|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
Factory Records was a Manchester based British independent record label, started in 1978 by Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus, which featured several prominent musical acts on its roster such as Joy Division, New Order, A Certain Ratio, The Durutti Column, Happy Mondays, Northside, and (briefly) Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and James. Like the label 4AD Records, Factory Records used a creative team (most notably record producer Martin Hannett and graphic designer Peter Saville) which gave the label and the artists recording for it, a particular sound and image. The label employed a unique cataloguing system that gave a number not just to its musical releases, but to artwork and other objects, as well.
Factory's genesis was in January 1978, when Wilson, a TV presenter on Granada Television, formed a partnership with Erasmus, an unemployed actor and band manager. The Factory name was first used for a club in May of that year, which featured local bands including The Durutti Column (managed at the time by Erasmus and Wilson), Cabaret Voltaire from Sheffield, and Joy Division. Peter Saville designed advertising for the club, and in September the trio decided to release an EP of music by acts who had played at the club (The Durutti Column, Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, and comedian John Dowie).
Rob Gretton, Joy Division's manager, decided he did not want the band to sign to a London record label, preferring to do it all in Manchester. At that time there was a fairly successful punk label in Manchester called Rabid Records, run by Tosh Ryan (formerly of music collective Music Force) with Martin Hannett. They had had several successful acts, including Slaughter & The Dogs (whose tour manager was Rob Gretton), John Cooper Clarke, and Jilted John. Rabid would build artists up with a few punk singles, and then license them to bigger labels (Jilted John to EMI, Slaughter & The Dogs to Decca, John Cooper Clarke to CBS). Tony Wilson was often around the Rabid offices, and Rob Gretton was friends with Tosh Ryan, Martin Hannett, and others in the setup as they were all from the same council estate in Wythenshawe. After his seminal TV series So It Goes, which gave TV debuts to the likes of Iggy Pop, the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, etc., Tony Wilson was interested in the way Rabid Records ran, and was convinced that the real money and power were in album sales. With a lot of discussion, Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton and Alan Erasmus set up Factory Records, stealing Martin Hannett from Rabid. Thus Factory Records was born, with Wilson, Erasmus, Saville. and producer Hannett as partners in the enterprise.
In 1978, Wilson compered the new wave afternoon at Deeply Vale Festivals; this was actually the fourth live appearance by the fledgling Durutti Column. That afternoon Wilson also introduced an appearance (very early in their career) by The Fall, featuring Mark E. Smith and Marc "Lard" Riley on bass guitar.
The Factory label set up an office in Erasmus' home on Palatine Road, and the EP was released in early 1979. Singles followed by A Certain Ratio (who would stay with the label) and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (who left for Virgin Records shortly afterwards). The first Factory LP, Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures, was released in June.
Joy Division made a notable appearance at the Leigh Rock Festival in August 1979. Gretton became the fifth partner in the label towards the end of the year, and the Factory club closed down (it would reopen briefly the following year).
In January 1980, The Return of the Durutti Column was released, the first in a long series of releases by the "band" (now effectively a solo project for guitarist Vini Reilly). In May, Joy Division singer Ian Curtis committed suicide shortly before a planned tour of the USA. The following month saw Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" reach the UK top twenty, and a second album - Closer - was released the following month. In late 1980, the remaining members of Joy Division decided to continue as New Order. Factory branched out, with Factory Benelux being run as an independent label in conjunction with Les Disques du Crepuscule, and Factory US organising distribution for the UK label's releases in America.
In 1981, Factory and New Order decided to open a nightclub, and preparations were made to convert a Victorian textile factory near the centre of Manchester, which had lately seen service as a motor boat showroom. Hannett left the label, as he had wanted to open a recording studio, and subsequently sued for unpaid royalties (the case was settled out of court in 1984). Saville also quit as a partner due to problems with payments, although he continued to work for Factory. Wilson, Erasmus and Gretton formed Factory Communications Ltd.
The Haçienda (FAC 51) opened in May 1982. Although successful in terms of attendance, and attracting a lot of praise for Ben Kelly's interior design, the club lost large amounts of money in its first few years due largely to the low prices charged for entrance and at the bar, which was markedly cheaper than nearby pubs. Adjusting bar prices failed to help matters significantly, as by the mid-80s crowds were increasingly preferring Ecstasy to alcohol. Therefore. the Hacienda ended up costing New Order 10,000 pounds a month.
