Factory Records Day: Factory by Jon Savage
To kick off our day of content, to coincide with the release of a new Factory Records compilation, DiS has this piece from the legendary Jon Savage, who gives us his perspective in the Factory Records story...
I was involved with Factory in the very early days. When I moved up to Manchester in April 1979, to work with Tony Wilson at Granada Television, I spent my evenings bagging up copies of The Factory Sample: the plastic cover, the stickers. It was painstaking work, lightened up by several joints.
Joy Division were the local group then, and I went to see them at the Factory Club, at Manchester’s Apollo, and memorably, at the disastrous "Factory Meets Zoo" pop festival in a field outside Leigh in Lancs. Most of the people at Granada were stiffs, so I spent a lot of time with Wilson, Joy Division producer Martin Hannett and manager Rob Gretton.
Although Wilson and partner Alan Erasmus claim that the name had nothing to do with the Warhol Factory, Factory Records did pretty much the same thing: they provided a place for a bunch of very disparate people to meet, to have fun and to begin realising their artistic potential.
During 1979 Factory continued to run the club nights at the PSV club in Hulme, also called the Russell. They released records by Joy Division, including the classic Unknown Pleasures album, and the debut singles by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark ('Electricity') and A Certain Ratio ('All Night Party') – all produced to a high standard of design.
They produced newsletters, individually numbered posters and were involved in the making of two films: Charles Salem and Liz Naylor’s No City Fun and Malcolm Whitehead’s Joy Division. Both capture the atmosphere of Manchester at that time, a deserted, derelict inner city.
After the death of Ian Curtis, Factory had success. Joy Division became New Order and the 80's pattern was set. For several years the label was at the cutting edge of the Electro/ Avant Rock interface: just listen to the John Robie remix of Cabaret Voltaire’s 'Yashar' or the monumental eight minute mix of Section 25's 'Looking From A Hilltop'.
I left Manchester at the end of 1982 so was out of touch with Factory during the mid decade: these were the label’s wilderness years but when I revisited the catalogue for the Factory Records: Communications 1978-92, I found a surprising amount of good records by New Order, A Certain Ratio and lesser known names like Life, The Stockholm Monsters and Biting Tongues.
Factory had a second wind during the late Eighties and early Nineties. They had New Order and Happy Mondays, one of Madchester's flagship bands. There were also great singles by Electronic – the group that Bernard Sumner formed with Johnny Marr – and, yes, Northside. However success brought its own problems, and the label folded in late 1992.
Factory showed that you could have an idea and run with it, that you could operate independently of the London based record industry, and that you didn’t have to underestimate or short-change the public. The proof is the pudding: at least 4 cd’s worth of music that plays brilliantly and will last beyond the life of its creators.
Jon Savage is a writer, broadcaster and music journalist, best known for his award-winning history of the Sex Pistols and punk music, 'England's Dreaming'.
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