Tony Wilson's 24 Hour Party People: What the Sleeve Notes Never Tell You
is a curious book. It's a novelisation, by Wilson, of Frank Cottrell Bryce's screenplay of a film ostensibly about Wilson's years at the heart of Manchester's music scene--a kind of post-post-modern reversal of the trend to convert books into films.
Wilson, a former Granada and (briefly) World in Action television reporter became embroiled in the pop business after attending a (now legendary) Sex Pistols gig at Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall. Only 42 people were in the audience but most of them, including its organisers Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley, formed punk groups of their own. Wilson booked the Pistols for So It Goes, Granada's answer to Top of the Pops, and then proceeded to delight (and disgust) viewers in the North Western region by beaming Elvis Costello, Buzzcocks and (a foul mouthed) Iggy Pop into their homes. (The show was axed shortly after Iggy's performance). Undeterred Wilson and friend Alan Erasmus started managing a band, The Duratti Column, and opened a New Wave club, The Factory. Aided and abetted by the DJ and musical impresario Rob Gretton; the designer Peter Saville and the drug-addled knob-twiddling genius Martin Hannett it evolved into Factory Records--home of Joy Division, latterly New Order, A Certain Ratio and the Happy Mondays. Not content with releasing exquisitely produced and (usually) money haemorrhaging records--even New Order's Blue Monday, the biggest selling 12-inch single in history, was so sumptuously packaged that Factory "lost three and half pence on every copy sold"--they started an ambitious Studio 54-style club, The Haçienda. It became the centre of the rave scene while its scally offspring, the Happy Mondays, stormed the charts.
As Wilson, in his own inimitable (that is to say wayward and spuriously fictionalised) style, reveals drugs, guns, ill-timed property deals and the Mondays decision to record an album in "crack central" Barbados eventually called time on Factory Records and The Hacienda. There are better accounts of the whole "Madchester" phenomenon--Dave Haslam's Manchester, England for one--but Wilson's novelisation has an insidiously entertaining spark about it. It's probably best approached as the literary version of one of those additional footage DVDs; not essential to your enjoyment of the original film but none the less full of rather addictive, extra snippets. --Travis Elborough
About the Author
Tony Wilson is the legendary founder of Factory Records and erstwhile owner of the Hacienda. He began his extraordinary career as a Granada TV weatherman and continues to work in journalism, television and the media industry.