In 1978, Factory Records founder Tony Wilson invited Reilly to join a group dubbed the Durutti Column, the name inspired by the Spanish Civil War anarchist Buenaventura Durruti and a Situationists Internationale comic strip of the 1960s. Along with Reilly, the nascent band included guitarist Dave Robbotham, drummer Chris Joyce, vocalist Phil Rainford and bassist Tony Bowers; following a handful of performances, Rainford was fired, and after recording a pair of tracks for the EP A Factory Sampler, Robbotham, Joyce and Bowers broke off to form the Moth Men, leaving the Durutti Column the sole province of Vini Reilly.
Recorded with the aid of a few session musicians and released in a sandpaper sleeve, the debut The Return of the Durutti Column, a collection of atmospheric instrumentals, appeared in 1980. With 1981's pastoral LC, recorded with drummer Bruce Mitchell (who remained a frequent collaborator), Reilly attempted vocals on a few tracks, and continued expanding his palette with a pair of explorations of chamber music, 1982's Another Setting and 1984's Without Mercy. Electronic rhythms, meanwhile, emerged as the pivotal element of 1985's Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say.
After 1985's live effort Domo Arigato, Circuses and Bread marked a return to the densely-constructed guitar textures of previous works, while 1987's eclectic The Guitar and Other Machines ranked among the Durutti Column's most ambitious works to date. In 1988, Reilly backed Morrissey (also an alumnus of the Nosebleeds) on his solo debut Viva Hate before returning the Durutti Column to release a 1989 LP titled Vini Reilly, another diverse affair which incorporated vocal samples from Otis Redding, Annie Lennox, Tracy Chapman and opera star Joan Sutherland.
1990's aggressive Obey the Time preceded 1991's Lips That Would Kiss Form Prayers to Broken Stone, a collection of singles, rarities and unreleased material. After a long layoff, the Durutti Column returned in 1995 with Sex and Death, followed a year later by Fidelity, which fused dance beats with Reilly's guitar lines. Night in New York arrived in 1999. Among Durutti alumni, Chris Joyce and Tony Bowers achieved the greatest success as members of Simply Red; tragically, founding guitarist Dave Robbotham was slain by an axe murderer in 1991, inspiring the Happy Mondays song "Cowboy Dave." ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide