. I’m way behind on shirt and need to stop titting about on blogs….

  12. Vincent Dawn says:

    I actually liked the film, despite not liking a lot of what was released on Factory. It was quite irreverent towards the whole scene in general (something which seemed to annoy Paul Morley, at least) and Steve Coogan was pretty good. I do wonder whether the whole Factory fuss is a consequence of something very conservative, in a sense – Wilson being seen as a maverick but also very provincial and ‘English’ at the same time. There are some good things on Factory – they had the good sense to acknowledge Blurt and Biting Tongues – but I’m also fairly fed up with hearing about them, or at least the party li(n)e about them. I managed to largely forget about all that when watching the film, however.

  13. Old Rope says:

    Can someone please photocopy 17 for me when they (haven’t) finished it? No need to photocopy 24 Hour Party People though – I’ve seen it. Although the copy I saw was a half edited version on a dodgy VHS years back cos a pal of mine played John Squire in the film and lent it me.

    Yes, I know John Squire wasn’t in the film. Apparently the Stone Roses record label – or whomever now owns the rights to the material – would not allow the use of any of their songs in the film so my chum was on the cutting room floor as usual. Not entirely sure why they would have been in it anyway in truth. Nor do I really care.

    Some shit trivia about an average film for you all.

  14. At least your mate isn’t the real John Squire, fretwanking tosser that he is.

    In other shit trivia, the former bassist of Squire’s post-Roses band, the Seahorses, now works in admin for a major financial company…

  15. Old Rope says:

    Sounds like he did well for himself, all things considered. He’s gone up in the world

  16. Yeah, like the guitarist who quit Shed 7 before they hit the big time who was working in Our Price. Saved him the embarassment of being in Shed 7, at least.

  17. Old Rope says:

    Better to get a P45 from a financially bankrupt Our Price than a p45 from a musically bankrupt Shed 7 any day

  18. Simon says:

    PS ESG..YUM!

  19. The Man in the Iron Mask says:

    Who is Alan Erasmus? Where did the Factory money go? Did Tony Wilson have a drug habit? Can anyone tell me if these 3 questions are related?

  20. Red Rum says:

    It’s a hoove sensation