People often say to me why don't I write a book, a book about being Kevin Hewick I guess. It's a nice idea in some ways but I've never thought there would be much market for it and for most readers the interest in the 98% of my life I was not on Factory Records would be far less than in the 2% I was. However petty it sounds maybe that bugs my ego a bit as much of the other 98% has been pretty amazing too, some of it quite absurd, some of it tragic, some of it triumphant, all of it amazing in it's way.
Perhaps 'All Was Numbered' is my singing book about those brief Wilsonfied days, maybe I've just copped out of a literary effort and hidden behind a guitar as usual.
A year ago I had barely a notion of any such project except for some very vague lyrics written as a blurred reaction to the deep sorrow I felt after Larry Cassidy of Section 25 died in February 2010. Larry's passing hit a lot of us hard and evoked a lot of feelings about the old Factory days. I started really feeling a sense of family about us all. Anybody who lived through those times and was still here to tell their tale was special indeed. From Ian Curtis to Martin Hannett, Rob Gretton,Tony Wilson and then Larry, so many were gone from those magical days of magical music. It added to those feelings when I got to open for a couple of Section 25's early shows without Larry and when Peter Hook invited me to play the support slots to his 2010 'Unknown Pleasures' and 2011 'Closer' shows with The Light at FAC 251. I got to see characters like Hooky, Vin Cassidy, Jez Kerr, Simon Topping and Rowetta a few times and always felt a truly overwhelming urge to hug them all repeatedly.
Then came a surprise offer from Paul Morley for me to appear in his tribute to Tony Wilson in The Purcell Room at London's Southbank, part of the 2011 Meltdown Festival. Paul said it'd be like a chat show onstage with guests talking about Tony and Factory related memories but maybe I could also do some musical item too? I wondered what, Morley even sent me a link to John Cale's 'Mr Wilson' saying maybe I could adapt that? Then I got a line in my head "Mr Madchester met me at Piccadilly..".. which he did on February 7th 1980, my first ever trip to the celestial city and my first ever meeting of many with the myth-to-be that was Anthony Howard Wilson..
I soon found other song ideas sprang from this and I dug back to my early scribblings about Larry Cassidy and shaped them into something more useable. I was already very into the song-cycle concept and having already done the score for rock musical 'Keep Your Flipped Wigs On' and the lyrics for Italian band Unfolk's 'Venetian Book Of The Dead' it started to dawn on me that this Factory theme was another one that I could develop further.
By the time of Paul Morleys Southbank evening along with Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Peter Saville and poet Mike Garry I had ' FAC 501''Overshadowplaying' and 'Memory Stone'. I had some great feedback from Paul and people like my friend Jude Rawlins of Subterraneans, Hacienda designer Ben Kelly and Geoff Travis of Rough Trade. I even got to meet Meltdown curator Ray Davis. After that my wife Cynthia had to scrape me off the ceiling from talking to one of the written-in-stone legends of rock. It was one of those nights you feel like you've won the lottery but then you have to go back to life as it often is in my native Leicester, and to how you connect up other bits and pieces to make a whole album out of nothing.
James Masters and Peter Hook had said to me about making an EP for Hacienda Records, these songs seemed perfect for that. Then I noticed Jon De Silva had done an 8 track album as The Virgo Mechanically Replayed for the label - my ideas were potentially brimming over into a longer format so I thought I'd try to get something longer under the wire too and I kept Hacienda informed of my progress in the following months.
To get myself in the mood was I faithfully listening to lots of Factory related music at the time? No of course not! The Duke Spirit 'Bruiser' / Ane Brun 'Changing Of The Seasons' and 'It All Starts With One' / Radiohead 'King Of Limbs' / Kate Bush '50 Words For Snow' / Josh T Pearson 'Last Of The Country Gentleman' - these latter three influenced the idea of an album of seven or eight longer songs - and lots of my old standbys: Gene Clark's 'No Other' with eight songs, Doll By Doll's 'Remember' with seven, Roy Harpers 'Stormcock' with just four, David Bowie - the 'plastic soul' period of 'Young Americans' and 'Station To Station' especially - it was noted how 'Station To Station' did it all with six in it's case.
