Wilson was the music mogul behind some of Manchester’s most successful bands. He was the founder and manager of The Haçienda nightclub, and was one of the five co-founders of Factory Records. Wilson was also known as Mr. Manchester,dubbed as such for his work in promoting the greater cultural status of Manchester throughout his career. He was portrayed by actors Steve Coogan and Craig Parkinson, in Michael Winterbottom’s 2002 film 24 Hour Party People, and Anton Corbijn’s 2007 film Control, respectively.
Wilson’s involvement in popular music stemmed from hosting Granada’s culture and music programme “So It Goes”. Wilson, who intensely disliked the music scene of the mid 1970s, saw the Sex Pistols at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall, in June 1976, an experience which he described as “nothing short of an epiphany” . He booked them for the last episode of the first series, probably the first television showing of the then-revolutionary British strand of punk rock.
He was the manager of many bands, including A Certain Ratio and The Durutti Column, and was part owner and manager of Factory Records, home of the Happy Mondays and Joy Division - the band managed by friend and business partner Rob Gretton. He also founded and managed The Haçienda nightclub and Dry bar, together forming a central part of the music and cultural scene of Manchester. The scene was termed “Madchester”.
He never made a fortune from Factory Records or the Haçienda, despite the enormous popularity and cultural significance of both endeavours. Both Factory Records and the Haçienda came to an abrupt end in the late 1990s.
A semi-fictionalised version of his life and of the surrounding era was made into the 2002 film, 24 Hour Party People, which stars the comedian Steve Coogan as Wilson. After the film was produced, Wilson wrote a novelization based on the screenplay. He played a minor role (playing himself) in the 2005 film, A Cock and Bull Story, in which his character interviews Steve Coogan. Wilson also co-produced the 2007 Ian Curtis biopic, Control (his character this time being played by Craig Parkinson). He died a few months before its release.
Wilson was a partner in the annual “In The City” music festival and industry conference, and also F4 Records, the fourth version of Factory Records, which was set up to be an online distributor for Wilson’s long term protégé Vini Reilly, of The Durutti Column. F4 also released music by Manchester based bands RaW-T and The Young Offenders Institute.
Wilson was an outspoken supporter of regionalism., along with others including Ruth Turner, he started a campaign for North West England to be allowed a referendum on the creation of a regional assembly, called “The Necessary Group”after a line in the United States Declaration of Independence. Although his campaign was successful, with the Government announcing that a vote would take place, this was later abandoned when North East England voted against the introduction of a regional tier of government. Wilson later spoke at several political events on this subject. He was also known for using Situationist ideas.
Wilson was married twice, first to Lindsay Reade and then to Hilary, with whom he had a son, Oliver, and a daughter, Isabel. In 1990 he started a relationship with Yvette Livesey, a former Miss England and Miss UK, who was his partner until his death in 2007 Livesey has since co-operated with a biography of Wilson’s life - called ‘You’re Entitled To An Opinion…’ - written by David Nolan and published in 2009.
After developing renal cancer, and having one kidney removed in 2007, Wilson wished to take the drug sunitinib (aka Sutent), the £3,500 per month cost of which was not funded by the Manchester Primary Care Trust. He was turned down by the NHS, while patients being treated alongside him at the Christie Hospital and living just a few miles away in Cheshire received funding for the medication, for other conditions.
A number of Wilson’s music industry friends, including former Happy Mondays manager Nathan McGough and their current manager, Elliot Rashman and TV stars Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan, formed a fund to help pay for Wilson’s medical treatment.
Wilson said: “This [Sutent] is my only real option. It is not a cure but can hold the cancer back, so I will probably be on it until I die … When they said I would have to pay £3,500 for the drugs each month, I thought where am I going to find the money? I’m the one person in this industry who famously has never made any money … I used to say some people make money and some make history, which is very funny until you find you can’t afford to keep yourself alive … I’ve never paid for private healthcare because I’m a socialist. Now I find you can get tummy tucks and cosmetic surgery on the NHS but not the drugs I need to stay alive. It is a scandal.”
In early 2007 an emergency surgery was performed to remove one of his kidneys.This forced the postponement of plans to create a southern hemisphere version of the In The City festival. Despite the surgery the cancer progressed, and a course of chemotherapy was not effective. Wilson died of a heart attack in Manchester’s Christie Hospital on 10 August 2007 aged 57. Following the news of his death, the Union Flag on Manchester Town Hall was lowered to half mast as a mark of respect.
As with everything else in the Factory empire, Tony Wilson’s coffin was also given a Factory catalogue number - FAC 501. Probate documents reveal his estate was valued at £484,747 after tax. That figure includes the value of his city centre apartment on Little Peter Street. The will, signed by Wilson on 4 July 2007, gave Yvette Livesey, 39, his partner of 17 years, the proceeds from their home. He also left her his share of six businesses.
His son Oliver and daughter Isabel share the rest of his estate.
Edited by moldfly on 10 Sep 2009, 00:18
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