"There's a problem here. I took some acid last night."
"Shit, flashbacks?" said the Eric's boys.
"No, not that kind of problem; I was pretty out of it, sitting on a mate's floor rummaging his record collection looking for the scratches you get from that Rolling Stones sleeve, and I picked up a copy of Abraxas bought in Singapore. Did you know that they don't use cardboard in the Far East? They colour-print on thin tissue-like stuff and then double seal it in transparent plastic."
Roger and Pete were listening. But didn't really know why. They now felt they had been correct about the flashback problem.
"It was just wonderful. Sensational in the full meaning of the word."
"And I think we can do a double 7-inch in pIastic-coated tissue paper."
"We want to do a 12-inch."
"No, a double 7."
"No, double 7."
And on and on and on.
And back went Wilson down the M62.
"Alan, let's put the record out ourselves."
[Tony Wilson, "24 Hour Party People", pp. 64-65]
Front cover of the original edition of "A Factory Sample"
Well, I'm not so lucky to be one of the owners of the original edition of "A Factory Sample". My copy is packaged in a strong cardboard gatefold sleeve instead than in light silver paper, and needless to say that it is not sealed in plastic, nether it contains any sticker. No member of Joy Division has ever assembled or even touched it, I'm sorry...
Since I bought it exactly 20 years ago - February 1992, according to my archives - at a record fair, I guess that the copy in my possession is probably an early-generation bootleg released in the late 80s or in the beginning of the 90s. I remember I was quite excited when I found it - thinking that it was the holy grail - but the dealer was kind enough to tell me that it wasn't an original.
I bought it anyway, along with some limited edition Depeche Mode 12" singles, one Officine Schwartz LP and a bootleg copy of Joy Division's "Licht Und Blindheit" single. In those pre-Internet days it was quite a good hunting trip!
I already knew and appreciated the three bands included in the package, only John Dowie was a complete mistery to me. It didn't impress me at all when I first listened to his side, but it has grown on me during the years and nowadays I think that it is a welcome addition to the Dark / Psychedelic / Industrial contributions of Joy Division, The Durutti Column and Cabaret Voltaire.
"A Factory Sample" is quite an important release and I was able to gather a lot of information about it from my personal library. The following excerpts are taken from James Nice's "Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records".
In his book, Nice offers an extremely complete and incredibly documented research on the legendary Mancunian label; I strongly suggest anyone who has an interest in Post-Punk and New Wave to rush out and buy this book, it is simply essential and an effort of the highest quality.
This is the definitive story of Factory Records, all other books that deal with the same subject pale in comparison. You can buy "Shadowplayers" here.
Peter Saville, Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus outside the Russell Club in Hulme, April 1979, photo by
[...] In rival city Liverpool, early Factory associate Roger Eagle now wished to reactivate his own label, Eric's, dormant since the release of a so-so single by Big in Japan a year earlier. [...] Wilson having emerged as a sympathetic north-west player, with added media clout, Eagle suggested that they might usefully collaborate on an eight-track 12-inch sampler EP featuring two rising bands from each city. Among the groups discussed were The Durutti Column, Joy Division and Pink Military, a new group centred around former Big in Japan singer Jayne Casey. By his own account, Wilson found the idea of a regional compilation album too prosaic. Far more appealing was the serendipitous notion of a non-standard double 7-inch package, heat-sealed in plastic. "I'd been tripping round at Chris Joyce's house, who was our Durutti Column drummer. I picked up a Far East copy of Santana's Abraxas, and in those days in the Far East they couldn't afford cardboard, so they printed the sleeve on almost tissue paper, which was then sealed in plastic. So, off my head on hallucinogens, I was feeling this and thinking - wow!"
It is likely, too, that along with the LSD tab Wilson had absorbed a little Fast Product packaging theory from Bob Last. Whether his decision to reject Eagle's offer was also informed by petty territorial rivalries is harder to determine. [...]
Applying praxis to Abraxas, Wilson took a supererogatory decision to set up his own independent label: Factory Records. "I realized that Tosh Ryan, Bob Last and the Stiff people had proved you could do it, it wasn't all that difficult. I rang up Alan and we decided to do it ourselves. So we started off there, thinking we'd put a sampler out and see what happened. Peter Saville, the poster designer, was very enthusiastic, and Martin Hannett was beginning to drift away from Rabid. I just wanted to put together the optimum label for the time. There came a point in Manchester where there was no Rabid or New Hormones to put things out, and certainly none of the majors were going to do it." [...]
Alan Erasmus at 86 Palatine Road, early 1980, photo by Annik Honoré
As for Buzzcocks two years earlier, Martin Hannett seemed suitably qualified to produce the first Factory record, his burgeoning reputation as a sonic innovator now enhanced by a hit single with Jilted John. However Hannett's initial involvement in Factory was simply that of a favoured freelance, and he would remain a director at Rabid for some time to come. [...]
Together with The Durutti Column, Joy Division were an obvious choice for the EP and contributed two tracks, Digital and Glass. Both were recorded at Cargo in Rochdale, a basic studio owned by John Brierley and equipped with an unusual two-inch, 16-track machine. As a cameraman Brierley had shot location footage for So It Goes, but on 11 October was surprised to find the producer's chair occupied by Hannett. This single-day session marked the first collaboration between Zero and Joy Division, an event made even more notable by Hannett's judicious use of a brand-new AMS digital delay, a revolutionary effects unit designed by former aerospace engineers based in Burnley, and soon an essential component of his signature production sound. The results were sharp and exceptional, and light years ahead of the primitive Ideal for Living EP, or the botched recordings for RCA. "We had picked up a bit of studio know-how," says Steve Morris, "but we had no real idea how you went about doing things. Rob brought Martin down to see us rehearse before we recorded the tracks for the Factory Sample. He seemed a nice enough kind of hippy person (we had several interests in common) and left suitably impressed. At Cargo things got a little tense, as Tony hadn't told John Brierley that Martin would be producing. I think some reassuring words from Tony eventually did the trick, as they usually did. Martin spent a lot of time getting a drum sound because he did each drum separately, but once that was out of the way he recorded the songs quite quickly. Martin told us to clear off for the mix, since he didn't want any interference in what was for him a creative process. He could be a stereotypical Mad Professor type, but only briefly. I was really excited about the finished tracks. Martin had taken the two songs and, without changing them musically, made them into something different sonically. They sounded like a real record."
Martin Hannett, Strawberry Studios, April 1979, original photo by Kevin Cummins
Hannett was equally impressed by Joy Division. "There was lots of space in their sound initially," he told Jon Savage. "They were different from punk. It might have put me off if I'd seen them in that Warsaw period. Steve Morris was good so immediately they had a red hot start. Ian Curtis was one of those channels for the Gestalt, the only one I bumped into in that period. And they were a gift to a producer, because they didn't have a clue. They didn't argue."
Unlike The Durutti Column, whose contributions ended up sounding as poor as Joy Division's did brilliant. Both Thin lce and No Communication were recorded first with Laurie Latham, an accomplished arranger-producer whose previous credits included Manfred Mann, Monty Python and Ian Dury. These lacklustre tracks were then remixed by Hannett at Strawberry Studios, a state-of-the-art 24-track facility in Stockport owned by soft rockers 10cc, though the imposition of Zero served to trigger the demise of the contrived Durutti quintet. According to Wilson: "The row took place in the front room of the flat shared by Alan Erasmus and Charles Sturridge. The original Durutti Column band broke up because we were so pleased with Martin, and so impressed by him, whereas they didn't want that particular thing to go out. And we did. So we simply went our separate ways." Finding themselves 'excluded' by their sponsors at M24J, Chris Joyce, Tony Bowers and Dave Rowbotham went on to form The Mothmen, and later still would form the nucleus of an early version of Simply Red. Vini Reilly and replacement vocalist Colin Sharp struggled on as a duo, though by the time A Factory Sample was released in January 1979, Reilly too had tired of the muddled 'new psychedelia' project." [...]
The Tiller Boys, Ludus and Manicured Noise may well have been considered for the third and fourth sides, but these plans were derailed by various feuds and rivalries, not least Richard Boon's stated intention to resurrect New Hormones as a going concern. Instead Wilson settled on Sheffield unconventionalists Cabaret Voltaire, who were already set to release their first single (Extended Play) through Rough Trade, but possessed a sizeable backlog of spare tracks. [...]
Peter Saville at work in his studio - date unknown, probably early 80s
While Cabaret Voltaire were avowedly experimental, Wilson's fourth choice for Fac 2 was arguably even less orthodox. Birmingham native John Dowie was already an established stand-up and musical comedian, having gigged regularly with Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias, performed routines on So It Goes, and released a flop EP on Virgin, Another Close Shave. "Astonishingly, and unprecedentedly, they chose me," laughs Dowie, who duly reported to Cargo and cut three short sketches (Acne, ldiot and Hitler's Liver), a hilarious triptych produced by C.P. Lee, with fellow Albertos member Bruce Mitchell guesting on drums. Three decades on, Dowie remains bemused by his surprise inclusion on A Factory Sample. "I lived near Manchester at the time and used to play gigs at the Russell Club. Not many laughs, but plenty of gob. I think Tony Wilson had a side going spare because they only had three bands. He asked if I had any tracks. Unfortunately for him, I did."
While Factory Records was notionally a three-way partnership, Wilson alone underwrote the cost of producing Fac 2, staking £ 5,000 inherited from his mother, who had passed away in 1975. Lindsay Reade confirms that this decision was entirely selfless. "Tony was wondering if his mother would object to a good portion of his inheritance being spent on what was - to all intents and purposes - something of an artistic frippery. We were lucky in that we didn't need to dip into that fund to survive and I said that, unlike the dead, money did not belong in a stone vault. I thought, therefore, that his mum would approve. However, I don't think either of us seriously expected the money to return." The actual bill for manufacturing 5,000 copies of the double-EP package was £ 3,600. "Tony's income and profession were fundamental elements in the formula of Factory happening," adds Peter Saville. "Alan and I could only contribute in kind."
Tony Wilson and Lindsay Reade on their wedding day
The initial division of labour at Factory was simple. Wilson provided funding and selected the talent, while Erasmus took care of general organization from a makeshift office at Flat 4, 86 Palatine Road. Peter Saville directed art, his design concept for A Factory Sample repeating the style applied to the first Factory poster, including the 'use hearing protection' motif stolen from a Polytechnic door. "It was based on the Fac 1 poster," explains Saville. "To a certain extent Fac 1 was the default identity for Factory, and it seemed appropriate with the first record to stay within the context of that. I was working to convey not the music, but the mood, the sense of a new movement. I hadn't heard any of the tracks before I did the cover, and the only one that really moved me was Digital by Joy Division." Saville also liked the packaging idea, despite its origins in budget jazz fusion. "It was very clever. It provided a sort of do-it-yourself record sleeve manufacturing process. You could easily print the piece of paper within the context of everyday printing, slip it inside the polythene, fold it over a couple of times and heat-seal it." However, this was easier said than done, as Wilson soon discovered. "I thought putting a piece of silver paper into a plastic bag, flattening it, folding it, sealing it and cutting it - times 5,000 - would take a few weeks. lt took several people, including me and Lindsay, about four months, night after night, loads of us doing it."
The labour force included journalist Jon Savage, who moved from London to Manchester to work with Wilson at Granada early in 1979. "I recall sitting in Wilson's house in Charlesworth folding thousands of those things. It was such a tricky thing to do. There would be a folding party - everyone who attended would take 500 sheets of paper, 500 plastic bags and 500 singles." Other invitees included Joy Division. "We helped to make the sleeves and were paid fifty pence per hundred," says bassist Peter Hook. [...]
The famous "Fac 1" poster by Peter Saville
In addition to the cost of recording, pressing and sleeving Fac 2, Wilson also funded a sheet of monochrome stickers. Each group contributed an abstract image: a sailor marionette (Joy Division), a deep-sea diver poised before a urinal (Cabaret Voltaire), a Dadaist word collage (John Dowie), and the original 1966 cartoon panel Le Retour de la Colonne Durruti, featuring the Situationist cowboy pair on horseback. According to Reade, the stickers were the single most expensive element of the package, yet while undoubtedly amusing, they revealed less about the artists than did the credits on the inner panel. While Cabaret Voltaire listed their recording equipment in exhaustive detail, Durutti Column again gestured towards radical political chic, listing former members alongside their date of exclusion, as if victims of a purge. Recording date and location aside, Joy Division and manager Rob Gretton chose to reveal nothing at all. No matter, for the music, design and packaging coalesced to make the Factory Sample an almost perfect debut, as Wilson apprehended. "Hand-making the sleeve was to do with this amazing thing, to actually be putting records out. If to make the record what you wanted involved making them by hand, you would do it. It was something wonderful, a sacred task."
The duration and complexity of the sacred task also meant that the 4,700 copies of A Factory Sample earmarked for sale trickled out in batches. According to Wilson, Fac 2 should have been released on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1978. However, with few finished copies available by this date, the EP instead appeared in two main instalments in January and February 1979. This short delay meant that Fac 2 was missing from a year-end round-up of leading independent releases published in NME, but thanks to Manchester correspondent Paul Morley benefited from a generous preview. "Incorporating the diversity of Rough Trade with the sharply eclectic marketing processes of New Hormones, Factory Records is run by co-directors actor/tramp Alan Erasmus and graphic designer Peter Saville. With the ever-enthusiastic Tony So It Goes Wilson inevitably involved, it will release an attractive double EP sampler of acts and artists who have appeared at the club over the last few months. A devious sampler out both to seduce and introduce, its packaging is thoughtful and unusual, its implications exciting. It is provisionally set for mid-December release, priced an irresistible £ 1.50." [...]
Rob Gretton, photo by Kevin Cummins
Factory marked the release of the Sample with package dates in Manchester and Liverpool, presenting Joy Division and John Dowie at The Factory on 26 January, and adding Cabaret Voltaire for a show at Eric's on 16 February. So long shunned as crude and uncouth, Joy Division now began to build a national profile, thanks to an NME cover story and a four-song session for legendary BBC radio DJ John Peel. [...]
Peel also supported Fac 2 with airplay, and although Wilson would later slight A Factory Sample as 'form over content', the only weak aspect of an otherwise perfect debut release was the second side of obsolete Durutti Column tracks. Viewed objectively, the double-disc EP was a triumph, selling all 4,700 copies within four months despite no real promotional spend, and generating a profit of a few hundred pounds. Writing in Melody Maker, Jon Savage praised an "intelligent, attractive, surprisingly homogenous sampler", while Record Mirror discerned an uncommon degree of sophistication: "I bet they all speak French." Sounds alone was dismissive, Sandy Robertson traducing a perceived Warholian throwback. "After rock comes the proletariat concept of art: hippies making funny noises. There's even a comedian, John Dowie, and three collectives. Check the 'song' titles: Digital, Glass, Baader-Meinhof... John Cage [sic] and his pals did all this shit about ten years ago, and more efficiently too. Want me to mail it to NME, chaps?"
At rival weekly NME Paul Morley reviewed the EP as an album, though most copies had been sold by the time his lengthy appraisal ran at the end of March. For Morley, Fac 2 was an imperfect but important record. "Factory Records' first release is a nine-track sampler of acts and entertainers who have been associated with the club, smartly packaged in shimmering silver, the design a tender, indulgent Situationist parody. None of the acts complement each other... Four compartments. Four noises. For anyone. Joy Division: two patient, intent pieces... More proof of Division's intelligent development. How much longer before an aware label will commit themselves to this individual group? The Durutti Column: two rough, restless examples of an ambitious music the group spent many months attempting to perfect before splintering and all but disintegrating in the latter few months of last year... John Dowie: three irrational, indignant little snaps... Cabaret Voltaire: the NME editor opines this Sheffield trio are a bunch of pretentious berks. Me, I think the theoretical input is more attractive than the musical output... The sampler's sound is often untidy, and in a way the selections seem like leftovers - but leftovers that invite search. In five years' time rock and pop will be utterly different in form and content to what is foolishly accepted as being pop and rock now. And it'll still be changing. Factory helps it along its way." [...]
"A Factory Sample", front cover reconstruction
"A Factory Sample", back cover reconstruction
Here's the track list of "A Factory Sample":
01. JOY DIVISION - Digital (2:50)
02. JOY DIVISION - Glass (3:52)
03. THE DURUTTI COLUMN - No Communication (4:59)
04. THE DURUTTI COLUMN - Thin Ice (Detail) (3:17)
05. JOHN DOWIE - Acne (1:43)
06. JOHN DOWIE - Idiot (1:50)
07. JOHN DOWIE - Hitler's Liver (2:30)
08. CABARET VOLTAIRE - Baader-Meinhof (3:23)
09. CABARET VOLTAIRE - Sex In Secret (3:43)
All tracks were remastered from the original vinyls in February 2012, they are available as a single FLAC lossless format file or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 file. Both formats include complete printable artwork as PDF files.
Before you burn the compilation on CD-R using the provided CUE file you will need to convert the original files to WAV format using an appropriate software. Here's an option for FLAC to WAV conversion and one for MP3 to WAV conversion.
As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download links.
"A Factory Sample", inner gatefold cover reconstruction
The following four features/interviews with Peter Hook, Vini Reilly, John Dowie and Stephen Mallinder originally appeared on the now sold-out issue #4 of Scream City fanzine published in the U.K. in 2008.
Especially Vini Reilly and Stephen Mallinder offer priceless first-hand information about "A Factory Sample" and the early days of Factory Records.
