Tony Wilson Interviews The Smiths
Tony Wilson’s Factory Records defined the Manchester music scene. All the more amazing because he famously passed up signing Manchester’s biggest band, The Smith’s. Wilson claimed not to have regretted it: “Mr Morrissey had a great talent and was a truly horrible human being who treated others very badly and I’m over the moon that I never had to work with him”.
With the benefit of hindsight, the highlight of this interview is the brief chat with, the man who wrote the tunes rather than the words, Johnny Marr, rather than Morrissey (I wonder if Wilson is deliberately trying to wind him up by calling him Steven). Morrissey comes off as pretentious, but perhaps this was before he decided that Smith’s lyrics were deliberately funny.
This is where Morrissey and Wilson are fascinatingly similar. Both had grand ideas that were quite often pretentious but like natural showmen, both were clever enough to adapt to how what they did was perceived. Wilson was cocky enough to name a small record label in an industrial town, after the world’s most famous art studio. Today, Wilson’s Factory is as famous as Warhol’s.
As an example of Morrissey’s showman-like adaptability, I can’t help but think that his lyrics were originally intended to be serious, but when the DJ who launched them to fame (John Peel), assumed that they were witty and ironic, Morrissey played along rather than lose face. Whether this is true or not, almost doesn’t matter, since perhaps creativity is just knowing how to edit accidents. In the end, the wit and irony became real, even if the style had originated as accidental camp.
Popular songs will never be all bland after a line like: I was only joking when I said by rights you should be bludgeoned in your bed.