TJ Davidson interview 2021

On 22nd September 2021 over 200 people packed into Manchesterís Stoller Hall for the launch of Manchesterís latest music book ďThe TJM Story Ė How to Make it big in the music industryĒ by Tony Davidson.

The launch included bands, music, videos and speakers including Peter Hook and John Robb - see Louder Than War for more information. All the photos on this page are from that event.

Mark Gale from Joy Division Day by Day the Photo Achive caught up with Tony a few days later to interview him for us.

You can watch the interview here, or read the transcript below

Tony, as you may know, owned the TJ Davidson rehearsal building in Little Peter Street, Manchester. It was where Joy Division rehearsed from 1978-1980 and where they developed all their iconic songs.

He also at the same time started a record label TJM Records which gave many Manchester bands the opportunity to put out a record.

Joy Division Centralsí Mark Gale caught up with Tony just after the book launch to gain some insights into Tonyís time as a central figure in the Manchester music scene of the post punk era.

Hi Tony.

Hi Mark, itís good be here and do an interview for Joy Division Central, itís an important part of Joy Division history.

Hi Tony, what made you decide to write a book about your time in the music business?

I thought it was important to write a book about the early history of the Manchester scene, before Factory Records came long.  I was prompted by many people to do it and it took four years to write the book.  Without being too philosophical about it, I think it is an important part of Manchester history and this has been borne out by the bands that passed through T J Davidsonís such as Joy Division, Buzzcocks, The Fall who are all now regarded worldwide as legendary bands. Mick Middles in his foreword to my book states that the opening of my rehearsal rooms was like firing the starting pistol for a new and highly influential Manchester scene. I am really pleased with my book and it is receiving fantastic reviews and great feedback from those who have bought a copy.

Image MDMA archive

Itís not all about the important bands it features all the bands and artists which passed through T J Davidsonís and those who were on my label TJM records and part of the new movement that was punk. There was lot camaraderie with the bigger bands such as Sad Cafť and Buzzcocks helping the lesser known bands. The rehearsal room spawned a lot of creativity and was visited many artistic & creative people who are now household names such as Kevin Cummins, Anton Corbijn, whoís photographs provide a visual document of the building.

I had no idea when I bought the building of the profound effect it would have on the Manchester music scene. I used billboard posters to get the message out that bands now had somewhere to practice in the city centre.

I tried to capture in the book what went on there Ė the fun, the band rivalries etc.

The initial pressing is a full colour hardback of 500 but it will soon go to London to be published worldwide.  This hardback, first edition have almost sold out. But if anyone would like one of this initial high quality run, which is sure to become a collectors piece, they are available by contacting me via facebook messenger.

ďYou were a catalyst that sparked a revolution Tonyď (Interviewer)

All the proceeds from the posters you have produced over the past couple of years and this book are going to the Lou Macari foundation for homeless people.  This is a wonderful gesture as it would have been easy to cash in on your famous connection to some of Manchester finest groups.  How much have you raised so far and how much do you hope to raise?

We made £1000 in ticket sales from my book launch at the Stoller Hall in Manchester. It was a great night having Hooky, Mike Sweeney, John Robb and my PA Georgina Robinson onboard and we had video contributions from BBC Radio DJ Mark Radcliffe, Alan Adler (the graphic designer who designed the record sleeves for my punk label TJM Records), Billy Duffy and Mick Rossi (Slaughter & the Dogs). Georgina whom I must thank for her hard work and those people helped to create a really special evening for everyone who attended which was borne out by the many people who stayed behind afterwards to get their books signed.

So far we have raised £4000 in total to be given to Louís charity.


What sort of things can Joy Division fans read about in your book Tony?

