86 Palatine Road

A flat in this house on Palatine Road was once the home of one Alan Erasmus. In 1978 he co-founded Factory records along with Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton. Martin Hannett and Peter Saville soon joined. The label operated out of this flat throughout the 1980s, a short distance from where I grew up. The tales of Factory Records and its bands are the stuff of legend- no contracts, fifty-fifty split between label and bands, the artists own the music, the Hacienda must be built, Ian Curtis, So It Goes, Granada TV, Joy Division, New Order, the numbering system, A Certain Ratio, Durutti Column, Section 25, Stockholm Monsters, The Distractions, Crispy Ambulance, 52nd Street, Quando Quango, The Wake, James, The Railway Children, The Royal Family And The Poor, Miaow, Happy Mondays, the Factory egg timer, die-cut sleeves, tracing paper sleeves, no band photos on the sleeves,… In 1990 Factory moved out of 86 Palatine Road and into Factory 251 in town.
Yesterday a blue plaque was awarded to 86 Palatine Road in recognition of Factory’s cultural, civic and artistic importance. Shaun Ryder unveiled the plaque. Of course given that he demanded the destruction of the Hacienda to ¬†prevent it becoming a museum piece Tony Wilson may not have approved of this recognition of a piece of Manchester’s musical history. But if buildings are going to be awarded blue plaques for the part they played, then this is as deserving as any.
There are so many songs that illustrate Factory’s brilliance in the 80s. On this song Otis, from Durutti Column’s 1989 album (named after its creator Vini Reilly), Otis Redding’s voice is sampled along with vocals credited to Vini’s friend Pol. Reilly’s guitar playing is fluid and lighter than air, echo on the arpeggios underpinning and enveloping the spectral Otis vocal- ‘another sleepless night for me’. And then ‘come back, come back’.
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It’s Wonderful

A few weeks ago Strictly Rockers did a guest posting as part of The Vinyl Villain’s Imaginary Compilation Album series, a ten track compilation of the Durutti Column. Strictly Rockers focused on the Factory years and did a great job. I had been planning my own Durutti Column ICA and didn’t get around to completing it but it wouldn’t have been too different from SR’s. Mine would have included-

Sketch for Summer
Otis
For Belgian Friends
The Missing Boy
Home
Contra Indications (The Together Mix)
Silence
Sketch For Dawn

Which gets me to eight songs and two to mull over. SR stuck to the Factory releases and I had intended to include some post-Factory material. Since Factory went bust Vini Reilly has put out at least fifteen albums for other record labels including the short lived Factory Too. I wouldn’t pretend to have an expert knowledge of them all but have kept my hand in, dipping in and out over the years. 2008’s Sunlight To Blue… Blue To Blackness had a beautiful little tune called So Many Crumbs And Monkeys which was on my ICA shortlist. A principal contender for my ICA would be this one from 2006’s Keep Breathing album which a friend posted on social media a few days ago, reminding me of it. Before I go any further, just give it a spin…

See?
I don’t know where to begin with this song- it defies description. Heavy bursts of rhythm guitar. Soaring melodies. A voice floating in and out. Tremelo. Vini’s own voice whispering in the background. All building upwards towards the light. Stunning. And proof that Vini’s well continued to contain deep water long into his third decade of making ‘silly little tunes’. The rest of Keep Breathing has plenty of other brilliant moments too.

I have no idea if anyone makes any pennies off their Factory recordings anymore- who owns them? New Order got a record deal elsewhere and their back catalogue gets re-issued all the time. Happy Mondays got their stuff licensed or bought up by a major. Does the rest of the Factory roster see any cash for their music? I have no idea. However this album and this song are commercially available at various legal download sites, which I should imagine Vini benefits from. Vini has been hit by poor health and financial trouble in recent years and is currently unable to play the guitar which is incredibly sad for such a unique, talented and expressive artist. So I’m not giving you a free download of this- if you like it, and I’d be surprised if you didn’t, go and give Vini some of your cash in exchange for It’s Wonderful. Cos it is.

