1) The Royal Family. A remarkable S.I. influenced outfit from Liverpool who, with sing along numbers like "Vanneigem Mix", rose such comments as; "They show The Gang of Four to be the bubble gum band we always thought they were." - R. Boone.
2) Blurt. Sax based dance band from Stroud - Jesus Christ Stroud! Fronted by former anarcho beat poet - reformed.
3) The Durutti Column. An extended piece being prepared by Vinny Reilly, Stephen Hopkins and Mr. Hannett.
4) Kevin Hewick. Kid comes from Leicester. Writes singles about hay-stacks and finding needles, and apart from the fact that he likes Sylvia Plath and Clem Burke, he has a lot going for him. Interested in frail specifics, yip, yip, yip.»
[from an early 1980 Factory Records hand-typed "newsletter and shareholder's analysis"]
"A Factory Quartet", front cover reconstruction
«We were at FAC10 for "Unknown Pleasures", then 11 for X-O-Dus, and 12 and then 13, then Vini's album is 14. It was only when we did the next album that we said 'Well what's this going to be? Well that one was 14, well this could be 24'. And the fact that the second album that Vini was on, was a four sides, with four artists. Two albums, four artists, it was like 'Oh look, 24!' Four artists, two vinyl, how appropriate.»
[Tony Wilson explaining the thinking behind the Factory catalogue number for "A Factory Quartet"]
"A Factory Quartet", back cover reconstruction
Well, I've been working on this post for quite a lot of time... This is one of my favourite records ever, and one that I heavily played in my Twenties when Factory and Mute used to keep my turntable busy most of the times during the early '90s.
I have always preferred "A Factory Quartet" to "A Factory Sample", althought it is commonly considered of inferior quality compared to its predecessor. The main reason is quite simple: the Quartet offers more quality music from The Durutti Column, which have been my favourite band for many, many years.
The fact that every band/artist has a whole side of music also made it easier to get a clear idea about them, and I decided that they were all worth a deeper exploration: in a few months I was able to get second-hand copies of "In Berlin" by Blurt, "Such Hunger For Love" by Kevin Hewick and the "Art - Dream - Dominion" 12" single by The Royal Family and the Poor, wow!
At the time I purchased my second-hand copy of "A Factory Quartet" I already knew The Durutti Column's albums released by Factory in the early '80s, and although their contribution to the Quartet misses the unique drumming style of Bruce Mitchell - who still wasn't part of the band at the time - I was more than happy to be able to finally listen the original studio versions of two Durutti classics like "For Belgian Friends" and "Self-portrait".
"A Factory Quartet", inner gatefold detail left
The first part of the long Kevin Hewick live side (...about 25 minutes!) has been a mistery to me for quite many years. My knowledge of English was limited then ("...he has not improved a lot in the meantime..." I here you say...) so I couldn't understand the reason why the young singer-songwriter was receiving such an hostile reaction from the public... Anyway, I was able to figure out that Hewick was standing his grounds firmly, and I liked that. While preparing this post I finally discovered the reason: Hewick was supporting a Roy Harper tour and the main attraction was more than 90 minutes late!
With their primeval drumming, frantic saxophone and hallucinated voice, Blurt were my introduction to stripped-back Avantgarde Jazz-Rock. The songs included on the Quartet are taken from a demo recorded at home on a Teac four-track machine and are pretty lo-fi, a characteristic that matches them with the Kevin Hewick live recordings. Anyway, the seven minutes of "Dyslexia" are worth the admission ticket alone and still make a strong impression on me after all these years.
The Royal Family and the Poor's contribution to the Quartet sounded to me like is a sort of an endless flux of distorted guitars overlaid with, what I now know is - Situationist oratory.... Something like an extended version of Joy Division's "Atrocity Exhibition" brought to the limit... Exhausting, but in a positive way!
"A Factory Quartet", inner gatefold detail right
The following text is excerpted from James Nice's opus "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, or the Factory Bible if you prefer, all other books that deal with the same subject pale in comparison. You can buy "Shadowplayers" here.
