Factory was predicated on an understanding that it was pop music that acted as chief educator in British society – in this, Saville smuggled art and modernism into the bedrooms of teenagers, indelibly shaping how British society would then respond to this stuff. The ‘Blue Monday’ sleeve, remembering the future by looking like a floppy disc, was the most widely purchased and shared Factory artefact. Factory were capable of turning triumphs into disasters and disasters into triumphs – that ‘Blue Monday’ single would lose money with every copy.
To understand what Factory achieved during those years, it’s important to understand the music culture it was a part of – one enjoying the white-hot forward motion of a renaissance – a record made in 1982 would have been unthinkable to listeners four years earlier. This slows down around the early 1990s, and Factory dies with it. Factory Records folded for all the reasons labels tend to fold – drugs, exhaustion, lack of forward motion – while The Haçienda became a victim of its own internal contradictions and a drug culture that had become a focal point for crime.
No matter – dance culture took on the world, Factory Records’ artists became modern classics for each new generation, and Wilson enjoyed a second coming as a self-styled regional booster and advocate for Manchester. There would even be a film – Steve Coogan played Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People, which was critically acclaimed for its sharp understanding of the importance of myth at the heart of Factory. Before his tragic death in 2007, Wilson continued to think differently – many of his ideas about streaming technology, viewed with typical antagonism from the music industry at the time, look awfully prophetic.
Viewed from a distance, it’s easier now to take a guess at the real intentions behind Factory and The Haçienda – a gift, not something to stick around forever, but a short, sharp cultural shock. If you build it, they will come. A bizarre love triangle between design, theory and pop music.