1985 saw the first release by Happy Mondays. Factory's two bands became the most successful on the label, bankrolling a host of other projects. Factory, and the Haçienda, became a cultural hub of the emerging techno and acid house genres, and their amalgamation with post-punk guitar music (the "Madchester" scene).
Factory's headquarters (FAC 251) on Charles Street, near the Oxford Road BBC building, were opened in September 1990 (prior to which the company was still registered at Alan Erasmus' flat in Didsbury).
In 1991, Factory suffered two tragedies: the deaths of Martin Hannett and Dave Rowbotham. Hannett had recently re-established a relationship with the label, working with Happy Mondays, and tributes including a compilation album and a festival were organised. Rowbotham, who was one of the first musicians signed by the label; he was the original member of The Durutti Column and shared the guitar role with Vini Reilly; he was killed by an axe murderer and his body found in his flat in Burnage. Saville's association with Factory was now reduced to simply designing for New Order and their solo projects (the band itself was in suspension, with various members recording as Electronic, Revenge and The Other Two).
By 1992, the label's two most successful bands caused the label serious financial trouble. The Happy Mondays were recording their troubled fourth album Yes Please! in Barbados, and New Order reportedly spent £400,000 on recording their comeback album Republic. London Records were interested in taking over Factory, but the deal fell through when it emerged that, due to Factory's early practice of eschewing contracts, New Order rather than the label owned New Order's back catalogue.
Factory Communications Ltd, the company formed in 1981, declared bankruptcy in November 1992. Many of the former Factory acts, including New Order, found a new home at London Records.
The Haçienda closed in 1997 and was demolished shortly afterwards; it was replaced by a modern luxury apartment block in 2003.
The 2002 film 24 Hour Party People is centred on Factory Records, the Haçienda, and the infamous, often unsubstantiated anecdotes and stories surrounding them. Many of the people associated with Factory, including Tony Wilson, have minor parts in 24 Hour Party People. The central character, based on Wilson, is played by actor and comedian Steve Coogan.
Colin Sharp, The Durutti Column singer during 1978 who took part of the A Factory Sample EP, died on 7 September 2009, after suffering a brain haemorrhage. Although his involvement with Factory was brief, Sharp was an associate for a short while of Martin Hannett and wrote a book called Who Killed Martin Hannett, which upset Martin's surviving relatives, who stated the book included numerous untruths and fiction.
In early 2010, Peter Hook, in collaboration with the Haçienda's original interior designer Ben Kelly and British audio specialists Funktion-One, renovated and reopened FAC 251 (the former Factory Records headquarters on Charles Street) as a nightclub. The club still holds its original name - FAC 251 - but people refer to it as "The Factory". Despite Ben Kelly's design influences, Peter Hook insists, "It's not the Haçienda for f*cks [sic] sake". The club has a weekly agenda, featuring DJ's and live bands of various genres.
In May 2010, James Nice, owner of LTM Recordings, published the book Shadowplayers. The book charts the rise and fall of Factory and offers detailed accounts and information about many key figures involved with the label.
Musical releases, and essentially anything closely associated with the label, were given a catalogue number in the form of either FAC, or FACT, followed by a number. FACT was reserved for full-length albums, while FAC was used for both single song releases and many other Factory "productions", including: posters (FAC 1 advertised a club night), The Haçienda (FAC 51), a hairdressing salon (FAC 98), a broadcast of Channel 4's The Tube TV series (FAC 104), customised packing tape (FAC 136), a bucket on a restored watermill (FAC 148), the Haçienda cat (FAC 191), a bet between Wilson and Gretton (FAC 253), a lawsuit filed against Factory Records by Martin Hannett (FAC 61), and a radio advertisement (FAC 294). Similar numbering was used for compact disc media releases (FACTCD), Factory Benelux releases (FAC BN or FBN), Factory US releases (FACTUS), and Gap Records Australia releases (FACOZ), with many available numbers restricted to record releases and other directly artist-related content.
Numbers were not allocated in strict chronological order; numbers for Joy Division and New Order releases generally ended in 3 or 0, A Certain Ratio and Happy Mondays in 2, and The Durutti Column in 4. Factory Classical releases were 226, 236 and so on.
