And on the seventh day, God created.....Alan McGee
Updated: Aug 15, 2021
My story of Creation Records in 25 songs
Amazing bands don’t just happen. Talent, skill, good looks, charm, stagecraft, style – none of this guarantees success. I am sure we can all list artists we thought would be huge, but don’t make it. They disappear prematurely, relegated to the bargain bin in record shops, or lost to a small group of obsessives on Twitter or some other social media, dedicated fans mourning what could/should have been...
noun: creation; noun: Creation; noun: the Creation
the action or process of bringing something into existence. "creation of a coalition government"
· a thing which has been made or invented, especially something showing artistic talent.
plural noun: creations
"she treats fictional creations as if they were real people"
2. the creating of the universe, especially when regarded as an act of God.
"the big bang was the moment of the Creation, and therefore the work of God"
· everything created; the universe.
"our alienation from the rest of Creation"
3. the action of investing someone with a title of nobility.
"Edward's generosity extended beyond the creation of earls"
Sometimes bands need a visionary, a champion, a fixer, someone who can see their potential, but also knows how to frame it. This week I have remembered the late, great Anthony H Wilson, who died 14 years ago. His vision created the space for bands like Joy Division, New Order and the Happy Mondays to succeed. Based on those early records, who else would really have thought Happy Mondays had any chance of becoming huge? Wilson did.
It’s important to remember and regale the dead, but it’s just as important to celebrate the living. Wilson's peer, Alan McGee, has had his fair share of accolades over the last few years and they are well deserved. There’s been books, documentaries, even feature films. He appears in many talking head pieces in documentaries about the 80s / 90s, especially where the Gallaghers are concerned, given he famously discovered them.
But this is a personal look back at the key moments that matter to me. Like Wilson, he created a space for artists that others would probably have never signed - his label Creation even became a descriptor - "Creation bands" was commonly bandied around and you had a pretty good idea what a band was like from this moniker.
McGee has shaped much of my musical taste over the last 35 plus years. His wildcard, manic, occasionally deranged, often drug-fuelled “built it and they will come” punk approach may have been chaotic, but numerous careers have been forged because of his vision. That’s not to dismiss the input and contribution of Joe Foster, Dick Green and others. But ultimately, McGee led the charge, so he's my focus today.
Plus, like me, he’s a ginger. And it’s important that gingers are not just represented in annals of music history by Mick Hucknall and Ed Sheeran. In my world, he’s the most important ginger in music history – that’s an accolade for you. Sorry Florence.
These songs are in chronological order of their release (at least roughly, in case any trainspotters are going to correct me…). I didn’t necessarily discover them when they came out (when his first Creation Records release came out in 1983, I hadn’t even bought a record player).
But they all meant something to me later, directly or indirectly.
1. The Legend! - ‘73 in ‘83 (1983)
In 1983 I was in my second year at big school. I had a very bad haircut, terrible clothes and little interest in music. I was a late developer and was more interested in my Star Wars figures than anything else. My father was keen I dropped the “dolls” and grew up a bit, but my little gang of friends were clinging to childhood and childish things, and my mother indulged this – don’t grow up too fast was her mantra.
Meanwhile, nearby in London, Alan McGee was a Scot who’d moved to the big smoke and was carving out a reputation for mad club nights, inspired by the punk DIY ethos and a liking for chaos. In the thrall of the TV Personalities, he progressed from club nights to releasing records, taking out a £1,000 loan and releasing the first single on Creation Records, by The Legend. Its lead song is 1 minute and 11 seconds long. It’s not a great song – in fact song is generous as a description. But it’s a start and everything has to start somewhere.
McGee used to see this guy dancing disjointedly at gigs by his own band, The Laughing Apple. He became friends with this chap, who he described as the most unenigmatic, boring, shy person you have ever seen. Not many people would see that as the perfect skillset to be compere at his new club night, but McGee did and invited him to front his new club. The gentleman in question soon began writing his own fanzine as The Legend! and McGee persuaded him to release a single on his new record label.
The single is at best quirky, but hardly the instant hit normal labels would seek. But The Legend! would go on to write for the NME and then later refashioned himself as Everett True, writing for Melody Maker. Everett True was my favourite music journalist at the time – would he have developed his career without McGee? Probably, but McGee saw something no one else saw. The music wasn’t great, but there was talent there. And Everett drew me to so much new music. Creation’s debut indirectly shaped a lot of my musical taste, just several years after it was made….
