Factoryphiles Unite!

South Florida has plenty of 24 Hour Party People too, you know

In fact, to a former fanatical Factoryphile, 24 Hour Party People and the so-called "Factory story" concentrate too heavily on Wilson's egotistical exploits and not enough on the lesser-knowns who dwell in its formidable back catalog. True, the career of white funkateers A Certain Ratio is acknowledged, and the contributions of the Durutti Column -- the first and still quintessential Factory band -- while not examined in depth, are given a token measure of respect. Wilson never wavered in his championing of classically trained Durutti guitarist Vini Reilly, who had no commercial potential whatsoever but was one of the most talented men ever to pick up the instrument.

It isn't surprising that the Durutti Column doesn't have a bigger role in the story; the band's prolific output never added up to anything but marginal sales. At least there's one celestial Durutti track included on the 24 Hour Party People soundtrack (which also includes six pivotal yet non-Factory-released songs). But someday, it would be interesting to shine a flashlight on some of the more obscure Factory offerings that played a role in the label's development. For starters, both Section 25 and Crispy Ambulance were inseparable from Joy Division in the early days: The former would perform encores with JD, and the latter's vocalist, Alan Hempsall, would regularly fill in for Curtis when he became ill. Both bands have seen their 1980s-era records reissued of late. Crispy Ambulance even mounted a reunion tour in 2000 and recorded a new album this year. Despite producing some excellent pre-acid house dance breakthroughs in the mid-'80s, Section 25 never made another record after 1988's Love and Hate, and now its Webpage pitifully informs faithful fans that new songs have been written and are ready to be recorded -- if followers can raise enough funds to buy Section 25 new instruments! Neither the music of Section 25 nor that of Crispy Ambulance, it has been reported, ever managed to gain the favor of Tony Wilson.

But Wilson was enamored of the Stockholm Monsters, Quando Quango, and the Wake -- three bands that inexplicably languished, despite having mass-appeal potential. Two label compilations, Young, Popular and Sexy (a vinyl-only release from 1987) and 1991's Palatine (the four-CD box set that served as Factory's epitaph), include their songs, along with contributions from the ones that got away. OMD released its first single on Factory in 1979 only to go on to international acclaim and sales figures immediately thereafter. In the late 1980s, the folk-inflected Railway Children (and also James) did the same thing. The list of Factory obscurities goes on and on: such vanished entities as Red Turns To..., Northside, Tunnelvision, Stanton-Miranda, Kalima, and the Shark Vegas don't even merit footnotes to the story but still helped write one of the most entertaining music fables ever.

Some of the music produced by our little South Florida labels may well be consigned to the same fate, but entrepreneurs like Artigas and Copeletti nevertheless devote as much attention to their projects as did the Manchester trend-setters. Last weekend, Artigas distributed copies of some of Spy-Fi's finest products: Machete's amazing eponymous album; a bubbly, candylike recording by Sacramento pop outfit Baby Grand; the debut from Miami's Bling Bling, on which Artigas drums; and a three-inch disc in a personalized package from Zira Lowtech -- which is actually Artigas's solo project. He zealously oversees his label as Wilson did, not caring whether he earns a dime but making sure that his stuff stands out -- musically and visually -- from the increasing glut of the CD-burner brigade. One day, Spy-Fi could even have its own high-tech office, complete with a $30,000 conference table, just like Factory did.

"That's all we can hope for," Artigas sighs.

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