With the recent passing of Tony Wilson, I've been immersing myself in several Factory Records related indulgences; New Order's back catalogue, late-night screenings of 24 Hour Party People, articles I've saved over the years and documentaries such as PBS's Rock 'N Roll installment "The Perfect Beat" and New Order Story. While watching the latter this afternoon over lunch, I was struck by an interview with sleeve designer (and Factory's image creator) Peter Saville...he was talking about how, due largely to his success in creating an image of the band through his grahpically stunning yet nebulous record sleeves (which were often devoid of the band's name or titles), fans could, literally, recognize a New Order album without there being a single identifying character on the front - other than one of his brilliant designs. I thought about that for a moment and realized that I knew exactly what he was talking about - I had experienced that very sensation, and I remember thinking at the time how cool it was that there was a band out there that was that fucking good and cared so little about making money that they were audacious enough to not even put their name on the covers of their records. The disc was an import copy of Touched by the Hand of God, the stop-gap single between Substance and Technique. Killer song. Serial killer sleeve, right down to the stipped down, bare-bones graphic design on the inside and back of the sleeve. Saville and New Order and Tony Wilson and the lot of them had a quality that had never been seen in popular music before and may never be seen again. Wilson called Factory an experiment in human nature - I think it was more than that. And while its impossible to put a finger on how, exactly, it was more, I think you can glean a lot from the images in Saville's work. His images are visual documents that accompany not only the music, but the ride we all took during the lifespan of Factory. And that's what makes them special; they are as much a part of the music as the people playing the instruments.

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