From Factory Records to Oasis: A Musical Tour of Manchester | Manchester Vacations
I wonder if the founders of Factory Records always knew that their work would be on display in a museum someday, so I decided to organize everything from the start.
Since its inception, Factory has used a cataloging system that assigned a FAC number not only to every disc released, but also to its artwork, films, various related items, and even a strange living being, including the office cat, Feline Groovy. (FAC 191).
Good enough, items FAC 1 through FAC 50 form the basis of a new exhibit, which opens Saturday at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, titled Use Hearing Protection: the Early Years of Factory Records. It explores the history of the label’s formative period, 1978-82 – the years before New Order’s revolutionary Blue Monday (FAC 73) and the hubbub of Haçienda (FAC 51) and Madchester.
Factory was a work of concept art as much as a label for Joy Division and New Order (and later the Happy Mondays), so a The exhibition is the perfect way to tell how he went from dark, post-industrial Manchester to showcasing the most important band of the post-punk era. The music was lavishly wrapped by graphic designer Peter Saville: his beautifully clean and timeless record covers and posters are for me the highlight of the exhibition. They could have been produced in the pre-war Bauhaus Berlin – or just last week.
Impeccably preserved artifacts have been named by the families of co-founders Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton. Another section focuses on the label’s female voices, including the plan for Linder Sterling’s Factory Egg Timer (FAC 8), a menstrual abacus.
There’s Joy Division’s little Bernard Sumner synthesizer built from a DIY kit, soldered under the desk where he worked as an animator when no one was watching, and the huge red Perspex G from the Granada Studios nameplate, where Wilson worked. The featured exhibit is Ian Curtis’ Vox Phantom VI teardrop guitar, which he played in the Joy Division video. Love will Tear Us Apart, and which was recently auctioned off for £ 162,000 (it’s back here on loan).
The interactive exhibit the museum had planned had to be put on hold due to Covid restrictions, but the exhibit ends with two fun installations: the concert hall, where large screens show footage of the Factory’s first bands performing. in television shows; and a mini Haçienda designed by Ben Kelly, designer of the exhibition space as well as the original club – a nod to the next step in The Factory’s history. Visitors are invited to dance in both spaces.
Unfortunately, seeing concerts and dancing in the city’s clubs is still not on the agenda, but being a musical anorak, I jumped at the chance to explore the venues related to the exhibition with Manchester Music Tours.
The tours were started by Inspiral Carpets drummer Craig Gill in 2005 in response to constantly asked questions about the history of the local music scene by customers at his record stand. His widow Rose has run the business since Craig’s death in 2016 – leading bus tours for fans of the Smiths, Oasis, Stone Roses and Joy Division / New Order – but has been on hold since the first lockdown. However, with the tours scheduled to resume next month, I was lucky enough to get a taste of it. (Three / four hour tours £ 30 per person, private tours can also be arranged).
We continued the Factory theme by visiting the label’s first offices in West Didsbury; the Epping Walk Bridge in Hulme, where Kevin Cummins took the iconic photo of Joy Division standing cranky in the snow; the Haçienda building which stands on the site of the disco; and in the vast south cemetery of Chorlton-Cum-Hardy, the grave of Tony Wilson. Although her gravestone does not have a catalog number (this practice ended with her casket, FAC 501), the Factory aesthetic is instantly recognizable in the beautiful minimalist design of her friends Saville and Kelly. The black marble is so polished that it reflects the cemetery like a mirror and is engraved with the words “cultural catalyst” – an epigram the awe-inspiring Wilson would have loved.
Rose then led me through the streets of Didsbury where she hung out with Inspiral Carpets and the then unknown Oasis in the early 1990s, highlighting the pub where they all met on a Sunday after expanding it all weekend . She recalled wistfully how Liam, “who was dating my buddy at the time, came home from the pub on that street on a Sunday with no shoes on.”
Rose is as passionate about the people behind the stories she tells as she is about music. Our tour was late but suddenly turned around as she couldn’t miss the recording of Mr. Sifter, owner of the fabulous old man second-hand record store mentioned in Shakermaker by Oasis (“Mr. Sifter sold me songs when I was only 16”). “I just need to check he’s okay during the lockdown… God, I hope the store is still open!” It’s true, but it’s been a struggle. She often comes to see Peggy, Noel and Liam’s mother.
The highlight of the tour was Salford Boys Club, featured in the famous photo from the Smiths’ 1986 album The Queen Is Dead. I had no idea the red brick club was on the corner of current Coronation Street – or that this street even existed – but that’s probably why Morrissey, a Corrie connoisseur, picked the club for the photoshoot.
The biggest surprise, however, is the fascinating history behind its green doors. The club opened in 1903 and its Edwardian interior has hardly changed – the walls are covered with old photos and sports awards, and the original wooden floors have stood up to over a century of boxing, weightlifting and football. are still in place. As project manager Leslie Holmes gave us a tour of a building’s Tardis, I could smell the history in its concert halls, pool halls and gymnasiums – all sadly empty since the pandemic. The kids will be back hopefully next week and a open day for visitors is scheduled for July 25.
Given the worldwide interest in the Smiths’ photography, Leslie had the brilliant idea in 2004 of opening a Smiths Room, now a sanctuary, covered with thousands of photos of fans from around the world posing as the group in front of the club. . “Curating this project kind of took over my life,” Leslie said. “I can’t think of many countries other than North Korea that I haven’t received a picture of.”
Where to stay
The shell of the Italian palazzo-style Free Trade Hall, once Manchester’s main concert hall and the stage for (at least) two concerts that have become part of rock’n’roll folklore, now faces the Edwardian hotel.
In June 1976, the Sex Pistols performed at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. There were only about 40 people in the audience, but legend has it that almost all of them formed a hugely influential group or were involved in the music industry including Morrissey, the Buzzcocks, Joy Division, Mark E Smith of the Fall, music writer Paul Morley and, of course, Tony Wilson.
A decade earlier, shortly after “deserting” his folk roots, Bob Dylan took to the Free Trade Hall stage with an electric guitar. It was too much for a folk in the audience, who shouted “Judas!” to his idol. In response, Dylan told his band to play the next song “fucking loud!” “
Concert halls are long gone, but it remains the hotel of choice for many visiting musicians. The bedrooms (doubles from just £ 129) are gorgeous, some with views over Manchester city center.
The building has another more important historical link. It was built on St Peter’s Field, the site of the Peterloo massacre in 1819, when 18 people were killed in a cavalry charge as they gathered to demand electoral reform. The event led directly to the formation of this journal almost exactly 200 years ago, but that’s another brilliant story.