Interview with Jon Savage, Monday July 11, 2016 conducted by Judith Jones and Stephen Kelly
JJ: So let’s start at the beginning. When did you join Granada and how come you joined Granada?
I actually joined Granada in April 1979. But I went for the researcher’s board in November ‘78 and my position was that I was living at home with my parents still, I’m an only child, I was completing a Law Society’s solicitor’s qualification course and I absolutely hated it, and I was desperate to get out of it. And what happened was that – and I was of was course intensely pressured by my parents, being an only child to do this is, what they wanted me to do. They actually said to me, you know, “Why do you think we’ve sent you to Cambridge? So you can be a solicitor.” I thought, “Fuck that.” So… and I’d already been writing about punk by then for the music papers for 18 months, I’d written for Sounds for 18 months and I’d just started at Melody Maker in November ‘78. And somehow I got in touch with Wilson, and I think it must have been through Richard Kirk of Cabaret Voltaire, who was one of the groups that Tony had showcased in Factory and was also on his first Factory record, Factory sample, and I knew Richard because I’d done the first music press interview of his group Cabaret Voltaire. So I’m pretty sure it was Richard who made the introduction. I got in touch with Tony and I said, “I really want to come to Granada,” and Tony said, “Okay, I’ll put you in touch with Steve Morrison.” So I went to see Steve Morrison, Steve Morrison obviously liked the cut of my jib because I leapfrogged into a final board without having to take a first board, I think people usually had to take two boards and I leapfrogged into the second board. And it was in November, I’m pretty sure, I think Alex Goode and Liz Macleod got the job at the same time as me, I’m pretty sure, maybe Stephen Garrett as well, but there were something like 800 applicants for three jobs, and much to my surprise I got the job. I think part of the reason was, number one they couldn’t believe that somebody who was undergoing a law training like me was a big city firm of solicitors, Linklaters and Paines, was also an expert on punk and writing about punk rock for the music press, and also at the time when I’d had the interview I was on circuit with a high court judge called Sir William Miles Jones, this is the last attempt to try and get me to be a lawyer and maybe I could become a barrister. And of course I had no idea about what was involved and Sir William and I were getting on incredibly badly, and we were just not speaking to each other, and he was just being vile to me and I just thought, “You can piss off.” And so after having a week of this really serious judge having a go at me, I then turned up to the Granada board and they started having a go at me, and I was so fed up with everything and I just had to go back and I got the job! I couldn’t believe it. They were absolutely foul to me, and I was absolutely foul back. I remember at one point Mike Scott said something and I said, “Well, that’s an idiotic thing to say, isn’t it?” Half the people there kind of smirked because of course Mike Scott wasn’t that popular, and he glowered at me, and of course that’s one the reasons I think I never advanced at Granada because he was programme controller and I hadn’t realised. Anyway, I got the job and I arrived in Manchester, green, you know, wet behind the ears, in April ‘79 and I have to say I had absolutely no idea what was entailed and I didn’t for quite a while; it was an intense culture shock to come from London to Manchester, number one, and my head was really with Tony’s groups and what he was doing. My head was really in the music. And that’s one the reasons why Tony got me up there because at that point I was a reasonably big name in music journalism, and he thought, “Well, Jon can write about our bands,” which of course I did. And so I was always… my friends in the first few months of Granada were… I didn’t have any friends in Granada, I was busy… you know, my friends were all in Factory, so Martin Hannett and Rob Gretton, who lived just down the road from me in Chorlton, and of course Tony, and I lived in Tony’s house in Charlesworth for the first two months that I was a Granada, so of course I did see the disintegration of his marriage to Lindsay Reade, and I can talk about that, but… I thought, “What I got myself into? All these people are insane!” And of course, in London everybody – and I’m sorry to talk about this, but it’s true – in London everybody had been taking speed and cocaine and had started to take heroin, and Tony and Lindsay and lots of people around Factory were still smoking shitloads of dope and taking LSD, so the whole thing was very strange to me, but you know, I got along with it. But it was very odd; I was working for What’s On, which was Geoff Moore, David Liddiment, both of whom were Granada lifers and professionals, and I just really… I was completely clueless about what to do. I look back and I just think, “Bloody hell, you really were just an idiot,” you know, because I naively thought that compared to being in the law, being in telly would be fun. And of course there were a lot of arrangements that had to be done and taxis and phoning up people who don’t want to be on, all that arrangement side of everything which I was fairly hopeless at until I got it together, and I was Margi Clarke’s researcher, and you can imagine what that was like! It’s just… I adored Margi, but she was hopeless and I was hopeless, so we’d just egg each other on, and I remember one day she and I got stoned somewhere in the car park and then she had to go in and do an interview with Mollie Sugden, and of course Mollie Sugden, quite apart from… what was the thing… what was it called… Are You Being Served. She’d been famous for working with Jimmy Clitheroe, so Margie turns up, you know, and she’s stoned, and so the first thing she sort of crosses her legs and said, “Right, Mollie – what was it like working with a dwarf?” And I remember the producer – it must have been Geoff – coming down out of the box, down the stairs and screaming, “She’s fucking pissed! JON!” So it was always… so I’d always be moving things on set and getting in trouble with the props guys, and I was… you know, in retrospect – and I’m not over-selling this – I just think I was absolutely hopeless. I had no idea, didn’t really grasp what was involved in working in television until about six months in, and I was very lucky to scrape through my probationary period.
JJ: And was it… you said that you wanted to work for Granada, was it very distinctly you wanted to work for Granada, or you wanted to work in television?
No, it was just a whole accident. As it happens I’m incredibly glad I did, because it was a complete education really. It was an education… because Granada was very left-wing at that point, so it was a political education for me in the widest sense. Also it was a social education being in the north west, and I used to think feel very strongly that anybody who lives in London should spend time in places like the north west or the north east because it’s such a different world, and you get a much more greater understanding of what this country’s like. And also being involved with Margi, which I was, I was very friendly with Margi, and then Caroline Duffy who was Margi’s friend and assistant and kind of, you know, she would help to work on scripts with Margi at that time, and so I was very much inducted into Liverpool way of life and also used to go out to Kirkby to Margi’s mother’s house, and Margie’s mother was of course Frances Clarke, who was Labour mayor of Knowsley. So I got a total… I’d trot off to Knowsley, this council house in the middle of Knowsley, and get a political education. Actually, Frances and I got on really well; I used to go there for Sunday lunch. So it was a complete education for me in that respect, and I’m so grateful for it.
JJ: Tell me what Manchester was like in 1979.
I just remember it… London was derelict, (but only in parts? 8:55)… I just remember… what I liked about Manchester was the space. I always liked urban spaces, one of my problems with London, one of the reasons I left London, was because all the space was filled in. And one of the things that I liked about Joy Division was that they were almost like an ambient group in that they had a lot of space in their music, and that space reflected the spaces in the city, to do with obviously the deindustrialisation and the very peculiar way in which Manchester zoned anyway with this commercial centre, and then the bits immediately outside the commercial centre were then derelict, and then you had the places where people lived like Didsbury, and also you had Hulme, you know, which is such a bizarre experiment in retrospect, and I lived in Chorlton which was then very leafy and rundown though I lived in a huge Victorian house, and that cost me £8 a week, and it all seemed… what I do remember about Manchester was the wet Sundays and how grim they were, and it just seemed certainly even being Granada, with the course was a big, you know, supposedly liberal employer, it was like being 20 years behind London. So I was very wary of that, and not always in a good way certainly in terms of sex and gender politics, which I was interested in, and not just gay politics but also feminist politics. I just thought it was, you know, really behind in many, many ways, and the environment was pretty brutal. I do you remember that. I remember I used to go to concerts in the Apollo and it was just a wasteland all round the Apollo. And first time in fact I came to Manchester was in October 1977 to see the whole… the punk groups at the Electric Circus, and of course that was in Collyhurst! And it was opposite these decayed 1930s flats which I took photos of, the complete estate which has been left to rot because everybody had been moved out, and actually, probably now those flats would be prized. But then, everybody was being moved out and it was just dereliction that went on for miles and miles and miles and miles, so that was what I remember about Manchester memories. And I mean, it’s completely changed obviously in the last nearly 40 years. So much more, you know, so much more (surface now? 11:24)
JJ: Getting back to your position in Granada, you said Granada didn’t quite know what to do with you.
