Shadowplayers: The Rise & Fall of Factory Records

Based on both archives and contemporary sources, this is the full story of Factory’s heroic struggles; its complex web of inventive, idiosyncratic, and tragic personalities; and ultimately, the acclaimed and much-loved music it produced

In 1978, when a “Factory for Sale” sign gave Alan Erasmus and Tony Wilson a name for their fledgling Manchester club night, they couldn’t have known it would be the launch of one of the most significant musical and cultural legacies of the late 20th century. The club’s electrifying live scene soon translated to vinyl, and Factory Records went on to become the most innovative and celebrated record label of the next 30 years. Factory introduced the listening public to bands such as Joy Division, whose Unknown Pleasures was the label’s first album release, New Order, Durutti Column, and Happy Mondays. Propelled onwards by cultural entrepreneur Tony Wilson, Factory always sought new ways to energize the popular consciousness, such as the infamous Hacienda nightclub, which enjoyed a checkered 15-year history after opening in 1982. Factory’s reputation as a cultural hub was also bolstered by its fierce commitment to its own visual identity, achieved through the iconic sleeve designs and campaigning artwork of Peter Saville. However, the lofty reputation of Factory’s artistic ventures only sporadically translated into commercial success, and when London Records pulled out of a 1992 takeover bid because of the absence of contracts, the fate of Factory Communications Ltd. was sealed. But the label’s downfall has done nothing to quell interest in the Factory legend, as films such as 24-Hour Party People and Control attest. Despite this perennial interest, the definitive, authentic story of Factory Records has never been told until now. This is the most complete, authoritative, and thoroughly researched account of how a group of provincial anarchists and entrepreneurs saw off bankers, journalists, and gun-toting gangsters to create the most influential record label of modern times.