[Aside] Joy Division by Michael Eastwood
It was New Year 1979 when my elder brother - flush with cash from his city-centre admin job and spending freely on his first love: vinyl - dropped FAC-2 A Factory Sample in my lap. "Three bleedin' quid it cost me. Tony f#####' Wilson!".
I had no idea what effect the contents of this seven inch bag would have on my next twenty-five years.
I got it straight away. Manchester. Factory. Factory Sample. Use Hearing Protection. This fifteen-year-old East Manchester working-class sore thumb had been struggling for some time to understand why certain pictures, objects, buildings, places, views and images had the capacity to fire off intense pleasurable feelings.
Bank notes and paper coin bags with a paper band round them. The Lufthansa timetable. The Deansgate flyover. Motorway signs. Office stationery. Pylons. The parabolic roof on Sunley Plaza. Letraset.
I was beginning to worry. I was actually thinking of discussing it with my mates! Now I didn't need to. Saville's packaging explained it all. My first lesson in vocabulary. Suddenly, it all made sense and, crucially, it was completely acceptable. There is a perfectly proportioned box in the autistic spectrum with a perfectly kerned label marked, sans serif: modernism.
What's more, inside the seven inch bag was a (Factory) sample of the soundtrack to modernism itself.
Joy Division taught us that things could be different; that the tired old classic cliche line-up of drums, bass, guitar, vocals actually contained immense power - if only they were stripped back down to their very basics; that drummers didn't have to play 'drums', bassists didn't have to play 'the bass', guitarists shouldn't play 'guitar', vocalists mustn't sing 'songs', bands don't have to be 'band-like', managers could do whatever the fuck they wanted and certain producers could turn 2D into 3.
Spin 30 years forward and I ask Peter Hook, via email, to explain...
1. Is it true that John Brierley actually came up with the idea for 'Factory' to do a 'Record'? What were the circumstances?
Don't know ask him?
2. How were you approached to be included on FAC-2?
Through Rob probably, can't remember?
3. Did you submit pre-recorded work or create something 'original'?
Can't remember that either. Shit! I think they were our newest songs?
4. Were 'Digital' and 'Glass' specifically chosen - and recorded - for FAC-2, if so why?
See last answer.
5. What was 'Cargo' like at that time?
Grotty, but very workman-like. The valve 2 inch which I inherited in Suite 16 sounded wonderful. It was very dark and felt very serious. It was the first time I'd been to Rochdale.
"A Factory Sample", Joy Division sticker
6. Were you given a budget?
No. If we were I didn’t know. The whole thing, I believe, was done in a day - recording and mix.
7. Was this the first time you worked with Martin Hannett?
Yes - first time.
8. Did the finished JD product convince you to use Hannett for the album?
We weren't given an option - just told that was what was happening!
9. Who did the JD picture on the stickers that accompanied FAC-2, and what's it all about?
10. Were you sent test pressings (a "pre-release" double 7" version in white paper sleeve and a small-scale mock-up of the final Peter Saville artwork)?
No. We helped to make the sleeves and were paid 50p per hundred. We were skint!
11. What did you think of the finished product - both aural and physical (i.e. packaging)?
l loved it. lt was like we were in the big time! lt was closely followed by Earcom 2 - the Bob Last record, so we were feeling like Big Time Charlie Potatoes! It was great!
Joy Division near Manchester Cathedral, 6 January 1979, photo by Kevin Cummins
12. Did you know - professionally and/or socially - any of the other (FAC-2) bands at all at the time? Have you kept up with any of them in the years since?
I talked to Kevin Hewick a lot and we were very friendly with the Cabs, and the Duruttis come to think of it. Both Bernard and I played on Kevin's next record for Factory.
13. Was there any kind of 'launch' for FAC-2? Were there any gigs to promote it?
Can't remember. I don't think people did launches in them days - every gig was meant to promote it!
14. What did you think of the design of FAC-2 in relation to what was available at the time?
I thought the design was fab. Loved it! It was exotic and northern, dark and mad!
15. Did the design of FAC-2 influence the decision to use Peter Saville to do all subsequent JD/NO artwork?
No. He was onboard like Hannett, so it was taken for granted at the start he'd do them. We continued cos we liked his work and his uniqueness. Personally and workwise he is a character.
Joy Division performing "Digital" live in 1979, video taken from the "Here Are the Young Men" VHS
[Beside] The Durutti Column by Phil Cleaver
One of the characteristics of Factory Records, which make it unique - even today - is the large part design and art had in many aspects. The art and design not only involved the music, but also applied to anything connected to the label and it's (lack of) agenda which was way beyond just record sleeves, label events, and what most people term 'promotional goods'. This is in some ways ironic, as the label did not seek to promote for a long period of time subsequently drawing much interest and attention.
So... the first vinyl release FAC-2 - A Factory Sample forged these principles. It was not about just releasing material by four bands. In fact, the inclusion of for example John Dowie, was perhaps just as purposeful in making it as much about 'art' as it was music.
It is difficult to be objective about how the label viewed this release back in 1978, what they thought it would achieve, producing their first vinyl release, the then complexity of the unique sleeve, what future relationship they would have with these acts and where they would go from here.
I was fortunate enough to speak to Vini Reilly of The Durutti Column about this release, including the other acts on it and his own opinions of it almost thirty years on.
Vini Reilly, photo taken during the very first The Durutti Column concert at The Factory, Manchester, 19.05.1978
Phil "Kooky" Cleaver: Factory and John Dowie - who chose whom?
Vini Reilly: Factory chose John Dowie. He was not quite at the same level as John Cooper Clarke in establishing himself in Manchester but I think that Tony wanted to put some kind of poet on there but I think rather than choose the obvious choice which would've been John Cooper Clarke, Tony being Tony chose John Dowie who really no-one knew and most people had never heard of him. However, the fact that he was very very brilliant with words and his poetry was very different, made Factory choose him. I did meet John Dowie about six months ago at a gig that I was doing and I think he also knew Bruce Mitchell quite well for a long time before I knew Bruce. He's a really great bloke and a very clever bloke.
PKC: So why did Factory choose someone like John Dowie who wasn't doing a band thing. Why did Factory want him on A Factory Sample, the first release?
VR: Because Tony saw that first release in the same way that he saw Factory as a whole. He didn't see Factory as a record company. At all. He didn't ever see it as a record company. He saw it very much as an artefact and as such, everything about it had to be original, and y'know, slightly unusual and unexpected. So you wouldn't expect the first release of an independent label just trying to set itself up to go for that kind of bizarre sleeve which is quite obscure. It makes quite obscure references to Situationism and so on and all the rest of it. So I think the real thing that made him able to do that was the fact that we had Joy Division, because Joy Division were a proper band, a serious serious band. Had they carried on, had we not lost Ian, they could've been a U2. They were fabulous. So we had that strength of content in Joy Division really, which enabled him to then go "Right, what can we put on here that is so off the wall that no-one would even think about releasing it. And at that point, Durutti Column were quite bizarre. Y'know it was just one big fight on my part, trying to get my music played by these musicians who were much more concerned about being cool and hip and part of a new record label. So I was struggling. It was a very strange recording for Durutti Column and of Durutti Column. And then to have a poet on there... what was the other band, I can't even remember?"
PKC: Cabaret Voltaire
VR: Oh yeah! It was slightly electro, whatever, pop, whatever the hell that was.
PKC: Coming out of that same Sheffield music scene as the early Human League I suppose.
VR: Yeah, but with a kinda weird contorted element to it. But yeah, it wasn't a case of let's make "a record" for a start. It was "let’s create an artefact", so it's not just a record. So it would be something people would keep hold of, which has been the case. I know people who have got them want to keep hold of them.
PKC: So, going on to that, obviously Martin Hannett was very heavily involved in that. Would you say that Martin was as otherworldly as people assume nowadays?
VR: He was very otherwordly. He saw the world, he had this kinda "overview" of things that comes from having very detailed knowledge of physics and science, chemistry and all the rest of those kinds of things. So he could look at stuff that was going on and actually understand how it was working. Martin understood those things very clearly. It was also his approach to his sound and therefore his approach to producing a band. It was about the sounds and how you create sounds and what it is about the sound that is going to be musical or not musical or whatever. He was fascinated by textures of sound, the colour of sound, much more so than creating a very exciting live performance of a band. It wasn't about that. It was about experimenting and just playing with sound. That's the thing, we were all really playing. We were completely indulging ourselves. I was, and I still do. And Tony was until he died. He didn't do things to make money or to be successful, or for publicity or for attention. He did things because he was just having fun, experimenting and seeing where it led. And I think that was the attitude he brought to FAC-2.
Martin Hannett, Strawberry Studios, April 1979, photo by Kevin Cummins
PKC: Moving on to Joy Division... Did you hang out with them? Did you spend much time with them as bands do in a city or a town where a type of music or a scene or something new is coming out, which obviously it was at that time.
