24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE BY TONY WILSONSKU: AC-BK001
‘This is not my story, I’m not Prince Hamlet, nor was ever meant to be. This is not a book about me. I’m a minor character in my own story. Truly Dickensian hero, bit of a wally, bit of a cipher, surrounded by bizarre, larger-than-life characters. This is about the music and the people who made the music’. – Tony Wilson
The mythological music legend Tony Wilson is an iconic institution in his own right. Mr Manchester – as he has now been crowned – was intuitive when it came to music. He truly believed in a city that was otherwise discarded as unremarkable. It was this beguiling belief that single-handedly rejuvenated the spirit of the-now music metropolis of Manchester. 24 Hour Party People – the novelisation of the cult film classic under the same name – is a semi-fictionalisation, quasi-autobiography from a man whose idiosyncratic style and tendency for subversion has now immortalised itself.
Born in Salford in 1950, Tony went to a local grammar school before studying English at Cambridge University. He became a trainee news reporter at ITN before making his major move to Manchester in 1973, where he began doing a traineeship at Granada Television. Someone must have seen the spark and charm in Tony, as he soon became the full-time presenter of Granada’s culture programme So It Goes. The programme became infamous for its rebellion, as well as becoming one of the first mainstream broadcasts to pick up on the explosive frequencies of the punk movement. Tony witnessed an empty Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, and it was precisely that moment that changed the course of history for both Tony and punk. He, somewhat telepathically, saw the potential in the seditious spirit of the Pistols and decided to give them a slot on his show. Their move to the mainstream charted the course for punk and its popularity.
Electrified by the energy and possibilities of pop culture as a vessel for change, Tony, alongside some of his closest friends – created Factory Records in 1978. The label, now a lore in Manchester’s musical heritage, famously signed Joy Division’s contract in blood, which propelled them into a brief, bittersweet yet glimmering career. Tony also signed New Order, and the Happy Mondays.
In 1982, Tony opened the Hacienda nightclub which soon became known as the Mecca of Manchester, and home to the rave-based subculture of Madchester. He was inherently disinterested in money – take for example the 3.5p loss on every sale of Blue Monday because he wanted a nice sleeve for the 12” – and hedonistically drove the Hacienda, and himself to its demise.
Tony was an autonomous architect when it came to music, and his innate intuitiveness was what made him so magical. 24 Hour Party People is a sparkling series of anecdotes, brushed sometimes with humour, sometimes with sadness, that captures perfectly the fleeting energy of a time in music that is now part of a folklore. Tony had ceaseless enthusiasm for music, and it was precisely that enthusiasm that was the countercultural catalyst for a city that was otherwise doomed.