No. And I didn’t know what to do myself to be honest, so I’m not blaming anybody. I think… I don’t know why I was brought in. I think Steve just thought I was interesting, and actually that’s probably a good side of Steve in that he just wanted to bring in people who he thought were interesting, which is kind of great. And it took me quite a while to really find an niche, and actually at the time I started, and I didn’t find a niche for very long, because actually what I wanted to do wasn’t on the agenda, and I’m also very stubborn and if I don’t want to do something I don’t want to do it, and it’s obvious that I don’t do it, so that’s always a problem in an institution. I was like that at school; I found my report cards recently. In the subjects I was interested in I did really well and the subjects I wasn’t interested in I was bottom of the class and I just didn’t care, that was the problem. Anyway, so I was happy when I was moved onto This is Your Right with Marjorie and Michael Winstanley.
JJ: So tell me a bit about that programme and what was the…
Well What’s On was very… I just remember What’s On was sort of light entertainment, and I hated light entertainment, I just thought it was complete bullshit, and I always did, and that was a major issue between me and Liddiment, because Liddiment was totally pro light entertainment and I just thought, “This is utter crap.” And at least This is Your Right was about something tangible and also to some small extent drew on my experience as a lawyer, and I have plenty of autonomy, I’d just go off and make little films, and Marjorie was very relaxed and Michael Winstanley was very relaxed, and they treated me like an adult instead of having to do all this stupid stuff with these stupid scripts, which I just… I didn’t get it, you know, with What’s On. And I really enjoyed it actually. I remember we went up to Pendle, there was a mental hospital near Pendle, and we went up there to do a thing about care in the community, we were there for two days and it was so brutal. I remember I literally saw people crawling up the walls. They were actually crawling up the walls. I’d never seen anything like it, they took us into a secure ward and it was like a charnel house, and we were all very, very shocked. And it was all stuff like that, so it’s quite serious programming, which suited me much more to be honest than froth and the light entertainment stuff, which to be honest I always despised and I still do. But of course that is a staple of television as we all know, and really probably in to some extent realistically what pays the bills, and that was always the strength of light entertainment is that I kind you knew that’s what paid the bills.
JJ: And how do you think working on This is Your Right linked into the north west community?
Well, it was just very interesting. First of all I was sent out, I wasn’t in an office arranging taxes and trying to get people to come into the studio, I was actually going out to make films. And because it was very short – it’s only what, five minutes, 10 minutes max – and the great thing about This is Your Right it was a sort of fiefdom unto itself and nobody really cared about it at all. It was just this thing that they let Marjorie and Michael do, and you know they were both very nice, they were nice to me, I would go out with all these directors, most of them were nice. There was one director who was completely useless and everybody laughed at, he was called Mike somebody…
SK: Mike Becker?
Yes, Mike Becker. Yes, we went out with Mike Becker. I was amazed, everybody just laughed at him, so I basically directed the whole thing, you know, which is great, so I had quite a lot of autonomy there, which of course in a big programme like What’s On you didn’t have. So that was… I proved myself on that, and Marjorie was very pleased with me and Michael was very pleased with me, so I was secure in actually being in the building, which as I said before I wasn’t, I was… scraped through my six months’ probation period, and then in the middle of all this I went off and re-sat three of my law exams so that I could actually qualify as a solicitor, and then I gave up straight away. And then I’m trying to think what I did after that. I know I did a Hypothetical with Brian Lapping, and McLaughlin?
SK: Yes, Andy McLaughlin.
Andy McLaughlin, the producer, and I think Geoffrey Robertson was the interlocutor, was running it, and it was about business ethics, and I really enjoyed that because again, it was using your brain and… it was very stressful, I do remember, but I enjoyed that and I think I got on with Andy well enough, I don’t remember any major problems during that. And it was quite nice to go off and talk to serious people, and again not be involved with all this froth. And so I was obviously made for the whole sort of documentary side as opposed to the drama because I knew nothing about it and still don’t. Which isn’t a criticism, but that’s not what I’ve been trained in, and obviously I wasn’t going to be interested in LE, so I was moving much more to doing factual programmes, eventually documentaries, which was obviously the sort of programming that was not being done by Granada at the time, so I was actually already edging out because the kind of programmes that I ultimately wanted to do, which is the programmes I’ve gone on to make, weren’t being done by Granada at the time. Granada was very… I regarded as quite sclerotic by the late ‘70s,there wasn’t the freedom to sort of move around, there were all these fiefdoms and the lines between formats were very, very rigid. And I didn’t like that because I just thought, “Why can’t you have a serious documentary about pop music?” And of course realistically there’s only one or two places in British telly where you’re going to get that of course, because actually… Tony’s So It Goes was a rare moment of indulgence, of course it wasn’t scheduled across the network anyway. Most TV executives do not understand or particularly like pop music, so… and the interesting thing was, I remember in the early ‘80s, it must have been just after the This is Your Right time, I was approached by Gus McDonald, who was a great panjandrum then, and his assistant – what was his female assistant called? – and I did a treatment about the (??18:17) subculture, which is basically a way into the history of youth culture. And I did a memo on it, and eventually the wheels ground on, and within a year we’d started making that, and that was really the fabulous disaster that brought an end to my time at Granada.
JJ: So in between that…
I’m trying to remember what I did.
JJ: Did you go to Liverpool? There was a period when you worked on (??18:45).
I’m trying to I’m trying to put everything together. We haven’t talked about Tony, which we should. Oh, I remember what I did, Jesus Christ. I did Fun Factory.
JJ: Tell me a bit about that.
Oh, that was awful! That was really, really, really awful. Fun Factory was the follow-up to The Mersey Pirate; it was a Saturday morning kids’ programme, and you remember how awful The Mersey Pirate was, because most of it was on a boat, and you were watching it on a Saturday morning – I used to drink then, so I knew I’d be hung over – and you’d be watching the stuff on the screen that’s going and down, and it was a complete disaster. I don’t know whether you worked on it, but it was awful, awful, awful. And Fun Factory, it was a fundamentally misconceived follow-up. I laugh about it now, but it is so grim. It was – and I was sort of being punished for something, I wasn’t quite sure what – because obviously I knew about music. Did I get to arrange music on the show? No. They give it to Trish Kinane. And producer Sandy Ross, he and I got on absolutely dreadfully, we couldn’t stand each other. And who else was on it… Martin bloody Day, Jesus. God, he was awful too. And it was just a slow motion car crash for about six months. It was live in one of those big warehouses at the back. You know… what was the road that went across the bottom from Quay Street? Do you know what I mean? (Parallel to the Irwell? 20:16) and then there’s a big warehouse, and a big warehouse, it was live on a Saturday morning, and we all had to wear yellow boiler suits in case we got in shot, I mean, and this was the whole period in Granada, everybody wearing pastels and rainbow badges, and it was like sort of play time, and the clothes were like going back to the bloody nursery after time, all the PAs used to wear boiler suits and little rainbow badges, and it was all very (??20:42 )… oh God… and I used to wear punk rock clothes so I was wearing Vivienne Westwood trousers. I remember one day I turned up to my final thing I worked for… what was the daily newspaper… Granada Reports. And I turned up in a pair of Vivienne Westwood… I wasn’t even trying to be shocking, it’s just the clothes I wore. Nice corduroy trousers, and then the zip went from there right round the arse! And I remember Rachel Hebditch, she just looked at me, she didn’t even say anything. But actually, I really got on with Rachel, I really liked her. A lot of people didn’t but I really liked Rachel. She and I got on. But it was funny. So Fun Factory, yes, so it was live, and we have bands on so it was a recipe for mayhem, and I was always in trouble with Sandy because we didn’t get out of there until two o’clock on Saturday afternoon, and my attitude was, “Well, I’m not going to turn up until Monday afternoon, you can piss off, I’m having a weekend.” And Sandy’s attitude was, “Well, you’ve got to come in on Monday morning,” so we were just butting heads about this non-stop, and he actually got quite personal. He was always going on about me being middle-class, which really hacked me off. And eventually I just got fed up and said, “Well, Sandy, don’t think you’re not middle class with your bloody house in Didsbury and VCR and motorcycle and two cars – don’t tell me you’re not middle class.” And then of course I got hauled up by Morrison for insubordination. So it was all… that was going on all the time and then we had the first VJ we had – this is going to show you what a disaster it was – the first VJ we had was someone called Gary Crowley who I knew from London who I’d helped to get up, and he was kind of a mod guy, and he had this friend called Vaughn Toulouse who came up once, and Vaughn, who’s now dead, was later in a band called Department S who had had a hit single called Is Vic There? Anyway, Gary turned up with Vaughn, saying it was my mate, and Vaughn was sort of dressed a bit like Clockwork Orange because that was his mood for the day, and they did this thing, and of course Vaughn turned around and said, “Bollocks!” to camera. Switchboard jammed, Sandy Ross rushing around, Jon, you’re responsible for this, what are you doing? And Gary Crowther got sacked from the show, and guess who replaced him. Thank you Granada. Ray Teret.