"A Factory Quartet", inner sleeve 1 front, Vini Reilly (The Durutti Column)
«Following one-off singles by OMD, The Distractions and X-O-Dus, by the spring of 1980 the second wave of Factory bands was set to comprise Section 25, The Names, Minny Pops and Crawling Chaos, as well as a mooted album project by Martin Hannett and Steve Hopkins as The Invisible Girls, though this project was never completed.
With Gretton's influence on A&R increasingly apparent, Wilson determined to showcase Vini Reilly and three new left-field artists on a second label compilation, A Factory Quartet, envisaged as 'another Factory Sample' (thus Fact 24), and scheduled for release as a double 10-inch package in April.
None of the three newcomers hailed from Manchester, and all were recruited on the basis of demo tapes, sight unseen. Unfortunately, as with the clumsy original Durutti Column band, the year-long Factory Quartet fiasco only served to emphasize that Wilson's skills as a talent scout were somewhat haphazard.
"A Factory Quartet", inner sleeve 1 back, Kevin Hewick
The pick of this unlikely trio was Blurt. Born in 1943, musician, poet and self-confessed 'performance junkie' Ted Milton had already been around several creative blocks by 1980, boasting a colourful background unmatched by any other early Factory artist. As a verse writer, his work had appeared in the Paris Review and "Children of Albion: Poetry of the Underground in Britain" as early as 1969, after which Milton diversified into left-field puppeteering, performing as Mr Pugh's Velvet Glove Show, and contributing a puppetry scene to Terry Gilliam's 1977 comic film "Jabberwocky".
The following year Milton supported Ian Dury on tour, where he was seen by Wilson and invited to perform on 'So It Goes'. Milton then took up the saxophone, and in late 1979 formed Blurt as a trio with drumming brother Jake and guitarist Pete Creese.
Early Blurt critiques would compare the oddball trio with James Chance, Captain Beefheart, Wild Man Fischer, Tom Waits and any number of left-field jazz icons, though their stripped-back, noisy, avant-garde sound defied easy categorization.
"A Factory Quartet", inner sleeve 2 front, Ted Milton (Blurt)
Blurt quickly recorded a basic demo at home in Stroud, a copy of which Ted Milton dispatched to Wilson. Always alert to potential genius, Wilson offered to release these lo-fi demo tracks as one side of the Factory Quartet, labelling the trio as a 'sax-based dance band, fronted by former anarcho beat poet - reformed.'
Blurt on Factory seems less outlandish in the light of Wilson's desire to release an album of Charles Bukowski readings at this time, and in truth he was more interested in Milton as a personality than in Blurt as a working band.
"Ted was a friend of Tony's and welcome visitor," confirms Lindsay Reade. "He stayed at our house in Charlesworth on several occasions when up from Stroud and we also visited him. He was very amusing and clever as I recall. I suspect his contribution to the Quartet came from Tony's appreciation of his originality, humour and performance that, like John Dowie, was on the wacky side of things but not perhaps of lasting significance to Factory."
"A Factory Quartet", inner sleeve 2 back, Arthur McDonald (The Royal Family and the Poor)
Wilson was also intrigued by Kevin Hewick. A capable singer-songwriter with a talent for arresting melody, Leicester troubadour Hewick was no less fond of Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Neil Young than of punk and new wave, and at the beginning of 1980 was employed as a clerk in a social security office.
"I did lots of tapes in my bedroom and sent them off to various labels, and one of them appealed to Tony Wilson. Before I knew it, the Joy Division-obsessed bedroom tape maker became a Joy Division support act."
Promoting Hewick's bashful talent as 'frail specifics', Wilson confidently predicted that singer-songwriters would be back in fashion by 1982. Meanwhile the unassuming 'folkie' guitarist made his Factory debut at the troubled City Fun benefit at the New Osborne Club on 7 February, along with Joy Division, A Certain Ratio and Section 25, but failed to make much of an impression.
Vini Reilly (The Durutti Column) in Manchester, 1980, photo by Kevin Cummins
From Liverpool, The Royal Family and the Poor presented less as a group than a pseudo-Situationist provocation. Their first incarnation came together after teenage musician Michael Keane met Arthur McDonald, an art graduate with an interest in SI politics and the avant-garde. "I was about eighteen at the time," Keane recalls, "and Arthur was a bit older than me, about twenty-eight. I was already pretty aware, but he sort of introduced me to a lot of ideas. I got this old synthesizer and put it through a record player, which produced a horrendous noise. Then Arthur just started reciting Situationist texts over the top of it."
