Anthony H. Wilson: Leader Of Men

We had known for a while that Tony Wilson has been ill. He had made no secret of the fact that he had renal cancer. Indeed, in his typically bullish manner, he had turned his plight into a cause célébre, campaigning for patients' rights and pointing out that while the National Health Service had refused to fund his use of the drug Sutent to the tune of £3500 per month, tummy tucks were freely available. Despite this, watching the BBC New At 10 last Friday night and hearing of his death at the age of 57 from an unrelated heart attack appeared both shocking and, due to his larger-than-life personality, almost unthinkable.

Wilson's was a voice that bounded down the generations as far as British music was concerned, beginning with punk and his presenting work on Granada TV's So It Goes (hosting the first Sex Pistols' live television appearance), acting as a spur for the entire Manchester scene via his label Factory Records,  introducing House music to the UK via the legendary Haçienda club, and on to his nurturing of further new talent with the creation of In The City convention in 1992 (the UK equivalent of SXSW platform for every major British guitar band from Oasis to Coldplay and on to Muse). His was also a voice that often enjoyed its own company, bounding from subject-to-subject with a sense of unashamed self-importance, relentless enthusiasm, freely coupling a rash of expletives with an unashamed Shakespearian sense of Classicism.

While the Cambridge-educated Wilson was always the first to confirm his own egotism, he was also a person with a deep-rooted sense of altruism, championing social causes aplenty on an intensely local level. His was a view based on the injustices that he saw before his very eyes in the every day life of the ordinary people of Salford. It was this that made him an arch-regionalist and a man who used that same self-important voice to shine a spotlight on others who required help, support or attention.

His ability to discuss both hard-hitting current affairs as well as adhere to his great love of music was illustrated by his ability to act as a presenter for the BBC's Politics Show as well a his radio work with Manchester alternative rock radio station Xfm, both of which he did in 2006.

Indeed, Tony's incessant love of music was highlighted when he elected to try and resurrect his Factory label as F4 Records in 2004. The label itself was designed to house the work of Durutti Column's Vini Reilly - a musician whom he championed for over 30 years. He also signed Moss Side-based proto-grime act RAW-T whom he enthused about in glowing terms.

"I'm thinking that they're going to be a First Division act like Joy Division, not another average band like The Music, or A Certain Ratio" he told your correspondent in no uncertain terms around the time of the band's debut single. "Look at what's going on and it's all about aggressive music that's intelligent. That's where things are at."

While RAW-T disappeared from view having failed to trouble the charts, Tony's enthusiasm for them remained undimmed. A shrewd observer, Wilson simply enjoyed detecting trends and placing himself at the centre of them.

Sitting opposite me in a meeting room he was the first person to Bluetooth me his business card with his new phone number included therein. The technological pigmy that I am, it took me several months to work out what this Bluetooth thing was and to find that number, something which amused him greatly. Then again, Antony H Wilson always was a man ahead of his time, especially if he sensed there may be a way of mischief being involved. A week on from his death, it still seems unthinkable that he's gone...

For daily MOJOness, visit

View Comments