Because there was that whole creepy side to everything. And that’s what I hated about light entertainment because I knew that light entertainment was a lie. I knew it was a dirty rotten lie, and I thought about how many of those people in light entertainment were just creepy, and Teret was creepy. And in retrospect he was let loose on an audience of teenagers. Come on. And he actually said the immortal thing, which was he introduced a video for Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division. Ian had just killed himself, and he said, “Oh, here’s a singer! Here’s a single by a great new female singer, Joy Division! Ho, ho, ho, ho!” Oh, God. And then – so we have Ray Teret, and then one week we had Freddie Starr, so you can imagine what that was like, he was taking his cock out behind the camera and waggling it at the presenters while they were doing live links, and then we had Dexys Midnight Runners on one week, and their idea of fun was to grab every kid in sight and say, “Every time you see a red light, just run in front of the camera and say: ‘Karl Marx rules’.” So the whole way through the programme was kids running come through going, “Karl Marx rules! Karl Marx rules!” Haha! It was a nightmare. And that was what I was doing in 1980. It must have been between Hypotheticals and This is Your Right and so I was zig-zagging between serious programming, or fairly serious programming, and light entertainment. I couldn’t deal with all those big hussly things where, you know, you’ve got to do it every week and it’s, you know, ‘get that band in’ and the bands are smoking dope in the Portakabins, and… it was just a nightmare. It was a complete and utter nightmare, a real low point. Actually, I had several low points but that was a real low point. So after that I must have done Hypotheticals but I couldn’t get any toehold in any of the fiefdoms, that I now realise, possibly again because what I wanted to do was… I really wanted to do what I wanted to do, I knew what I wanted to do, and I would have liked to have got a toehold with Brian Lapping but I didn’t quite make it, I fit it, and obviously I wasn’t of the World in Action ilk by that stage because of course World in Action had become something different from what it was in the ‘60s, it was much more investigative and also quite macho, and also some would say I was a sort of radio with pictures to be honest, it was Mike Gillard banging on people’s doors, that’s what I remember about World in Action a lot of the time. And I was interested in television, I was interested in images and sounds and words – I actually love making films. I absolutely adore it, and I thought it was supposed to be play, and I didn’t understand all these rigid hierarchies and I didn’t understand… I mean, of course I understood, but I didn’t… I understood intellectually, but I didn’t understand emotionally. I didn’t understand why, when you’re in the middle of something and you’re in VT, it had to stop at two minutes to one. That drove me insane. And I was very, very aware that – you know I talked about this, Steve – that as a researcher we were very, very low down. We were actually squeezed, because we were exploited and occasionally bullied, not always, I mean I was bullied by some, but I wasn’t bullied by Geoff Moore who was very nice to me and actually very patient, but you know, you were liable to exploitation by producers and at the same time the actual union members, because obviously the ACTT was dominated by studio staff, you know, the guy was Malcolm (??27:08) and he was a lighting guy wasn’t he? He was lighting.
SK: He became an (ENG cameraman? 27:15), didn’t he?
JJ: He was lighting.
He was lighting. And they were all real ‘don’t touch that dial’ merchants. And so you were kind of squeezed actually, so you didn’t really have anybody to fight your corner. But I do remember those (masked? 27:32) union meetings and just being amazed, and what I felt was that the management had ceded control of the running of the company to the unions, and I felt that it was to some extent it was a failure of management as well.
JJ: How do you think researchers were exploited?
Like I was saying to you about Sandy, I didn’t get a proper weekend, I was furious. I was absolutely furious. And you always… you’d often have to stay. A classic example, another example, which was the end of my career at Granada, the definite end, was after… so I did Hypotheticals and I spent nine months making Teenage which I will tell you about later, and then I worked on a kind of studio entertainment thing which was a kind of heightened concert by Kid Creole and the Coconut, which is a great idea, Liddiment directed, and I had to go all over the country chasing August Darnell, so I had to go to Nottingham, I had to go here, I had to go there, and it was fine, you know, so I was obviously doing a lot of extra hours and a lot of driving, and worked my tits off, it all went really well on the night, and then there was a standoff in the back car park, and what had happened is… we bussed kids from London from a club called Beetroot and they all… and I knew the guy who was organising it, (??29:01), was called Olly, and unbeknownst to us had all taken ecstasy, so this was 1982 and it was one of the first outbreaks of ecstasy in the UK, way before it became a thing, and they were all on E. So they are out of control. And so, you know, way-hey, the gig was all fine, and then they were on the bus and the coach driver said, “I’m not driving this down to London without somebody from Granada there,” so Steve Morrison turns to me in the car park and says, “You go, Jon,” and I say, “No.” So he sent poor (Ian Softly? 29:37 ) down. I wasn’t going to get on a bus with all these idiots and try and play policeman, you know, it’s not my job. And of course, because I’d said no that was the end of everything really. But Tony said to me afterwards, “You shouldn’t have done that, Jon.” And I said, “But Tony, the job wasn’t worth it to me if that’s what I had to do in order to keep it. Don’t you understand?” That was my breaking point.
JJ: Tell me a bit about working with Tony Wilson.
Well, Tony and I worked on another… we were always working on things… in retrospect now, and I piece it together, actually I was always working on things that never worked. I did three pilots for possible programs and none of them got made, so that in itself is indicative. The first pilot was in 1979: (??30:20), I’m laughing because actually, this all seems so absurd to me now, it’s so funny, at the time of course it’s deadly serious but I’m not talking myself down when I say that, I just had no idea, and I look back and I look like a dick. I just had no idea! But in a way, that was sort of kind of great as well. We did this thing called (??30:44) and it was written by Tony Warren. So I got very close with Tony. Tony and I hated each other to start with and we bitched and bitched and bitched, and eventually he took me out and we had a drink, and then we got on like a house on fire. Because Tony was very difficult. He was very waspish, he was coming out of a terrible period of alcoholism, you know, he was quite a difficult man. But I really liked him and he told me… we used to go to Stables and used to tell me lots of gossip, and he told me about all the gay gossip in the 60s, particularly about Brian Epstein, because he worked with Epstein on the Ferry Cross the Mersey soundtrack, film, and him telling me about Epstein, parenthetically, led the Brian Epstein documentary that I did with Arena which won the BAFTA, which I worked on in ’97, it won a BAFTA in ’98. And so that was one of the things that came out of this whole experience, quite a lot did. Anyway, (??31:47 ), script written by Tony Warren and Carol Ann Duffy… it was just… we had a scene where Margi was singing Cottage for Sale, and she was dressed in this huge (?? on stilts? 32:04) a huge dress that was shaped like a cottage, and Carol Ann and I were so demented by this stage that we actually… and the kids came out of the door and we said, “”Right we want the kids swinging out of Margi on ropes,” you know, Margi’s pubic hairs, and we want crabs on the ropes as though she’s got an infestation. We were that crazy, that’s what I mean. And it got made, it’s probably in the Granada vault somewhere. And we interviewed April Ashley, it was basically a complete campfest, and it was completely ridiculous in retrospect, and it obviously never got commissioned, it’s there lurking in the Granada vaults. And the second one I did, to go back to your question, was obviously Teenage, we should talk about, and then the third one I did was with Sandy Ross who I had obviously made it up with by that point in retrospect, although I think we had a you know an armed truce, and we did a thing called Wilsons World of Pop. And that was the sort of music, it was like a current affairs pop show. I’ve got a tape of it somewhere, upstairs. We went off to interview Dexys Midnight Runners who weren’t talking to the music press at that time, and I remember going to Birmingham to do that, and we did a whole programme, which is actually not bad, but again it never got made. Tony and I really liked… oh, and we did number one. I can’t put all this in order but we did another one which was a documentary about Trafford Park, which I was obsessed with. Because Tony used Trafford Park in some of the imagery for his band, so there’s a group called A Certain Ratio that he used the Metrolinx tower and all that stuff, and of course by ’82, I remember I definitely did this in ’82, by ’82, Trafford Park was really… this was before the big, whatever it is, Trafford Park, whatever it is now, it was almost completely derelict and again it’s this idea of urban space but also the collapse of the manufacturing industry. And Tony went around with the situation, this book, spouting the situation as nonsense all the way through it, but it was still quite fun, you know, that was an interesting thing to do but again not easy to slot in to, you know, the fiefdoms basically, and this was the problem that I think Granada had got, very (??34:36), the arteries had hardened by that stage, and you couldn’t cross the boundaries, you couldn’t…
JJ: Do you think that was a problem for Tony?
