Factory Records: Categories
The Big Numbers Game
So why was it Factory's cataloguing system became legendary?
It is perhaps an intriguing indictment of the Factory Records legacy that even the way their records was labelled became notorious. Being given a FAC number started as a way to conform with the record industry, but quickly turned into a statement about Factory's ethos.
"You can't produce records without matrix numbers. You always have three letters" explains Tony Wilson. "So we said 'Why not call this FAC1' and Saville says 'No, that's not number one. My poster's number one, this is number two'. I think it was really Saville's idea that his poster should have a matrix number that lead us to thinking everything, not just records, should have matrix numbers."
In a company that existed to promote artistic endeavour and quite possibly embodied the entrepreneurial spirit over financial sense, it was only fitting that every idea, every concept, in fact everything Factory should be given a number and catalogued accordingly.
The FAC numbers have, to date, reached the dizzy heights of 451, but there are numerous gaps in between, as Tony struggled to make every important release numerically poignant as well. The patterns started with Vini Reilly's Durutti Column outfit, as Tony describes: We were at FAC10 for [Joy Division album] Unknown Pleasures, then 11 for X-O-Dus, and 12 and then 13, then Vini's album is 14. It was only when we did the next album that we said 'Well what's this going to be? Well that one was 14, well this could be 24'. And the fact that the second album that Vini was on, was a four sides, with four artists. Two albums, four artists, it was like 'Oh look, 24!' Four artists, two vinyl, how appropriate."
So while Vini's work always tried to end on a four, Joy Division singles ended on a three, Happy Monday's singles ended in two, but their albums ended on zero. What may seem to be a nightmare in logistical methodology, was, according to Tony, the opposite: "It was like you were falling into appropriateness all the time".
The biggest FAC numbers were undoubtedly the 'ones'. Ones represented an idea, or concept. The most memorable of these is FAC51 - The Haçienda - a number not devised by coincidence either: "When Factory went down, Rob [Gretton, New Order Manager] was always pissed off that the Haçienda was part of Factory and not his own" Tony recalls. "He actually had the Haçienda logo redesigned to take away the FAC51, even though everybody loved it. I always made the point that it doesn't matter if Rob removes the 51, because it still says 51 in the word Haçienda, because of the cedilla under the C. There is no cedilla in Spanish, so the reason Peter put the cedilla in originally, was that the cedilla on the 'c' and the 'i' make 51."
FAC 101 is officially listed as Factory's intention to turn a set of disused warehouses into loft apartments, a parallel of building innovation on a par with the Haçienda itself. And today, the irony that FAC51 is being turned into loft apartments is not lost on Tony. "We were visionary in that sense, that lofts would come one day. But we ran out of money - we were too busy with clubs and bars. We tried to explain lofts to people in Manchester and nobody understood it. We actually walked the Manchester Development corporation around a building in Sackville Street, which became lofts ten years later, and said 'These would make great lofts' and they went 'What are lofts?' "
Tony remains fondly attached to the one lasting and visible legacy of Factory Records in Manchester - Dry 201. Factory's foray into the bar scene was one of the first of its kind in Manchester. Opened by New Order in 1989, it was a tonic to the rowdy scene, providing an artistic and stylish space, somewhere to drink without a dress code and in relative sanity. "I always thought the way 51 and 201 worked with the bar were fantastic" says Tony. "The fact that people in Manchester still call it Dry 201 is fantastic. I think the main thing is that like everything else, it wasn't intentional. It happened by accident and everyone goes 'Oh, isn't that fantastic?', the numbering system, but it was just pure accident. It then took on a life of its own."
- extract from The Big Numbers Game (from the now-defunct website for the movie 24 Hour Party People.
- FANZINE / MAGAZINE
- SPOKEN WORD DRAMA