A couple of days ago I heard the news that promoter Alan Wise had passed away. His daughter, only three months before, had committed suicide after he'd fought a long battle trying to secure counselling for her depression. He was only 63.
I was familiar with Alan Wise, and aware of his reputation. Although less discussed than his peers, he was a much-respected and larger-than-life Mancunian who promoted and managed The Fall, and had worked with Tony Wilson & New Order. But I'd originally known of him as Nico's long-suffering but loyal manager for much of the 80s.
Nico and Wise's working relationship was brilliantly captured in the highly acclaimed and comical masterpiece, 'Songs They Never Play on the Radio', written by James Young who played keyboards for the German chanteuse.
I asked James Young some questions about his old friend and touring companion.
Sorry to hear the bad news, James. Could you tell readers who Alan Wise was and why he was important?
Alan Wise was the only real Punk I ever knew although he never adhered to
any youth movement like Punk or Mod or Hippie etc. But he stayed true to
an inner anarchic spirit which was parallel to the Punk era from which
he emerged. He was a maverick in an age that despises the true individualist
yet celebrates a phoney commercial pseudo-individualism. He has been
sidelined by corporate UK Pop culture because of that. Alan gave a lot of
now famous groups and artists their start...not because he had any
interest in their music but because he liked to create an event. Alan
genuinely didn't give a fuck... except about: Manchester United, the
Judeo-Christian tradition, Mahler, Dostoevsky and dangerously sexy women.
Those who've read your novel, 'Songs They Never Play on The
Radio', will have enjoyed the character of Dr Demetrius. Is it true to
say he was more than loosely based on Alan Wise?
Dr Demetrius is/was an aspect of Alan. All attempts at biography are a
sham especially with such a mercurial figure as Alan. He used to call
himself 'Doctor'...he liked the instant prestige it gave him in the eyes
of the bourgeoisie who he despised.
How did the Alan Wise in real life differ from your portrayal of him in
'Songs They Never Play on the Radio'?
In real life Alan Wise was ruder and more outrageous than the neurasthenic
freak I attempted to depict. He never cooked a meal in his life and slept with
over a thousand women without being a rock star...now how do you figure
How did Alan react to your book, and his character of DD?
He thought it was an outrageous caricature of a deeply sensitive human
being. Then he said it would make a good movie and if that happened he
wanted 50% of anything I got because 'I' was a cheeky fucker. I got it down
to 25%. But then the movie got shelved.
You once said you wanted to feature AW in a project called '30 Years on
Valium'? Tell us a little about that?
It got postponed to '40 Years on Valium' then in the past couple of years
we've been discussing the possibility of '50 Years on Valium'. And so I
started writing it. It's kind of a sequel to 'Songs They Never Play On The
Radio' ... but more offensive. Al was introduced to Valium at the age of 13.
In the 1960s 'Mother's little helper' was also adolescent's little helper.
Alan and I collaborated on about 20 pages the rest will be a memoir but
I'm writing it in the first person...as if I was Al. His instructions were
to leave no hold unbarred, he expressly demanded that it must be filthy,
funny and if I can crank up my few remaining brain cells... insightful.
Besides managing and promoting Nico and The Fall what else was AW involved in?
Al was the manager of the Russell Club...where the Manchester New Wave
scene had its home. It was there they had Factory night...Tony Wilson was
his partner, Buzzcocks his favourite band. It was the performance lab
for Joy Division, John Cooper Clarke, The Fall etc etc. Unlike Tony, Alan
was indifferent to the music. Tony believed in it and he was in love with
Joy Division. Alan didn't care about the music he just liked a happening,
preferably where there was a bit of creative chaos and the group didn't
get paid. So when it came time to decide about the club or the record
label, Tony chose the label (Factory) and Al the club. He was a social
animal, people meant more to him than art.
How did you feel when you heard the news about AW?
No more fun.
Is there anything else you'd like to say about him?
Al and I met when were 13...second year at grammar school in Manchester.
He was carrying a copy of the Penguin edition Jean Paul Sartre 'Nausea'
with the Salvador Dali cover (unread) and I was carrying a copy of the
Eric Dolphy record 'Out To Lunch!' (unlistened to)...what a pair of tossers.