Right, there is a whole host of things, Firstly, when Joy Division came they came as a band called Warsaw.  I looked at the band initially and thought they are nice lads, they are just doing this as a hobby I thought. We already had bands who were breaking like Buzzcocks and Slaughter and the Dogs (who had already toured in Europe), so Joy Division were right down the pecking order. I went to the second Manchester Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade hall (when I was managing The Drones) and in front of me were all the lads who would become Warsaw. We all got caught up in the excitement of punk at it motivated me set the rehearsal rooms. I used to see Joy Division regularly at T J Davidsonís they were very nice lads, very easy to talk to. When they bought their first record (An Ideal For Living) which had the Nazi sleeve, they werenít in any way right wing, they were just doing it for a reaction, which they certainly got. The funny thing was they came into my office because they owed me 3 months in back rent and they said do want these singles and could they knock this off the rent?  Now those singles go for £3000 each today and I had 25 in each box which I gave away. But this what stories are made of. Another story, they must have looked at me and thought that Tony Davidson heís doing something right, we are going to ask him to manage us. Hooky asked me and I turned them down flatly. I said give me a couple of weeks to think about it, they took me for a kebab in Piccadilly, Manchester city centre, under the Piccadilly hotel, a greasy place, there no Burger Kingís or MacDonaldís back then! Within that couple of weeks Iíd signed Slaughter and the Dogs whom I thought were a better option. Talk about the man who turned The Beatles down !! When Rob Gretton came down we had a good laugh about it and he was the man to bring them forward. Of course I remember them  filming the video for LWTUA at T J Davidsonís and Anton Corbijn the photographer being there.  I also lent them £500 to bring out An Ideal For Living on 12Ē and if you look on the back sleeve it says ďmany thanks to Tony DavidsonĒ. 

Joy Division had a unique sound. At that time a lot of the bands were doing the four chord riffs, the sound emitting from Joy Division room was totally unique, totally off the wall, they were developing and a lot people thought whatís that music and I could hear from my office the sound emitting from that room, it was something unique. The Buzzcocks had it as well and The Fall but Joy Division have gone on to become famous all over the world and Iím just really proud to be associated with it. Having Hooky there for my book launch was magnificent and he was so magnanimous and just entered into the spirit of the thing. I hadnít seen him for 40 years at he was just a fantastic guy who does a lot for charity (Hooky waived his fee for the evening as it was for Lou Macariís charity) and he works hard with his new band. I have nothing but respect for him.

Iíd like to talk about some people who are sadly longer with us.

Letís start with Rob Gretton.

Rob was a fantastic guy. I knew Rob when he managed the band The Panik and he was connected with Rabid Records. He used to come down to TJM and we would chat about football & music and he wanted to know about certain bands. He said, are there any good bands who have got anything about them Tony? I said,  Do you want to know about something thatís different? Joy Division. They have asked me to manage them and I am thinking about it. If you want to get involved in something different Rob, then this is the band to get involved with. So Rob, took up my suggestion and he followed it through. Rob was a great manager and he did a lot for the band and he the right man for the job. God rest his soul, he passed away far too young.

Tony Wilson:

My relationship with Tony was he used to come down to the rehearsal room with a little ensemble (entourage) wearing his Panama hat. Sometimes he was friendly and sometimes he was off hand, I just have to be honest. But what Tony went on to do for Manchester music is just fantastic. He had the platform & was articulate enough to develop it through his TV channel (Granada Reports/So It Goes). Another soul that is lost to Manchester music, dies of cancer, far too early. Near the end of his life I did meet him, he became a very devout Catholic, we bumped into each other at the hidden gem when he was ravaged with cancer. People donít realise that he used to go to a priest to talk about his life and confess etc and he talked to me about it. There was another side to Tony. He led a rock and roll decadent lifestyle, heíd be the first to admit it, but, he was such an intelligent guy and near the end he wanted piece in his life and in an off the wall way he went back to a kind of religious life, questioning where do you after life? He didnít believe you got thrown in a hole and that was the end of it. It was very poignant, meeting him like that. A lot of people donít know that side of Tony Wilson, he was a great guy.

And Ian Curtis:

Ian Curtis was a really nice guy. Do you know Ian never had an edge with me. He used to come into my office. Ian came down to ask if I could lend them £500 to bring the 12Ē version of ďAn Ideal For LivingĒ because the single was that poor (the sound quality).

(Ian & Debbie had previously taken out a similar loan to pay for the 7Ē to be pressed with disastrous results).