VR: No. It was funny, in fact none of the bands did that. Y'know it was like A Certain Ratio when they came along, I did know Donald (Johnson) the drummer from ACR. I was into black music in a big way and still am. So I knew Donald from the black music scene emanating from Wythenshawe and Moss Side for years, the early seventies. I used to jam with Donald but apart from him I didn't know the others and I didn't even get to know them. So, I didn't socialise with A Certain Ratio, and A Certain Ratio didn't socialise with Joy Division, and I didn't socialise with Joy Division. Our paths didn't cross except at gigs and you were so busy and involved doing your own gigging, especially if there was more than one band, you know yourself what mayhem that is, so it was never really that we were all one big gang. Everyone was supportive of each other but we didn't need to meet up and have drinks together to prove that. I think that the thing that we had in common was that none of us were that bothered about being famous and we didn't have any illusions about making loads of money. A Certain Ratio were just doing what they did in the studio in a flat in Hulme. They did things like put microphones outside the flat window in Hulme and then put those microphones through space echos and echo machines and then take acid. So all the sounds of people outside would be going through a tape machine, delays, effects and stuff and you'd be tripping away to it.PKC: On the Factory Sample there was John Dowie, who you said you'd kind of met, Cabaret Voltaire I guess you didn't know really.
VR: No, I didn't know them at all. In fact I've still never had a conversation with any of them, not a single Cabaret Voltaire member.
PKC: So it was really just Joy Division that you knew. You knew Ian fairly well didn't you? How did you meet him?
VR: I met Ian in the basement of a music shop which was the best music shop at the time. It was called Reno's and was on Oxford Road. It's still a music shop now but it's no longer Reno's. It was the best place to get band equipment and the basement was where the good stuff was I suppose. A mutual friend of ours, Eugene, worked with Ian for a while when they were both civil servants. Eugene and I worked together for a while when we were both serving petrol. So Ian and I had this mutual friend and Eugene would speak to Ian of me and to me of Ian. So I kind of knew about him but we accidentally bumped into each other in the basement of this music shop, as I said. I was very struck by how ordinary the clothes were that Ian was wearing, which made him very distinctive because it had become the norm to wear outrageous clothes at that point. And so it was actually more outrageous and more interesting that Ian would wear very ordinary plain trousers and very ordinary "straight" clothes. And that was just because that was what he felt comfortable in. So that was what my first impressions were. But he was obviously a musician. As soon as you spoke to him and by his bearing and posture you could tell that he was very hip. He knew exactly what he was doing. He knew exactly what was going on and what the scene was and all the rest of it. He was very cool but he chose to dress in this way that was straight, which was really effective.
"A Factory Sample", The Durutti Column sticker
PKC: So there was a sort of contradiction with him which is really what, I suppose, when you watch the films and things that there's almost like this guy that's very grounded, very normal, that has this kind of almost a battle or contradiction would you say in his life?
VR: Yeah, totally. I think that in his own personal thoughts were so intense. My theory at the time, and I still believe this is that he was a bit shy and a bit embarrassed about being seen as pretentious but was pretty deep. For him it was enough that he was doing it. He didn't need to talk about it and disseminate it, to elaborate and explain, he just sang about those things. Of course, most people can't just hear a vocalist or look at the way a vocalist performs and that's it. There a very few lyrics from songs that are worth hearing anyway, if you think about it. Most of them are not that important, it's just a vocal line that adds the melody and maybe some human emotions are there. But with Ian it was different. There was a very dark side to his thinking and I think that he had depression, which, speaking to people who were important to Ian, I've heard it said that he may well have been diagnosed as being bipolar. I reckon that he probably was. I don't think many people realised just how deeply that run. And how deeply he felt it. The only clue you had, really, was when you saw them perform and then you realised that he really was on the edge. When he performed it was as if he was liberated on that stage to really express how he really felt inside with this dark side coming out. It was very gripping. It really held your attention and you were completely held by it. Absolutely riveted to the spot by this person who was just incredibly intense. It was an amazing atmosphere that was created when Joy Division performed. The music was very sympathetic towards Ian. If you listen to a song and the way the music rises or falls in the light of things, then you understand why it worked so well because Barney as guitarist and Hooky on bass and Steve the drummer were in empathy. Y'know he would work himself up into a frenzy and they would follow that, they had got used to playing together as a band so much that it was second nature for them to do that. It was part of what made them such a great band. But, in answer to the question, I didn't hang out with Joy Division. Really none of us hung out with each other at all.
PKC: Was that part of rivalry do you think, in the way that some bands have or was it just they everyone wanted to get on with their own thing?
VR: We were just so preoccupied with doing our own thing. And the whole attitude of Factory was not to be snobby or exclusive in any way. We were interested in what the critics said. We were just having fun. Expressing things that maybe other people weren't expressing. That's how I felt at the time and I felt very comfortable in that environment.
PKC: Just going back to the Joy Division thing... do you think that that kind of captivating, gripping thing was just for the stage and that off stage they were just like normal guys. Ian had his wife, a family, he lived in a normal town, in a normal house. He was a very grounded sort of person. I mean do you think that it really was just the stage and that outside of that they were just four normal people?
VR: I don't think so, because those lyrics and Ian's use of language to express and to capture a real atmosphere of something, it kind of evoked very dark things that we all have in us I suppose. But I think that that came from his love of literature. I know the author he really loved was T.S. Eliot. He really was into language and poetry very clearly. I think that that was what he was really about. At the same time he was into David Bowie and glam rock at one point. So it's a real mix of things. But that obsession almost with language, with atmosphere and creating some kind of tension, I think that that was there all the time anyway. It was just that on the stage you can do it better. When there‘s an audience there it draws more out from you. Even I feel, in my small way, when I play the guitar in my home I'm probably playing technically far far better than when I'm on stage because it's so much easier to do at home. You can get the sound exactly right and you're not competing with instruments, blah blah blah. But as soon as you're in front of a crowd of people, who want to listen to what you're doing, you tend to find yourself reaching out further and further to find something else inside yourself to say musically. And the stage is the only place that you can do that. There's nowhere else that will do that.
"A Factory Sample", test-pressing given to Vini Reilly by Anthony H. Wilson in 1978. This ultra-rare edition features smaller than final size mock-up of the final artwork by Peter Saville and is numbered 1 of 20. It was hand signed to Vini Reilly by Tony Wilson.
PKC: I understand what you mean about home. You're not challenging yourself. Playing live you play off other people and from there when you've got the stage, people want to be entertained. You've got this canvas I suppose and a thousand people all standing there watching you and you wanna do something that grips. Can you remember Tony Wilson approaching you to do the Factory Sample?
VR: First of all he approached me because I knew Alan Erasmus from way back in the Wythenshawe days. A lot of my friends in those days were from Wythenshawe or Moss Side and most of them were black, because I happened to be into black music. Alan introduced Tony to me. Tony came round to see me, never having heard me play. Alan brought Tony round three times before I finally agreed to take part and put a band together with other musicians. I insisted that I would have control and all kinds of ridiculous things, which was just silly. But Tony was really patient. When I originally spoke to him about it and when I got to know him more, he used to say you can tell whether somebody had something just by the way they stood up in a room, or by the way they were. Normal ordinary things. You could just tell. And I think that's probably true for somebody with Tony's perception. It was incredible. I think that was absolutely right. So he asked me to be the start point of this band which was a five-piece Durutti Column band. I threatened to walk out unless he sacked the singer we had at the time because he was so bloody awful. So we would've had no singer and studio booked. So Tony found an actor who was dreadful, this fucking awful actor with his dreadful pretentious and portentous lyrics which bore no resemblance to anything I felt or wanted to say. So he didn't last very long either. But then I left the band. I gave Tony a letter and the band a letter, saying I'd left. After that first Factory Sample I was so disappointed with how flat and ordinary the music was and I was trying to write music that was interesting. But the bass player put punctuation marks so you knew exactly what was going to happen next musically. It became predictable and too obvious. It was complete and total rubbish and not me, more importantly. I don't mind stuff being rubbish and all my albums are rubbish but at least they're my rubbish. And that‘s what's important to me. But that wasn't even me. So I left, very disillusioned, only to have Tony and Alan keep coming round to see me saying "you are The Durutti Column", which I thought was incredibly loyal of them. So that was quite amazing.
PKC: Do you think it would be possible to get a label to do something like A Factory Sample again? I know that Factory Too tried doing it with just four bands but do you think it was just the right thing at that moment?
