Factory Benelux - A Chronology
Frank Brinkhuis © 1990/1998
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 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 April 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 four months earlier Factory Benelux had
released A Certain Ratio's Latin-orientated Brazilia 12". Brazilia
was average ACR, but sounded way betterr 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
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 Nice. 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.