More of the band’s remembrance of the late Tony
BY WILSON NEATE
Ed. note: we continue our
interview with Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly and Bruce Mitchell, in which they
discuss the late Factory Records impresario Tony Wilson, to whom they recently
paid tribute via the A Paean to Wilson concert
and album. Go here to read part one
of the interview. The A Paean to Wilson album, released by the Kooky U.K. label, is available in the U.S. via Darla Distribution. In addition,
Reilly and Durutti Column pianist Poppy Morgan recently performed a haunting excerpt
from the work on the BBC’s “The Review Show”; it’s viewable at this YouTube link.
BLURT: Do you know if Tony Wilson
had a favorite Durutti Column track or album?
have no idea…. I think he liked “Sketch for Summer” [from The Return of the Durutti Column].
Actually, I know he liked that because he told me so, but he had a kind of
tacit approval of any of the instrumental things I did. With the exception of
“The Missing Boy” [from LC],
he didn’t like any of the songs that I sang on because the lyrics were very
poor and my voice is very weak — and he made no pretence of liking the singing
or the lyrical content, which is why I’ve made this album. So I think this
might be the only album since the very first album that Tony would have liked.
What’s your fondest memory of
I wouldn’t be able to pick out just one; there are so many. Bruce and I have so
many memories of him. He was so unusual and so fascinating as a character. He
was a real character, a real individual. You don’t meet people like Tony every
day. He was extremely engaging. There are lots of small things, though. Like,
he had a dog. His partner Yvette [Livesey] bought him a dog, a huge dog — a
huge Great Dane, I think — and I forget what the dog’s real name was.* Tony
used to have to try and catch this dog all the time. It was a bit stupid, this
dog: it was wild and it would run about and escape — every time he took it for
a walk, it would just run off. So I have this great memory of Tony running
after this dog shouting, “Come back, dickhead!” [laughs] That’s just one memory, but there are hundreds of them.
What do you think his broader
The inspiring thing, really, was the guy’s positivity. He was the most positive
man I ever met in my life. It had a profound effect on the way I run my life
and the way I run my business as well. If something were to go wrong and
everybody were to be in dismay around something going wrong in a major way, he
would immediately find a positive way of interpreting it: either by direction
— what he was going to do — or if he couldn’t do anything, he would equate it
to a piece of Proustian philosophy almost immediately. So, the guy’s
positivity…. And, of course, his legacy is very, very profound in the
northwest of England. People used to work at really disliking him because his
manner in his broadcasts and in his business meetings was, as they used to say,
“arrogant,” but now they agree with him. When he used to argue his
points, he would sometimes say, “You should listen to me, I’m right. I
haven’t been wrong since August 1968.” [laughs] And when he made these pronouncements — and sometimes they
were in press releases — people would complain about his attitude, but
whatever he said nearly always came true. And he took great satisfaction in
being able to say, “You see, I was right.”
It’s hard to say. There can’t be very many people in the northwest of England
who don’t know who Tony Wilson was or who didn’t know who he was when he was
alive. His influence was enormous. The thing is, a lot of what he did provoked
people; it provoked a reaction from people, whether that was a good reaction or
people disagreeing with him. He would always elicit some kind of gut reaction
from people. I think that many of the things he said were outrageous. He
predicted many of the things that happened, way before anybody else had even
spotted it — like the rise of compact discs. When we were in Japan once, he
took me to a pressing plant and let me hear one of the first, early CDs, and
this was when it was in its infancy. And he said, “This is going to take
over, and it’s going to be much more important than vinyl, very quickly.”
And I didn’t believe him and nobody else did, and of course he was right. It
was the same with the Haçienda. When the Haçienda was
losing thousands every single week and they were plowing money into it week
after week after week, even his business associates and the accountants and
everybody, including me, we were all saying, “You should pull out now;
this is just crazy.” But he was determined. He just said, “This is
going to be one of the most famous nightclubs in the world — and one of the
best.” And, of course, he was right again. He was right so often. And that
meant that even the people who had been scornful of Wilson, they ended up going
to the Haçienda. It was his vision — along
with Rob Gretton, New Order’s manager — but it was really Tony that made
things happen. Bruce was describing his positivity. That’s really where it came
from. He drove things through thick and thin and through all the worst trouble
you could imagine. He made it happen. He was so determined and so positive that
these good things would actually occur, and he just made stuff happen all the
time. You speak to anyone in Manchester as they’re going past where the Haçienda used to be and they’ll immediately say, “Oh that’s
where the Haçienda was.” And everywhere
you went in the world, as soon as you said you were from Manchester, people
would say, “Oh, Manchester United and the Haçienda.” It was as famous as that. It’s not a particularly
good answer to your question, but his impact in the Northwest, especially, was
You mentioned football; is it
true that, as a boy, you had a trial for Manchester City?
Well, I was offered a trial for Manchester City, but I didn’t go and my school
got very annoyed with me. One of my uncles, who was an aficionado, was also
very annoyed — and he’s still annoyed with me — but I knew exactly what I
wanted to do when I was seven years of age. Actually, just as an aside, Johnny
Marr was also offered trials, but I’m not sure for which club, and like me, he
didn’t go either.
History might have been very
different. You could have played together.
[laughs] Yeah, but my career would
have been over by now, wouldn’t it?
So do you support Manchester
No, I’m a Manchester United fan. That was something else that Tony felt very
passionate about. He was a very keen Man Utd supporter. He used to take his
kids and go with people to the matches. He just loved it. He loved all sport,
actually. He was a huge fan of sport. He thought it was a fine thing. And I
agree. I think it is.
Bruce and Vini, you two have
worked together for almost 30 years now. Could you both articulate the
attraction and the pleasure of that association?
Oh, the music! He’s always a handful, Vincent Reilly, but no matter what goes
wrong, once he starts playing, it’s all the things that brought Tony to it as
well. So I regard my job as Artist
How can I answer what the great pleasure of working with Bruce is when he’s
sitting here? [laughs] It’s not a
question of that. It’s more a question of how on earth does Bruce put up with
me? Bruce doesn’t earn money from working with me. You have to understand that.
It’s not financially rewarding.
I’m a Medici.
Yeah, he’s a Medici. Bruce is like a patron. He literally keeps me going on a
daily basis — financially — and he feeds my soul when I’m really down and I’m
fed up. He’s my best friend. It’s that simple. He’s the best friend I’ve ever
[Pictured in the
photo above, circa late ‘90s: Vini Reilly, foreground; behind him, L-R, Bruce
Mitchell, Keir Stewart, Tony Wilson]