Too many of these lately. Tony Wilson was a know-it-all prat but that certainly doesn't mean I didn't respect him. The way he ran Factory records -- split the money 50/50 with the band, artist freedom, amazing sleeves, etc -- didn't make him much money but it came from the right place and even when his tastes were questionable (there was a lot of crap on Factory) you could never say he wasn't passionate about all of his bands and music in general. Can you be a total genius and a total knob? Tony Wilson was living proof.
The Guardian has many tributes, from the likes of Paul Morley, Alan McGee and more.
Here's a two-part memoriam the BBC aired last night, including interviews with New Order's Steven Morris and legendary sleeve designer Peter Saville:
Factory Records output was spotty at best, with about four truly great bands (two of which were pretty much the same band), many bands with one or two great singles, and a lot of other groups that sounded exactly like their moneymakers. Here are a few of them whose names aren't Joy Division, New Order or Happy Mondays. I'm not saying it's all good...
MP3: The Durutti Column - Sketch for Summer (from Return of the Durutti Column [FAC 14])
MP3: Tunnelvision - Watching the Hydroplanes (FAC 39)
MP3: A Certain Ratio - Knife Slits Water (FAC 62)
MP3: Section 25 - Looking from a Hilltop (FAC 108)
MP3: Shark Vegas - You Hurt Me (FAC 111; MySpace download, sorry about the quality)
MP3: The Wake - Of the Matter (FAC 113)
MP3: Abecedarians - Smiling Monarchs (FAC 117)
MP3: Quando Quango - Genius (FAC 137)
MP3: The Railway Children - Brighter (FAC 167)
MP3: Miaow - When it All Comes Down (FAC 179)
MP3: The Wendys - Pulling My Fingers Off (FAC 297)
MP3: The Northside - Take 5 (FAC 308)
MP3: The Adventure Babies - Camper Van (FAC 319; Factory's last signing before going belly-up)
The ultimate tribute to Anthony H. Wilson's genius and knobbery is Michael Winterbottom's fantastic 24 Hour Party People, featuring a brilliant performance by Steve Coogan as the man himself. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and remedy that soon.
My one run-in with Mr. Wilson was during a week he agreed to fill in for BBC 6 presenter Andrew Collins weekday show, Tea Time. He was talking about the current state of metal, and I emailed in to say that I'd much rather listen to the Darkness than Alien Ant Farm or System of a Down any day. He read my message on air and then ripped me apart for a good minute, going into an impassioned campaign about how System of a Down were one of the best bands around and that I was a total philistine to say otherwise. I felt about this small at the time, though I'd still rather listen to the Darkness, but to have Tony Wilson eviscerate me on-air was kind of a thrill.