The Durutti Column - Biography

The Durutti Column, from Manchester, England, is the project of virtuoso guitarist Vini Reilly. In need of local punk bands, Manchester’s Factory Records initially assembled the Durutti Column out of what label head Tony Wilson called “a bunch of Didsbury hippies,” though guitarist Vini Reilly soon transformed the Durutti Column into his solo project. Wilson took the band’s name from the 1966 Situationist comic “Le retour de la Colonne Durutti,” or “The return of the Durutti Column,” which referred to Buenaventura Durruti, an anarchist hero of the Spanish Civil War. The band kept the Situationist comic’s misspelling of Durruti’s name.

Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus of Factory Records put the Durutti Column together at the beginning of 1978 with guitarist Dave Rowbotham, bassist Tony Bowers, and drummer Chris Joyce. Wilson also persuaded Vini Reilly, the talented guitarist of Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds, to join the band. (Mark Pendergast’s Durutti Column biography for Record Collector gives the exact date Reilly joined: January 25, 1978.) The Durutti Column first appeared alongside Joy Division, John Dowie and Cabaret Voltaire on the double 7-inch compilation A Factory Sample (1978 Factory), the label’s first record. According to the bio at the Durutti Column’s official website, “Vini, not happy with the band or the punk-styled recording, then walked out because it was ‘complete and total rubbish.’ Alan and Tony persuaded Vini to return, saying ‘you are The Durutti Column’ and the rest is history.” Joyce, Bowers, and Rowbotham formed the Mothmen, who recorded for ON-U Sound, and Joyce and Bowers later formed the original rhythm section of Simply Red.

Reilly took advantage of his freedom on the debut album The Return of Durutti Column (1980 Factory), a collection of skillful electric guitar compositions and improvisations over rhythm tracks constructed by Factory producer Martin Hannett with help from the Nosebleeds’ rhythm section. After Situationist Guy Debord’s book Mémoires (1958), which had a sandpaper cover, initial pressings of Return came in a sandpaper sleeve. The first pressings of Return also included the Factory Test Card, a flexidisc with two electronic tracks by Hannett. Drummer Bruce Mitchell first appeared in the Durutti Column on LC (1981 Factory), on which he played drums and percussion and Reilly sang and played everything else. Reilly and Mitchell recorded Another Setting (1983 Factory) with additional musicians playing cor anglais and trumpet. Without Mercy (1984 Factory), produced by Tony Wilson, continued in the orchestral direction with strings and brass; Reilly later disowned the album, calling it “terrible” and a product of Wilson’s “aspirations that I should be taken seriously.” Domo Arigato (1985 Factory), recorded live in Tokyo, was only released on CD and videocassette and was promoted as the world’s first CD-only album. The Durutti Column’s fifth studio album, Circuses and Bread (1986 Factory), followed. The sixth, The Guitar And Other Machines (1987 Factory), in addition to its release on the usual formats of vinyl, cassette and CD, was also the first album to be released on DAT. Reilly was the guitarist on Morrissey’s first solo album, Viva Hate (1988 Sire). The Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly (1989 Factory) made extensive use of sampling, and elements of the period’s dance music appear on Obey The Time (1990 Factory).         

Factory went bankrupt in 1992. The next Durutti Column album was Sex And Death (1994 Factory Too), the first release on Wilson’s new label, featuring a guest appearance by Joy Division/New Order bassist Peter Hook. Reilly played everything and vocalist Elli R. Rudge sang two songs on Fidelity (1996 Les Disques du Crépuscule). Time Was GIGANTIC… When we were kids (1998 Factory Too) was Reilly’s last Factory release, and marked the end of his working relationship with Tony Wilson. With new manager Phil Jones, the Durutti Column started recording for the UK labels Artful and Kooky, releasing Rebellion (2001 Artful), Someone Else’s Party (2003 Artful), Tempus Fugit (2004 Kooky), Keep Breathing (2006 Artful), and Sunlight To Blue… Blue To Blackness (2008 Kooky). Tony Wilson died in 2007. He is the subject of the Durutti Column’s A Paean to Wilson (2009 Kooky).

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