2. Jesus and Mary Chain - Upside Down (1984)
By 1984, I had abandoned the Star Wars figures, got a record player and started to slowly dip my toe into pop music. My interests were the pop side of alternative, but still had a long way to go. My dress sense and hair were still terrible. But then again, so were McGee’s!
Upside Down was Creation’s first bona fide hit, selling 50,000 on release and soon became a fixture on the indie charts, which I scanned religiously. Creation was starting to become a “label of interest” (though that makes it sound like the police were after them – actually, they probably should have been).
I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about at 14, it was just noise to me, but I see it now as genuinely ground-breaking. JAMC took a while to grow on me, but I love them now. Though the last time I saw them, they were selling JAMC tea towels…WTF???
3. The Loft - Up The Hill And Down The Slope (1985)
15 and my hair is getting better; dress sense is improving but still very confused…the music taste though is definitely improving, U2, Depeche Mode and New Order are now in my wheelhouse….it’s all getting better…
I blame the confusion in my wardrobe plus a near obsessive interest in onanism as the reason why I somehow completely missed The Loft when they came out. I’ve seen Pete Astor, their singer, a few times at gigs since and he’s brilliant. Going back and checking out The Loft and other bands from this time, I really missed out. McGee hadn’t quite nailed his ability to ride the zeitgeist, but the world missed out on hearing The Loft. But progress was being made – they actually sounded like a hit band. Creation suddenly had potential.
4. Felt - Rain Of Crystal Spires (1986)
Sweet sixteen and sweet bleached fringe, my music taste is starting to find its feet. Joy Division, Cocteau Twins, David Sylvian, The Smiths and a love affair with New Order was now in full flow (it never really ceased). Girls are now a real thing and the dress sense is definitely on the way up.
Meanwhile, McGee is still indulging his own tastes, which are not in sync with everyone else’s. Having formed in 1979, Felt sign to Creation for their sixth album, Forever Breathes The Lonely Word. In a 2011 NME feature, Hamish MacBain said of this first album Felt released on Creation, that "Lawrence delivered his masterpiece," and described it as "the first truly classic Creation album”.
Again, I was aware of Felt but they slipped past me – there was only so much I could buy with the £1.49 an hour I earned working Saturdays in BHS in Bexleyheath.
But I remember Wyndham Wallace, music editor of the student magazine at my university raving about Felt – they were a band I should like. They never landed for me, but I do love this song and love the fact that McGee would take chances on artists for art’s sake, not because they were ever going to shift tons of records.
McGee saw this album as the equivalent to the Smiths’ The Queen is Dead or Low-Life by New Order. I disagree but love his passion, blind love and commitment to the bands he loved.
5. The Weather Prophets - Almost Prayed (1986)
Like The Loft before them, The Weather Prophets never quite made it - Pete Astor, who fronted both bands should have been huge. Creation released a bargain compilation called Doing It For The Kids in 1988, I remember playing it in the 6th form common room at school. It featured The Weather Prophets, who caught my ear and that led me to this single – it’s wonderful, and Pete Astor still plays it now.
Socialist McGee’s Creation and other indies like Beggars Banquet releasing cheap compilations like this introduced me to bands I still love today, like The Fall, The Cult, Primal Scream and more.
The Weather Prophets were the ones that got away – McGee was right. They were good looking, had great, accessible tunes, they should have been huge. McGee was working with Elevation, a label which was part of WEA and released an album for them on the label – the album stalled, not commercial enough for a mainstream radio and no longer eligible for the word of mouth that came from being on an indie label.
McGee’s a football fan, so to use soccer parlance, Creation was robbed…Alan has since said it was his biggest mistake, WEA wanted instant hits. Not the Creation impressario’s style…
6. The House Of Love - Shine On (1987)
My first real girlfriend comes and goes, I am now wearing a nifty black suit, collarless white shirt and karate slippers…you had to be there…
This is where my love affair with Creation starts to take shape. I had heard Shine On on the radio and soon, The House Of Love’s Chadwick and Bickers were being described as the new Morrissey and Marr. The Smiths had split up so there was a huge gap in my life, I hoped they might fill the gap (in the end, The Wedding Present beat them to this). Shine On is a cracking song (though God knows how many times it’s been recorded and released – it never achieved the massive hit status it should have).
Again, The House of Love gave McGee his first hit album, copies selling at a thousand a week – this was huge for a little indie like Creation. But they soon buggered off to a major – something he would have to stop if Creation was going to survive.