Like Blurt, the unlikely duo recorded a crude tape and posted a copy to Factory. Switching into full McLaren mode, Wilson plucked their clumsy name from Sex Pistols: The Inside Story, a paperback written by Fred and Judy Vermorel, at a stroke doubling the number of SI-monikered artists on Factory.
By the time The Royal Family made their live debut, the group had expanded to include drummer Phil Hurst and Wilson protégé Nathan McGough on bass, permitting forays into politicized punk-funk redolent of The Pop Group and Gang of Four. True to form, A Factory Quartet was nowhere near ready for release in April 1980 and would not appear until the end of the year.
Kevin Hewick, early '80s
Finally released in December, A Factory Quartet arrived as a conventional double album offering a side apiece by Blurt, Kevin Hewick, The Durutti Column and The Royal Family and The Poor. Aside from arriving eight months late, A Factory Quartet now served no useful purpose, Blurt having already released their first single through a London label, and Kevin Hewick deserving a better vinyl debut than seven scrappy live tracks recorded on a Roy Harper tour.
"I had a big bust-up with Tony," explains the hapless singer. "I brought the tapes to Factory clearly marked, but Tony went through them and picked out different tracks to the ones I wanted. I was furious, but what could I do? They were tapes of me and an audience hurling abuse at each other. My gigs are never like that unless I get a really rude crowd, then I let my temper get the better of me."
The three new Durutti tracks were pleasant enough, and enlivened by the presence of Donald Johnson on drums, yet no amount of Hannett alchemy or Situationist (w)rapping could elevate the Royal Family material above the mundane.
Ted Milton (Blurt)
Even the sleeve of Fact 24 disappointed, with the raised embossed panels failing to lift what was essentially a collection of abstract polaroids snapped by Wilson and mounted on heavy grade card. "I put out that one record," he pleaded defensively, "and I knew everyone else would think it was shit. I think it's great. I knew people would hate it, but Rough Trade and Pinnacle both said they could sell lots of them."
Priced at 'five guineas', the Quartet sold well enough, briefly visiting the British indie top ten, but was dismissed by reviewers, some of whom voiced concerns over Factory's 'growing obsession with coffee-table chic'. In reality, the problem was simply that Fact 24 was a Wilson pet project, and its curator cursed with a tin ear for music.
The belated release of A Factory Quartet also marked the end of Blurt's relationship with the label, and plans to release live album In Berlin through Factory Benelux foundered after Armageddon offered a cash advance. "My feeling about Factory is that they have Joy Division and A Certain Ratio and everything else is a sidetrack," Ted Milton confided to Melody Maker. "They might be interested in us, but they only have a certain amount of time and energy. We also had a sense of being on hold. Factory is a style, like Habitat or something like that, a house style... I was bugged by the presentation of Quartet, too sort of twee for my liking. But they're not interested in asking you what you want to see there and stuff like that, it comes from the top, it comes from Tony. You get a feeling of being a pawn, actually. It's very distressing."
Michael Anthony Keane (The Royal Family and the Poor), 1986
Reviewing A Factory Quartet in Melody Maker, Lynden Barber summed up the prevailing critical attitude towards Factory at the close of 1980. "This record [...] is an indication that Factory seem to be sliding down a dubious slope towards an image. Factory are becoming too complacent, wrapped up in their image as a special label. As for their highly elitist practice of only releasing certain records on the Continent so that British fans have to fork out inflated import prices, there's no excuse. Factory used to be a label to be looked up to. I'd like that to continue in 1981, but better that they don't release anything at all than issue these damaged goods. If you're thinking of shelling out the requested five ‘guineas' for this album, don't. It only encourages them."»
As a welcome supplement to the James Nice's "Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records" excerpt above here, I suggest that you pay a visit to Cerysmatic Factory website and read this precious interview where Kevin Hewick recalls the days of "A Factory Quartet".
