Factory Benelux - A Chronology


Frank Brinkhuis © 1990/1998

Factory Benelux Discography
In the Crepuscule chronology I've shed some light on Factory Benelux' take-off in August 1980. Here I'll investigate the entire output of the Brussels based label, that was noiselessly carried off by founders Factory Communications Limited (FCL) in March 1988, to temporarily raise from the dead in 1990, for a series of well documented CD re-issues.


The Crepuscule-connection

The official story goes, that Factory Benelux was the result of an arrangement between Factory and Les Disques du Crepuscule, whereby the latter arranged the (recording and) manufacturing of records considered suitable for release on the Factory label, providing Factory with more capacity, so they could work with a wider variety of bands, both from Britain and the Continent.
This being said, Factory Benelux was mostly regarded as a graveyard, where the records that had failed to receive unanimous approval at the Manchester headquarters were laid to rest. It's not that this claim is completely beside the truth -it was Factory's policy for a while- but oddly enough it says little or nothing about the musical quality of most of the records. Some of the early Factory Benelux product, like Crawling Chaos' The Gas Chair LP for instance, might sound rather weird in comparison with the UK output. But that does not alter the fact that many Factory 'connoisseurs' consider records like Crispy Ambulance's Live On A Hot August Night 12", Section 25's In The Key Of Dreams LP, and The Names' Calcutta single, to be jewels in the Factory crown. And what's more, due to the success of sister-label Crepuscule in the early eighties, Factory Benelux' ties with Manchester became gradually loser. And from 1982 on, the label very much embarked on its own course.


Shack Up

Factory Benelux first release should have been a mini-LP by Joy Division, to be recorded in June 1980, after the band's return from the USA, and to tie-in with a European tour, supported by Tuxedomoon. Non of this ever happened of course, and Factory Benelux first actual release then became A Certain Ratio's Shack Up 7", put out in August. The single was a big independent hit right away, thereby giving the label a flying start. The two excellent singles that followed, The Durutti Column's Lips That Would Kiss (originally only on 12"), and Section 25's Charnel Ground, shifted numerous units too, so at the end of the year the young label's near future seemed to be secured.

Strangely enough there were no releases during the first half of 1981. An 8-track 10" by Blurt, a live recording from Berlin -a stand-in for the never recorded Joy Division Reichstag live album?- was cancelled because the tapes had got lost, although it should be noted that a Blurt LP, In Berlin, was released through Armageddon the very same year! A mysterious Manhattan Project 7", called Nicky, also didn't make it, while an unidentified A Certain Ratio 12" was cancelled as well. The latter might have been reallocated to Factory US, who released the Do The Du(casse) 12" in December 1980.
Finally, in June, Crispy Ambulance's long awaited Live On A Hot August Night 12" appeared. Far better, and miles away from their earlier Unsightly & Serene 10" on Factory, this Martin Hannett produced 12" features some of the finest music the band ever made.
In July Section 25's Je Veux Ton Amour 7" was issued as a forerunner of their (delayed) Factory UK album Always Now. With Je Veux Ton Amour Factory broke their early rule not to put singles on albums, as the track later turned out to be a French version of Dirty Disco, from Always Now.
In the early autumn, everything was put in readiness for the release of The Factory Complication, the first fruit from Factory's freshly established video division Ikon. The 60 minutes compilation, featuring New Order, The Durutti Column, ACR, Section 25 and others, and reportedly the first of its kind, was premiered in Amsterdam on October the 30th, and sold out within a few months time. Although nearly half of the content was re-issued 10 months later on A Factory Video in the UK, the parts that were not (including a very early New Order performance, shot live in Brussels), as well as the video's unusual but very handsome blue PVC packaging, make that the set now is a sought after item.
New Order's Everything's Gone Green 12", definitely the most popular Factory Benelux record ever, emerged in November. The same month Dutch magazine Vinyl came with a free Minny Pops flexi, Een Kus, an outake from the sessions for their upcoming Factory Benelux LP. Een Kus was re-issued as a 7" on Les Temps Modernes in 1984.


