Here’s the opening para from the booklet in the box set.
The first Factory record was a double 7″ EP, originally planned as an orthodox compilation album to be released in collaboration with Roger Eagle and Pete Fulwell of Liverpool punk club Eric’s. Eagle and Fulwell proposed a regional sampler showcasing two groups from Liverpool, and two from Manchester: The Durutti Column, and Joy Division. However, after the more experienced Liverpudlians baulked at the complexity and cost of a double 7″ package Wilson decided to go it alone.
Peter Saville has gone on record as saying that his design for the Factory Sample was based on the FAC 1 poster., and that he was trying to convey the mood rather the music, to the extent that he didn’t listen to any of the tracks before he did the cover. The music was recorded in October 1978 and the vinyl was released into the shops in December 1978. There were 5,000 copies pressed, and the two records, along with five stickers, were all hand-wrapped into a silver sleeve which was then sealed in plastic, The two records played at 33 1/3 rpm and not the standard 45 rpm.
I’m holding the facsimile from the box set in my hand. The packaging is sturdy and the attention to design detail throughout is impressive, even to my untrained eye. There’s a dedication within the sleeve – “For Don Tonay without whom….”
Don Tonay was the owner of the Russell Club in Hulme where the Factory nights had been held. He would be portrayed by Peter Kay in the film 24 Hour Party People, but by all accounts, the real Don Tonay was nothing like the blunt northern club owner stereotype he came across as in the film – but then again, it was a film in which the legend was used throughout for entertainment purposes.
As mentioned above, Joy Division and The Durutti Column were always going to be part of the FAC 2 release.
John Dowie was a Birmingham-born musical comedian who had first come to prominence (of sorts) at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1972. He had already released an EP, Another Close Shave, on Virgin Records in 1977, but when it failed to sell in any decent numbers, the label dropped him. He was a friend of Tony Wilson and, added to the fact that his material was inexpensive to produce in the studio, he was an easy addition to help make the release affordable.
Cabaret Voltaire had formed in Sheffield in 1973, but it took until November 1978 before their debut single was released on Rough Trade, with their contribution to FAC 2 was their second appearance in quick succession. They were known to Tony Wilson from playing at the Factory Club. Cabaret Voltaire had been trying to get the New Hormones label, run by Richard Boon, interested in their music, but being unable to afford anything, Boon had passed the tape to Wilson, after which the invites to play at the club and then contribute to A Factory Sample were made.
mp3: Joy Division – Digital
mp3: Joy Division – Glass
mp3: The Durutti Column – No Communication
mp3: The Durutti Column – Thin Ice (detail)
mp3: John Dowie – Acne
mp3: John Dowie – Idiot
mp3: John Dowie – Hitler’s Liver
mp3: Cabaret Voltaire – Baader-Meinhof
mp3: Cabaret Voltaire – Sex In Secret
One thing you can say about the music is that it didn’t conform to any type, style, genre or whatever, and I reckon you’d have been hard-pressed to find someone back in December 1979, outside the Factory family, to say they cared for all the tracks. Even then, Peter Saville has said on a number of occasions that the only song he actually likes is Digital.
If you’re fortunate enough to have an original copy of A Factory Sample, which is in very good nick and still has all five stickers as part of the package, then you could expect it to fetch upwards of £600 if you wanted to flog it. The cheapest copy on Discogs just now is £300, but the seller admits that there is storage wear to the sleeve and the stickers are long gone.