Jon Savage on his relationship 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 programmes and none of them got made, so that in itself is indicative. The first pilot was in 1979, 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 that 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, the 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 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 Wilson’s 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 (?),the arteries had hardened by that stage, and you couldn’t cross the boundaries, you couldn’t…

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 at times it 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.


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