The Story Of Creation
Bleeding ears, guitars woven inside breakbeats and melodies from the big star; Loveless by My Bloody Valentine, Screamadelica by Primal Scream and Bandwagonesque by Teenage Fanclub. Three of the best albums ever made. For them all to be released in '91 on Creation Records, an independent record label in Britain is extraordinary. I was turned onto the label by a mate buying albums by The Jasmine Minks, The Pastels and The Mary Chain (he also had the first Roses single). Soon after, I worked in a record shop (I tell a lie it was Our Price Records), where I learnt to become creative with the Gallup machine which dictated chart placings in the Top 40. Releases by Creation Records required a pincer movement; swipe it though the machine as many times as possible before nicking it.
No one could have predicted the label who released Meatwhip Lash, The Bodines, Felt and The Weather Prophets, would be the imprint to sign the band that went on to play at Knebworth in front of a trillion people. Creation Records is more than a legend swamped in myth, truth, courage, chaos and carnage. It’s perhaps the end of history in British music. Will there ever be another independent record label that holds the majors in a bear hug and shouts fuck off?
Alan McGee putting the Mary Chain on in a pub in ’84 and causing a riot all over Britain for the next year is one thing. Signing off having released all those records by the label’s demise in ’99 suggests an unseen hand, driven by lunacy disguised as genius. Noel Gallagher said Alan McGee was, “a true believer in the power of music and more importantly a believer in the people that make music”.
To get deep down into the label, read McGhee’s ‘Creation Stories - Riots Raves and Running A Label’, but for now let’s start with the Mary Chain. Debut single ‘Upside Down’ is rightly considered a game-changer and Pyschocandy nearly as good as The Velvet’s debut. Just Like Honey slow oozes its gorgeous narcotic tender drones to get the, ahem, party started. The rest of the record sounds like millions of tiny shards of glass blinding and maiming at a gig by The Shangralis and Einstürzende Neubauten.
What’s interesting, in terms of Creations Records relentless commitment to the people who made music, not those who sold it, is the band’s welcome return to the label in 1998. No label would touch Munki, the Mary Chain's sixth album. Only Alan McGhee and Bobby Gillespie seemed to get how good the record was.
A cursory glance at the hilarity which is the NME’s top 50 albums of 1998 leaves you gasping for new swear words. It’s not even listed, although UP by REM-ember when they were good and Hole (really?) somehow made it. Even Robbie Williams scraped in at number 50. Strait- jackets for the armless, who wiped Bono’s tambourine on my shin pads? Whit the fuck?
Birthday from ‘Munki’ sounds like St Etienne. If something really bad happened to them and William Reid only had a fuzz pedal to cut through the wreckage. Internal bitterness at its very best. “Curse the light that laughter shines on me”, wrote the man whose response in ’84 to being asked what his ambition was, replied, “to be murdered”. I wouldn't mind hearing Sonic Youth or Dinosaur Jnr cover Fizzy, ripping apart effortless pop cool before spitting it all over the strobe machine. Munki reminds me of Husker Du’s Zen Arcade. Both albums require time to really get into each tune and how the track-listing creates a flowing soundscape in which the songs live.
I was on a train home to Scotland when by chance I happened to sit opposite Jim Reid, singer of the Mary Chain. In my possession, twelve cans of McEwan’s Export. Sixteen if you counted the four in my stomach, Dutch courage to say hello to a man whose music had meant so much to me. As it turned out, it was one of the best train journeys I’ve ever had. Top fella.
You might as well use barbed wire for earphones when listening to My Bloody Valentine, especially live. Isn’t Anything and Loveless, like Pyschocandy, take you way beyond the world inhabited by most musicians. Testament to a label that always put music first. Bobby Gillespie reckoned that “McGee was our Malcolm McLaren and Tony Wilson. An instigator and motivator, a born Upsetter. I’ve never met anyone like him”.
As MBV evolved to create the Holocaust, McGee was learning to dance in Manchester, ably assisted by Shaun Ryder and Tony Wilson. I can’t imagine the Mondays being on any other label than Factory Records but Creation would have likely been the only other record company able and willing to cope with the twenty-four-hour party.
Seven days shy of my 18th birthday in December ‘89, Happy Mondays played at the Glasgow Barrowlands, probably the best music venue in the world. (Don’t believe me? Ask The Pogues, The Smiths, Oasis, and probably anyone else who has ever played there). That night we spotted Nathan McGough, the Monday’s manager, anxiously waiting outside the venue looking more nervous than a World Cup Final penalty-kick shootout. The Mondays nowhere to be seen. Later than sooner, they rocked up and I can testify that it was one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. However, until such times as witness testimony can provide hard evidence that anyone could see anything at all, conjecture remains.
I digress! Back to the story of Creation, whose birth released a primal scream which still echoes to this day. To truly get inside Primal Scream’s music you need to leap the categorisation filter. The whole thing started with ‘Velocity Girl’ which only needed 1.26 minutes to deliver crystalline pop perfection. Whether stunning futurism; Higher Than The Sun’s otherworldly electronic soul music taking a trip inside a song, or Damaged, the Jimmy Miller classic high five through the tears. Primal Scream can be as tender as the warmth of the turn into the final straight with home up ahead. Just be careful when you open the door.
Teenage Fanclub are a reminder of all that sparkles in the world. Songs for every possible moment, tons of them. The Fannies are one of the best bands on the planet. Awesome live, they would give The Byrds a run for their harmony money.
Money was something that never stuck around at Creation Records. Robbing Peter to buy E’s off Paul and maintain a relentless new releases schedule. To truly get your head around this non-stop production line, check out the Creation Records discography: Creation must have kept a fair few record pressing plants in business.
A personal favourite was Swervedriver, a brilliant live band whose first record made a mockery of the perceived fey attitude associated with shoegazing. Then there’s the mighty Super Furry Animals, Welsh wizards who like to tell the Genre Man to go take a run and….
……………. Despite becoming the Blue Note of independent music, the label lurched towards financial collapse in ’94. It took the boys from Burnage to prevent the locks going on the door, but rather than pick the lock, they blew the doors off. Oasis took a record label and turned it into a corporation whilst kicking the music industry right between its southern eyes. From playing in front a small crowd at Glasgow’s King Tuts Wah Wah Hut in ’93 to walking on stage in front of 250,000 over 2 nights at Knebworth in '96, they single-handily re-wrote the manual of the possible. Dick Green, McGee's right hand man, couldn’t even get his hands on the correct coloured pass which enabled entry to the VIP party after Knebworth. For a generation born too late to catch the Roses the first-time round, Oasis became bigger than Everest.
By 1999 it was game over. Dick and Alan sold up and signed off, leaving the incredible XTRMNTR by Primal Scream as a parting gift. It’s here the story ends. The legend will live forever.
Dedicated to all the bands that never quite made it but who made it all happen.