Whilst doing further writing I was dogged by a long lasting series of recurring chest infections that wrecked my singing voice for potential recording. Due to this and other problems with myself I abandoned attempts in July/August to get something down with my long suffering friend Gaz Birtles.
As my voice recovered and as I tried to re-arrange doing something in a different studio with a different approach my old friend Jackie Leven passed away in November. A massive influence on me he is very much in these songs too but like Larry Cassidy it might take me a year or two to pen some lyrics worthy of him, my sadness over Jackie's loss still feels very deep. Though Jackie isn't mentioned in it 'Out Of Order' was written in that mourning period.
At last in December 2011 I got into a studio now armed with my seven Fac-related numbers. Adam Ellis's Deadline proved to be a good choice. It's a lovely place, intimate and with a good sound for both acoustic and electric instruments. Adam is calm, has good ears, great studio equipment and a lot of skill in how to work it. With a break for Christmas/New Year after just 48 hours of session time we had a wrap in January 2012. Chris Conway not only contributed the haunting electric piano parts on 'French Jazz Station' he also did some editing and tweaks in the mastering. We had a kind of Leicester celebrity choir, 9 strong, and also Dave Dhonau's cello and Flash's drumming and percussion on it too.
I'm fairly impossible to please, the harshest critic of every note and syllable of my work but I do feel proud of it. My wife Cynthia was massively supportive, my dear old dad too. It feels like something of us all not just of me.
'All Was Numbered' has a 'Now Is Then' and a 'Then is Now' that bookend three 'Then' songs - 'FAC 501' 'Overshadowplaying' and 'Memory Stone' - and three 'Now' songs - 'Out of Order' 'Larry' and 'French Jazz Station'.
Factory Records had/has a futuristic past, a past that reaches far into the future, like many great ideas it stands as being something that much of the world hasn't caught up with yet. It probably never will. It was all a big joke and yet it was all really serious and crucial all at the same time.
I often call my role in it 'a bit part' or that I was 'gormless bystander' who watched history being made before his very eyes but didn't really make any impact on that history itself though I can dispute that viewpoint a bit, I was there, Tony Wilson did hone a lot of the myth in my ears. I did chip in, I tried to talk him out of the Hacienda, I tried to stop the 80s happening, Hacienda, Ibiza, the lot lol. I'm kind of sorry that I failed because once MTV killed the radio star and everybody stopped calling discos discos we got.. the 80s we deserved..
NOW IS THEN
Those of us of a certain age can lament certain pasts - flower powered psychedelia, glam rock, punk rock, rock 'n' roll, rock rock, roll roll... so I've put them all in here, my hippy heroes Lennon and Hendrix, Nico who went from Warhol superstar to honorary Manc.. and Ian Curtis,"Curtis and Lennon they died in the same year.." 1980, the year zero between the golden age and the not-so golden age - for the likes of me anyway.
This was originally an unassuming little piece but it just grew and grew, the chorus lending itself to a 'Give Peace A Chance' chant - via 'Hey Jude' and Band Aid. I got the idea of having a few Leicester music friends joining in at the end but the individual vocals were that good it turned into a vox pop everyman / everywoman series of voices from Camilla Kent sounding like a popstar to Mr Plow sounding like a hillbilly - the sequence is Camilla (popstar), Adam Ellis (Michael Buble), Gem White (fragile and childlike),Mr Plow (hillbilly Johnny Cash), Dan White (Bono-esque histrionics), Martha Bean (perfection), Kenton Hall (Tom Petty meets young Bob Dylan), Poozies folk legend Sally Barker (female power ballad) and Diesel Park West rock legend John Butler (male power ballad)
Famously the Factory catalogue number for Tony Wilson's funeral. I nearly went but I hadn't seen him for years didn't know if I should. I wish I had now. A very personal song about when Tony and I were close.. and when we drifted apart.. my period of contact with him was 1979-82.
