The End of the Groove

Legacy? Don't ask meWhat with America’s presses exploding over the passing of Merv Griffin and the revelation that Karl Rove is leaving the White House in an apparent attempt to free the Republican 2008 presidential candidates from his fetid shadow, it seems nobody mentioned that Tony Wilson, ex-Granada journalist and founder of Factory Records, among other things, had died of cancer on Friday.

I had the luck to sit down with Wilson a couple of years ago in Toronto during Canadian Music Week, and he was a great interview; witty and charming and ingratiating in that uniquely British way that gives you the sense you’ve just reconnected with a beloved uncle. And to my wife and her brothers, who grew up in the north of England in the 1970s, that’s pretty much what he was; the BBC just published a list of his most influential accomplishments in the music industry, if you want to see how pervasive a presence he was there.

I mentioned him in passing to Danny Boyle last month, when Boyle was here to promote “Sunshine”. Boyle — who’s also from the North — went briefly gray: “You’ve heard he isn’t well, of course.” And I had to admit I hadn’t; the news of Wilson’s cancer hadn’t made it over here.

I wish I had something clever or moving to say here, other than “gee, it would have been nice to sit with him a little longer, since I’m sure there were more stories he could have told”. I regret that I was never able to sell the interview — not that there’s anything earth-shattering in it, because there isn’t, but because it would have been nice to convey the weary smile in his voice to Metro’s readership.

Steve Coogan got it in “24 Hour Party People”, of course; for years before that, he’d been merrily parodying Wilson with the self-absorbed arrogance of Alan Partridge. Craig Parkinson plays him in Anton Corbijn’s Ian Curtis biopic, “Control”, which I’ll be seeing at TIFF.

I imagine that film just got a lot sadder.