August 6, 2011
I’ll skip the Joy Division/New Order legacy – it’s a well told tale we all know by heart. But what about those other Factory bands? The ones who played Bolton Wanderers to New Order’s Man Utd.
It used to be a tired music press cliche that the rest of the Factory stable were pale JD/NO imitators. Having seen most of them live I never went along with this lazy journalism and listening to the retrospective box set what strikes me is the diversity on offer. Yes there’s some crud – Crawling Chaos and Royal Family and the Poor – but show me the record label that doesn’t have crud in its back catalogue. But most of the bands here deserved more than their indie obscurity that was guaranteed by Factory’s obtuse (lack of ) promotion. Durutti Column, ACR, Stockholm Monsters, Section 25 all deserved more. James did get more but only by breaking away. Happy Mondays were the only other Factory band to make it big without leaving.
Most of it still sounds great and I hear echoes of Factory bands today in Belle and Sebastian, Delphic and Hurts. Here’s my 10 favourite non JD/NO Factory tracks in no particular order:
Flight – A Certain Ratio – music from another universe, sparse, atmospheric, nearly but not quite danceable.
My Country – Durutti Column – probably the Factory act I still listen to the most. I have dozens of favourite tracks, but this is todays – mainly because of the ace Monarchy remix that I can’t stop playing
Moves Like You (remix) – Cath Carroll – readers of this blog will know how I feel about Cath. BEST. SONG. EVER.
Brighter – The Railway Children Pure pop. Should have been a hit, but you can’t blame Factory. They left and still didn’t make it despite the lead singers pop star good looks. Shame.
The Presence – Crispy Ambulance. Surely the crappest name in the history of music. What did they do – stick a pin in a dictionary? Great track though – 10 glorious minutes of sublime Hannet production. I always used to fall asleep drunk to this and wake up with it still playing on a loop in the middle of the night.
Miss Moonlight – Stockholm Monsters best track from the best band to come out of Burnage. Haunting vocals and trumpet.
Inspiration – Section 25 Like New Order, Section 25 discovered dance and sequencers and made a great album (From the Hip). My favourite track.
Hymn From a Village – James. Not their best song, but their best on Factory.
Miaow – When it all Comes Down Purrfect pop from Cath again. Far too breezy to get lumped in with the C86 lot
Happy Mondays – Kuff Dam – Dam Kuff – genius
August 6, 2011
The second, and maybe most important legacy Factory left the world is shorts. Long shorts. On men. Look around – every summer every bugger wears knee length baggy shorts,usually khaki. Rewind thirty years and the only men seen wearing shorts outdoors were footballers, who sported ultra tight, ultra short ball huggers, and scout masters. Until a bunch of skinny white boys from Hulme stopped off at an army surplus shop before catching the train back to Manchester.
Their next live shows saw them ditch the long macs for a British 8th Army look – with whistles. The long shorts slowly caught on with art students and trendies (to much ridicule). Then ever so slowly, long shorts crept into high street chains like Next and Top Shop. Until everyone was wearing them. They still are. All thanks to some obscure northern funksters.
I could go on about how Simon Topping single handedly changed British men’s haircuts, but that’s another story. The whistles,though, never caught on – shame that.
August 6, 2011
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Factory Records recently. Partly because I’ve been dipping into James Nice’s exhaustive history of Factory , Shadowplayers; partly because a nice person bought me the Factory Communions box-set CD; and mainly because I’ve just spent a weekend in Manchester.
And it’s Manchester where Factory’s legacy hit me. The Hacienda may be long gone, but the city itself has been transformed – from the grimy black and white streets Joy Division stalked , to, well, a British Manhattan . Who’d have thought that Rob Gretton’s plot, hatched in a NY nightclub, to bring a bit of the Big Apple to his hometown so he could drink past closing time, would have started the transformation that has resulted in today’s red brick and chrome megalopolis. Castlefields looks like TriBeCa; loft living is everywhere; chrome cafes and bars sparkle in the sun – yes there was even sun; the Northern Quarter has become a northern SoHo and G-Mex has rebranded itself as (cheekily) Manchester (Grand) Central.
The sheer chutzpah of the Factory collective, coupled with their stubborn civic pride and their belief in themselves and their city, which in their eyes was the centre of the universe, made this possible.It may have only started the redevelopment ball rolling, but others were swept along in the crazy dream. Art, not industry gave birth to this transformation (oh and maybe a bit if drug laundering money helped too).
The north has indeed risen again.