Rob Gretton


Rob Gretton

"Golden Ears" Rob Gretton was a key figure in Manchester's music scene - meaning the British scene - first as partner in Factory and manager of Joy Division, then later as manager of New Order and co-founder of the Haçienda, one of the world best known nightclubs of the 80s.

He was a private person, reluctant to talk to the media, partly because of a kind of shyness, but also because he felt that the less you say, the more the myth will develop itself. He was described as "Very funny, warm, extremely generous, sharp, honest and about the nicest person you could ever wish to meet." and "a really, really lovely person ... [who] just gets greater in your mind as the time passes. A genuine original, a man of real principle.". He had a fearsome reputation though, due to his dark side and black humour! He said he cared about his family, New Order, The Haçienda and Manchester City football club above all things.

He was also known for the bets he would place with colleagues on the success of the band's singles. In 1988 he lost £1,000 to New Order after betting that their single "Fine Time" would go top 10, when it peaked at number 11! The following year Tony Wilson temporarily resigned as chairman of Factory over a bet with Rob that New Order's single "Round And Round" would be top 5, when it only reached number 21.

Rob Gretton

Born January 15 1953, Rob Gretton was raised just south of Manchester, in Newall Green, in the same area as Martin Hannett. They got involved in the punk scene in 1977, Rob as fanzine director, band manager and DJ at Rafters. In 1977-1978 he saw Warsaw/Joy Division on several occasions. His first impression was that "...they were blazing madmen. And I just went and watched them. Great! Best band I've ever seen – and they sent a tingle up my spine. And I was dancing all over... I went up telling them - at the end - telling them how brilliant I thought it was...And I went raving about them all next day."

In May 1978, he became their manager, immediately promoting them through badges and interviews, and having them sign to Factory Records. After a couple of interviews, he - and the band - decided that it was something they would not do anymore. He and they stuck to this rule after Ian's death and Joy Division had become New Order.

Rob Gretton

The early 80s were also the time when Rob Gretton came up with the idea of establishing a new club in Manchester, The Haçienda, though similar attempts by Tony Wilson had kind of failed (Factory I and II). The Haçienda was the club that made Manchester one of the most exciting places in the world for pop music in the 80s and early 90s. Unfortunately, it also was one of the reasons for the bankrupt of Factory. Today The Haçienda has been demolished and transformed into housing, but Hooky insisted that Rob's idea should be honoured : "All I asked them to do was to put a brass plaque downstairs in the foyer for Rob Gretton... The Haçienda was very much Rob's baby and it needs to be remembered as that."

In the early 90s Rob started his own record label "Robs Records" and his work with Sub Sub - to become Doves. He also helped New Order reform in 1998 after a 5 years break. Rob died on 15 May 1999, aged 46, after suffering a heart attack at home. Rob is buried in Manchester Southern Cemetery.

Rob Gretton
Photo © Kevin Cummins
reproduced with kind permission

New Order:

"[We] were shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Robert Leo Gretton. We are sure that all who have dealt with him as a colleague share with us our feelings that we have lost a unique and genuine friend. His loyalty, generosity and the strength of his principles combined with his love of life will remain an inspiration to us all. Our thoughts are with his partner Lesley and children ... at this time."

"He was a part of us, without him we would be like a piece of banoffee pie with a slice missing."


Vini Reilly (The Durutti Column):

"Two things stick in my mind about Rob. The first was an occasion when a dodgy friend of mine needed bail money to get out of Strangeways. The money couldn't appear to come from me. Rob passed no judgmental advice - he simply raised what was a large cash deposit, in about 20 minutes. I think his Catholic upbringing and his awareness of Manchester's underworld were somehow not at odds. The second thing I remember is his genuine concern for anyone slightly lost. If he spotted anyone not joining in - through shyness or whatever - Rob would gently but firmly ensure they became included. His care and almost parental affection for Nat Curtis after her father, Ian, had gone, is something Nat still remembers to this day. It's very telling that when Nat visited the set of 24 Hour Party People her favourite character was the actor playing Rob. Rob Gretton was a good and true man, a paradox - tough guy, sensitive and caring gentleman. A visionary who is very much missed."


Jimi Goodwin (Doves):

"Rob was lovely. He was hard to read but when you knew him he was extremely down to earth and charming and generous. He was also extremely funny, a proper wind up merchant."

Rob Gretton
Photo © Kevin Cummins
reproduced with kind permission

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Update 2014-12-04    Copyright © Michel ENKIRI