7. My Bloody Valentine - You Made Me Realise (1988)
I am 18, A-levels are out of the way, I have a job in central London and cash on the hip. Dress sense is improving (sort of) and I have the coolest leather biker jacket you’ve ever seen.
Meanwhile, McGee is releasing records by the band that will eventually cripple Creation. Right. This is an unpopular opinion but I think My Bloody Valentine are MASSIVELY overrated. I have heard people whose opinion about music I really respect describe them as “cathedrals of sound” and more nonsense hyperbole.
The reality is none of them can sing, most of the music is unbearable (I really like Glider, mind – that’s fab). But this was the first song I heard by them and it’s….ok. Never got what the fuss was about.
They went on to break the label financially, and force McGee to get into bed with Sony. And when all of my house mates went to see them in Exeter in 1992 without me (I steadfastly refused to waste my money on them), I was the only person with functioning hearing the next day….
McGee said in 2009 that they made “unlistenable shite” – he may rave about them now, but I think he nailed it in that statement. Hey ho.
8. Ride - Chelsea Girl (1990)
I have had enough of working, and head off to Exeter Uni. I have discovered “Baggy” and confusingly, progressive rock. The dress sense remains equally confused, and the hair now resembles the progeny of a one-night stand between Dougal from The Magic Roundabout and Shaun Ryder. But bleached. Yep…
At least McGee is faring better than my hair. Having lost The House Of Love, McGee was determined not to miss out on the next band he saw with huge potential. McGee claims some idiot at a major label played him Ride’s demo and told him they were about to sign them. The key word being “about”. Not “have” signed them. Oh dear.
McGee immediately found out where they were playing and basically followed them round the country for two weeks, seeing every show they played until they agreed to sign to him. He finally fucked over the majors, and nicked a band from them.
Ride blew me away in my first term at university. I had made new friends, many of whom are still my friends 31 years later. And we were experimenting with bootlegging gigs – my friend Nick had a recording Walkman and a discreet small mic. He lent this to my friend Stevey and me to record the show, while Nick went moshing.
Technologically incompetent, between us we managed to work out how to use the Walkman, and positioned ourselves stage right, immediately in front of the speakers to get the best sound. If we still had the recording, you would hear Stevey and I asking each other repeatedly if the tape was recording – not very professional or successful bootleggers…
We were also deaf by the end of the gig, having stood right by the speakers as wave after wave of ear blasting feedback hit us during songs like Dreams Burn Down…I still blame this for some of my impaired hearing these days. Fun times though.
Ride were probably the first band I fell in love with where we were the same age or older than the band. They lost their way by the third and fourth album, but came back in 2015 better than ever. Such a fabulous band.
9. Teenage Fanclub - Everything Flows (1990)
If you were to try and describe Creation in one song, this would be that song. It’s resolutely “indie”, whatever that means, is hypnotically repetitive and sublime. Its vocals straining as it shifts from mumble to its understated chorus. It sounds like Neil Young does shoegazing (which isn’t actually that far from what Neil does anyway) – its distorted climax remains a pure joy. The irony is of course, it wasn’t actually released on Creation, but McGee soon signed them on the back of this.
By the end of 1990, Creation had found its feet and fortunately, McGee did not rest on the seventh day, but on the 8th day he worked towards releasing three seminal albums in rapid succession. Perhaps if God had taken every drug under the sun to keep going and lived constantly in fear of bankruptcy and bailiffs, the world wouldn’t be such a fucked-up place…
10. Primal Scream - Loaded (1990)
I forgot to mention, I have bought a bass guitar. Other than a pretty ropey version of Duran Duran’s Save A Prayer, it’s safe to say I can play nothing on said investment. It’s the first of many white elephants I waste money on.
McGee has also been wasting money on his own white elephant, the band led by his childhood mate, Bobby Gillespie. McGee had championed Primal Scream for years, but success looked unlikely. They were a band who had the looks, the style – they just hadn’t quite nailed the songs yet. They had some great tunes, especially Velocity Girl. But success was nowhere in reach for them. I saw them in 1987 supporting New Order and thought they were terrible, Gillespie dropping his microphone repeatedly on stage at one point. I was glad to see the back of them.
McGee however had discovered acid house and ecstasy that year, and was quick to introduce Gillespie to E as well. McGee moved to Manchester and spent several months off his fucking noggin.
Despite being caned constantly, at a gig in Exeter (sadly before I got there) McGee had the foresight to connect the Scream with Andrew Weatherall. Having nailed the new indie with Ride and MBV and basically created shoegazing, McGee pioneered the dance music crossover next.