In the end it had to be naked and alone, voice and acoustic guitar, in contrast to the 10 voices, 4 guitars, bass and drums and percussion of 'Now Is Then'
There was never ever going to be a version that could please me but this one seemed an honest emotive reading.
"All was numbered / Though the plan was there was no plan"
I was pleased to get a reference to 'City Fun' in for Cath Carroll and Liz Naylor.
This song is about the cult allure of Manchester versus my native Leicester or any other unhip provincial city or town. Being from The Midlands, well, we're not as cool as 'The South' or 'The North' we are 'The Midlands' literally caught in the middle of it all. I thought of us being overshadowed and outplayed and it became 'Overshadowplaying' in homage to Joy Division.
The tone is a bit tart but you can (I hope) tell it's also rather affectionate and jokey, and it's actually someone who is in awe of Manchester and it's legacy.
Drums were both real played by my regular cohort Mark 'Flash' Haynes plus programmed drums by Adam Ellis.
I thought of the engravings on tombstones, I saw a picture of Peter Saville's design for Tony's grave, it looked austere but beautiful, I must go there one day and see Tony and Martin Hannett and Rob Gretton who rest so nearby. In 2008 Bruce Mitchell showed me a picture of Tony's plot before it got it's stone, it was just a patch of muddy ground, really sad in some ways but we come from the earth and we go back to it, one day it'll have to be good enough for each one of us.
I'm joined here by the marvelous cellist Dave Dhonau on an instrument that's about 120 years old.
OUT OF ORDER
The other songs were 'Then' songs set in the past. The following are 'Now' songs set more in the present. This is 'the catalogue' idea again. Collecting it, writing books about it, making films about it. Please note I include singing a song about it too. It is also a comment about certain regrettable situations, wishing there was a way people could be reconciled. Reconciliation is a recurring theme in my lyrics, it should be a recurring theme in all life really.
The next two songs are the one's about Larry Cassidy. It was wonderful to meet up with him and Vin again in 2006 and do all the Section 25 shows we did together, some with Peter Hook too. Steve Stringer once said he thought that our 2008 European tour with Hooky was one of the best times in his life. Mine too.
The images in this song are all true. Not only do I miss the man very much, I miss the 2.00 3.00 4.00 am phone calls very much.. Larry Cassidy was the thinking mans Shaun Ryder, more punk than Johnny Rotten, more Zen that the Dalai Llama.
FRENCH JAZZ STATION
Some things, do they stay in your heard, in your heart and die with you? Or do you share them? I consider that November night in Paris on the Section 25/Peter Hook 2008 tour to be akin to some kind of mystical experience. Larry called me just as I'd got in bed. I got up threw some clothes back on and went to his room and there it all was just like the words to this song say, stuff EVERYWHERE much of it with a dayglo LARRY painted on it. The little radio played all this cool jazz, Larry said he wanted Section 25 to play music like that, to go 'jazz'.
A few hours with Larry you got into zones nobody else could take you too. He could be very funny, very perceptive and, at times a cause for great concern but he was his own man on his own course through the universe.
Sadly he would soon join the dead he spoke often of. Nobody is immortal, not even Larry Cassidy.
It's a life none of us want to leave. Even the one's who do want to leave could have been coaxed back from the awful moment they did.
For such a piece I tried to get 'into the zone'. The gifted multi-instrumentalist Chris Conway did one stunning take on his keyboard, Chris is always 'in the zone'.
THEN IS NOW
A funky accident, this comes from a guide version I did for recording engineer Adam Ellis to show him what the song was like. There were some nice HEY!!! ad libs at the end and then I thought of it a good way of bookending the album. The End.