A plethora of great records

It won't surprise that in 1982, when Crepuscule saw one of its most successful years, Factory Benelux presented a surplus of excellent releases too. The first of these, the aforementioned Crawling Chaos The Gas Chair LP -more than a year overdue!- featured a kind of folk influenced return to 70's rock (complete with wandering lead guitars!) that was considered 'not done' in those days, and the LP raised many an eyebrow (but try to find their later albums on Foetus Products if you are looking for something really weird!).
The second 1981 release, The Names' Calcutta single, was a record of sheer beauty, housed in a superb sleeve, by Crepuscule's in-house designer Benoit Hennebert. The single was mixed by Martin Hannett, who already had produced their 1981 Factory debut 7" Nightshift, and later went on to mastermind the Swimming LP and Astronaut 12" on Crepuscule. Calcutta was issued on 7" and 12", with the latter format being something of a rarity.
Next came Crispy Ambulance's only ever studio LP, The Plateau Phase, a record that still stands as truly great, despite the poor production and the fact that at its release the LP suffered from undeserved Joy Division comparisons. 15 years later, one can only deplore the narrow-mindedness of the critics, the UK music press (of course) in particular.
Dutch hopes Minny Pops, who had joined Factory in 1981 with the legendary Dolphins Spurt 7" -after a classic LP, Drastic Measures, Drastic Movements, on their own Plurex label- were more lucky in this respect. Their music and lyrics had just the slice of light-footedness, to enfeeble blunt accusations of JD-imitation. In April, a 7", Time appeared, followed, a month later, by the excellent Sparks In A Dark Room LP. The title inspired graphic designer Rob van Middendorp, brother of the band's captain and singer Wally, to create a sleeve resembling a packaging for photographic paper.
Section 25's second LP, The Key Of Dreams, emerged in June. The album was recorded during the course of 1981, and the jam-like tracks sounded as a radical departure from the Hannett-controlled sound of Always Now. It's maybe interesting to note here, that due to the delay in releasing Always Now, Factory at some point have given serious consideration to the idea of releasing the two records as a double album!
The second half of 1982 brought a rather different load. July saw the release of A Certain Ratio's Guess Who? 12", followed in September by Swamp Children's Taste What's Rhythm 12". The latter also contained Softly Saying Goodbye, a collaboration with ACR, that bears a very striking resemblance with the track Axis, from ACR's third album I'd Like To See You Again. This might explain why Softly Saying Goodbye, originally meant to be the A-side, was eventually put on the flip. So, the Swamp Children's identity wouldn't be questioned too easily.
Also during the month of September, after a 15 months delay, Factory Benelux released The Durutti Column's Deux Triangles 12". The 12" should have come with a free 7", containing two outakes from the various Triangles sessions, but in the end that idea was abandoned. Approximately 100 copies were pressed up though, with labels reading: "Ce disque ne peut etre vendue separement du maxi single deux traingles". The 7" contained Weakness & Fever and For Patti, with three more pieces (Stains, Tears And Madness and Solitude Of The Hour) remaining in the archives until today.
So Hot, the first and only LP by Swamp Children (who later became Kalima), was released in October. The LP was shortly afterwards issued by Factory in the UK as FACT 70, in a completely different sleeve.


A new generation of bands, remix, re-model

Factory Benelux' 1983 output was dominated by a new generation of Factory bands: Quando Quango, 52nd Street, Stockholm Monsters and The Wake, who had all made their debut on Factory UK the year before. And, as we will see, 1983 was also the year of the 'New York Remix'.
52nd Street's Cool As Ice 12", issued in February, sounded as a great improvement on their tedious Factory UK debut 12", Look Into My Eyes. A 'restructure' of Cool As Ice, mixed by the NY DJ John 'Jelly Bean' Benitez, was picked up in clubs across the Atlantic, and later even got into the US dance charts. In effect, Benitez' mix was issued as a limited edition 12" through Factory Benelux, in June.
Quando Quango's Love Tempo 12", experienced a similar fate. This time it was DJ Mark Kamins delivering the remix, issued as in November (the same 12" appeared in the UK in a different sleeve). Factory Benelux even issued a special limited 'Brussels Mix' on 7" only.
Another New York DJ, John Robie, who later made himself infamous with his awful remix of New Order's Subculture, was responsible for the 12" version of Cabaret Voltaire's Yashar, taken from their 1982 Rough Trade album 2x45. Yashar was put out in all Factory territories, but the Benelux edition is the only one that comes in a proper picture sleeve, designed by Patrick Roques.
The Wake's Something Outside 12", released in October, could have made history if it had been re-worked for club use too. While only a year later it became common practice for indie guitar/pop bands to get their stuff adapted to the dancefloor, in 1983 this marketing strategy was only just being invented (check out the NYC 12" remix of The Smiths' This Charming Man). But then, maybe Something Outside was a little bit too up-tempo after all!
Surely an improvement on their rather doomy Factory mLP Harmony, Something Outside nevertheless strengthened the music press' opinion that The Wake were a band "no other label would have signed". One might wonder if the press had said the same if the 12" would have included the band's unreleased masterpiece, Uniform, premiered at a John Peel Session a few months before.
For Christmas, all these 12"s -with the addition of a surprise remix of ACR's Guess Who? by a certain Jean-Marie Salun- were compiled on LP, under the title Factory Benelux Greatest Hits. For this occasion, 52nd Street's, Quando Quango's and Cabaret Voltaire's contributions were restructured, re-modeled and remixed once again!