I said yes, no problem to the loan. They owed my £100 in back rent and there is a famous letter. I said put the £100 as well just to make sure I got it (a lot of bands didnít pay). So they paid the extra money and that was start of Joy Divisions rise to fame and Iím really proud to be part of that. These things can swept under the carpet but they are an important part of the development of these bands. It makes me happy that I was part of something great.

Iím glad the legacy of TJM has come out in book form and we now have a top London publisher who has taken it on and will develop it.

Do you remember hearing about Ianís suicide?

Yes, I do. They were due to go to America and it was just after they filmed the LWTUA video at T J Davidsonís. I remember on the day that Anton Corbijn (now a famous Dutch photographer & film director) was taking photos for a magazine article said to me ďIan doesnít look rightĒ, just like an observation. Now I knew prior to that Ian came down see me and he was very melancholy. But you donít think he is going to go to the extreme of what happened. I can only surmise that he was guilt ridden to my mind. He did mention about his wife and his affair with a Belgian girl. He probably got loads of female attention but it is not for me to judge. These things probably built up with him and his wife and now he is a rock and roll star, immortalised like John Lennon etc. He was a massive talent and the poor guy's gone.

Coming back to your book Tony. What has been the most rewarding aspect of writing your memoirs?

The most rewarding aspect to see it the book published and come to fruition.  I had fantastic graphic designer Chris Connolly. Kevin Cummins I would like to thanks as couple of photos went in the book that were taken by him but were wrongly credited to others. He was very magnanimous and didnít want any money and gave me some good advice about copyright. So a big up to Kevin Cummins. Heís a great photographer and he began his career taking photos at TJM and is now world famous.

What achievement are you most proud of in you career in the music industry?

Iím proud of taking the chance of not settling down to a middle-class life. I was going to get married and buy quite a big property In Wilmslow as Iíd made quite a bit of money when the price of gold shot up (Tony was previously a jeweller). Thankfully I didnít put the money into a house but bought the rehearsal studios building. Which I ran at a loss and put money into developing my record label TJM Records (who released singles by The Distractions, Slaughter & the Dogs Etc). It was two years and we had a fantastic ride. The bands I met, the characters I met and it all came to fruition on my book launch night. Iím part of history and I am proud of that really.

ďManchester music history could have been much poorer without your insight and vision Tony. Bands crucially need facilitators such as yourself in order to developĒ. (Interviewer).

If Joy Division fans could go back in time Tony they would save that famous Joy Division rehearsal room door from demolition.

Do you know what, I had the mind to do that at the time. I had to sell the property just to get my money back. I wish I kept as it would be worth 2-3 million now. But I was under pressure from my wife to buy a house and settle down and I had to pay off a big tax debt. Iím sorry I did it. Yes, I was going to take the door off, So I got two work men cos it was a massive heavy door and I went down but it had already been boarded up with heavy metal shutters, so that was it really.

What are the songs stand out for you from that late 1970ís period Tony.

Obviously ďLove Will Tear Us ApartĒ, such an iconic song with the video shot at the TJM studios.

I could hear Buzzcocks developing their sound as their room was above my office. A song like ďEver Fallen In LoveĒ. They would be playing riffs and Shelley would walk in and just start strumming away. The nucleus of the song would emerge and it sounded brilliant and the next thing you would hear it on Top Of The Pops (BBC music show). I used to say to them when they popped down what is that song? They were very nonchalant, very low key about it. A great band, great musicians.

The Fall I wouldnít say made musical, catchy songs but Mark was a totally unique character and I like their later work in particular.

Of the more traditional bands I liked Sad Cafť and ďEveryday HurtsĒ

Finally, whatís next for Tony Davidson? Would you consider getting involved in the music business again for example?

Well, I have. I have given it great thought and a promoter from London we are working with ...  After my book launch at The Stoller Hall (the concert venue for Manchester famous Chethamís school of music) which a lot of people didnít know existed in Manchester. Iíve been offered a partnership to develop some bands. We are working with a major act from the sixties (I canít say which one until it comes to fruition and everything is signed) to put them on for two nights at The Stoller hall.  Itís very exciting so it onward and upwards.

I would like to say there are a few books left which you order by contacting me via my Facebook messenger page

Thank you Tony

Thank you Mark. You do a lot for Joy Division through your great photo archive Facebook page