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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Factory Records: never dull

The interesting thing about the career of Joy Division/New Order, as reflected in the excellent Factory Records documentary on BBC Four, is the extent to which they seem to have been allowed to do whatever they wanted to do, regardless of the consequences. Far from having their fate decided by "the suits" (who have actually been extinct as a music business type since the late 70s but still live on in the fantasies of young men in indie bands) their willful side was actively encouraged by those around them in management and at Factory. They were allowed to remain in Manchester, allowed to put out records that didn't have their name on them, allowed to perform live on TOTP (their record went down) and allowed to watch lots of their money disappear into the Hacienda and thence down an adjacent drain. They had vigorous arguments about all these issues but usually the Mad Option prevailed, presumably because nobody was really prepared to lie down in front of the Folly Train and risk the accusation of being dull.
One of the most telling moments comes in the interview with Tony Wilson, who was dishing out the sideswipes like a man who knew exactly how ill he was, when he recalls Ian Curtis's girlfriend telling him how worried she was about him.
"He means it," she said.
"No, it's just Art," replied Tony.
Not long afterwards Curtis was dead. The remaining members of the band are candid about how surprised they were. It was only then that they listened to his lyrics.