Murder, more new bands

In April 1984, New Order issued their second 12" for Factory Benelux, Murder, the 'lost' instrumental outake from Power, Corruption And Lies. The same month Crispy Ambulance's Sexus 12" appeared. Recorded in January 1982, even before the band's promotional tour for The Plateau Phase(!), Sexus came nearly two years overdue, when the band was no longer around.
April also should have seen the FBN edition of Section 25's From The Hip LP. But for some reason the LP was reallocated to Another Side, a label run by Factory Benelux' distributor Himalaya. Original test-pressings of FBN 33 exist though.
Normally, only bands and artists who'd already appeared on Factory in the UK could make records for Factory Benelux. In 1984 however no less than four acts made their Factory debut on the Brussels' satellite label: Surprize, from Italy, Nyam Nyam and Lavolta Lakota, both from Britain, and La Cosa Nostra from Belgium. They all came and went, and there is a striking parallel here, with the Factory 'career' of bands like Germany's Shark Vegas, Abecedarians, from the USA, and Red Turns Too (rumoured to be a Peter Hook pre-Revenge project), who all debuted on the Manchester mother label in the following year.
In retrospect, 1984 and 1985 were FCL's anarchy years, when anyone from the Factory family could bring in his or her protege to make a record. As a result, most of these fresh talents lacked a solid backing from the label in mapping out their musical future, and it's not surprising then, that they either quit soon, or simply vanished into thin air.


Whatever happened to...

Surprize, a Bologna-based outfit, who might have attracted the attention of A Certain Ratio whilst on tour in Italy, made their name with In Movimento, a 4-track 12"EP, released in April. The EP was recorded in Manchester, with New Order's Bernard Sumner and ACR's Donald Johnson signing for the quite imaginative production. Surprize's repetitive 'hypno funk' sounded promising, but unfortunately the band didn't get a chance to record a follow-up.
Nyam Nyam and Lavolta Lakota were both picked up New Order's Peter Hook, who also produced them. Hook had promised Nyam Nyam to talk Rob Gretton -then still one the label's directors- into getting a single out on Factory, after hearing their self financed debut 7" Laughter. He didn't succeed, but later on the Factory Benelux folks were more sympathetic, and decided to put out a 12", Fate/Hate. When the record finally appeared, the band were ready to sign a deal with Situation Two...
The story of Lavolta Lakota is a rather short one, and their discography comprises only one 7", Prayer. The band was formed in 1982, by former Stockholm Monsters guitarist Jed Duffy and Dave Hicks. They played a short series of dates, supporting The Death Cult. When Prayer, based on the Red Indian chant Blue-Smoke Woman was issued in July 1984, the band were on the verge of their split. The record's rather high price tag can be explained by the fact, that founder guitarist Hicks later played in Peter Hook's hobby band Revenge for a while.
La Cosa Nostra's one-off appearance on Factory Benelux is slightly mysterious. Risen from the ashes of Lavvi Ebbel, they actually belonged on Crepuscule, who might have been able to provide proper support. Anyway, their powerful, funky single Coming Closer was issued in October, on 7" and extended 12", and resurfaced in 1985 as the best track on their self-titled LP for Crammed Disc.
Not only Sumner and Hook, but the other two of New Order, Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris, also got involved in various side-projects, including Life. Life made two 7"s for Factory: Tell Me in 1984, and the double A-side Better/Optimism in 1985. Both were issued with different sleeves on 12" by Factory Benelux, the first as Dites Moi, with the A-side sung in French. A Benelux 7" of Dites Moi was also set for release, but withdrawn at the eleventh hour.


The return of Simon Topping, How Corrupt Is Rough Trade?

