What Else Might Factory Records Have Achieved?

Tony Wilson Street art Manchester.” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Loco Steve

Last year’s publication of the tome by legendary music writer and thinker Paul Morley, From Manchester with Love, rekindled memories for many people of the pre-Madchester 1980s. But the true focus of the book, which is also its subtitle, is The Life and Opinions of Tony Wilson.

For those who may not know about Wilson, he was, in Morley’s words, “northerner, loudmouth, wind-up merchant, broadcasting revolutionary, chaotic strategist, intellectual, music mogul”. He was also the founder of the now legendary Factory Records. This was the label made famous by bands like Joy Division, New Order, Durutti Column, and The Happy Mondays. It lasted for 14 glorious years between 1978 and 1992 when the experiment imploded. As legend has it, it was the troubled recording of the Mondays’ fourth album, Yes Please!, in Barbados that finally bankrupted Factory. But, even before this, the financial cracks were showing.

The Hacienda Apartments” (CC BY 2.0) by Gene Hunt

One of the reasons for the label’s shaky finances was Wilson himself. He had great plans to make Manchester the cultural and entertainment centre of Britain, no matter the cost and complication. Arguably, this was something he achieved, if only briefly, when the label’s legendary nightclub, The Hacienda, became as famous as the nearby Wigan Casino or New York’s Studio 54. So, it also begs the question, what other areas might Factory have gone into had it not suffered such an early demise? For example, in the early noughties, the very first online casinos were coming onto the scene. It’s not inconceivable that, had Factory still been in existence, Wilson’s could see the possibility for a slots game themed around one of the label’s bands.

And, as a visionary, he could have pre-empted a trend still in evidence today where slots games are themed around everyone from Elvis to Kiss and even Spinal Tap. He may also have foreseen the no deposit casino offers so widely in use today. By offering players the opportunity to sample casinos effectively for free, these continue to help the sector boom, while also offering an ever-increasing choice of places to play. So any Factory slot would almost certainly have been launched and promoted with an offer like this or even a number of free spins. No doubt the bonus offer would also have been given an appropriate number in line with the idiosyncratic Factory system that was applied to everything from the albums to the notepaper used in the offices.

As someone with a keen interest in futurist philosophies, there’s also every chance that Wilson could have looked into opening Factory restaurants serving recipes inspired by these movements. However, as they are created more for effect than nutrition, it’s very possible that the restaurants serving the meals could have struggled to survive in the same way that Factory did. It’s all conjecture anyway, as Wilson died at 57 in 2007. But he does live on in the city he loved in the form of Tony Wilson Place, fittingly the location for the city’s HOME arts and entertainments complex – and a number of (non-futurist!) restaurants too.