Despite the demise of Factory Records in 1992, the catalogue was still active. Additions included the 24 Hour Party People film (FAC 401), its website (FAC 433) and DVD release (FACDVD 424), and a book, Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album (FAC 461).
Even Tony Wilson's coffin received a Factory catalogue number; FAC 501.
In 1989, Factory Classical was launched with five albums by composer Steve Martland, the Kreisler String Orchestra, the Duke String Quartet (which included Durutti Column viola player John Metcalfe), oboe player Robin Williams and pianist Rolf Hind. Composers included Martland, Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith, Francis Poulenc, Dmitri Shostakovich, Michael Tippett, György Ligeti and Elliott Carter. Releases continued until 1992, including albums by Graham Fitkin, vocal duo Red Byrd, a recording of Erik Satie's Socrate, Piers Adams playing Handel's Recorder Sonatas, Walter Hus and further recordings both of Martland's compositions and of the composer playing Mozart.
In 1994, Wilson attempted to revive Factory Records, in collaboration with London Records, as "Factory Too". The first release was by Factory stalwarts The Durutti Column; the other main acts on the label were Hopper and Space Monkeys, and the label gave a UK release to the first album by Stephin Merritt's side project The 6ths, Wasps' Nests. A further release ensued: a compilation EP featuring previously unsigned Manchester acts East West Coast, The Orch, Italian Love Party, and K-Track. This collection of 8 tracks (2 per band) was simply entitled A Factory Sample Too (FACD2.02). The label was active until the late 1990s, as was "Factory Once", which organised reissues of Factory material.
Wilson got frustrated with the lack of freedom and London Records' requirement to show profits, and he left the venture with London Records to set up the short-lived Factory Records LTD with only one band remaining - Space Monkeys - who shortly afterward released an album the daddy of them all. Hopper and The Durutti Column had already left Factory Too when Wilson left the company of London Records.
In 2006, Wilson launched F4 Records with only a few bands - Raw-T (a grime collective), The Young Offenders Institute, and some exclusive online tracks from The Durutti Column. The label closed in early 2007, when Wilson found out he had cancer and despite treatment, died of a related heart attack on 10 August 2007.
In 2012, James Nice of LTM Recordings also formed a company called Factory Records Ltd., with Alan Erasmus and Oliver Wilson (son of Tony). This released only a vinyl reissue of From The Hip by Section 25. He then revived the Factory Benelux imprint for Factory reissues, and for new recordings by Factory-associated bands.
Factory Records recording artists
The bands with the most numerous releases on Factory Records include Joy Division/New Order, Happy Mondays, Durutti Column and A Certain Ratio. Each of these bands has between 15 and 30 FAC numbers attributed to their releases.
An exhibition took place celebrating the 20th anniversary of the closing of Factory Records (1978 - 1992) and its musical output, at the Ice Plant, Manchester, between 4 and 7 May 2012. The exhibition was called FACTVM (from the Latin for 'deed accomplished').
- "Iconic Manchester nightclub the Hacienda recreated at Victoria and Albert Museum in London". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2013-09-26.
- "Factory Records founder Anthony Wilson dies from cancer". Side-line.com. 2007-08-10. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
- "Factory Manchester". www.FACTORYmanchester.com. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
- BBC Film: Factory: From Joy Division to Happy Mondays
- Dorian Lynskey. "A fitting headstone for Tony Wilson's grave | Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
- "Cerysmatic Factory: Section 25 FACT 90 From The Hip vinyl issue". News.cerysmaticfactory.info. 2012-05-24. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
- "Cerysmatic Factory: A Factory Benelux Story". News.cerysmaticfactory.info. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
- FACTVM 20th Anniversary Exhibition, PeterHook.co.uk, 11 April 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- FACTVM Factory Records 1978-1992 Exhibition, 5-7 May 2012, Cerysmaticfactory.info. Retrieved 2013-09-21.
- Dennis Remmer's extensive Factory discography, with pictures and descriptions of each FAC number
- John Cooper's Factory catalogue
- The Factory Overseas releases (Australia. Japan, Canada, etc)
- Cerysmatic's extensive Factory archive and news site
- Oliver Wood's Factory Graphics page.
- LTM Recordings official site, features much former Factory catalog on CD and DVD
- Factory on MusicBrainz
- A Factory Box Set - Communications 1978-1992 Album Review