Loaded was a shock but it was huge and it was everywhere, riding the crest of acid house, dance music and ecstasy. That I really liked dance music was also a surprise, leading me to Frankie Knuckles and other club music – admittedly, I was only dipping my toe. Prog rock still distracted me (I know, but I remain unrepentant).
But Primal Scream opened up my tastes and, along with New Order, brought dance music and indie together in a way no one had before.
Loaded and its accompanying album, Screamadelica were huge and staples on the Lemon Grove’s dancefloor each Friday night at Uni. McGee got me to dance. Without the aid of drugs. No mean feat.
11. Swervedriver - Rave Down (1990)
By 1991 I have concluded that my lack of sex life can be directly correlated with my awful, bleached bob. Said bob is cut and life perked up dramatically. Dress sense is starting to stabilise and be less mad. Yay.
Meanwhile, McGee’s portfolio of shoegazers takes an unexpected turn with Swervedriver – their music was feedback driven and heavy, but they were taking different drugs, they had more in common with grunge bands, though the feedback pedals are pushed to 11.
Stevey bought the CD single and we regularly played air guitar and head banged to its magnificent guitar break. It’s Creation Jim, but not as we know it…
12. The Lilac Time - Dreaming (1991)
DMs a staple of my footwear, hair shaved close and grown down over the sides, posh new girlfriend in hand, job in a bar acquired, life is fab and despite student status, we can still afford gigs and albums. I live in band t-shirts, virtue signalling my improved taste to all and sundry.
Meanwhile, while my daft decisions have stabilised, McGee continues to invest in the most unlikely of acts - Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy, he of Kiss Me (with your mouth) hit in the 80s and the first singer in Duran Duran, before Simon le Bon. The Lilac Time were his band, initially producing beautiful pastoral English folk pop, with producers such as Andy Partridge (XTC) and John Leckie.
In 1991, both took a left turn, The Lilac Time signed to Creation and released Astronauts, largely the same pastoral folk, but including this superb, psychedelic dance track. Whilst The Lilac Time felt an odd signing, Dreaming fitted perfectly with the weird mix of music Creation was producing.
McGee meanwhile was off his face and frantically flying round to the world cutting deals to keep the label going as it geared up to release three essential albums – Bandwagonesque, Screamadelica and Loveless. Released in quick succession (September – November 1991), this was a creative peak for McGee, Creation and indie music generally. Creation had finally hit the jackpot. But at what price?
13. Teenage Fanclub – Star Sign (1991)
I remember watching this on The Chart Show, Channel 4’s music video show. My bass was abandoned (and sold for half the price I paid for it – cut your losses is the only way sometimes). My air guitar skills were now exemplary, gurning away and banging my head to this Scottish slice of joy.
Creation’s first big hit in the US, McGee knew the Scottish Big Star were going to be huge…or at least bring some much-needed cash in. And despite their perilous financial position of Creation, Alan still was rolling the dice on the most unlikely of choices….who would have thought Husker Du’s Bob Mould would deliver a pure, joyous indie pop record…
14. Sugar - Changes (1992)
Hair – looking good. Dress sense – much improved. Lovelife – hot Geordie girlfriend. Life was good, JO’B was living a purple patch. Yay!
Same goes for Creation, Sony came on board and gave Creation stability and McGee‘s unlikely new signing released an almost perfect album, Copper Blue. Sugar were recognisably Husker Du-like, but with Mould’s foot was firmly pressed hard on the pedal labelled “pop”.
Changes is huge, rocking, catchy as fuck and worthy of the acclamations it, and its parent album, garnered. Inspired by Nirvana, it was the NME’s album of the year, proclaiming it “The last word in love songs and the full stop after heartbreak”.
Creation’s creative peak continued…
15. BMX Bandits - Serious Drugs (1992)
Back in 1981 I had a bike that resembled a BMX. It had the look, it had the style. But it appeared to be made from cast-iron, so no manic jumps for me. Frankly, if it had been the real thing, I doubt there would have been any deranged leaps off hills or wheelies or indeed anything else associated with BMXers…similarly, drugs were never my thing. Give me many beers, give me wine or give me a plethora of G&Ts and I am good. Serious drugs or even frivolous drugs were not my bag.
As is well documented, serious drugs very much were McGee’s bag. That bag was probably full of many, many class A’s. It also wasn’t a bag, it was an extensive, matching set of luggage. Whether he ever owned a BMX is not recorded…you sort of hope so though?
