I thought about Tony Wilson a lot over the weekend, of course, as I was at the
same festival as I was last year when I heard the terrible news.
will be one of those people, almost like a family member, who I will always miss
having around the place. You were never sure when and where he was going to pop
up and never sure whether he would be a hero, villain, genius, idiot or just
plain old twat about town.
Growing up in Manchester, Tony was always
around the place. Apart from being a constant and welcome sight on the TV and
radio, subverting the medium with varying degrees of subtly, he would crop up in
the most surprising places doing the most surprising things. I will never forget
walking through Hulme and stumbling across the opening of a new bridge. A large
shiny black Jaguar was the only car in sight and a tall man in a flowing black
coat was standing with the scissors. You just assume it's the Mayor, don't you.
Who else could it be? But they had no need for the Mayor, they've got Mr
Manchester. Brilliantly, a noisy group of hippies were holding a protest about
something or other, No More Roads I suppose, and Tony was completely ignoring
them. Tony, the protesters and the press were all standing in a space of only a
few square meters. He wasn't ignoring them really, he was smiling and waving at
them like they were loyal members of his own life-long fanclub. We stood and
watched as he delivered a lengthy speech through a megaphone. No doubt it was a
proud and eloquent soliloquy on Manchester's history, present and future. The
fact that nobody could have heard that speech over the screams of the hippies in
the strong wind didn't matter one bit to Wilson. He beamed and spoke and waved
like the pope, cut his ribbon, waved some more, shook a few hands and then
climbed into the Jag to be the first person to be chauffeured across the new
bridge. It was pissing down as well. His suit must have been ruined. That was
the day he became my hero.
More recently, he gave a talk in a cinema in
Aberdeen when 24HPP was released. This time everyone was quiet and he had a
proper microphone so we could all hear what he had to say. It was mesmerising to
hear the man himself talk about his business, his friends and his experiences.
Clearly a man with demons, which he made no secret of, and also a man with
immense pride in his achievements. He had an endearing way of shrugging off some
of his most notorious failings, which is the true and only characteristic of a
The only time I met Tony he called me a twat. It
wasn't a proper meeting, just two pissed people getting confused at one another
when I didn't recognise him in Dry, thinking he was someone who came into the
pub where I worked. I actually said 'don't you recognise me' when he didn't
return my hello. Understandably rankled by a long-haired, stella-drunk teenager
taking the piss out of him in his own bar in front of his own band (the Mondays
were there) he rounded on me and gave me a bollocking that I can still remember
every word of, nearly 20 years on.
The night he died, I got speaking to a
security goon at the Belladrum festival. He was from Salford and I glumly told
him the news, expecting to share the sadness a little. "Good", said the guard,
"he was a cunt". I was very surprised at my own reaction to this. I laughed,
genuinely amused and actually moved by those words. I knew in my heart that Tony
had probably earned the ire of a few doormen in his time, and that he himself
was always the first, and often only, person to call himself a twat (always with
the appalling two-fingers-either-side-of-the-face action that he made his own).
I also knew that Tony always took a pride in appearing to revel in the animosity
towards him, and I imagined I could hear him laughing. And how lovely, how
complete, to hear an echo, over all the years and ups and downs and lives and
deaths, of the word that legend has it started it all. Wilson, you're a cunt.
Wonderful. Best of all was that this half-human prick rent-a-doorman should
summarise in so few words the best thing of all about Tony Fucking
Stupid people just didn't get him.
Tony Wilson was not my
friend, I doubt we would have got on even if we did know one another. But I
could see what he was up to and I loved every minute of it and couldn't wait to
see what he got up to next.
I've thought about him a lot this weekend. I
think about him all the time. I miss him, in so far as it's possible to miss
someone you didn't even know, and I feel so sorry for the people who were close
to him because there must be a massive gap in their lives.