"Tony Wilson, who around this time was regularly featuring punk and New Wave acts on his Granada Television arts show So It Goes, was well known for his aesthetic tastes, interest in futuristic design, and fervent belief that Manchester could become a leading city on a global platform, and Factory’s output and indeed general outlook inevitably began to reflect his obsessions, with its eclectic and cerebral roster of artists encompassing arty funk outfit A Certain Ratio, classically-influenced guitar pop band Durutti Column, and confrontational stand-up comedian John Dowie, whilst the label’s musically diverse releases were given a unifying style by the minimalist and industrial-influenced designs of artist Peter Saville, and in turn by Wilson’s insistence on appending 'FAC' production codes to every project from album and single releases to the purchase of new office equipment; given his political sympathies, the absence of the second part of the word may not have been coincidental. By the early eighties, now with Joy Division's manager Rob Gretton and producer Martin Hannett as partners, and a recently-acquired nightclub, The Hacienda (FAC 51), as a base of operations, Factory was both as successful and as influential as an independent label could hope to be, particularly following the release of New Order’s acclaimed 12” only single Blue Monday in 1983"
When I think of Manchester, I tend to think of Tony Wilson. True, if you grew up in the Granada region, where he kept on fronting regional news and arts shows even when operating on a national and even global platform, and had a liking for the bands signed to his Factory label (yes, even Northside), this is hardly exactly a shocking revelation, but there's a little more to it than that. During some pretty dark and directionless times when the city was struggling every bit as much as any of its industrial neighbours, and beaten down so much that in many ways it had started to fight itself as much as it was being fought, he never ever lost his faith or his vision. The art, culture, inclusivity and rich creative and industrial history of the city, he argued, would always win out - the people would always win out - and one day Manchester would become an example to the entire world.
Although this never quite happened in the way he envisaged, and the numerous false starts and near misses must have frustrated him deeply - although the early nineties bid for Manchester to host the 2000 Olympics was both entertainingly over-ambitious, and a worthwhile show of strength and defiance towards those that preferred to write off Manchester and its neighbours as grey, derelict relics of a bygone age full of uneducated flat-capped Neanderthals; it's also entirely possible that the London 2012 bid might not have been quite so successful without its example to go by - there's a sense in which, way way beyond 'Cool Britannia', the nineties saw the entire UK become something at least vaguely in line with what Tony Wilson always believed Manchester to be. Not that he would really have conceded that, though. As nor indeed would Liam or Noel Gallagher, but we'd need to go too far into the history of alternative music to explain that.
From the collapse of Factory, which he breezily told fellow Granada Reports reporter Bob Greaves would "come back and carry on, but maybe not in the form everyone's expecting" (and in a sense it did with Oasis, which really wasn't what anyone was expecting), to his own later health struggles which he used to highlight the problematic and seemingly arbitrary allocation of NHS treatment funding, Tony Wilson faced pretty much anything that was thrown at him with optimism, practicality and wit, never suggesting there were easy answers to difficult questions and strongly believing that it was incumbent on all of us - including him - to work towards addressing issues that the authorities seemed unable to. Most of all, though, he loved to root for his hometown, and recent events have underlined just how much he and several others like him are missed in the social media age. There are modern-day equivalents around, of course, but they really don't get the exposure. It's them we should be listening to, though, rather than furious didactic combatants for the coveted 'Green Jumper' award for being Best At Being Right-On 1983, braying weasel-word Watch With Mother puppet bigots in suits that would shame someone drinking Special Brew on a bus at 10am, or shrieking car alarms salivating about how many comments they will get on their 'thinkpiece' the next morning.
Shaun Ryder, whom most eighties record companies would not have allowed past reception but whom Wilson was convinced was a 'poet' and didn't care who laughed at that, once recorded a song for Factory that ended - at least in its superlative 12" reading - with an exhortation to "think about the future". Which is what we should all do, frankly, and leave the shock value hatemongers famous and non-famous who've bored us senseless for too long now where they belong, and where too many people once thought Manchester itself belonged - the past.
So you're all set. You've cut that page out of TV Times, you've got your leftovers all nicely stored in the fridge, you've got your oversized novelty chef's hat on, and it's time to make whatever that recipe with Brucie was. There's only one problem, though - your kitchen looks grey, spartan and shabby even by the standards of the days of black and white TV, and doesn't even have a single shred of showbiz razzle-dazzle. To see it is definitely not nice.
Fortunately help is at hand. If you flick back a couple of pages through the magazine that, erm, you've cut a page out of, you can find all manner of cost-effective dazzling new utilities and decorating supplies to help turn your kitchen into a suitably hip and happening pop-art hangout for making a snack during the ad break of Fire Crackers...
It's On (Dr. Dre) 37°F Killa! Passive-agressive cross-utility smackdown time as a Bobbie Gentry-alike snorting a Rum Swizzle bemoans the fact that her fridge isn't quite as good as her sewing machine. Quite what indignity had caused Ian Singer to take so bitchily against the good people at Electrolux is sadly lost to history, but you really would worry about her ability to operate a sewing machine safely with all that booze flowing through her sinuses anyway.
