Tony Wilson

Only the good die young

Tony Wilson would have had nothing good to say about Billy Joel. But he would have had an opinion. That was what was great about Tony, in world full of duplicity, Anthony was honest. And vibrant. And alive.

But no more.

I’m in shock.

I guess on one hand I believed him. That the predictions of his demise were exaggerated. But I know how it goes with the Big C. First you’re distraught, then you’re in denial.

I was not number one in Tony’s book. No one was. He was on a relentless personal crusade, for experience, for truth. We were only bystanders, we could only watch.

Tony was not the bumbling idiot in "24 Hour Party People". Tony was the most educated man I knew. And when he’d impart his wisdom I’d be dazzled, and feel inadequate.

In the main hall of the civic building in Manchester, there’s a series of murals depicting the region’s history. One afternoon, Tony went picture by picture. Teaching me how the industrial revolution started, right there.

As did the computer revolution. Tony showed me "Baby".

Tony took me to Liverpool, informing me that all the inhabitants of the city were "scousers", and inferior to Mancunians. Tony drew lines. He was the number one exponent of critical thinking. But unlike so many overeducated men, Tony liked rock and roll. To the last.

Yes, Tony presented the Sex Pistols. But he also was enthusiastic about Enter Shikari. You see Tony believed in the power of music, in an era when most people just see it as an ingredient in acquiring riches.

I’d recite Tony’s wisdom. But my brain is foggy and I’m afraid I won’t do it justice.

But what did he say? That any good band wouldn’t make it until their third record? That it would take it that long to find its sound, and that long for the public to come to understand it?

And Anthony believed that what was in the grooves was only part of the equation. He went on about the cover he created for Joy Division, or was it New Order, that was so expensive it insured the company would lose money on every copy.

I wish you’d known Tony Wilson. He was a rock star. Of the old kind. Someone no matter how close you got to, was different. But someone whose flame burned so bright, you couldn’t resist paying attention.

I will never forget Tony walking along the river by what are now the Hacienda apartments and relating the club’s battle with the police.

I won’t forget him getting a check for speaking to the housing authority of the next town over.

He wasn’t a role model, but he was a model. For the fully realized life.

But now it’s over. I’m sitting thousands of miles away, and he’s getting ready to go underground. But if he were me, I know he’d laugh it off, and go right on living. Believing we’re each on our own separate journey that should not be derailed, that must go forward at all cost.

The world lost an original today. I’ve never known anybody like Tony Wilson before, and I doubt I’ll meet anybody like him in the years to come. But his light will live on. It will instruct me to never take the easy path, to fight for art, to try and truly be great, that mediocrity is not a choice.

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