Yes, very much so. Tony and I were very close and were quite similar in that we had wide-ranging interests, and when I met Tony first he was like a hippy intellectual who’s very interested in urban space and architecture, who is obsessed with Rem Koolhaas, and so was I, I was interested in all these things; it wasn’t just pop, you know, words and zoning and, you know, all this sort of stuff… industrial… going into your environment, and obviously the thing about Manchester that was fascinating was the post-industrialisation and post-manufacturing, which of course was happening with Thatcher. So in retrospect we were completely dead on in many respects, doing a thing about Trafford Park in ’82 was actually a really great thing to do. We probably didn’t do it as well as we could have done now, because we didn’t quite put it all together with the context of what was happening politically, and you know Tony wandering around city situations spouting a whole load of stuff could have been replaced by something else. But yes, I mean, our instincts were dead on the money but I think it was so difficult by that stage to work within that hierarchy, certainly for me it was, I found (??36:00) at times was impossible. And Tony obviously as well I would have thought… I never really talked to him about that, we were always talking about ideas and his bands and all that sort of stuff, you know.
JJ: Because presumably that seems like a really missed opportunity for Granada, that he had this huge impact on Manchester and its music that was happening alongside but Granada never really tapped into that.
Well, I think again it goes back to this thing about people in television not understanding pop culture and not actually liking it. And of course, nobody knew at the time, everybody goes ‘Joy Division, rah, rah, rah’ now, but you know, it was a man and a dog then. It really was. There was 200 people involved.
JJ: So does this link in to what you were saying about Teenage?
Well again, you see ,I finally made the film of Teenage 30 years later. As a feature documentary in America. I made it in New York with a New York director. And Teenage again, it was another fabulous disaster, and more I think about it…I mean, I’m laughing about it but at the time it was a bit galling, you know, I just… I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.
JJ: So was it your idea?
JJ: OK so to talk me through that.
That came because of my meeting Gus McDonald, and the memo that I’d written about subcultures, about (??37:23) book, which was kind of skeletal. We were fleshing that out into a simpler history. So Geoff Moore picked up and run with it, amazingly – and actually I had a lot of time for Geoff, he was he was very, very good and very fair, and very thorough. I think I exasperated him and we spent nine months on it, and I had a wonderful summer, must have been ’81, where I went round all the archive houses and just looked at endless bits of footage. From the first programme is going to be ’45 to‘56.
JJ: So is it going to be a series of however many programmes?
Yes. It never worked out… certainly the first one, which is a pilot, was going to be ‘45-‘56. So it was from the end of the war to rock ‘n’ roll. And it was going to include cosh boys and teddy boys and spivs and early rock ‘n’ roll, and that kind of thing, and we got these fabulous clips from all those films like Hue and Cry and I’d be always in a viewing room, viewing theatre in Granada looking at these old films like Hue and Cry and It Always Rains on Sunday and all these great Ealing films… cosh boys, which was (??38:47) to the second film. And it was going to be a sort of montage, and so I brought in my then friends with whom I’m no longer friends and haven’t been for a while, Peter York, was going to present it and Julian Temple was going to direct it. So after I had this wonderful summer going around all these are archive houses – I went to ICC, I went to ITN, I went to Pathé, I went to this, I went to that, the BBC, I had a fantastic time. That was probably my high spot at Granada, was to spend the whole summer going in these places two or three days at a time by myself, making notes, proper research, and then being lateral, you know, not just going for teenagers, but getting the atmosphere and the mood of the time, which is of course very much from I’ve gone on to do, and that was that was just great – I was doing proper research. And then we got Julian Temple in to direct it, who had a couple of good ideas but basically couldn’t direct his way out of a paper bag, never been in studio before and he was hopeless and arrogant, and he alienated the studio staff, and he had one terrific idea, was that we used the climactic scene from The Blue Lamp where Dirk Bogarde is a spiv and shoots George Dixon, PC Dixon, and he laid the theme from Shaft over it, which was great, that was fantastic. But the rest of it was just a nightmare, and we had this idea of having these kids in sort of vitrines, and so in reception, one week there were teddy boys being lairy and the next week there would be skinheads terrifying everybody, the next week there would be mods terrifying everybody, you know, so that was noted. And then Peter York was sort of fantastically irritating as well. And we finished a very rough plan, I’ve got a tape of it somewhere, at the end of ’81, and it just got canned. Somebody said no. I think a lot of resources were going… it wasn’t really there to be honest, I think the team wasn’t up to it, and also again, it wasn’t the kind of thing that Granada wanted to make. It was very busy with Brideshead, and it had put a lot of money into that, and I think that Temple and Peter York were just too annoying!
JJ: And was it at that point that you…
I began to think, “Eye, eye, this is not…” so my last year was really… I did this Kid Creole thing, and I must have done the Tony Wilson thing about Trafford Park, and Kid Creole and then suddenly I went for director’s board, totally cocked it up, got to the second board, totally cocked up and then I was back on Granada Reports and that was it, I had to go. And then Granada Reports, I actually went back to the total incompetence of my first three months because I just couldn’t be bothered. I remember I went to some meeting in Colne that I had to cover and I was just so disinterested and did it all wrong, and Rachel was furious with me, and then she just realised that I actually had to be let loose on something I wanted to do, and I went off and made a film about something, I can’t remember what it was, and it was really great and she was very pleased with me, but I just thought, “No, this is it, I don’t want to be turning up and…” I learnt then… someone there called Peter McHugh?
SK: Peter McHugh, yes.
And he was a shitbag. And I learnt really to dislike news journalists, and I don’t like news journalists.
JJ: Tell me about… because I think there’s something particular to researchers, directors and producers is that the idea of a board.
JJ: Which is kind more than an interview. For somebody who’s never experienced that…
Well, it was a full-blown attack, really.
JJ: So how many people would be on it.
Five or six. And the first time was full-blown… and actually after my first board, Chris Pine came up to me and he said, you know, “You’re really obnoxious in that board.” And I said, “What the hell do you expect? You were being obnoxious to me! Do you mind?” And he went, “Ughhh.” Haha. And I was always brought up to stand up for myself, so if someone’s having a goat me I have a go back. But the final board, I was so out to lunch I can’t even tell you. They asked me what… I must have been on a self-destruct mission. They asked me what programme I wanted to make, and I said I wanted to do a drama documentary about the life of Chairman Mao! (Laughs loudly) And the only nice person there was Leslie Woodhead, who was always really nice to me and always very supportive, and of course it was fantastic because I really respected him.
JJ: I think one of the questions that people have said is, “Where do you want to be in five years time?”
You know, I don’t remember what I said to that, but I obviously didn’t get the job. And I’m sort of glad I didn’t actually, because I think Granada was going to go through a downscaling period pretty much after I left, which is December ‘82.
JJ: So could you see the signs of the changes?
Not yet, no. But I did very quickly afterwards, because I went to work at TV-AM, which was another television disaster. I just regard my time in television as a total disaster, I’m afraid. Not in a bad way, in retrospect it’s funny, but TV-AM was completely chaotic and I got myself a sinecure for nine months where I just programmed one pop video a day and that’s all I had to do, so I could do my whole week’s work in the morning and just bunked off and wrote articles for The Face and other magazines. And anyway, TV-AM was obviously non-unionised, it was run by Bruce Gyngell and Greg Dyke, it was… you know, it was chaotic and you know, there was no union representation. Then I suddenly remembered one day a whole lot of Granada executives turned up. Mike Short turned up, and I thought, “What is Mike Short doing here? Oh, he’s picking up tips.” So that must have been late ‘8, early ‘84. That’s what I thought the dissolving was going to happen. I suddenly thought, “Oh, okay, they’re going to do this to Granada.” Because TV-AM really was an awful place to work.
JJ: To get back to something really kind of a practical level, you said that the offices you worked in were in awful and I wondered if you could describe the environment.
