Wilson & Co


As BBC Radio Manchester presenter Terry CHRISTIAN said recently, “No Tony WILSON no Manchester music scene”. I suppose this is going to all sound a bit far fetched but I promise you every word of it is true.


I cannot say I remember when I first met him or when I first interviewed him but I do remember the two most recent interviews that I did with him. The first was on the launch of the film of his life, ’24 Hour Party People’. I was working at BBC 2002 Commonwealth Games Radio when he agreed to do that interview, but it is not that encounter that I want to talk about here.

Some years later in 2005 I am now working at BBC GMR, soon to become Radio Manchester once again. As Assistant Editor I did only one regular show – Sunday Breakfast but I was almost always on call if someone was ill or had decided to take some holiday.

Our late night presenter was Michelle MULLANE and on this crucial day she was ill and I was asked to present the programme. The Mr Manchester guest was to be Tony WILSON and we were supposed to talk for about 20 minutes. I told the producer of the programme that our interview would last for an hour, and she reluctantly agreed.

When he came in we got straight into the interview and we spoke about his life growing up, not in Manchester but in Salford, a place he was now proud to call his birth place. We talked about his school as he listed some of the other famous people who attended Manchester Catholic Grammer Schools. This included Martin HANNETT, Peter SAVILLE, Rob GRETTON and Terry EAGLETON.

At this time in his life Tony was out of actual work. I say actual work and I’ll explain.

He had previously been employed by Granada but as he said in the interview, “Granada had fallen out of love with him”. Of course he continued to do dozens of other things like the music conference ‘In the City’ and he was again dabbling in the music business with a new label and a new band, but one could tell that he was bitter that he was no longer on the air. I have to admit that I was amazed that he was not broadcasting as I truly believe he was one of our greatest broadcasters. Tony was able to take any story and make it interesting. He was gifted. Mind you I think he knew that.

We spoke about all of his exploits including the Hacienda, the night when the Sex Pistols first came to Manchester, the night he saw his first music heroes at the Free Trade hall in Manchester. Who were they? Peter Paul and Mary you better believe it and we spoke about his love for the Manchester and Salford areas and his delight about how they have been redeveloped in recent years.

We concluded the interview with Tony saying that he was looking for work and banging on about the future which he believed was IDTV or television via the internet. That interview went out on BBC GMR and as far as I was concerned that was that.

The following morning my big boss Leo DEVINE, the Head of Regional and Local Programmes for the North West, calls me up and says he was out of the area last night and was driving back when he caught the end of the interview. He wanted to know if I could cut a copy to cd so he could listen to all of it. I did it sent it to him and thought that was that. By the way, he had also attended Manchester Catholic Grammer School.

A few days later his PA calls me for a contact number for Tony WILSON. I found the number and gave it to her. Within a matter of weeks Tony was working at the BBC. He joined BBC Radio Manchester presenting two programmes. Talk of the Town and Ground Rules and he also began to appear on BBC Regional Television in this area on the Politics Show.

When Tony passed away I thought I’d rerun that interview as a tribute to him. Despite looking everywhere in my extensive archive I could not find it. In desperation I got in touch with the big boss now working in London and although he had lost the cd he still had a copy of the interview on his I-Pod. He was able to cut it back to cd and let me have a copy. I was able to broadcast it on Bank Holiday Monday.

In one of the interviews after he was diagnosed with cancer he talked about been out of work for ages and finally getting loads of work then falling ill.

Tony WILSON may have gone but he has made his mark in Manchester and elsewhere around the world. I know he was planning to take his ‘In the City’ Music Conference to Perth in Australia, he never told me but I heard that while I was in Australia.

Manchester has an awful lot to thank Tony for and I hope the City will do something to mark a life that was truly well lived.


Bolton England

This feature was added to mikeshaft.com from celebratethislife.com in June of 2015

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