No such chlorodifluoromethane-targeted outrage for Mrs Jacki Boardman, who apparently goes 'all the way' with her small artillery of white goods from Frigidaire's SheerLook 67 range; apparently the 'most stylish, most spacious, most 1967 fridges you ever saw'. Presumably they had a plaque commemorating Steve Chalmers' European Cup-winning goal for Celtic on the front, and played Sorry Mr. Green by The Walham Green East Wapping Carpet Cleaning Rodent And Boggit Extermination Association when opened. Meanwhile, we would never under any circumstances suggest that there is any direct correlation between her pose, her frenziedly delighted expression, and the rickety juddering mechanism of old-skool twin-tub washing machines. Because we get letters. We really do.
If you needed more time to devote to brow-furrowing over whether your fridge was literally orgasmic or just a poor substitute for a Ronco Buttoneer, you could always invest in some Marley Consort flooring. Boasting 'locked-in shine' in an early incarnation of that infuriating 'Such R.3! Many Hardluck Hall!' speech meme thing, it all but legally bindingly guaranteed that you would never ever need to actually clean it. A cat would probably like a word, then.
Out into the hallway, and you too could win a Big, Big Carpet! There are a mathematically bewildering array of prizes to be won, and no guarantee that if you sat down and worked it all out with a set square and graph paper, you wouldn't find that it essentially all added up to mean that absolutely nobody would end up winning absolutely anything whatsoever. Note also that said carpets are offered by a carpet cleaner manufacturer, who would presumably have reached straight for prizes that required you to deploy their product every three minutes, regardless of position on the 'big, big' scale.
Alternatively, you could opt for Polyflor, which probably requires more regular cleaning but at least is simple and straightforward enough for teh menz to work out. That's quite an extravagant way of congratulating him for successfully working out how to wield a mop, though.
An opportunity for a tacky observation about curtains matching carpet? No, because what we're concerned with here is the actual curtain track. It's strong, almost invisible, easy to fix, silent gliding, easy to clean, non-corroding, and presumably taken as read that it will also hold up your curtains successfully. Is, after all, the curtain track you've been waiting for, and despite the suspiciously keen look of the lady in the half-hearted John Squire-decorated t-shirt, almost impossible to contrive an untoward gag out of. Almost.
If you were looking to emphasise that revolutionary new curtain track with a nice fresh lick of paint, longstanding purveyors of finest substrate adherent Crown were hoping to attract your custom with this conspicuously modern-looking will-they-won't-they-choose-soft-khaki literally decorative couple. Quite what was amusing them in the first example of the campaign is sadly left unclear, while in the second one they appear to have wandered on to the set of The Trip. Touch the scream that climbs the walls... but make sure the second coat has set first. Yes, about three of you got that, didn't you?
Bizarre to think that it's now necessary to specify that the above gag referred to the highly banned Jack Nicholson-scripted 1967 big-screen freakout The Trip and not that thing with Coogan and Brydon sodding off to BSB in a go-kart or something, but there we are. Anyway, one thing that definitely won't be climbing any walls - providing they've been coated in the requisite quantity of confusingly named Walpamur Emulsion - is flies. This is the paint with the in-built 'Insect And Fly Control Agent', which probably did send a few winged buzzers tumbling undignified to the floor, but also quite possibly left three percent of your face attached to it if you ventured too close. Legal Disclaimer: this presumption is based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever. Apart from general alarm at the overall quite unnecessary wording and illustration of the advert.
Anyway, all the decorating is done, and it's time to move on to the furniture. And here's one of those standard-issue sixties foxy redheads pushing the need to replace old sofas with new with an almost propagandist zeal. Well, if there's one thing that Ian Furniture and the Furniture Industry Fatcats are going to have to come to terms with, it's the fact that we're all too psychologically robust and resilient to fall for cheap and tacky attempts to coerce us into parting with cash simply by deploying a str... sorry, was just looking at swivel chairs... am I supposed to be writing about Skiboy or something?
At a guess, I'd say that the mystery was why he considered this any more 'portable' than any other penny, especially considering the size of it. Anyway join us again next time, when we'll be looking at how TV Times plugged its very own small-screen stars in the most tenuous of tie-in features. At least two of whom appeared in programmes covered in entertaining depth in my book Well At Least It's Free, hint hint.
Looks Unfamiliar 6 - Emma Burnell
Looks Unfamiliar is a podcast in which writer and occasional broadcaster Tim Worthington talks to a guest about some of the things that they remember that nobody else ever does. Joining Tim in this episode is broadcaster, columnist and standup comic Emma Burnell, who is banking on somebody else remembering Miners' Strike fundraising album Whose Side Are You On?, the Sweet Valley High novels, short-lived playground craze Scoubidou, children's horror novella The Patchwork Monkey, undistinguished Rutger Hauer vehicle Split Second, and the Ever Ready 'Power To The People' advert. Along the way we'll be discussing the sociocultural ramifications of an earnest man talking to some earnest men, assessing the risks of hiring videos from 'a van', and speculating on the possible psychotropic effects of smoking a Fanta Yo-yo.
Looks Unfamiliar is hosted by Podnose. If you've enjoyed it, why not buy one of Tim's books? We can particularly recommend Well At Least It's Free.