VR: I think that there was some very lucky and quite incredible coincidences. One of which was that on the one hand you had probably the most adventurous and intelligent record company (in the sense that it was a record company!). It thought outside the box completely. It was not about competing with other record companies in the business of music. It wasn't about the music business or success or critical acclaim or any of that stuff. It was people that were very bright and mostly Tony. Tony was the direction. He focused us all in a certain way. His vision was far far beyond the music scene which is actually very shallow as everyone knows, and never more so than now. But it was even shallow back then. You had thousands of imitation punk bands or whatever the hell they were doing. It was just nonsense. So I think we all wanted to do something that was real. Whether it was commercially successful or not was irrelevant. It had to be real. So you had Factory and at the same time you had Joy Division. Joy Division were, and still are, forever. They were so ahead of their time. And Ian was such an immense, incredible talent.
The Durutti Column performing "The Missing Boy" live in Finland, 1981, taken from the "A Factory Video" VHS
[Seaside] John Dowie by Ian McCartney / The Fac-2 Owners' Club
Welcome to the seaside - aka the c-side - you are now 3 sides in and have been catapulted into the brand new world of Factory Records, the needle making its way thru these three tracks; Acne, Idiot, Hitler's Liver - past the second run-off iteration of an important word: "everything".
Welcome to the seaside: it's the end of the 1970s, but not the end of the pier. That Factory chose John Dowie for this quarter of A Factory Sample, in light of what came to pass, is telling. Telling what?
Look at the song titles and run-off inscription, and listen to the songs again and tell me this isn't some kind of anti-manifesto for a future unplanned. Anyway, here in 2008 apart from cropping up in the unlikeliest of places like the WFMU station manager's blog (complete with MP3 download), there isn't much Dowie on the web, or anywhere else for that matter.
So I thought I'd drop him a line and see what he said:
John Dowie, picture by Steve Ullathorne
1. Factory and John Dowie - who chose whom...?
Astonishingly, and unprecedentedly, they (or rather, Tony Wilson) chose me. I lived near Manchester at the time and used to play gigs at the Russel Club, which was a forerunner of the Hacienda which they built after I moved to London. I think Tony Wilson had a side going spare as he only liked three bands.
2. Was Martin Hannett as otherwordly (i.e. mental) as people seem to assume these days?
I didn't know him well enough to say. I had the impression he was separated from the rest of us by a wall of very thick glass.
3. Inevitably I am going to ask about Joy Division. Did you hang out with Joy Division, were they a good laugh?
I didn't hang out with them. I used to nod hallo to them when we did gigs together. They certainly didn't strike me as being a "good laugh", although they perhaps are now, given that they're older and wiser and (some of them) alive.
4. Do you own a copy of the FAC-2 pre-release version which was limited to 20 copies and came in a blank paper sleeve with a small-scale mock-up of the artwork?
This is news to me - so no, I don't own one. I believe though, that you can buy Vini Reilly himself for £ 150 -).
5. You have stated that "Even die-hard completists don't want" the Fac 19 release It’s Hard to be an Egg. Well, I think that's maybe a bit self-deprecating. For one thing, I bought a copy off eBay for £3.50 a while back, and very good it is too. How many were pressed?
I don't know how many were pressed. I do remember Tony Wilson moaning that he had a vast pile of them in a warehouse somewhere. And poor Alan Erasmus had to go to a market and get a load of chicken feathers, then painstakingly stick them on to the records, one feather at a time. I bet he knew exactly how many were pressed. There is a man in America called Andrew Beaujon who formed a band called The Eggs in honour of the single so something good came out of it. He sent me all his stuff and very good it is too.
6. Some thoughts on Tony Wilson, please ...?
I really liked him. I hadn't seen him for something like twenty-five years and was very cross with myself - I read in the paper that he was ill and God told me to write to him, but the devil told me not to and stupidly I listened to the wrong voice. However, a couple of nights ago I dreamed that I met him and we had a BIG HUG so I'm hopeful that he has forgiven me.
"A Factory Sample", John Dowie sticker
1. Jerry Sadowitz reckons no-one's funny any more. Is he right?
2. Has Edinburgh killed stand-up? It's become a behemoth, most comics are careerists, and careerism, to me at least, ain't funny. Whaddya think?
It is what it is. I know who to blame for it and where she lives. I take comfort in the thought that young men and women have a career option open to them which didn't exist a few years ago. The forlorn, the bullied and the rejected can still have the last laugh.
3. You no longer do stand up - what are you up to these days?
The only ambition I have left is that my children's character, DOGMAN, is seen by as many children as possible and vice versa. I'm working on that but it's slow slow very very slow.
4. Should hecklers be killed?
Hecklers have saved my comedy career more times than I care to remember.
5. Which Leonard Cohen record makes you laugh the most? I'm torn between The Songs of Leonard Cohen and I'm Your Man. That monkey with the plywood violin gets me every time...
I'm extremely fond of: "and I raise my glass to the awful truth / which you can't reveal to the ears of youth / except to say it isn‘t worth a dime".
John Dowie performing "British Tourist" on TV, 1978
John Dowie performing three songs on TV, circa 1982-1983
[Decide] Cabaret Voltaire by Michael Eastwood
Post-punk 'noise terrorists' Cabaret Voltaire - the Sheffield trio of Steven 'Mal' Mallinder, Richard Kirk and Chris Watson - made regular appearances at the early Russell Club Factory nights, so their inclusion on the first Factory vinyl release was obvious, and gained them the distinction of being the only band to feature on FACs 1, 2 and 3.
Lips Of Sulphur - side four of FAC-2 - represents only their second commercial release and comprises the abstract cut-up piece Baader-Meinhof and the sweeping brute chug of Sex In Secret .
CV taught us that spoken text was a perfectly viable alternative to melodic vocals; that sounds could be found as well as created; that eq did not have to remain flat and unmoving; that studio effects could become instruments in their own right and that acoustic and electronic instruments did not necessarily have to be used in the way nature intended.
Although never a Factory band - their next five years of seminal output achieved via Rough Trade and Some Bizarre - CV collaborated with the Factory video wing IKON, were (arguably) the first act to play live at The Hacienda, and later released the pre-house club anthem Yashar first on Benelux and, later, Factory proper.
CV developed in parallel to Factory via their enlisting of the graphic artist Neville Brody for their design brief and explored the new video medium with their own video wing: 'Doublevision'.
Richard Kirk still operates their 'Western Works' studio. Chris Watson left CV in 1981 "to pursue a career in television sound recording", whilst Stephen Mallinder - interviewed here via an exchange of emails - is now a university Art Project Manager.
Cabaret Voltaire, circa 1978-79
1. How did the relationship with Wilson and/or Factory come about?
Through mutual contacts as I recall. Jon Savage had been very important in championing us and he had put Geoff Travis is on to us which resulted in Extended Play coming out on Rough Trade, we had also been in touch with Richard Boon just after Spiral Scratch and ended up doing a big Lyceum Buzzcocks gig with the Slits and John Cooper Clarke. We were just pushing our heads up and all these people helped. Tony got in touch and put us on the first Factory gigs - I think we played the third week with Durutti. So we'd been on FAC 1 and I guess it made sense to be on the first record.
2. How were you approached to be included on FAC-2?
A natural evolution from the gigs and really being a rather unconventional set up it fitted in with Tony and Alan's ethos. There was no pressure they just asked us to give them a couple of tracks.
3. Did you submit pre-recorded work or create something 'original'?
Both, we had already done Baader-Meinhof and wanted to get it out but it didn'treally fit on Extended Play
so it was a good opportunity but Sex In Secret was done specifically for FAC-2
4. Were Baader-Meinhof and Sex In Secret specifically chosen for FAC-2, if so why?
I think both tracks, and specifically the titles, which were intended to provoke a response, seemed to fit with Factory and especially Tony's sensibilities, I think he wore his situationist heart on his sleeve.
5. What was 'Western Works' at that time?
Appropriately Western Works was not only an old industrial building, made up of a warren of workshops, but also our part of the building was the old headquarters of the Young Socialists and a hang out for the Socialist Workers Party. If you look at photos of us at that time you can usually see their old posters on the wall. Strangely enough it was attached to the house in which Mr. Plimsoll was born - the guy who invented the Plimsoll line that all boats have marked on them to avoid overloading and sinking. I always thought that was bizarre, and we were down the road from the Henderson‘s Relish Factory - Jarvis Cocker's mum worked there.
6. Were you given a budget?
I don't think so, but I apologise to all concerned if Tony bunged us a few quid to cover the cost of the tape.
"A Factory Sample", Cabaret Voltaire sticker
7. The accompanying sticker photomontage is credited in the latest Saville book as "Collage by members of Cabaret Voltaire". Who, what, why?
I'm not sure myself. I'll have to look at the book. It could have been Richard's handy work but at that time we took it in turns to do the sleeves so it could have been any of us.
8. Your 'side' is entitled Lips Of Sulphur. Why?
I've got the feeling it might have been a line from Sex in Secret, but as all the sides have a tag line it might be a Wilsonism.
