Tony Wilson famously summed up the Factory Records ethos with the line “We made history, not money”. What money Factory did make was ploughed not back into the music (they famously missed out on The Smiths and Black Box, to name but two), but into somewhat riskier projects such as the Hacienda, Dry Bar and that infamous hanging boardroom table. Even on the rare occasions when they did invest big money on studios and big name producers – such as Happy Mondays’ 1992 comeback Yes Please – disaster ensued.
The label’s parsimony meant production work was often kept in-house, which usually meant New Order, who produced and remixed numerous Factory artists – and artists on other labels – over the years, under the name Be Music, and this new compilation assembles their most dancefloor-friendly tunes. That means there’s no place for the Barney-produced early Mondays single & proto-baggy anthem ‘Freaky Dancin’’, or for Hooky’s sparkling work on The Stone Roses’ ‘Elephant Stone’, but there are nevertheless plenty of gems here.
Disc 1 is mostly Barney-focused and consists largely of 1980s Factory acts who, for the most part, sound quite a bit like New Order. It’s mostly music made for the dancefloor, pre-aciiiieeeed, and so whilst they probably sounded great at the Hacienda back in the mid-80s, the likes of Section 25, Marcel King and 52nd Street sound rather dated now. But it’s wonderful to rediscover Sumner’s 1990 remix of Beat Club’s classic 1988 single ‘Security’, a pounding techno monster that would’ve been right at home on Technique. Sumner and A Certain Ratio’s Donald Johnson also do a fantastic job on former Josef K man Paul Haig’s catchy electro-funk single ‘The Only Truth’, whilst Shark Vegas’ unintentionally hilarious ‘You Hurt Me’ sounds like a German New Order tribute band, which is essentially what it is.
Disc 2 is devoted to Steve and Gillian and is a sleeker, shinier, more contemporary beast. As well as their own, wonderful ‘Inside‘ (as The Other Two), the disc features throbbing techno remixes of tunes by Factory Floor, A Certain Ratio, Tim Burgess, Fujiya & Miyagi, and Ladytron’s Helen Marnie, and is very very wonderful indeed. There’s also room for one of Factory’s great lost singles, 1984’s ‘Tell Me’ by the obscure Life, one of Steve & Gillian’s first production jobs and an utterly joyful piece of electronic indie pop.
Disc 3 is mainly odds & sods, with the odds thankfully outnumbering the sods. There’s electro-funk from Stockholm Monsters and Winston Tong, PiL-style experimental post-punk from Royal Family & the Poor and Section 25 (whose ‘Knew Noise’ is one of the compilation’s highlights), and moody electropop from Red Turns To and Ad Infinitum. But of most interest to New Order nerds here is ‘Video 5 8 6’, a 22-minute instrumental commissioned in 1982 by Tony Wilson as background music for the opening of the Hacienda, and containing seeds that would later grow into ‘5 8 6’ and ‘Ecstasy’ on the band’s 1983 Power, Corruption & Lies album. Alongside Soft Cell’s 1980 single ‘Memorabilia’ it makes a very strong case for arguing that house music was invented not in Detroit or Chicago but in Northern England.
Not, by any means, an essential release in 2017 then, but an enjoyable, often Proustian, rush of nostalgia for indie/electro fans of a certain age, and a compilation that I have already spent far more time listening to than I expected.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.