Phil Griffin remembers Tony Wilson

Tony and I were… he was one year my senior, and we met when we were at school because Tony was a gobby sort, and across the Irwell in Salford he went to the De La Salle School, and I went to St Bede’s Grammar, which was on Alexandra Road in Moss Side. Tony and I first met because if you were… if you got as far as sixth form and you wanted to socialise with girls, as of course you would, then you sort of joined the debating society. And that covered between schools. It was a good little social network actually. So I first met Tony at Adelphi, which was a girls’ school on Chapel Street in Salford. And I think we… I think we debated on opposite sides of some motion or another, but that’s when we first met, and then after that I can remember seeing Tony standing in the foyer of the Electric Circus in Crumpsall in 1976. And Tony – this was in the build up to So It Goes and what have you – and Tony was standing in the ground floor entrance to the Electric Circus and wearing an enormous sort of fedora hat, as he would. There are some photographs of him in the archive wearing that hat. But what he didn’t know, he was being dripped from the floor above, which was the floor of the gents toilet which was notoriously leaky, so he had pee dropping on his head whilst pronouncing. So yes… by the time I was at Piccadilly, obviously Tony was at Granada, and by the time I came to Granada, Tony and I… we worked together a little bit, we worked together on What’s On, which was a magazine programme which went through various iterations. …..

So Tony and I sort of saw each other quite a lot, and then we saw each other a good deal more sort of outside the day job, because Tony obviously had a big life in Manchester. Interestingly is he actually sort of became the person that he’d been rehearsing for all those years, and threw himself into the notions of regeneration. Because he was nothing if not a fashion follower, and in the sort of late 80s, at the time he had Dry Bar, he had the Haçienda, he had Factory Records, he had Peter Saville, and he had an awful lot of what was about to make a big change for Manchester. …..

Tony embodies most of what Granada brought to Manchester. It was flash, it was terribly egocentric, it was megalomaniacal, it as hugely well read, it was up itself, it was all of those things, you know? …..

The energy and the articulation and capacity to talk and talk and talk was just so dynamic and so important to the city, and so important to Granada. I mean, people forget, I mean, it was very much the day job for him, I mean, he always said that he wouldn’t hang around with telly folk because they didn’t have as good parties as music folk. You know, and his extra-mural activities are a sort of pretty well documented. But he did have great friends in telly, not least Richard and Judy. I mean, because they lived up Broadway where Tony lived, Broadway in Didsbury, for a while, but no, Tony’s legacy is astonishing, and continues through. ……

it’s important that… that decision that Tony made not to go ITN and to stay in Manchester, people… I don’t know, they might accuse him of parochialism or they might accuse him of not having the guts to make it in London; I think all that’s bollocks. I have to say this because I suffer exactly the same inertia. You know, I’ve lived in Manchester all my life, and I think it suited Tony because he likes to make a difference, and he knew that in Manchester he could – and by golly he did. And I think what a lot of people should really acknowledge is, for a man with a slightly high-pitched lightweight voice and more often than not dodgy hair, a man who wore fur coats on television while interviewing David Cassidy, he did have a huge impact and he was fantastically good at what he did, and he never brought anything into a studio other than politeness and a willingness to do right for the team. And you will never, not in my hearing anyway, I never heard anybody from them make-up room through to the guys on the lighting grids, through to the people on the sound booth, I never heard anybody say a bad word about Tony Wilson, and I think he was a very great and important television presenter.

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