The splendid Tony Wilson, former head of Factory Records, died on August 10th, aged 57. The death of the man who gave the world Joy Division, New Order, and Happy Mondays, and who built the Haçienda, has been attributed to complications arising from kidney cancer.
I blame Tony Wilson's sadly early demise on the sequence of ferocious blows to the head he received from my friends Gareth Allen (the artist) and Phil "The Punk" Rose (the photographer), during a Toasted Heretic gig in the Powerhaüs in London around 1990. (Tony Wilson and some heavy friends were checking us out, after Factory's A&R chief at the time, the extraordinarily nice Phil Saxe, had praised us highly.)
Sadly, only one photo survives from that night (and it's here). Phil and Gareth, to add a little class to the evening, mingled with the crowd while wearing Roman togas (made from the curtains of their flat in Walthamstow), and fed the crowd grapes. When the grapes ran out, Gareth and Phil began to bang Tony Wilson on the head with a Charles and Di Royal Wedding full-colour souvenir teatray, tastefully adapted by Gareth with felt tip pens so that Charles and Di had swastikas for eyes. (Was a young Bobby Gillespie in the audience and taking thoughtful notes for these Primal Scream lyrics? We shall never know...)
It started out as a quite friendly tapping, and Tony was nervously amused. But soon the Romans were beating Tony Wilson like a gong, putting many dents in the tea tray, bringing him to his knees, while Wilson's extremely heavy minders looked on in tremendous confusion, unsure if this was part of the show, which was already a bit out of hand. (Maybe "out of hand" isn't quite the term. While I was singing "Lost and Found", a girl plunged a hand down the crotch of my skintight pink jumpsuit, and discovered that I wasn't wearing anything else. One of those awkward social moments, where you both hesitate, neither party quite sure what the etiquette is. I kept singing, though my voice may have briefly risen an octave.)
It ended, as did many Toasted Heretic gigs, in confusion.
We did not sign to Factory Records.
Later Gareth, while attempting to mount a bronze lion, fell into a fountain in Trafalgar Square and split his head open. Gareth and Phil wandered off, in their togas, in search of a hospital. We carried the drums and amps back to their place, and wondered would we see them again.
At dawn, Gareth, his soaked and bloodstained toga long lost, arrived home triumphant, having travelled barefoot across London wearing a backless hospital gown which revealed his bum. Protected only by his Virtue, and by Phil in a toga.
Ah yes, in those days we made our own entertainment. So anyway, Gareth and Phil murdered Tony Wilson. A long-forgotten fragment of Royal Wedding Tea-Tray must have shifted a fatal millimetre.