In February 1985, Simon Topping, who had disappeared from view after leaving A Certain Ratio in 1982, suddenly returned with a solo 12", Prospect Parc. The 12" contained three rather uninventive Latin tracks, and lacked the typical experimental hook of A Certain Ratio. Ironically, and obviously by pure coincidence, only two months earlier Factory Benelux had released A Certain Ratio's Latin-orientated Brazilia 12". Brazilia was average ACR, but sounded ten times better than Topping's offering!
Evil tongues maintain that the FBN release of New Order's Low-life album and The Perfect Kiss single, was a generous gesture from the Manchester management, to provide the label with some money for future projects. Whatever the truth is, the FBN version of The Perfect Kiss -issued in two different and unique picture sleeves- contains The Perfect Dub, a mix nowhere else available.
Factory Benelux' further 1985 activities include three more releases, all issued on 12" only in August: Section 25's Crazy Wisdom, Stockholm Monsters' How Corrupt Is Rough Trade? and Euphoria, by the obscure New York studio outfit Playgroup. A demo version of the How Corrupt Is Rough Trade? single was sent out as a cassette to the press. 7" white label copies of Euphoria exist as well.
A projected Durutti Column album, Short Stories For Pauline, recorded in Brussels back in 1983, with Tuxedomoon's violinist Blaine L. Reininger, and Belgian drummer Alain Lefebvre, was cancelled under pressure of the people at Didsbury's Palatine Road, who were more interested in putting out The Durutti Column's Domo Arigato CD.


FBN's days numbered, Salvation

During the course of 1986 it dawned upon many that Factory Benelux' days were numbered, despite a good start in March, with The Durutti Column's fine single Tomorrow, issued on 7" and 12". The single was followed, in May, by the vinyl and cassette edition of Circuses And Bread, with Factory UK taking care of the CD format. The same month ex-Thick Pigeon singer Stanton Miranda's Wheels Over Indian Trails single emerged, featuring Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris. It turned out to be the last true Factory Benelux release, since all other activities were subsequently aborted. These included the Paul Haig/Cabaret Voltaire collaboration, Executioner's Theme, two untitled compilation albums and two further unrevealed projects.

But the Factory Benelux story wouldn't be complete without mentioning the Salvation! soundtrack, featuring New Order and Cabaret Voltaire, issued in February 1988. Despite being a Factory Benelux/Crepuscule co-release, the album only bared a Crepuscule catalogue number: TWI 774. New Order's Touched By The Hand Of God 7"/12", taken from the album, was released as FBN 839 (apparently, the Factory Benelux prefix is combined here with a Crepuscule catalogue number? Not that it really matters...).


The chicken stops running, the CD-archive project

The official close down of Factory Benelux (along with Factory New York and Factory US Inc.) followed in March, with FCL chairman Tony Wilson claiming that the Brussels branch had become an unnecessary money pit. Whereas Wilson's decision wrung the neck of Factory Benelux as an operative record label, the chicken didn't stop running...

Early 1990 a CD-archive project was started by James Neiss. March saw the release of Crispy Ambulance' The Plateau Phase, including both Factory Benelux 12"s as a bonus. The CD featured detailed sleeve notes by Neiss, with the artwork being adapted from Hennebert's original design for Live On A Hot August Night. Next came New Order's Everything's Gone Green on 5"CD-single in July.
In January 1991, The Names' Swimming + Singles CD appeared, again with extensive sleeve notes by Neiss, and encompassing nearly everything the band ever recorded for Factory, Factory Benelux and Crepuscule.
In March, and after a 5 months delay, The Durutti Column's Lips That Would Kiss was the last CD in the series. The disc contains released and unreleased material from the Factory Benelux and Crepuscule archives, among of which there are nine tracks from the scrapped Short Stories For Pauline album, claimed to be the missing link between Reilly's Another Setting and Without Mercy.
A CD release of A Certain Ratio's Shack Up, including other Benelux ACR tracks and early Factory UK singles, was scrapped. A CD version of Minny Pops' Sparks In A Dark Room, including their Factory UK and Factory Benelux singles as bonus cuts, didn't make it either, after the announcement of a Minny Pops compilation CD, on Solid Records, that has never been released. Section 25's The Key Of Dreams appeared on CD through Les Temps Modernes, with extra tracks, in September 1991.

Frank Brinkhuis, 1990/1998.



This page, and all contents, are Copyright © 1991/998 by Frank Brinkhuis.