I just remember pastel colours everywhere. And I remember being so… and you can see them in Daniel Meadows’ photos, there would be posters up on the walls, and there would be… oh, God. I think the building was beginning to really fray at the edges, it must have been 20 years after it was built, was it built in ’58?
SK: No, about ’60.
Same difference really. It was getting on for 20 years after it was built and it was really begin to fray. I’m just interested in the disparity between the glamorous image of working in television and the reality of it, and that fascinated me, because the reality of it was fairly squalid. I mean, people smoked then, didn’t they? And horrible, cheap office furniture and everybody will terrible clothes… I was interested in that then. I mean, deputation from Jon Plowman and Liddiment came up to me one day and said, “You’re gay, how come you don’t wear clothes like us and how come you don’t like disco? You know, (??46:43), piss off. But it was that sort of thing. As I said before, it was all rainbow badges and pastel colours and boiler suits and… it was as naff as old knickers really, and it’s just all lumped together, the clothes and the work environment is all lumped together as one. It was just really, really sort of run-down, very bad taste, and not even in a good way really; it was just slightly squalid, I seem to remember. It was fraying a bit.
JJ: And did you ever go to those places like the canteen or the Stables?
Oh, yes – I was always in the canteen.
JJ: Did you think that was similarly squalid?
No, I seem to remember not minding the canteen. I mean, I’ve always been into practical food. I didn’t like the canteen. I just remember… I remember being in there once and we had a group called Dead or Alive in, Pete Burns, and he was not the total outrageous Pete Burns as we know, pretty much on the way. So 75% there. I remember he stopped all the heads in the canteen, I’ve never seen anything like it. And Margi was always getting into trouble in the canteen, she was always dropping trays or something, there was always some scene going on with Margi there. Actually I quite liked the canteen because you’d see all the actors in there, and that was a laugh. I sort of quite liked that aspect of it actually, you felt it was a bit more of a community with the canteen, and the Stables was just where people want to go get pissed, wasn’t it?
JJ: So when you worked in Liverpool, tell me about your impressions of the Liverpool office.
Well, I must have worked on Exchange Flags twice, I can’t remember how long I was there for, I must have been there for at least six months, and of course Liverpool was really the poor relation and it was away from the main sort of panopticon of the Manchester office. You know, nobody really… to be honest it was a fig leaf wasn’t it really, nobody managed to give a shit about Liverpool. And so it was much more relaxed, much less high-pressure, a lot more fun actually, in the people there of course were a lot more fun because you didn’t have people like Rod Caird, you know, looking over your shoulder. And certainly by the time I worked there – I knew people in Liverpool anyway, so I had quite a social life, I knew Adrian Henri and Carol Ann, I spent a lot of time with them, and I spent a lot of time with Margi’s friends – and I knew people in bands there as well like Jane Casey and a couple of other people, Pete Wylie, people like that. And Exchange Flags, again was like a more fun What’s On – it was more fun because it wasn’t so high pressure, it was probably quite well run, I don’t remember who the presenter was, but it just seemed to be a lot more fun, and the people in the office were a lot more fun, you know, secretaries and everything, and you know, I always got on with them anyway because to be honest they were a lot more fun than the production staff, than the producer or the director. So I remember we had Orange Juice in, I think we had Pete Burns in again, and there are loads of complaints after Pete Burns had been in because he was so loud and I think that might have been the final band we had in, and we had… my final act was to do this show called Sex Change Flags and I don’t know how anybody agreed to it, but anyway they did, and this is my thing about having fun – I thought television was fun, and so why not call it Sex Change Flags and why not have a bunch of whole sex changes, it might be quite interesting. And then of course so we had April Ashley in, who was very much a Grande Dame, and then we had a woman who become a man that was fine and then we have maybe another transgender person, and I was do fine, it was my last day in Liverpool and I’d been out the night before was very hung over, and I was maintaining… and then this 60-year-old docker came in in a red dress and high heels, red high heels, and I freaked and hid in the loos! I couldn’t take it! Oh dear… but it must have gone off okay, because I don’t remember getting into trouble for it. It was a sort of an end of term feeling really, and I don’t think anybody took Exchange Flags particularly seriously. So obviously, there’s a lot more fun… I remember meeting Derek Hatton there and thinking he was shifty because he had bad shoes. So… Tony always had bad shoes; he always dressed quite well in expensive suits and had terrible shoes.
JJ: This was at a stage when Hatton was a militant.
Yes. But he had terrible shoes. I know this sounds trivial, but actually, clothes are often the key to the man, and the shoes were rally bad. And I thought, “No.”
JJ: Because in comparison with other militants he was quite a snappy dresser, wasn’t he?
I thought he was a spiv.
JJ: Yes. Yes.
I thought he was a spiv. I thought, “Yeah, I know what you are, you’re a spiv.”
JJ: He didn’t look like Tony Mulhearn did, or… he had obviously made an effort about his appearance, and I do remember him hanging around Exchange Flags quite a lot.
But I always thought he was a spic anyway, to be honest. So… yes… and Exchange Flags was in a lovely place, of course, it was lovely being in the Flags and the Town Hall. I really liked that aspect of it and I have always, again with my interest in architecture and urban zoning, I like that space, you’re near the centre of town, and of course my father worked… when he was younger, so I sort of had a family connection with Liverpool, which means I can… because my father was born in Ireland, and I can get an Irish passport, which I am now doing, thank you very much dad.
SK: Can I ask you about politics at Granada?
SK: Somebody has described Granada as being ‘unashamedly left-wing’.
Yes. I thought it was left-wing in conventional political terms. I perceived it as being very, very conservative in social terms.
JJ: So would you like to…
Yes, I would have to explain that. Obviously – and I’m very glad it was left wing because that was a real, I mean, I’ve always voted Labour since, so it was a real education for me – and I was very much struck by the poverty in the north west. I totally got it that this was the correct response, and going talking to Frances Clark and hearing her experience and all that, so that was a complete education for, you know, a middle class London boy, been to public school in Cambridge, and had never… I’ve never seriously been into politics at university. I went to a sit-in once and everything was going fine and then somebody the piped up and said, “We are in the sit-in condemn the Heath government for so-and-so.” I thought, “Oh, fuck off.” Just a stupid… and so… but I found that very interesting, and in retrospect I’m glad I experienced that, even though I didn’t dive in to that political side, but then it sort of infused everything you did really.
JJ: And you think that Granada represented that kind of… the poverty that you saw when you moved to Manchester? Do you think that was replicated in Granada’s programmes?