Duglas T Stewart, peer of the Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake, had been making music since the early 80s, but by 1986, this had morphed into the BMX Bandits. They produced funny, 60s inspired pop, delivered by an ever-changing line-up, a collective of the who’s who of Scottish indie (members were also in Teenage Fanclub, The Vaselines, The Soup Dragons, Superstar and more).
Serious Drugs was funny, idiosyncratic and mad. But it was never going to be a hit – Radio 1 does not play songs call Serious Drugs…I saw them support Teenage Fanclub years later, they were just splendid and Duglas dancing is a sight to behold, fey, hip swinging and beautiful.
16. The Boo Radleys - Lazarus (1992)
By the end of 1992, I am in my last year of Uni. My friends have knocked much of my “spoilt only child” tendencies out of me, though there was still some work to go on this. I have basically turned my back on prog rock (it comes back in 2000!), and its full-on indie for me.
The Boos were scouse sonic adventurers, signed to Creation after Rough Trade collapsed. After a couple of interesting but ok albums, The Boo Radleys released Giant Steps – an album of unprecedented ambition. As the NME put it, “it's an intentional masterpiece, a throw-everything-at-the-wall bric-a-brac of sounds, colours and stolen ideas”. When rereleased in 2008, it was brilliantly described thus - "For 64 minutes they were the greatest band on the planet".
McGee had once again seen talent and ambition, where others had seen mediocrity. And drawn from this genius was my favourite song of 1992, Lazarus. It’s also the perfect description of McGee himself – every time he looked finished, he would rise again (I really am looking at McGee with deity-tinted glasses, aren’t I?).
Meanwhile, Creation faced disaster. Loveless had cost a quarter of a million quid…about £250,000 more than Creation had, though this is vociferously disputed by Kevin Shields, MBV’s “genius” leader. The financial crisis this may or may not have caused led to McGee doing the one thing he wanted to avoid at all costs. He sold out.
Well, sort of. 49% of the company was sold to Sony, but McGee was still in charge. Chaos still reigned at Creation. Sony paid £2.5 million for their share, plus an extra million to Creation to stop us from going bust immediately.
They had a reprieve but with investment comes new pressures, new scrutiny, the clock was ticking…
Giant Steps was their biggest album creatively, but brilliance does not equate to sales and it had only sold 60,000 in the UK, despite ten out of ten reviews everywhere and the full-page adverts Creation had taken out. Sony were pressuring them to rein in the expenses, to cut back on releases, on new signings….the times, they were a-changing...
17. Adorable - Sistine Chapel Ceiling (1993)
By 1993, I graduated (I mean, how? I really was a lazy bastard when it came to studying – God bless coffee, last minute cramming and friends letting me read their essays as I studied alongside my own, just about adequate efforts). I had somehow got elected to my student union, in charge of two bars, a club, gigs and various other commercial enterprises. Basically, I was paid to be a student and spend time in bars, book bands and spend Friday and Saturday nights in a night club. It was a hard life…
Whilst 1993 was great for me, it was less good for McGee. They were out of immediate danger, but the music wasn’t great that year. Teenage Fanclub released their weakest album. Primal Scream were taking forever to make Screamadelica’s follow up. Sugar followed up Copper Blue with Beaster, a dark as fuck and uncommercial as fuck mini album.
The only song that stood out for me that year from Creation was this, by Adorable. They sounded like Echo & The Bunnymen doing shoegaze – no bad thing. And little did I know, but the other side of the world in Melbourne, the future Mrs JO’B was interviewing them as a teenager for her University paper, Lot’s Wife. So, in hindsight, they mean a lot to me. Unbeknownst to us both, we were both in the same page in our tastes, just 10,500 miles apart.
Fast forward to 2019, Adorable’s Pete Fij released a truly brilliant album with The House of Love’s Terry Bickers. We Are Millionaires was their second album together. They really should form a Creation Alumni album and tour, it would be spectacular. And We Are Millionaires is as good, if not better than either bands’ Creation output (I am sure NO ONE will agree with me on this, but fuck ‘em).
Although for me it was a fallow year for Creation, success was round the corner…
18. Oasis - Supersonic (1994)
My time at Uni is finally over, and I have to go back out and face the world of real work. Britpop has arrived, I am dressed pretty coolly (or at least compared to the preceding years). My relationship ends at last (after several attempts) and suddenly I am in adult employment and single….scary times. I have written about how Oasis feature in my life that year previously.
