You mentioned Tony Wilson, what kind of person was Tony?
I found Tony to be a fabulous guy, I got on really well with Tony. When I first met Tony, these were people I used to see on TV, it was really strange, I’m a local lad in terms of schooling and the rest of it. I had a college background but I wasn’t part of the Eton scene of anything like that, or Oxbridge. Just meeting the likes of Tony and the rest.
I remember the first time I saw Tony, what struck me – he was going into Granada – he had a saddle over his shoulder ‘cos that’s how he carried all his stuff and he had makeup on and I’m thinking hang on. I thought it was left over from being in studio. But no, he wore makeup. Tony was just great, he had so many brilliant ideas, he was ahead of his time.
I remember talking to Tony and he used to travel a lot obviously, he was always in the States. He used to come back and I remember he came back and he said, “Wallen, Wallen I’ve been in New York,” and he said, “There’s this craze over there and it’s phenomenal its about break dancing.” I’m thinking “What’s that?” and he was talking about street dancing and break dancing. I’d never seen it before and he said that there are these kids in Manchester apparently doing it. So we got the kids and did a documentary. It was fantastic, nobody had seen it before and Tony was the one who said, “Yeah we need to do this.”
He was just fabulous and he was just great working with him as a young researcher I didn’t know the business all that well. I was assigned with Tony and he made life so easy, he was fantastic to work with. He was a great guy, he was a really, really nice guy. And you know this thing about him hating Liverpool was just all made up. Tony knew exactly what he was doing. He was great and he loved his football, he loved Man U. I used to go to his house and he knew all the footballers, knew all the managers; he was a fantastic guy, I really miss him. He was a really good guy.
I remember him coming back from New York and him saying to me, I’ve just seen the future and I said what is it? And he said LOFTS, everybody’s getting lofts (laughter).
I know, I know. I worked on Upfront for maybe three or four years though when I talk about three or four years, these were seasonal programmes, so you’d be maybe working on it for six months, if that, ‘cos it was a series. Then the following year you’d get the second series. Again working on Upfront with Tony we had a large team of researchers getting guests in and it was a live programme. Tony was obviously doing his music and the Hacienda was taking off. Each Friday night we’d literally finish in studio and all move over to the Hacienda. I remember seeing all these bands and thinking and Tony saying this is the future man, and me thinking I don’t get all of this! And we didn’t but Tony was saying this is the future. He was really ahead of his time. He was just a visionary. I remember when he said, “What have you got as your profession in your passport?” and I said, “Journalist” and he said “Nah, that’s passé man. That’s passé.” And I said what have you got and he said, “Entrepreneur, that’s what I’ve got in my passport.” I said, “Tony you can’t have that” and he said, “Why not?”
He was just a great guy. A good guy and a really good professional. Broadcasting was in his blood. He had values and he loved the North West. You’ll recall this ‘cos everyone who worked at Granada knew of this. Tony was being lured by the BBC to join them and he went half way down the motorway to join them and he said ‘no, I’m missing Granada’ and he turned back. ‘It’s not for me.’ I can’t remember if it was Panorama or whoever who wanted him down there and he decided no it’s not for me. He had this real feel for the North West although he gave people from Liverpool stick from time to time – Manchester was always better than Liverpool – it was a game to him. He got on with people from Liverpool really well. Derek Hatton was one of the people he got on really well with. I can recall meetings with both of them. No, Tony was really good.