9. Were you sent test pressings (a "pre-release" double 7" version in white paper sleeve and a small-scale mock-up of the final Peter Saville artwork)?
Yes we were and they had little stickers - it was very much a sticker culture at that time - a pioneering form of viral marketing that required a lot of time in pub toilets. My copy went missing, but fortunately someone gave me another copy as a present.
10. What did you think of the finished product - both aural and physical (i.e. packaging)?
Wonderful - both at thetime and today, even if all the music wasn't to my taste I respected its diversity. It said a lot about Factory and everyone involved, I think it allowed them to move forward and concentrate on
their artists but at the time it was a statement of intent.
11. Were Cabaret Voltaire subsequently offered a 'deal' with Factory?
Well we were desperate to do an album and get loads of stuff out. At that time we'd had releases on both Rough Trade and Factory, but we needed to get a four track to do everything. I think Geoff was able to help out, if Tony had been able to at the time it may have been different and we may have done the album for Factory. who knows.
"A Factory Sample", the 'Factory Records' sticker
12. Did you know - professionally and/or socially - any of the other FAC-2 bands at all at the time? Have you met any of them in the years since? Both Richard and myself had been going out in Manchester for a few years so we knew a few people but of the other FAC people we had just begun to get friendly with the Joy Division guys. But we did start to play quite a lot of gigs with them; in the beginning we simply decided who went on first by who had the furthest to travel back home after the gig, but I think after a while it became obvious they might have to go on last. The others we didn't really know and Durutti at the time was a full band not just Vini. We became good mates with other bands, like ACR, later.
13. Was there any kind of 'launch' for FAC-2? Were there any gigs to promote it?
I can't honestly remember. We seemed to be playing the Russell Club quite regularly (well regularly for us) so it may have been a night there. There were quite a few things going on - Final Solution, Eric's, etc. so we seemed to playing a bit anyway. The idea of a "launch" was a bit alien for the time and for us.
14. What did you think of the design of FAC-2 in relation to what was available at the time, and did it have any influence on your own future design?
I think everyone thought it was an important part of music - to present yourself properly, not leave it to chance. We weren't really into the glossy look and we had all been doing bits of mail art, Xerox culture etc. So although we didn't feel any inclination to have a similar, Savillesque look I think it started to raise the standard. That's why working with Neville (Brody) became important, he allowed us to work closely with him rather than go "I'm your designer". We worked with Neville from around 1979-80 for more than ten years.
15. You appeared at The Russell Club several times. How did CV go down with such a hardcore audience?
I wish I could remember, great from my recollection. It was a pretty open crowd and we did have our own following and it was very much a good night out whoever was on.
16. On 20 November 1980 CV performed Voice Of America/Damage Is Done on Granada TV's Celebration arts programme. How did this come about? Do you have any recollections of the day?
It was through Tony, we weren't So It Goes material and so it was nice to do something on TV. As I remember Holly Johnson did a solo cowboy number, ha! I've no idea who else was on. I think we filmed at about 10am so it would have been a bit strange.
Cabaret Voltaire, circa 1980-81
17. A video for No Escape was shot by the great Malcolm Whitehead and subsequently released by Factory/IKON on FAC56 A Factory Video. How did this come about? Do you have any recollections of that day?
Tony actually filmed it somewhere near Ladybower Dam, which is exactly halfway between Sheffield and Manchester. I don't know whether that was meant to be significant or just convenient. Malcolm did all the editing. It was a frosty Saturday morning from memory, we must have looked real twats with guitars in the middle of the woods - like the Seeds meets the Blair Witch Project.
18. CV were (arguably) the first live band to play at The Hacienda. Ditto How did this come about and do you have any recollections of that day?
Yeah how funny we were the first band to actually play there. The opening party had been the night before and then we played the Saturday. Due to draconian licensing laws at the time it was a membership only club. Hardly anyone had got a membership through for the first week (well first month or more) so there was about twenty people there - not a bad turn out for the early Hacienda - you can imagine what that sounded like. I think history has been rewritten so that first gig isn't in the narrative.
19. Thoughts about the Hacienda? Did you frequent it?
Oh a lot - from the early days when there were just bands and it was a small group of attendees and then later a few mad memories of nights there and at the Gay Traitor Bar. Great place that really worked when there was a big night - Mondays, New Order or one of Mike Pickering's shindigs. I remember a couple of good New Year's Eves in there to boot. Richard and I appeared as VJs once - I think we got paid in cocktails, the gig was a bit hazy but I remember the van driving off and leaving me on the middle of the moors later that night.
20. Yashar was released by Factory (and Factory Benelux) on FAC 82. Who approached whom? Again, was this a pre-recorded piece or was it budgetted / commissioned?
That was John Robie who really wanted to get stuck in to that one. He's just been working with Arthur Baker and Bam on Planet Rock and Perfect Beat and Barney (New Order) hooked him up with us cos he loved the original track. We all ended up doing more stuff - for a film soundtrack and then Robie did quite a few things with Richard and I, he did Don’t Argue and then got me to do a bit with Bam.
21. The obligatory: are there any plans for CV to record anything further or return to the stage?
Never say never. I still speak to Richard and it may work at some point.
Cabaret Voltaire, promotional video for "No Escape", taken from the "A Factory Video" VHS
Colin Sharp was The Durutti Column's vocalist on No Communication and Thin Ice (Detail), the two Durutti Column tracks on FAC-2 A Factory Sample. Here he recalls the making of the record.
The following excerpt were taken from the already mentioned issue #4 of Scream City fanzine and from his book "Who Killed Martin Hannett? - The Story of Factory Records' Musical Magician" published in in 2007. At the time of writing the book is out of print, you can find used copies here.
His story filled with details (...sometimes too many...) on the use and abuse of drugs offers a different perspective on the events of the early Factory days. The small pictures below are the only two I was able to find.
Colin Sharp, date unknown
The early incarnation of The Durutti Column was a five piece band. However, by the time these recordings were completed, the nucleus had shrunk to two (the genius guitarist Vini Reilly and the enfant terrible Dave Rowbotham with the addition of myself. I was working as an actor at the time, replacing the previous singer.
The backing tracks had been laid down a few weeks previously and feature the full band, who had then been unceremoniously sacked by Svengali manager / entrepreneur / Record Label mogul Tony Wilson.
The backing/rhythm tracks are a curious hybrid of dub reggae inflected rhythms, neo-psychedelic guitar washes, post Velvets rhythm guitar chops, experimental electronica and baroque backing vocals.
My task, as lyricist, was to add words, meaning and voice to the tracks. I was only given the recordings a matter of days prior to entering the studio (on cassette, for those were the times).
I wrote the lyrics for No Communication and Thin Ice (Detail) in a matter of hours. Indeed No Communication was altered on the way to the recording studio, as Tony wanted some insertions / edits. Some of the wording to Thin Ice (Details) was extemporised in studio.
The vocal tracks, including more backing vocals and some keyboard textures, were laid down in one 8-hour session at Cargo Studios in Rochdale and the final mix was completed at Strawberry Studios several days later.
This was my first meeting with Martin Hannett, which was to develop into a friendship, mutual appreciation, a druggy buddy relationship and more besides. It started a life long obsession for me with Martin's work and personality and now results in the writing of a biography of Martin - Who Killed Martin Hannett?, 15 years (unlucky for some) after Martin's untimely death.
The production of the two Durutti Column tracks and the sound created is unlike anything previously or subsequently, heard. Again an incredible melange of hard dub leanings, psychedelia, spoken word, chamber music, new wave posturing, primal expression, basic rock 'n' roll and ethereal voices. It makes for a heady, narcotic brew and opened the door for the more experimental, artier side of post-punk, such groupings as Wire, XTC, and the Psychedelic Furs.
After the recording sessions, Dave Rowbotham left, leaving Vini and I to work together briefly on some 'songs', more ambient poetic stylings really. We performed twice together publicly, once as support act to Magazine, before Vini was laid low with recurring stomach / psychological problems and I went on to form the much more commercial, punky glam new wave combo - The Roaring 80s.
Peter Saville, Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus outside the Russell Club in Hulme, April 1979, photo by
[...] A couple of days after my audition Alan Erasmus dropped round to my house with a cassette, recorded on which were two instrumental tracks. [...]
The point of 'A Factory Sample', as the title would suggest, was to present various Factory or Factory-influenced bands - namely Joy Division, The Durutti Column, Cabaret Voltaire (from Sheffield) and the alternative comedian John Dowie. It was hoped that it would herald the existence of Factory Records to an eager, but still slightly comatose, public. It was also conceived as a work of art and subversion. It was full of Situationist slogans and images, although rather obtuse and vague. It was subtitled 'Labours in Culture'. There were four sides, called Aside, Beside, Seaside and Decide. The bands featured were chosen by Tony - as well as managing The Durutti Column he was enamoured with Joy Division and friends with 'the Cabs', who had already played at the Russell on a number of occasions. It was felt that it would be good to leaven the proceedings with some comedy, thus the odd presence of Dowie, a kind of Northern Alexei Sayle for the punk generation. The sound would be eclectic, surprising, challenging, uncomfortable, experimental and represent a departure point for any intrepid fellow travellers. It achieved all those things and more, easily selling out its initial pressings and becoming a real collector's item and an object of astonishing beauty, thanks to Peter Saville's gorgeous designs.