Home

In the film 24 Hour Party People Steve Coogan’s Tony Wilson has a conversation with God, at the end of the film on the roof of the Hacienda the night it closed down. God assures Wilson that what he’s done is going to go down in legend but that it’s a pity he didn’t sign The Smiths. God also tells him he was right about Mick Hucknall (‘His music’s rubbish’). ¬†Wilson finishes the conversation by saying that The Durutti Column make very good chill out music. Which they do- but there’s something about Vini Reilly’s music that lifts it above the realm of the chill out, there’s some real emotional heft to his songs- happiness, sadness, loss, tragedy, melancholy, ecstasy (both kinds). Vini is often dismissive of his music calling it ‘trash… with the odd spark occasionally that seems to work… by accident. I never know whether it’s any good or not’.

On his 1990 album Vini worked with the new technology available, programmed beats largely rather than Bruce Mitchell’s live drums, sequencers and synths and with less guitar than previously. The album is a triumph, showing Vini’s ability to make great, inventive and moving instrumental music. This song is one of my favourites from it. I’ve been trying to narrow down Durutti Column’s work to ten songs, partly with one of The Vinyl Villain’s imaginary compilation albums in mind, but it’s proving difficult.

Home

Sketch For Dawn

Durutti Column have been running through my musical choices a lot in recent months. This song is a beauty. Perfect guitar playing, much of which doesn’t sound anything like ordinary guitar playing, with Vini’s fragile vocals and Bruce Mitchell’s understated drumming adding to the dreamlike quality. I don’t have the song as an mp3 on the hard rive right now and it’s getting late so here’s some Youtube videos. These two clips are interesting when compared. The first is from the remastered edition of the album LC, a little more focused and punchy than the original 1981 release

The original, below, has a burst of the Youtube uploader’s VHS static at eleven seconds and is much more subdued and atmospheric. The footage of Vini is pretty nice. LC was the second album following debut The Return Of The Durutti Column, self produced on a four track TEAC. The title LC is latin, Lotta Continua- continuous struggle, the struggle continues.

Belgian Friends

 

Factory Friday, Durutti Column. Vini Reilly has made something near thirty albums as Durutti Column (him, usually drummer Bruce Mitchell, occasionally a few others). Inside those albums are hundreds of songs, that have attracted a wide variety of labels- post punk, modern-classical, jazz, dream pop- but as Vini has said, and I paraphrase, ‘I don’t know why people get so hung up about forms, they’re all just silly tunes innit?’

In amongst all those hundreds of ‘silly tunes’ there are some moments of brilliance so beautiful words cannot do them justice. For Belgian Friends wasn’t even on a proper album, appearing on the compilation release A Factory Quartet (FACT 24) alongside songs by Kevin Hewick, The Royal Family And The Poor and Blurt. It later turned up on Domo Arigato too. Donald Johnson of ACR plays drums on For Belgian Friends, and his rhythms give it a dancier sensibility, while Vini’s guitar and piano play intertwining melodies. Martin Hannett is at the controls.

For Belgian Friends

This fan-made video is good fun.

So Many Crumbs And Monkeys

Over the lifetime of this blog I’ve written posts about five Durutti Column songs- Sketch For Summer, Sketch For Winter, Otis, The Missing Boy and The Together Mix- which coincidentally would be pretty close to my top five Durutti Column songs if I were asked to make a list. This song is proof though that Vini Reilly continued to write and record minor classics long after the collapse of Factory Records and well into the 21st century. The album Sunlight To Blue…Blue To Blackness came out in 2008 and is well worth tracking down. This is a beautiful little tune, the pitter patter of drums set against Vini’s unique guitar sound and softly sung vocals.

So Many Crumbs And Monkeys

Missing

Vini Reilly has had a rough time recently with health issues and major financial problems. One of his Durutti Column masterpieces LC is currently being re-released with twenty odd extra songs. LC is an lp I already own twice, once on vinyl and once in a 90s re-release version on cd. I don’t think I’ll buy it for a third time but if anyone from the Manchester scene deserves some cash to go with the talent it’s Vini, so maybe we should put our hands in our pockets. This song was written for the missing boy, Ian Curtis. New Order, ACR, Durutti Column and Tony Wilson were all around a pool somewhere in the US in the early 80s and Vini said to Tony ‘You know who’s missing don’t you?’ As well as Vini’s beautiful guitar this song features some very fragile Vini Reilly vocals..

The Missing Boy

LC stands for Lotta Continua- the struggle goes on.