Here's the track list of "A Factory Quartet":
01. THE DURUTTI COLUMN - For Mimi (4:35)
02. THE DURUTTI COLUMN - For Belgian Friends (5:25)
03. THE DURUTTI COLUMN - Self-portrait (4:50)
04. KEVIN HEWICK - Rubble (5:59)
05. KEVIN HEWICK - 1940 (2:45)
06. KEVIN HEWICK - A Little Feeling (3:24)
07. KEVIN HEWICK - Forget (2:46)
08. KEVIN HEWICK - Morphia (3:20)
09. KEVIN HEWICK - The Enchanted Kiss (4:19)
10. KEVIN HEWICK - Haystack (2:39)
01. BLURT - Puppetter (3:22)
02. BLURT - Dyslexia (7:26)
03. BLURT - Some Come (3:04)
04. BLURT - Benighted (4:38)
05. THE ROYAL FAMILY AND THE POOR - Dirge (1:11)
06. THE ROYAL FAMILY AND THE POOR - Vaneigem Mix (6:24)
07. THE ROYAL FAMILY AND THE POOR - Dirge (1:08)
08. THE ROYAL FAMILY AND THE POOR - Death Factory (6:15)
09. THE ROYAL FAMILY AND THE POOR - Dirge (0:59)
10. THE ROYAL FAMILY AND THE POOR - Rackets (6:42)
All tracks were remastered from the original vinyls in March 2014, they are available as two FLAC lossless format files or two high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 files. Both formats offer complete printable PDF artwork, including a 12-page booklet.
Before burning the compilation on two CD-Rs using the provided CUE files, you 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.
The following credits are spread across the labels and the end-groove areas of the original release:
THE DURUTTI COLUMN
The Durutti Column on this occasion were Vini Reilly on guitar and piano, and Donald Johnstone on drums.
Martin Hannett produced and Chris Nagle engineered, this at Strawberry Studios Stockport.
The pieces are written by Vini Reilly and published by Movement of 24th of January Publishing.
FACT 24A [FACT 24 A1 A PORKY PRIME CUT FOR WHO IT SAYS LYN-8869]
Vini Reilly performing live in the early '80s
The first three songs were performed at Leeds University in May 1980 on the Sylvia Plath Comeback Tour, the rest at the Moonlight West Hampstead in April 1980.
Live sound by Dave Pringle, Glyn Wood and John Hurst.
Noise generator on 'Morphia' by Peter Terel.
Kevin Hewick writes them and Funny Animals Music publishes them.
FACT 24B [FACT 24 B1 A PORKY PRIME CUT YIP YIP YIP LYN-8870]
Kevin Hewick performing live in the early '80s
Blurt are Blurt are Ted Milton, sax and vocals, brother Jake on drums and Peter Creese on guitar.
All material written by Blurt and published by Blackhill, you remember Blackhill, produced by Jake Milton at home.
FACT 24C [FACT 24 C1 P.O.R.K.Y. N.A.R.G. LYN-8871 2]
Ted Milton performing live
THE ROYAL FAMILY AND THE POOR
The Royal Family and the Poor on this occasion were Levi Windsor, Nathan Windsor, Phil Windsor and Mike Windsor.
Another Hannett and Nagle job carried out at Graveyard, Prestwich, and Strawberry, Stockport.
Assists to Gretton and Pickering.
No copyright for all the usual reasons.
FACT 24D [FACT 24 D1 PORKY THE MODE OF PRODUCTION ETC.... - LYN-8872]
Arthur McDonald, early vocalist of The Royal Family and The Poor, performing live
Enjoy a few related videos courtesy of YouTube:
The Durutti Column "Never Known" promotional clip, 1981
Kevin Hewick perfoming "Morphia" live, filmed by Tony Wilson, circa 1980-1981
Blurt "Puppetter", the footage is from a super-8mm film featuring Ted Milton as Mr. Pugh.
The Royal Family and the Poor "Art on 45", 1982
More information about A Factory Quartet, The Durutti Column, Kevin Hewick, Blurt, The Royal Family and the Poor and Factory Records is available here:
A Factory Quartet
The Durutti Column
The Royal Family and the Poor
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!