The two Durutti instrumental tracks had been previously laid down by the band, which comprised Vini Reilly on lead guitar, Dave Rowbotham on rhythm guitar, Tony Bowers on bass and Chris Joyce on drums. It was these tracks that were presented to me by Alan Erasmus.
Tony Wilson on TV, circa 1976-77
Tony said: "Could you put some words to these?"
The given titles are 'No Communication' and 'Thin Ice (Detail)'.
"Right.. OK. l'll try."
"Fine. And l'll pick you up tomorrow morning."
"To go to Rochdale."
I suddenly feel like a proper rock star that has appointments made and minders to look after his emaciated frame and his every winsome whim.
As agreed, Alan calls round for me at precisely ten past eleven. He knocks three times on the front window. Overnight, I have listened to the two trax (rock and roll spelling) several times in a diligent manner and have scribbled some possible lyrics for each 'piece' on the backs of old brown envelopes. I hunch my leather jacket on, stuff brown envelopes into one pocket, felt-tipped cassette into the other, make sure that carefully wrapped gram of sulphate is secure in zipped top pocket.
"‘Yeah, I'm ready Eddie."
"I'm Alan," Erasmus deadpans back as we head for Tony Wilson's waiting, engine running, light blue Volvo. I sit in the back with Tony. He is very much the Manager, although uncertain, at this juncture, whose image to adopt - a toss-up between Joe Meek, Andrew Loog Oldham, Brian Epstein or Malcolm McLaren. Eventually, in true magpie fashion, he will filch elements from all the above and create his own hybrid.
"What have you got Col"?’
I am unsure whether he means my literary efforts or any Class B drugs I might have secreted about my person. I cover all eventualities by producing my envelopes and patting my left-hand top pocket to let him know I'm sorted for whizz. He takes the envelopes from me with due care and attention. Alan is driving alarmingly fast. Wilson scans my words, as he will some early evening news copy just before talking direct to camera.
"These are good. I like these. Would you mind if I added some stuff?"
He produces a red felt-tip pen and for a terrible moment I fear that he is going to cross out my efforts, but rather he writes a couple of lines, on one side, with a veritable flourish and then hands it back to me.
The lines read 'Keep the traffic moving' (we have stopped at some traffic lights), 'Travel for pleasure alone' (we are having fun, but a clever ambiguity: does he mean alone in the sense of by oneself, or for the sole purpose of pleasure?). Then an obscure, somewhat abstract line: 'Liquid stockings, repairable but stolen', though it may be that I have just misread his sloping, ornate handwriting.
"See if you can scan those in."
So I do. I scan them right in there.
A seeming matter of minutes later Alan deposits his passengers outside Cargo Studios, in Rochdale. Like most locations in this saga, the studios are freezing fucking cold: brass monkeys, as the Mancs would have it. Dave Rowbotham is there, strapped into his guitar. I don't remember ever seeing him without his guitar, or attendant strap, but I imagine he wasn't wearing it when he was axed to death. Then again...
"All right cock?"
This is the first time we've seen each other since the bootleg Russell Club audition sessions. I suddenly feel vulnerable and insecure and therefore in need of some chemical input.
"That's right, you two have met," Tony remarks.
"Sweet Jane we have," Dave concurs. Like Martin, he likes to reinvent language. Like Martin, he will eventually take it too far.
Martin Hannett, Strawberry Studios, April 1979, photo by Kevin Cummins
On cue Martin appears. With him, looking rather nervous and out of place, but very handsome, is Stephen Hopkins. He is never really at ease with rock and rollers, always more of a classical musician and a back-room boflin at heart.
"So you're the new singer," Martin states, hinting at a long line of previous singers.
"Something like that," I mumble.
Actually, I am overcome by the reality of meeting The Great Man properly for the tirst time. I want to tell him how monumental 'Spiral Scratch' sounds, how much I dig the distorted, dirty guitar sound on 'Innocents', how divine the double-tracked bass on 'Sleepwalk', from Cooper Clarke's debut album, sounds.
He saves me: "Have you got any speed?"
"Yes, as it happens, I do."
We cram into the booth. The walls are carpeted - a cheap way to soundproof. There are a couple of no-nonsense engineer-type blokes fussing with fuses, plugs, echo chambers, wire, perhaps even primitive delay units.
Several wraps of amphetamine sulphate are produced and opened out like fortune cookies. Martin chops them out with an embryonic credit card into several lazy zigzag lines. He goes first, hoovers up a long line.
"Kinnel Tommy, that's rough," is his verdict.
Dave and I, representing the new punks on the concrete block, are obliged to do two. Eyes water, mouths instantly dry. The engineer-type blokes shake their heads, not in any judgemental way, but they have practical stuff to do and pints of ale to be quaffed at lunchtime.
"OK, we all start when the drum machine starts lads," Martin quotes the spoken intro to John Cooper Clarke's 'Suspended Sentence'. For a moment I take him literally and panic because there was no drum machine on the tape - was I supplied with the wrong tracks? - but the speed kicks in, my scalp crawls, I get the reference and I'm ready for any-fucking-thing.
Martin swivels on the chair and surveys the 'desk'. This is his toy shop, his domain and his kingdom. He places his three packets of Marlboro and his Zippo lighter on his left. He runs his right hand, palm downwards, over the knobs, faders, indicators - the controls, This is his ritual. He is the Shaman; he is setting the controls for the heart of the sun. He is in his time capsule. He is far removed from the quotidian struggle.
"Right then, what have we got?"
He pushes himself away from the control desk and looks up at Tony Wilson who is hovering around like a spare part in a spare part shop. Tony liked to be present, at least to begin with, at all stages of the process. He is fascinated by the means of production. Martin, for his part, sees him as getting in the way in his sacred studios.
"So we're just going to bang some vocals on the top, add a bit of keyboard colour, some sonic texture, then see what kind of cake that makes."
"You're the producer. You're the Magician," Tony accedes graciously.
Martin considers this, but doesn't comment. Tony often variously describes Martin as 'the Magician', 'a nutty professor', 'Gandalf of the poppy' (with fine double meaning), or 'a music fiend'. Eventually Martin will come to resent what he sees as the implicit patronising tone in such descriptions. He doesn't want to be the nutty professor in Tony's toy set who can be brought out and moved around and played with and then put away safely in a bottom drawer.
At this stage, Tony is still in awe of the production work that Martin has done only a few weeks previously, in the same environs, with the Joy Division lads. Two tracks of awesome power and fractured splendour in the shape of 'Digital' and 'Glass' that will be their contrlbution, and the main selling point, for the planned Factory Sample. Martin has taken the raw material provided by Ian Curtis and the boys and transformed it into a jagged aural landscape.
"That speed is bloody marvellous," he comments, employing one of his character voices from his repertoire. He was always a great mimic.
"He seems like a nice kid," Tony agrees.
"If his vocals are half as good as his chemicals..." Martin adds. Then he leans into the linking microphone.
"Do you want to hear the first track again, our kid?"
"That would be handy," I deadpan back.
Then the maelstrom kicks in, the mammoth, clattering drums and the portentous dubbed-out bass and the Neanderthal hum of some terrible dread. This is the filthy symphony that Martin has concocted with the dirty Durutti boys and then mixed on his own into something monstrous and massive. Martin has the line switched on so that when I start to intone...
"Dance... to the Disco Radio..."
...he can capture that spontaneous performance. He knows that vocalists cannot resist rehearsing, can't resist listening to the foldback of their own voices. And he is absolutely certain that the first take is invariably the best; the first cut is the deepest. I am in my cathartic capsule. Martin is my pilot. He sets the dials for the dark side of the moon, with his co-pilot ever vigilant, watching the meters and meteorites. Martin understands the paradox of the vocalist - the vanity and the insecurity. We are linked by the wires and terminals and a silver astral thread. We are terminally wired, totally wired. I provide the words and the voice. He gives it space, spontaneity, depth, width, atmosphere. This is his magic.
We complete the take of 'No Communication', with spoken word passages, devilish vocal effects, space rock middle eight, knowing nods to krautrockers Can, dub wizard Lee Perry and Syd Berrett-era Pink Floyd. But the whole heady witches' brew sounds totally fresh and original and he has indeed captured the spontaneity of e near-live vocal performance, seamlessly welded it onto, and stitched it into, an existing backing track. He has worked his Hannett hoodoo voodoo. His mojo has been working overtime, and his six senses. He beams at me: it's a Hannett moment. You want to please the man - another trick of the great producer. You crave his approbation. He has that effect on those that come near him. Even after his death, far more people will claim to have been his friend, his dealer, his gofer, then could possibly have been the case. He has e great smile.
