With the publication this week of Peter Hook’s new book, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, the Factory Records nostalgia machine whirs into life once again.
Joy Division were a great band, of that there’s no doubt. They were also a supremely influential one, empowering countless raincoat-clad youths of a gloomy disposition to make their own sepulchral pop dreams come true in the 1980s, and beyond. But the lasting legacy of Factory Records shouldn’t be solely attributed to Ian Curtis’s troupe and more than it should be to New Order, or the Happy Mondays, or even Vini Reilly’s magnificent The Durutti Column. The Factory story, as anyone who read James Nice’s fanatically thorough Shadowplayers: The Rise And Fall of Factory Records will know, is more complex than that. Contrary to the impression given by Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People or Anton Corbijn’s Control, or indeed many of the more self-consciously factual books, documentaries and magazine articles that have sought to tell and re-tell the Factory myth, Tony Wilson didn’t know that Joy Division and the Mondays would conquer the world; he had just as much faith in A Certain Ratio, in Stockholm Monsters, in bloody Northside.
The enormous success of Factory’s most famous bands has served to squeeze less unit-shifting, but no less deserving, acts out of the Manchester-to-Madchester master-narrative that seems to get smoothed and simplified with each passing year. Over the next seven pages, in a small gesture of protest, we highlight seven acts who released fantastic music on Factory Records but who are little regarded today. None of them recorded an album quite as good as Unknown Pleasures, but they all contributed significantly to the aura of excellence, inventiveness and risk-taking that surrounded Factory in the 1980s.
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