Once again it seems the British media are quiet about anniversaries and remembering the cultural colossus that was Anthony H Wilson or as he was known before he got all Radio 4 on our collective behinds – Tony Wilson. We know why that is, they don’t really get him, what he was about or what he achieved, and he was all about civic pride and Manchester as a global trendsetting City which doesn’t really float the boat of your average home counties small satellite town media luvvie.
Today would have been his 65th birthday, not that I can imagine him ever retiring, but I’d have enjoyed asking him to show me his bus pass – alas that’s some banter that will never happen.
In remembering Tony as the PR type media figure at the centre of Manchester’s music scene from the punk era onwards we’re also paying tribute to the late Rob Gretton, New Order and Joy Division manager, who’s idea it was to launch The Hacienda, to the late producer Martin Hannet who put such a unique stamp on what became a much imitated Manchester sound in that post punk period and of course to Ian Curtis, who’s tragic suicide at the age of 23 somehow sealed the worldwide folklore around Manchester and the passion and energy that has so often set the standard that marks it out as something different and special.
They say the media is different today, that there’s no room in our popular culture for true mavericks . Hard to think of a time when there was in truth, but Tony was able, with a considerable charm and single mindedness impose his ideas through a kind of force of will, like a Jedi mind trick.
There is a real and detailed book being written as we speak by Tony’s old sparring partner Paul Morley, a man permanently and supremely irritated by the fact Tony is no longer around, I feel like that at times. I always wonder what he would have made of United’s European triumph in Moscow in 2008, and the reds subsequent failures against possibly the greatest Barcelona side ever, the selling of Ronaldo, the rise of Man City, the retirement of Fergie and the strange couple of seasons at United under Moyes and Van Gaal. Yes all the big important cultural questions . I also wonder if he’d have stood for Mayor of Manchester, whether he’d have been horrified by The Stone Roses reforming and whether he’d be pleased at a sober Happy Mondays packing them in and Bez’s burgeoning political involvement.
I await Paul Morley’s book with some degree of anticipation. Having spoken to him for 4 hours over a long lunch in London on a blazing July day last year, it was obvious that the book will be a tribute and have a sense of gratitude to that mad bad generation of too clever by half dope smoking grammar school boys the likes of who I doubt we’ll ever see again, but who couldn’t have come together and achieved what they achieved with their off kilter manifestos of mischief anywhere else except Manchester. Rob Gretton, CP Lee, Alan Wise, Alan Erasmus, Tosh Ryan, Martin Hannet and the rest. I’m privileged to have brushed shoulders with them and I’m more grateful for that with each passing year. So happy birthday Tony and here’s to another year ahead of conversations we’ll never have and opinions I’ll never get to hear that I still miss, even when they sounded like bollocks to me – in fact especially then. This City for all its festivals and posh new bars has been a duller place since 2007, as Mike Garry says in the opening line of his epic poem ‘St Anthony ‘ an ode to Tony Wilson. St Anthony St Anthony please come around, something’s been lost that cannot be found.