I don’t think the company made a bad fist of it actually. I think it did, and it was like I said in the Daniel Meadows thing of seeing Bob Greaves talking to somebody in the street and then you get this picture of this woman looking out from her door and everything’s really grotty, and there’s grass coming up between the paving stones, and it’s just… and you think, “Granada did have a connection to the north west and the people in the north west.” I do genuinely feel that. I think it went pretty soon after I left in ’82, I don’t see that it really maintained. But you know it was pretty… I mean, it had the local news and it had the magazine programmes Liverpool and it had the magazine program in… and had This is Your Right, which I think probably deserves more credit than it got actually, because my last act on This is Your Right is actually talking to a Muslim GP in Liverpool about starting a – and I can’t remember what language it was, it might have been Punjabi – called Aap Kaa Hak, and that was my last act, was to set that up. And that was fascinating. I mean, I was very open-minded about all that stuff. And so to me that was completely fascinating, and I don’t see how you couldn’t have become more political being not only in the Granada environment but also in the environment of the north west at that time, at the start of Thatcherism. It was brutal. And I remember particularly Liverpool, and I remember going round Liverpool and I had this memory recently – because of course Heseltine has been back in the news – it must have been when I was on Granada Reports and Heseltine was stomping around some… I remember going in with a film crew to see Heseltine stomping around the (??56:32) estate, and actually have to say in retrospect Heseltine was quite impressive, but I remember thinking about the disparity between… you’d had the Toxteth riots, and how really poor Liverpool was, really desperate, in a way that Manchester was more cloaked because the poverty was much more to the north and the east, and in Hulme, where it was cloaked by the existence of Didsbury and Chorlton and the suburbs in the south, and you could almost not really see it. But Liverpool was in your face the whole time. And I genuinely found that very… and of course I had a tie-in to it with Margi, you know, so here I am, you know, the southerner who was brought up in Kensington from the age of 13, going to Margi’s house in Anfield – that was a mind-blower. And Margi and I were very close, it wasn’t like, “Well, you’re posh and you’re working class, we were just friends, very close friends. And so that to me was a complete and utter education. But when I say conservative, there’s a whole other side to Granada which was what I was saying about it being a hierarchy, the becoming sclerotic and roles being very firmly defined, and people actually being socially quite conservative. So particularly from the point of view of being gay, I never got any shit because I wasn’t necessarily… I mean, I didn’t deny it but I wasn’t… I was just who I was and it was obvious that I was gay and I didn’t really talk about it very much, and I don’t remember getting into trouble for it. But I just thought people like… I’m afraid to say it, I just thought all the kind of disco queens were just ridiculous, and very sort of conservative… and, you know, also I observed that there was a lot of sexism then, because of course in the gender politics at the time, and I was interested in gender politics, and in the gender politics of the time, feminism was much more advanced than gay rights in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, so I had more than a passing interest in feminism, and in fact the first March I ever went on was when I was at Granada and it was against the Corrie Bill, do you remember that? And that was first march I ever went on. Because gay rights hadn’t got the stage that there were these massive Not only sorry going on cried with us like going on that there were these massive marches, and I only started going on Pride marches… it must have been when I was back in London in the later ‘80s, in the mid to late ‘80s, and then you had the whole AIDS thing and a whole kind of wave of gay activism, that’s when I really got involved with gay politics, with people like Derek Jarman, and so that was five years later. But certainly there was no gay politics worth speaking of at the time, and you know, I was aware of, you know, somebody like Vicky Price is my friend, who is quite unusual to have a technician, a skilled technician who was a woman. And obviously Rachel Hebditch, who I actually really liked, a lot of people didn’t like her but I really get on with her, she was quite unusual as well. And I think I must have… did Bruce live in that lovely row of streets near Platt Fields
Yes, okay, I went to his house once. And I never quite… I can’t remember what happened, it must have been very near the end of my time at Granada because that could have been a friendship that developed because I really liked him, him and his partner, and I liked where they lived, but now when I look back on it, gay rights were so primitive then. And of course we had Anderton, who was a complete and utter total bloody nightmare, who’s still alive apparently, he was very funny when we were doing the Joy Division documentary, we had somebody really slagging off Anderton, and somebody in the edit said, “Is he still alive?” And then we realised he was, and we had to cut him out. But yes, no, it was super great as far as I was concerned, and Granada really seemed, in those essential ways, to be 10-20 years behind London, still, in the ‘90s, which of course it wouldn’t be now. In those particular… in terms of gender politics and those areas, and I was very aware of that, and I thought, “My God, I’ve stepped back in time.”
JJ: Because people have described Granada as being paternalistic in the way that it was run, in that, you know, in some ways it was like a family, in some of the ways that they looked after you. But there was obviously a downside to that.
Well I… you know, in retrospect of course, as I said to Steve on the phone, we did the film about Joy Division which was funded by the band, and by the management, and it won a Grierson for the best documentary film of the year. We were all really surprise, we didn’t even have a speech prepared, and we just went, “Oh, thanks, great.” And I found out afterwards that most of the board had been Granada-ites. And one of them came up to me, I can’t remember her name, I looked for her afterwards and I couldn’t find her, who said, “You got the atmosphere of Manchester in the late 70s really well,” which is our intention because it was again, like I said earlier, Joy Division seemed to be very much to be a group that reflected the mood and the environment of Manchester in the late ‘70s, so it was valid to do what we did in the film, which was to put them in context of time and place, which pop groups can be very good at reflecting. And anyway, I suddenly thought, “Oh, Granada really is a kind of family.” And I just thought that was great, but it’s much more in retrospect than at the time. I mean, it was… I do think it was very, very tough, it was very tough for me. I didn’t complain at the time because I was used to putting up with a whole load of shit to be honest, but when I look back on it, it was very tough. You know, I always knew that what I wanted to do would be hard because what I wanted to do was what I wanted to do. And people don’t want you to do what you want to do! Being independent. It’s always hard to be independent, truly independent. And so I wasn’t complaining but it was tough. I was always in trouble. I was always in trouble in any hierarchy I was in, by the way, because there was some part of me that just never got it. What you had to do to be in a hierarchy. I just… on a fundamental level, I might have learnt a lot of the codes but because of my personality, on a fundamental level I never got it, and that would slip out and I’d do something stupid or I’d forget about something, or I cross a line or I’d pick up something in the studio and have people screaming, you know, all this stuff. It was very rigid, Granada, by this stage, and there were lots of things you couldn’t do. And I got really annoyed by that. And so I liked the, you know, I liked in a lot of ways, I mean obviously it’s gone far too far the other way, but in a lot of ways I liked the freedom you had with, you know, when we did Teenage, the shoot, we had a monster row with the union whether or not, because we’re using these kids in cages, it was a drama shoot, and if it had been a drama shoot we would have had to Equity people. And it was so insane. And eventually it was prevailed upon these kids were not actors. Oh, but then they’ve got to be extras. And it seemed to me that… the structures that had grown up for a very good reason were becoming unworkable for the reality of making television programmes. I’m not on… I mean, I’m totally sympathetic to the unions in that I’m totally – unless of course you’re talking about (?)– I’m totally in favour of workers’ rights. I hate people getting exploited. I’m incensed by internships. People should get paid well, at least reasonably, for what they do – and that means minimum wage plus. So, you know, I’m very much in favour of that. People should be paid for working, and you know, I get asked still now to do lots of stuff for free and I just say, “Fuck off.” How dare you? The BBC called me up fairly recently and said, “We’re doing a programme about people’s favourite novels, and Sebastian thought I was talking about Gormenghast, and I said, “Well, I love Gormenghast, I could talk about that for hours.” So we talked a bit and then they said… I said, “Is there a fee?” and they said, “Well, no.” And I said, “Well, you have just wasted my time for a quarter of an hour. How dare you. You are being paid, Sebastian Faulkes is being paid, why are you not paying me?” Slam. It happens all the time and it’s disgusting. I’m in a position where I can make a fuss about it –kids in their 20s now cannot, and it infuriates me. So, there’s part of me that’s very, very pro the idea of people’s rights in work, but it had really gone beyond, and everybody knew it had gone beyond by the late ‘70s early ‘80s, as far as the unions were concerned. I’m sorry, I wish it wasn’t so, but it really had. I mean of those mass… and bloody Malcolm Wotsisface, what an absolute bastard. He was so intransigent and ugly. It was just awful. And I remember being in those meetings and just really feeling alienated, partly because the unions, you know, the hard core unionites, thought we were baby management, which of course on some on some levels we were baby management, doesn’t mean that we weren’t getting a whole shit dumped on us. You know. So it’s kind of an impossible… the whole thing in retrospect now we’re talking about it, was creaking at the seams. I now realise. And I was ahead of my time in making the kind of… I mean, the fact I was ahead of my time is that I’d gone on to make the programmes, the films that I wanted to make. And successfully. So I had a clear idea of what I wanted, but it took me a long time to get there. But…
JJ: But you couldn’t have made it in the environment that was…
No, no, no, no – it was impossible for me. I couldn’t do it. It’s such a shame in retrospect but it wasn’t flexible enough to deal with somebody like me, you know, I wasn’t a revolutionary; I wanted to make interesting programmes but just couldn’t by then. Maybe if I’d been there 10 years before I had been able to.
SK: The ‘60s and early ‘70s you probably could have done.
JJ: Because somebody like Leslie I think…
Exactly. He’s my idol.
JJ: He had the freedom to almost go off and do what he wanted, didn’t he?
Yes. He was the guy that I aspired to. He was my sort of hero in the organisation. And he also, as I said, he was incredibly nice to me for no good reason at all; we have a connection there. But, you know, I couldn’t have been Leslie Woodhead then, in that time, because it was so… you know, you had drama, which was very much a thing with Derek Granger and Brideshead. you had the whole LE department, which was very much a thing, with David Liddiment, you had… a lot of the documentary stuff had been hived off into World in Action, resources put into that, you know, there was no… I realised really a few months before I left that there was no place for me there really.
JJ: No, there was not much wiggle room, was there?
Oh, good! Exhausting. Do we need to talk any more about Tony? Have we got enough about Tony?
JJ: Well, if there’s things that…
SK: If you think you’ve got more to say.
JJ: About Tony. Because I think what’s interesting is, of all the people that people talk about, Tony is there as a constant thread. And it’s interesting that the impact that he made, or… I don’t know, that people talk very fondly about him or his importance to Granada.
