Mr Manchester and the Factory Girl: The Story of Tony and Lindsay Wilson by Lindsay Reade
|Mr Manchester and the Factory Girl: The Story of Tony and Lindsay Wilson by Lindsay Reade|
|Reviewer: John Van der Kiste|
|Summary: The story of the marriage, divorce, and subsequent professional personal relationship between record label owner and TV journalist Tony Wilson and Lindsay Reade, which lasted until Wilson's death in 2007.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: September 2010|
Mr Manchester, as Tony Wilson came to be known, could have been the next John Humphrys. Instead he ended up becoming the next Malcolm McLaren – or, perhaps, a far less successful version of Richard Branson. After graduating from Cambridge University with a degree in English he became a trainee news reporter for ITN, and for much of his life he worked as an anchorman for regional evening news programmes. Yet he is less remembered for this than for his championship of alternative music and punk rock, founding of Factory Records and involvement with the Hacienda Club. Although he loved the Beatles and folk music in general, he disliked much of the contemporary music scene until he saw the Sex Pistols live in the summer of 1976.
In 1977 he married Lindsay Reade. Business, drugs and infidelity, not least a shortlived affair between her and Howard Devoto, front man of Manchester bands the Buzzcocks and Magazine, proved an unsustainable cocktail, and six years later they were divorced. She continued to work behind the scenes in music management and other behind-the-scenes aspects of the business. For a while he employed her in the overseas licensing department at Factory Records, which he had launched not long after their wedding, but dismissed her after a series of episodes which left her feeling justifiably ill-treated, and regarding the office as a 'boys' club'. Wilson remarried and had children with his second wife Hilary, something which was denied to Lindsay, before he left the second Mrs W to move in with Yvette, a former beauty queen.
It was a tempestuous affair, but while Lindsay Reade chronicles their bittersweet ups and downs with moving hindsight, throughout these pages the picture comes across of a couple who fought and fell out yet never really stopped loving each other in spite of everything. Some years later they drew closer together once more, and she proved ever supportive in helping to make his last months more comfortable as he realized that he was dying of cancer, possibly aggravated by substance abuse.
When they had their differences, she pulls no punches. Wilson, it seems, was very much a radical socialist-cum-entrepreneur who loved to shock, prepared to throw a fortune at certain projects which took his fancy and philosophical about losing it. Like McLaren, and unlike her, he had more passion about breaking new ground, or even being different for its own sake than being in love with the music itself. She makes it plain that for her Factory Records was tainted beyond redemption after Ian Curtis, the singer of Joy Division, hanged himself in 1980, whereas Wilson regarded it as an episode from which one had to move on – with a sangfroid which she regarded as totally heartless.
Despite the anger, grief and sense of betrayal which marked their relationship over the years, she came to a philosophical acceptance of the situation. Five years after their divorce, four years after her sacking, and after three years of their not even speaking to each other, she writes, the ice thawed and the hate fell away. In the last five months, they shared something special again, and in every sense of the word we became companions again. During the weeks when they both knew he was slipping away, they ended up sleeping alongside each other every Saturday night, something she likens in a happy-sad way to being like putting on old comfortable slippers that, despite lying unworn for many years, seemed as familiar as always. After the funeral she visited him at the Chapel of Rest, and concluded that it had all been such a sad love story. We all have feet of clay, she concludes.
Wilson may not have been the most pleasant of men, yet she avoids wrapping herself in a martyr's cloak, admitting that there were faults on both sides. It is a moving testament to their years together, with personal memories constantly weaving in and out of the cut-throat world of showbiz and numerous other dodgy characters and situations.
One aspect I found somewhat distracting throughout the narrative was Reade's continual habit of fast-forwarding to the last few months of his life, when in the rest of the chapter she had been discussing events which took place ten or twenty years previously, then back to the story. That, coupled with (my pet hate) the lack of an index – which seems to be becoming more prevalent these days, more's the pity – makes it a little difficult to keep a complete handle on the course of events.
Still, that's only a minor disadvantage. The stories of Factory Records, Ian Curtis and the Hacienda Club have been told several times, but this adds another dimension to the portrait of 'Madchester'. It is a very informative and often very moving read, and although one uses the term with some reservations, quite a human love story in itself. A selection of black and white photographs complements the story well.
Our thanks to Plexus for sending Bookbag a review copy.
If you enjoyed this, may we also recommend an account of one of Wilson's other loss-making ventures, The Hacienda: How Not To Run A Club by Peter Hook; a biography of his label's most famous and most tragic name, Touching From A Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division by Deborah Curtis; and for a more general look at the musical era, Totally Wired: Post-punk Interviews and Overviews by Simon Reynolds.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Mr Manchester and the Factory Girl: The Story of Tony and Lindsay Wilson by Lindsay Reade at Amazon.com.
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