The Durutti Column - Never Known
‘I was always doing my own music. Even when I was in the punk band, halfway through a gig, I’d sit down on the floor, turn my back on the audience and play a little guitar piece. The audience would be flabbergasted, infuriated and throw things at me – but I was a bit of a confrontationalist and enjoyed this immensely.’
The Durutti Column were Tony Wilson’s first signing to the now-legendary Factory Records. While label-mates including Joy Division and The Happy Mondays erupted out of Manchester and ignited the city’s cultural explosion, paving the way for (among many others) The Smiths, The Stone Roses and later Oasis, The Durutti Column drifted languidly in the shadows cast by the spotlight trained on others.
The band, a vehicle of fame-shy guitarist and songwriter/composer Vini Reilly (to whom the above quote is attributed), have released over 25 albums in their time and Never Known is from 1981’s LC. Reilly is often overlooked on ‘greatest guitarist’ compilations but in my opinion is one of the best this country has ever produced. His flowing, twisting, emotive play sets the music apart from anything else I’ve ever heard and evokes imagery by itself that the most gifted of lyricists would be proud of. In fact one of the greatest lyricists of his generation, Morrissey, chose Reilly to play guitar on his solo release Viva Hate.
But while Jonny Marr, the Manchester guitar-hero whose shoes Reilly filled with his work with Morrissey, has just released a new album and is currently touring the country, Reilly’s story has unfolded in a far sadder fashion. With his guitar playing hampered by three successive strokes he found himself unable to work and descended into debt, culminating in his loyal fans sending donations so he could pay his rent. A terrible situation for anyone to be in but one that seems almost criminal in Vini’s case – a man who has given so much to music and so much enjoyment to his fans. Apparently his situation is improving, he is regaining his guitar ability and is even planning on releasing a new album, so hopefully the darkest period is over.