More Tony Wilson

It's difficult to see how there could be another one like him really.

"A truly great individual died today. Anthony H Wilson, free born man of Manchester and anarcho capitalist intellectual left this world a much richer place than when he arrived. He gave us Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays, A Certain Ratio, The Hacienda and inspired a wave of bands, designers, artists, agitators, new media rebels and creative arts entrepreneurs to get their shit together and get out there and just do it!

Tony Wilson loved life, Manchester, art, football and philosophy. He also loved challenge and the last couple of years saw him facing his biggest challenge yet. He geared up for the challenge of cancer like he did everything else. He learned about it, weighed up its weaknesses and strengths, calculated the odds against beating it and then in true Wilsonian style he got on with the work of trying to overcome it.

Tony Wilson relished obstacles. His very nature was one of the pioneering “can do” spirit. Some wise person once said, “Those who kick down the doors towards progress are trampled under foot by the rush to go through them.”, well, if that’s the case, Tony Wilson’s back should be covered in footprints. Another facet of true individualism is the almost perverse sense of satisfaction of standing back and watching your vision become appropriated, copied and even pirated. The vision is all, and once it is embedded, restlessness returns and it’s time to move on to the next one.

“Visionary” often gets bandied about and the word can lose its resonance when applied to certain individuals. To me, a true visionary is one who isn’t afraid to be marginalized, ridiculed and ignored when pursuing a vision. A true visionary has no peers, constituency or market until the vision is birthed. A true visionary is a gambler, not purely in monetary and security terms, but in terms of running the risk of losing his or her objectivity in pushing the integral line of their vision forward. A true visionary is selfish in striving towards seeing their vision manifest and a true visionary can step back and watch others take the credit for their vision and the joy it brings to many. Tony Wilson ticks all the boxes.

Wilson’s impact on popular culture can never be underestimated. Whether you’re a fan of the bands he introduced us to or the people he facilitated to get their work out into the market place is irrelevant. Starting with Punk, Wilson pushed the envelope of counter culture right up into the mainstream for the mass consumerist to enjoy without alienating the more discerning creators and lovers of spontaneous independent products, and in doing so he generated an entire city both economically and culturally. If you think I’m over-doing it on the economics in this tribute, please bare with me.

No tribute to Tony Wilson would be true to his spirit if it didn’t touch upon the man’s love of liberty, freedom and marketeering. “Freewheeling” has become cognitive with those great avatars of the 1960’s counter cultural revolution: Hoffman, Thompson, Leary, Flynt, Kesey etc. In my opinion, Wilson was following on from that seeded tradition of organized anarchy. An anarchy that recognized that there was no shame in reaching a mass audience to spread the good words of “get off your arse and go do it for yourself if nothing’s speaking to you.” Create your own times. Write your own history. Go wherever it takes you and don’t be embarrassed if it becomes popular. In fact, strive towards sharing your vision with as many people as possible.

Tony’s populist credentials were immaculate. For years he fronted the cosy early evening regional TV news for Granada with stories about bins not being emptied and cats being stuck up trees and Old Dears all across the North West thought of him as a well spoken, well dressed heartthrob. Not cool, but Tony Wilson understood that the common concept of “cool” is an arbitrary and anti-individualistic concept, and that “cool” in its historical jazz age sense is about defining oneself through actions of aloofness for the integrity of a higher vision. Tony Wilson was a man with a plan.

I remember once laughing out loud after hearing that Wilson’s Factory Records was in dire financial straits again and that Wilson was planning on launching a classical music label. If that isn’t a “fuck you” to society in general I don’t know what is, and the beauty for me is the fact that an action like that actually scares the shit out of the soulless corporate careerists who run the media. It scares them, I believe, because it highlights the chasm between passionate independent individuals (who would inspire a tribute like this and the many that will follow) and themselves.

Can you possibly imagine people calling and e-mailing each other with fond memories when Simon Cowell dies? And that’s not being snobbish, I’m not questioning peoples love of X-Factor winners, each to their own, but it goes deeper than that. What we had in Tony Wilson was an autonomous objectivity that was palpable even if you have no understanding of its psychological framing. In other words, Tony Wilson’s quest for championing the art he believed in was infectious and I do believe secretly envied by those who knew they just didn’t have the nous or courage to do something really interesting, new and challenging.

It’s horrible to think that The State figured in the endgame of a remarkable individual’s life. His battle with cancer would have been prolonged by a drug that a local NHS Trust could have administered to him. They refused on the grounds of cost, even though other NHS Trusts around the country have dispensed it to those needing it. Tony Wilson was caught in what is now becoming commonly known as a grotesque post code lottery. Wilson was not a monetary wealthy man. He used money as a tool to create rather than let money use him as a tool to create more money.

Wilson’s friends rallied and managed to buy him dosages of the drug. That they should have had to do is an indictment against The State. Here was a man who economically recharged Manchester, earned The State millions in revenue and inspired thousands of young entrepreneurs up and down the land to go out and create wealth for themselves, the cities they lived in and The Exchequer.

The bureaucrats said that they were “just doing their jobs” when challenged by BBC Northwest. That phrase sums up the banality of evil, but I suppose in the final analysis we should pity rather than despise them. Think about what it must be like to be bureaucrat in a state machine that feeds on pettiness and office politics and the subjugating of the creative spirit in the name of efficiency? Ugh!

Then think what it must have been like to be Anthony H Wilson. Think of the trials, tribulations, the goals and the ones that hit the crossbar. Think of walking into a spit and sawdust pub and finding the sublime majesty that was Joy Division playing a modern day sermon on the mount to a handful of followers, think of hosting your own late night TV show and running VT of bands like The Clash and The Sex Pistols, Patti Smith and The Ramones, think about discovering a modern day William Wordsworth, think about opening a club that everyone said was a white elephant and then think about the joy when you saw it bursting to the rafters with kids from all over the country turning it into their very own electronic Mecca, think about seeing the city you loved becoming famous all over the world because you had the vision to drag it out of the dark ages by uniting and nurturing the maligned and neglected talent.

No, I’d rather live a year of freedom in the smart shoes of Tony Wilson than a lifetime in the faux leather ones of a bureaucrat. Let them dream only of their handsome State pensions.

Henri Frederic Amiel said, “Great men are true men, the men in whom nature has succeeded. They are not extraordinary, they are in the true order. It is the other species of men who are not what they ought to be.” Tony Wilson was true to his nature. That’s all we can really strive for in life. He succeeded again and again and again."

Dean Cavanagh - SFGate


Yes Tony Wilson was one of my heros

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