I saw Tony is a very complex person. I thought he was a genius presenter and have an enormous respect for that. I thought he was… I thought with Janet Street Porter, he was by far… those two were the best presenters in the UK because they did something beyond just parroting, reading off autocue. This was a major source of disillusion to me, by the way, when I actually started working in telly, was how unglamorous it was and how people had to read autocue, and just other presenters who you thought were these people, were actually saying what other people have written for them, so that was a major source of disillusion, and we all thought presenters were all a bit sort of the wanky type to be honest. I mean, I don’t know whether you remember that, because I’m thinking, “They’re just a bunch of tossers really, just reading off the bloody autocue,” and of course that wasn’t entirely fair, but you know… anyway, as I said, I was very close to Tony and I saw him as a bit of a hippy intellectual, and he and I were very, very close, really until I left Granada because, you know, I’d write about his bands and I did posters for Joy Division, and Tony was a real impresario, like he brought a lot of different people together and gave them freedom to be creative which is something great. He wasn’t… but the downside of Tony was that – and I remember feeling this time – was that Tony would always be rushing around and he would never stop. “Oh Jon, I’m off to Moston to pick up an amp for Peter Hook.” “Oh, I’m going there.” “Oh, I’ve got to go to Sheffield, do you want to come with me?” You know, set off at 11 o’clock and smoke dope on the Snake Pass and not get in til two o’clock, and all this kind of rushing around just endlessly in his red Peugeot with all sorts of amplifiers and leads in the back – it was just complete chaos. And he seemed to me to live his life in complete chaos and not to… and I don’t think ever did find his centre, and that’s a very, very dangerous thing because you’re actually sort of, as a person, you’re quite fragmented, you’re leaving bits of yourself all over the place. And so… and Tony, obviously, Tony changed my life. I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, which I always say, and he was inspiring and he was a very big figure in Manchester I remember driving around with Tony a lot, and he’d stop at traffic lights and (people would be like, “Yo, Tony!” and all this stuff, you know. “Tony!” So he was a huge figure in Manchester. But of course, being a Londoner, I was always slightly sceptical because I thought, “Well actually Tony, you’ve got to go to London and you’ve got to be able to make it there,” and of course Tony bottled it, and so he was kind of doomed not to be a national figure, which he could have been, but he was doomed to stay in Manchester. And then of course, he made a virtue out of a necessity, which meant that he did become a great booster of Manchester from you know, in the later ‘80s and ‘90s, which actually did a lot of good for the city, so it all turned out okay in the end. Tony could be very careless with people. He could also be a bully. He had disastrous relationships with women. He and I had major issues about the fact he was used to give me shit about being gay, which really surprises people when I tell them, but it’s true. Because of course Tony had issues, and Tony’s issues primarily focussed on his father, Sidney, who turned out to be gay. And Sidney’s partner was called Tony. And Sidney’s partner was a vicious queen, Sidney was a nice old aunty, but Tony was a vicious queen, and Tony W felt… just couldn’t deal with it, so he gave me a hell of shit for years about being gay, and then the late ‘80s I turned up some stupid Granada programme… I drove up from London and I saw… it was one of those things I never heard it before or since I looked in my rear view mirror and there was an accident happening, there were cars flying all over the road and I then got caught in another traffic jam, and I only had one tape the car, which is a group called The Stooges who were completely (??73:32), one Stooges on one side and another album on the other side called Raw Power, which is the wildest thing you’ve ever heard. So by the time I’d had five hours in the car listening to the Stooges and I arrived in Granada, I was completely wild. And Tony came up to me in the green room and, in front of everybody, very loudly, said, “Oh Jon, come on, give us a kiss, you know you want to.” And I went “Oh. Tony. I couldn’t possibly do that – I’m trying to decide between you or your dad.” And that was kind of the end of our friendship, because I was so fucking pissed off with it. Fuck off. You know? And that was (??74:09) the end of our friendship really. I mean, he was always in touch with me by remote control about what was going on at the Haç, and I did a book about the Hacienda and the last days of Factory, but we never retained our closeness really. Because also I thought Tony was getting decadent and I always thought that Tony was very much… was very impressionable actually, and quite naïve in some ways. And Tony would always be coloured by the people that he was associating with. So probably when I first met him he was associating with kind of all those hippy Didsbury types but by the late 80s he was associating with bloody Shaun Ryder and the Happy Mondays who I just thought were poisonous drug trolls, and I hated them. I hate heroin and I can’t stand cocaine and I just thought the whole thing was ghastly. And Tony was very irresponsible about drugs, he promoted the Happy Mondays as a drug band, and you have to be really careful about all that stuff. And so when the Hacienda was all going tits up I sort of basically turned around and said, “I told you so,” which didn’t go very well. And of course Tony, as I now realise, was taking cocaine at that time, and I just regard that as a fantastically stupid thing to do, and one of the contributors to his health problems, because of course Rob Gretton took a lot of cocaine and he had a major health breakdown in the mid-’80s. And of course Martin Hannett got very involved with heroin and died… he got off heroin and then hit the booze and he died in 1990, so suddenly all my friends from my early days in Granada were dead, you know, Martin died, in 1991 I spent a lot of time with Martin in the summer of (?)– I was always over at his house – Martin always liked drugs, he’d been the chemist and he was just… he always had the best drugs. Then Rob died in 1999. I gave a funeral oration in a church in Wythenshawe, it was awful, absolutely awful, I was terrified, and then Tony died and I didn’t go to his funeral, I jut couldn’t bear it. I’d had enough. And I didn’t want to see all those people and I didn’t want to… I was too… when Tony died I was furious at him, I was so angry with him, which is obviously one of the phases of grief, and in that state I could not go to the funeral because I would have got into arguments so I didn’t go. And I don’t regret it, I just thought about him, and I’ve thought about him since, and you know, Tony was really great but he was a very problematic character and in some ways he was the architect of his own downfall, because of the reasons that I said which is that, in a way, he was never at rest with himself and if you are going to survive you need to be, on some fundamental level, at rest with yourself you need to find your centre, and Tony was just… couldn’t do it.
JJ: What do you think he got from working at Granada?
Well, it gave him a platform. It made him a star. It plugged him into the life of the north west, only managed to knock Liverpool, that was another stupid side of Tony, he was always horrible about Liverpool, which is such a stupid thing to do. And there was that whole kind of tribal thing, I never understood it, because I’m very fond of both Manchester and Liverpool, and I have family connections in Liverpool. You know, my great grandmother… my grandmother… I’ve only just found this out, actually. My paternal grandmother, who died long before I was born, this has all come out because of me applying for an Irish passport, was a member of the Crane family who ran the music shops. And my father was brought up in New Brighton from the age of about 10, so you know, I’m very fond of Liverpool, and I’m very fond of Manchester as well so I never got all of that tribal bullshit, and Tony course was very irresponsible about that. But no, he was a.. and of course this Factory he and Rob and Martin and Peter Saville and Alan Erasmus, it wasn’t just Tony, Tony was the PR man. Alan was the guy that ran around and found the clubs and really did a lot of the grunt work. Rob was the guy who understood music and managed the principal band. Saville designed it, so it was a team, it wasn’t just Tony. And Tony was a kind of conceptualiser and the planner and PR and running around and saying ‘darling’ and everything and you know, putting the sort of icing on the cake. So that was him in factory and the whole North West/Manchester booster thing didn’t really come in until quite a lot later, which is what he is sort of remembered for now, and I’m equivocal about that, to be honest.
JJ: I suppose for Granada, they got something from his music persona.