We have made something together. The alchemy has worked. I glide back through to the control room. I am walking on amphetamine air.
Martin Hannett at Strawberry Studios with Tony Wilson, Alan Erasmus and others,April 1979, photo by Kevin Cummins
"Shouldn't that be 'dance'?" Tony asks.
He uses the Northern 'a' sound, the shorter vowel sound rather than the elongated Southern and/or posh pronunciation. Muso scholars will be discussing and arguing this point for years to come. Should singers vocalise in their own authentic accents or should they appropriate the transatlantic nu-speak that was so popular in the 1950s and 60s and even into the early 1970s? Punk took everyone hostage and insisted on working-class credibility and angels with dirty faces and Doc Martens inverted snobbery, and it was considered de rigueur to come from some broken home, to be in possession of council estate, tower block, Westway credentials. Admitting to being middle class was tantamount to punkoid career suicide, or even suicide itself. Some 'punks' went as far as reinventing themselves and having a revisionist attitude towards their own personal histories. Of course the irony was that the main movers and shakers in the whole scam were, as always, middle-class ex-art school, drama conservatoire types like Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood, Julien Temple, Peter Saville et al. It had been the same in the 1960s with Andrew Oldham, Brian Epstein and George Martin.
"What? You what?" Martin snaps back at Tone.
"It sounds a bit Southern and poncey," Tony retorts.
There is always that tension between the two business partners. Tony wants to be the artistic director, the creative consultant in the Factory firm. Martin never kowtows to Wilson, or indeed to anyone. Tony is also suffering from the Northern prejudice that claims that anything that isn't Northern is poncey, pansy, poofterish and lacking in gritty authenticity. The dynamic between them has always been based on friction and an implicit power struggle.
"A bit Southern and poncey," Martin sends him up, giving him a taste of his own medicine.
"Just my opinion."
"Aye. Well eh up me lad, as long as there's no trouble at t'mill."
He punches a few buttons on the console to bring up the final moments of 'No Communication', now with added-strength vocals, and slams it up so we all hear my voice booming and exhorting and eternally echoed with that long 'ah' sound. 'Daaaance!'
"Nowt wrong with that our kid. You take my point Tony?’ Martin gibes.
"No, but you're the Magician," Tony appeases tactfully.
"I'm not the Magician. Jesus effing Christ! Where do you get that idea? I'm just a geezer Tone. "I'm not Jesus, I'm just a fella," he quotes from Whistle Down the Wind.
Tony walks away, in tetchy silence.
"Let's have a wee break and then have a bash at t'other one, eh Col?"
Martin is on a roll, he is in his element, his natural habitat. He is the heavyweight music champion of the world. His word goes.
"OK," I agree, uncertain of the protocol. "I need some water."
"Anything what your heart desires. Minion, fetch the singer a quaff of H too Oh! Ah, no minions. But there's a tap in the bogs!"
"The Gentlemen's toilets are outside, round the back of the shack," Tony says neutrally.
"The Back of the Shack? Good name for an ACR album Anthony."
They're mates again. We are all one.
"You got any more of that dynamite speed Col? It's outrageously nutritious," Martin enquires.
I hand him my depleted wrap.
"That was bloody good mind," Dave Rowbotham offers, appearing from nowhere, guitar welded to his waist, the picture of the low-down dirty junkie rhythm guitar slinger. "I need a slash; I'll show you where the bogs are."
It's not totally clear whether the bloody good refers to the speed or the vocal performance.
"Don't worry about Tony and Mart; they're always barracking each other. Martin is my main man, mind. He always will be." Dave grins and leers at me. I sense that he imagines a future for himself with this down-sized version of Durutti. We zip up and nip back up some imaginary, or real, stairs. Dave punches the stagnant air.
"Aw fook," he yowls.
He grasps his cranium in both hands and staggers back into me, almost knocking me back down the steps.
"What is it man? What the hell is it?"
"It's probably just some crappy shit what they put in that speed. I'll be all right, Jack. Never worry about me."
"That stuff is the best. It should be pure. It shouldn't be cut with anything," I try and reassure him.
"It's all cut, cock. Nothing is pure. Nothing is as it seems." His eyes are red from the sudden agony. He rubs them harshly with his balled-up fists. "Martin is a great guy you know. He's a big man. He's got a big heart, big ideas... I tell you what... he's Mister Fookin' Big."
It's like a manic Manc version of the Dennis Hopper photojournalist character in Apocalypse Now. Dave chuckles filthily and the moment of pre-emptive agony has passed.
Back in the relative security of the studio we get ready to do the vocals for 'Thin Ice (Detail)', to give it its full, arty-pretensions title. The track swirls in like mist on that blasted Scottish heath. It comes in like a wave of phase. Then it lazily settles, Vini's guitar arpeggios swarm around as something more bass-inclined roots it down and I start to lntone.
Martin is sliding faders up and fading sliders down and doing all kinds of studio trickery and the cursed Cowboy Dave is leaning into the non-existent wind, looking for shelter from the storm and even Mr. Anthony H. Wilson is captivated for a fleeting instant.
After a lengthy spoken prelude, an anti-pop agit-prop prologue, the rhythm appears for the first time, and the bass starts a propulsive riff, the sense of forward motion that Martin is such a master of, and the drums hint at militarism and the vocals pick up on the propulsion and slyly suggest a minimal melody. Then the double-tracked, incandescent, individualist guitars break out free of their constraints. We dance on the graves of the deathly dictators and bloody bureaucrats and lifeless lackeys. We celebrate our energy, our lovely libidos, our collective subconscious (sic) and then the track jives out and off in pure rock and roll merriment, taking us back to innocence and another kind of Eden.
Martin Hannett shouts with glee: "By fucking George, he's got it!" It's a great view when you're standing on top of a mountain; but it's along fucking way down.
Martin Hannett and Tony Wilson at Strawberry Studios, July 1980
Martin Hannett interviewed by Stephen Morris for the documentary "Play At Home", 1983
Alan Erasmus wearing a Joy Division t-shirt, probably during the early 80s, photo by Lindsay Reade
Alan Erasmus, the quiet one, is sometimes remembered, unfairly, as being the gofer/chauffeur, but it was his famous flat in Palatine Road that saw the start of Factory Records' forays into the public domain. It was there that the Joy Division boys, and anyone who dropped by, were given jobs in the packaging of the elaborate 'A Factory Sample' silver and black gatefold sleeve. There was a sense of camaraderie and excitement as they laboured over the beautiful, but ridiculously elaborate, Saville sleeve. They joked and joshed and carried on like boys do.
Saville himself had been a Manchester Poly art student and was renowned for missing deadlines, once turning up with a poster for a Factory night at the Russell Club days after the gig had happened. He was a mercurial, slightly aloof and charismatic character, but the look and style that he produced defined Factory visually and conceptually. He wasn't too bothered with, or interested in, the music, though he was a confirmed Roxy Music fanatic and finally got to design their sleeves too.
Alan was always polite, thoughtful and considerate. It was Alan who brought round £ 200 for me, in a pink plastic wallet, as payment for my vocal efforts on the Durutti tracks. It was Alan who would ferry musicians to and from gigs. It was Alan who could provide comfort and consoling words. At the time he was indispensable to Tony. It was in fact Alan who had come up with the name Factory Records.
A Factory Sample saw the start of the Factory empire and some diehard JD fans reckon that the JD tracks - especially 'Digital' - represent them at their most powerful, energetic and groundbreaking. Likewise Martin's production work on both the Durutti and JD numbers is seen as a quantum leap in his career. This was the point where he began to mix dub, punk, ambient, electronics, rock and roll and sound FX into a fantastic and frightening new concoction: the Brompton's Cocktail of the new wave. It provided a blueprint not only for JD, but a whole slew of new acts. The Sample sold-out almost entirely by word of mouth, and was praised in the music press by Morley and Savage and the other hip young journo guns. From then on people sat up and took notice - including the London crowd. It defined the difference between Northern and Southern post-punk, because it included wit, comedy, authenticity and artistry, without ever taking itself too seriously.
Rob Gretton, Ian Curtis and Bernard Sumner outside TJ Davidson's rehearsal room, Little Peter Street, Manchester, 28.04.1980, photo by Anton Corbijn
More information about Joy Division, The Durutti Column, John Dowie, Cabaret Voltaire, Tony Wilson, Peter Saville, Alan Erasmus, Martin Hannett, Rob Gretton and Factory Records is available here:
If you have any other useful information concerning this post - or if you spot any dead links - please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!