Tony Wilson has died at the relatively young age of 57.
He wasn’t a genius. In fact, in many respects, he was a bit of a tit. Pseudo-intellectual, more than a little pretentious and given to quite serious but also elementary errors in business dealing. He also seemed to have an unerring ability to fall out with those he worked with. But despite all that, he has made a massive impact on modern music.
He formed Factory Records, and in doing so offered a launching pad for some of the most memorable, innovative and successful bands of the seventies, eighties and nineties. He helped to create and mould the Manchester music scene, and co-owned the legendary Hacienda club. His key talent was not just identifying music, but actually championing that music and doing everything he could to bring it to a wider audience. Have a look at this link for some of the ways in which he transformed modern music.
But above all he could take the piss out of himself. He realised how he was perceived, and he realised that whilst he worked with some legends and some geniuses, he was never going to be rated as highly himself. So he ran with it, and allowed other people to mock him. Look at 24 Hour Party People – he was played by Steve Coogan as Steve Coogan played Alan Partridge (which is ironic as Alan Partridge was at least partially inspired by Tony Wilson). The posters for 24 Hour Party People bore the pictures of the actors playing Ian Curtis, Shaun Ryder and Tony Wilson. Curtis had the caption "Genius", Ryder had the caption "poet" whilst Wilson had to make do "Twat". Whatever flaws he may have had, he at least maintained a sense of humour about himself.
RIP Tony Wilson: you transformed modern music without even playing a note.