Tony Wilson, known in the music industry for his many hats worn including that of Owner of the legendary Factory Records, radio presenter, TV show host, nightclub manager, journalist for the UK’s Granada television and the BBC passed away yesterday of a heart attack on August 10th, 2007. He was 57 years old. While he was far from a household name in the States, Wilson was immortalized in the brilliant 2002 film, 24 Hour Party People – the fascinating story of the “Manchester Sound,” the ill-fated Hacienda club and, of course, the rise and fall of Factory Records itself – in which he was portrayed by the immensely talented actor/comedian Steve Coogan.
A few years ago, I met Tony Wilson briefly after hearing him speak on a music conference panel, and I told him how much I loved 24 Hour Party People. One of my favorite lines in the movie comes right at the very beginning when Coogan, as Wilson, introduces the film by saying that the story we are about to see is “a cautionary tale not unlike what happened to Icarus when he flew too close to the sun. If you know what that means, great; if not, it doesn’t matter.” I asked Wilson if he had really said that and he said no, that Steve Coogan had just made it up, but he did offer that it came close to sounding like something he would have said. Anyway, Tony Wilson was a cool guy and he signed a bunch of great bands like Joy Division and The Happy Mondays, so he will be missed.