the durutti column featuring vini reilly, a classically-trained pianist and virtuoso guitarist, took their name from spanish revolutionary buenaventura durruti and the cartoon of two situationist cowboys in the comic le retour de la colonne durutti (1966). centred around reilly, the then five-piece band recorded two tracks for fac-2 a factory sample, the first ever music release on factory records. 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.
to this day, the durutti column is still essentially vini reilly. but whilst he is the constant, legendary manchester musician, nay institution, bruce mitchell (ex-alberto y trios lost paranoias) has been the drummer since the seminal album lc (1981). a succession of other guests has augmented the line-up over the years, notably john metcalfe (the duke quartet), tim kellett (olive, simply red) and keir stewart (durutti producer and more since 1997).
always at the forefront of technology thanks to factory's innovative (but sometimes misguided policies), the durutti column released the first cd-only popular music album with their domo arigato (1985) live album recorded live in tokyo. factory predicted "no vinyl within 5 years" but what did they know!? later, the guitar and other machines (1988) was the first ever commercially available album to be released on digital audio tape. perversely it was also promoted with a 7" flexi-disc - a relic of a bygone age. in 1995, the factory too album sex and death also appeared in interactive cd-rom format. more recently, and keeping up their record of having appeared on every incarnation of factory records, their debut for tony wilson's all-too-shortlived f4 records, was the digital download-only e.p. heaven sent (it was called digital. it was heaven sent) (2004). the launch of this release was celebrated with a live webcast of a gig from shetland.
throughout it all, musical experimentation has always been the keynote of the durutti column's music. able to flit from classical on without mercy (1984) to house on obey the time (1990) via opera on vini reilly (1990), it has never been possible to pin vin down. famously, he did some sterling work on morrissey's debut album viva hate. but, when asked to work on the follow-up, he declined because morrissey didn't want to take it to the next level, to experiment.