Not a lot. He was a star. He was a Granada star before he did the music thing. I don’t necessarily think they did at all actually, I don’t think they knew what to do with Tony. And again, it goes back to what I’m saying is that TV executives don’t understand pop music, they don’t like it. It’s not what they’re about. I mean, the famous stories of when the Sex Pistols came to play, came to do (??79:50), which Tony arranged, was a real stroke of genius on his part. I mean Tony was very talented in that respect, and you can only be that for a short while, by the way, really on the ball… you’ve got about three years of being able to do that, because after then you just can’t do it because it’s too tiring. I had the same on the music press; I was really on the ball for about three years and then it just fades because it’s too tiring to be that on the ball. And Tony was really on the ball, so got the Sex Pistols, first British television appearance, you know, endlessly – Granada must have made so much money from that, same Leslie and The Beatles, it’s exactly the same deal. You know, he got the first live performances of generation-founding acts. Obviously The Beatles is a gazillion times bigger than the Sex Pistols, but the principle is still there. Anyway, so they’re all there, and with them is a woman called Jordan who worked in the sex shop with Malcolm McClaren, and she’s got an arm band with a Swastika on, and she’s cavorting around the stage, and Sidney Bernstein tunes in – do you remember when you used to be able to tune into studios! – and he tunes in and he sees this (s/local Ryan Madchen, though the internet tells me the woman was Siouxsie Sioux 81:08) wearing a Swastika, and of course there’s a series of very serious phone calls. And that didn’t do Tony any good. And then there was the thing with Iggy Pop cavorting around the stage and saying ‘fuck’. It’s a wonderful piece of footage, but he’s wearing a horse’s tail and saying ‘fuck’ and doing all that, and Mike Scott sees it. And Tony was always in trouble, like me, but in a different way. You know, they just didn’t get it. I don’t think that they saw his music involvement as an asset at all. Because in fact it’s only in retrospect with Tony that that’s all been put together. And in fact, the last time I saw Tony was when we filmed him for the Joy Division documentary, and he was obviously very ill. And I did the interview with him and he was very sweet at the end and he said, “Jon, that was a very professional interview,” which I took as high praise, and that was it. That was the last time I saw him. So there is a whole lot of death in that story. And for me, as I said, my close friends in the early days of Granada were people in Factory and they’re now all dead, which is ridiculous. So there’s that whole side to it as well, and you think, “Well, why?” And I’m afraid probably drugs were involved, and you know, that whole rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. You know, I just thank God I never went there. I never did Class A’s very well or very much.
SK: Did you get a sense that drugs were being used elsewhere in Granada?
I never… well, because I was very discreet about my own drug use, which was at that time almost entirely marijuana, and then for a period I didn’t even do that, so… and for me my social life was very much involved with the Factory mob, so drugs were not an issue because it was sort of the music industry and drugs are all over the music industry, so that’s that, so it wasn’t even thought about really. And obviously I do remember having to be very careful when you’re driving around Manchester late at night that you didn’t have anything on you, because I was always being stopped. This is another facet of Manchester at the time – if you’re out late at night in a non-standard car you’d be stopped, and stopped at least once a week, maybe twice a week, driving around at night, any time after 10 o’clock; it’s almost like a police state as far as I was concerned, you know, and of course smoking dope you get paranoid anyway. And Tony was caught a couple of times flinging joint ends out of the car, you know. No… I presumed speed or coke might have been used but I never really saw it because I was always very discreet about my drug use and I didn’t talk about it with other people, so I don’t know. I’m sure (Ed someone? 83:59) took drugs. Ed was always somebody I wanted to be friends with, but he never wanted to be friends with me, so that was that really.
JJ: He’s living in Paris, isn’t he? He’s an artist.
He’s a funny guy. Ed was always a funny guy.
JJ: He wrote an article in the…
SK: Is he is Paris now?
JJ: He wrote an article about how he had lived in Paris for 10 years, and in the article itself he talked about (Heysel?). And I just thought… it was just apropos of nothing, it was just stuck in there, and I thought, “Why are you sticking that in?” I meant to show it to you.
Well, because Ed’s a bit of a headbanger. And also… I don’t know… funnily enough, although in many ways we must have been on the same side of things, I never connected with Ed, never, ever.
SK: I didn’t either. Actually, this is (??84:59 )
JJ: Do you want me to switch off?
Well, before we do that, is there anything else you want me to say?
SK: No. (??85:03 )
JJ: That’s really good. I’ll tell you just one other thing, because… for you, Margi Clarke seems to be really important. I don’t really know how Granada really used her, and then what happened. And she was an interesting female presenter at a time when there wasn’t a lot of female presenters.
Well, like I said my initial experience of Margi was with Carol Ann, so they were a unit, so I suddenly had these two – I had just joined Granada – I had these two really strong women.
JJ: So was Carol Ann Duffy a researcher?
No, she was writing Margi’s scripts.
JJ: Okay, so she was…
And I remember one night we were driving out to Kirkby for some reason, me and Carol Ann and Margi, we had just met each other, we were checking each other out, and suddenly this is dreadful smell in the car, and Margi had farted, and I said to her, “Margi, is that you or the industrial estate?” and everybody collapsed laughing. That’s when I was in. And Carol Ann was a hoot because she was quite protective of Margi and she was very wary of me, and then of course I got to know her and Adrian, I got on like a house on fire with Adrian, he was so kind and so nice, and of course I’d seen… this was a dream come true for me, because the first gig I went to when I was 15 was (Liverpool Scene? 86:38). So it was a thrill to me to meet Adrian and be in that house in Mount Street with all these mad people, and Adrian had all… a mixture of sort of gay punks, people like me and Margi and Carol Ann and then the previous generation, and it was wonderful meeting point. And one weekend, Adrian was away and Carol Ann got drunk, and we ended up in bed together, and of course nothing happened, for obvious reasons, and then she went round telling everybody I’d shagged her! And I was really, really pleased because I got all the credit and I didn’t have to do anything! It was all completely mad. I just remember that, it was just Bohemianism-a-go-go. I remember taking blueys – which are disgusting, (??87:32) blueys was cheap speed was cheap speed and getting really drunk and ending up at the bed at the top of the house, on the top floor, I saw it recently, when I went back recently, because Adrian’s last partner, I can’t remember… oh God, what’s her name – Catherine – we looked around, and I was like, “Oh my God, you know, it’s such a wonderful house. So I was up in the top room trying to sleep off this whole concoction with a blinding headache and I had to twist myself in the bed because Adrian’s first wife Joyce had pissed the bed the night before, so I was kind of sleeping like that. And in the middle of the night had to get downstairs with a raging hangover to go down to the loo, right down to the bottom of the house. And I got down to the bottom floor where the loo was and the huge life-size blow-up of Doris Speed. So I was confronted by that three in the morning, you know, wagging her finger at me as it were. And so Margi was obviously my key into Liverpool and then I met her brother Frank Clarke who later wrote Letter to Brezhnev and another – what was the one about the boxer? She was in something about the female boxer, which was a good film. And Margi had the most amazing turnaround, which I’m never going to forget her saying about somebody, “Oh, he’s got the complexion of boiled shite.” And I just… I adored her, I really, really adored her. And she and I were like partners in crime, hence we were always in trouble, because obviously it’s my job to discipline her, which I conspicuously failed to do, because it is so much fun being with Margo. But also Margi is… she’s not a careerist and she has a self-destruct capacity, and she had an opportunity for Coronation Street – as Tyrone’s mum if you remember – which she blew… I think she was… it might have been cocaine, I can’t remember, I think she got caught with coke, and so she never quite made it at Granada, and again, they didn’t… 10 years before, they didn’t know what to do with her. Again, it goes back to what I was saying about the sclerotic quality of Granada by that stage; if you didn’t fit the grooves, you didn’t really go there. And so Margi really must have faded quite quickly. Because I remember after (??90:01), I don’t remember her doing (??90:03) because she was off What’s On, and I don’t remember much more.
JJ: See, I don’t remember it at all.
SK: I came up to Granada for an interview in July ’78 and found myself in Steve Morrison’s office, who I had met before, and while he had just done a pilot, and so the pilot was playing out, Steve was saying, “Sit here, because I want to watch this, tell me what you think about it.” And at the end of it I said, “I think she’s really good, quite an interesting person. I think she would be really good,” and Steve was saying, “I don’t know, I’m not really sure really,” and I think in a way I think that’s probably why Margi never really found her niche. I mean, Steve hired her but he never knew quite what to do with her.
This is what I was saying earlier about Steve liking interesting people, having good instincts in that area, but then now knowing what to do with them because the institution couldn’t really deal with them any more. Which is such a shame in retrospect, but it’s also the life and times of Granada and that particular time in Granada, which is very much the end of the old era really, I regarded as. I thought that the whole thing was slightly… by the time I left I thought, “The whole thing is a bit creaky now, this particular way of doing it.” and there was attraction of TV-AM, TV-AM, again, was a new way of doing it, but of course the new way of doing it was far worse than the old way! TV-AM was awful, and I left… my final job in TV-AM was working with Eve Pollard, who is a complete moron. I remember one day, I’d just got my mortgage through, and I had a massive tantrum because I couldn’t stand her any more, and I smashed my phone, smashed my desk, ran into her and called her a fucking cunt, and I didn’t even get sacked – but I knew after I’d done that I just… that was it, I really couldn’t carry on. And that was my last job – I’ve been freelance ever since, sort of June 1984.