London Calling

Tony Wilson (1950-2007)

Our friends at NME pay tribute to the late Factory Records founder, indie-rock champion, and subject of ''24-Hour Party People,'' who launched the careers of Joy Division and New Order, and inspired countless bands after them

TONY WILSON NME remembers the late chief of Factory Records as ''the first person to show that indie music could conquer the world''
Image credit: Everett Collection
TONY WILSON NME remembers the late chief of Factory Records as ''the first person to show that indie music could conquer the world''

A heated argument about the new album from Kate Nash — kooky Lily Allen-style mockney singer; she'll be massive your end soon — was interrupted by a buzzing phone on Friday night in NME's local after-work pub, as we suddenly found out that indie legend Tony Wilson had passed away.

Tony had been battling kidney cancer for a while, but it was still a shock to us all to hear the news. And a damn terrible shock at that.

As he is for pretty much everyone into indie music, Tony — or Anthony, as he preferred to be called — was a bit of a hero to the NME lot. By launching the careers of the likes of Happy Mondays, Joy Division, and New Order as label chief of Factory Records, Anthony was the first person to show that indie music could conquer the world. As is proven by the fact that almost as many tributes were sent to us by Americans as from Brits.

The world-straddling rise of New Order in particular showed that there were no limits to indie, and set a blueprint for people like Alan McGee, Oasis, and the Arctic Monkeys — artists who only had to look at the rise of the Factory Records roster to realize that they could succeed in this music lark without ever compromising for a second.

As well as his involvement with the ''Madchester'' band mob, Anthony, along with his partner Yvette, set up the annual Manchester music showcase In the City. I've been to In the City a couple of times, once in the back of a Ford Transit tagging along with a band from Cardiff I was mates with. It was an amazing weekend — stopping every hour to open the van doors to let more oxygen in; lugging amps around grimy Manchester boozers; seeing about 10 amazing bands play in one night, then getting pissed with them until we happily passed out.

Everyone around Manchester that weekend was in thrall of the indie whirlwind taking over the city, all so pleased that in an age when so much music is bland, cynical, factory- (as opposed to Factory) produced pap, indie was still a stellar force, as it is today.

We've got Anthony to thank for so much of that.

So crack open a few beers, stick on 24 Hour Party People on DVD, and toast Anthony Wilson — your record collection really wouldn't have been the same without him.

Originally posted Aug 13, 2007