McGee had headed up to Glasgow, mainly to see his friend’s band, who were supporting a Creation band, 18 Wheeler. Pissed (the Glasgow licensing laws had changed so you could drink until 6.30 am – Wowser), he watched Oasis play a four-song set.
“Liam could sing – he had the attitude – he was a natural star. And Noel was a hell of a guitar player”, he recalled. Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, Bring It On Down, Up In The Sky and a cover of I Am The Walrus. Four songs were enough. McGee signed them there and then.
Despite taking way too much coke and many other pills, McGee’s sense of what would fly, the potential for brilliance never left him.
Oasis were huge. There is nothing I can write here you don’t know. But as they got bigger and bigger, McGee was falling apart.
19. Primal Scream - Rocks (1994)
The Scream had been in danger of becoming the new MBV, making another long, drawn out record, delayed by too many drugs and now, too much heroin…
But at McGee’s instigation, they brought in George Drakoulias, The Black Crowes’ producer and suddenly things clicked into place. Give Out, But Don’t Give Up was a radical follow up to Screamadelica, but Rocks was a stone-cold hit.
Primal Scream tickets were the hottest in town, and when some friends couldn’t see them in London, they schlepped down to Exeter in late ’94 to see a show. We danced from the moment came on to the moment they left the stage and then headed over to the student nightclub, where we blagged our way in to dance some more (I was no longer a student, but was still mates with all the bouncers – it’s not what you know, it’s who…). It remains one of my favourite ever gigs.
But by the end of 1994, McGee had had the inevitable breakdown that had been hurtling towards him for months. Too many drugs, too much pressure, too much living on the edge…just too much.
20. Oasis - Some Might Say (1995)
Work unsurprisingly was a bit rubbish after the joy of being essentially a paid student. But Exeter was a great place to live. We lived smack in the centre of town, 7 seconds from the middle of the high street, and just over a minute from my favourite pub (The Hole In The Wall) and my favourite club (Timepiece). Life was great, but Exeter was small…
Meanwhile, McGee’s world had got small too, but in a good way. The previous years’ excess had to stop, and he was recovering, facing up to a drug free world, he maintained his eye on his new signings as they spiralled into world domination.
Oasis may have lost the Blur vs Oasis battle, but they won the war, with their second album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory becoming simply huge. And Wonderwall might have been its global hit, for me it was Some Might Say that was the real highlight of their second wave. A band on fire, all of its b-sides could have been singles. The perfect single, in the spirit of bands like The Smiths where every track mattered.
Their success culminated in two huge gigs at Knebworth the next year. I couldn’t go as I was best man for a friend and it was his stag night. McGee was there but drinking diet coke and struggling to get into bars he was paying for…
I did see them twice 1995, and again in New York in 1996, they were stupendous…
21. Teenage Fanclub - Sparky’s Dream (1995
I realised that Exeter was no longer for me. I had crashed and burnt with enough women, I wanted to move to a bigger city, have more opportunities for my career and see more bands, see all the bands that would never come down to Devon. Time to leave. My friends who stayed had partners, lives, it was home. I didn’t want to be the last (not very good) swinger in town. London was calling…and I wanted to live by the river…
Oasis may have been the commercial and creative success, but for me Teenage Fanclub released their masterpiece in the same year. Bandwagonesque is the one the media focus on. Mrs JO’B is adamant that Songs From Northern Britain is their best album. But Grand Prix was perfection, and Sparky’s Dream is a wonderful single.
McGee doesn’t even mention it in his book, but to be fair, he had a lot on that year.
22. Super Furry Animals - God! Show Me Magic (1996)
I moved back to London on 1st January 1996, having spent my last night in Exeter – New Year’s Eve in The Hole In The Wall. Stevey made me chat girls up using the lyrics of Jon Bon Jovi. I was already useless at chatting people up…the wise words of New Jersey’s poodle haired rocker sadly did not improve things. If you were in Exeter in 1995 and a man came up to you and said, “Your love is like bad medicine…and bad medicine is what I need”, well that was me and I would like to apologise profusely for any trauma this induced….similarly, if anyone offered to lay you down in a bed of roses…
Meanwhile, McGee is doing better. Sober, in love, and after a short spat with Sony, his brinkmanship and skill secured five more years for him and Dick to keep the current arrangement with Sony, and netted them both an 8-figure payment. Boom!
And then they signed Super Furry Animals – lunatic Welshmen, raucous and quirky and brilliant. Another creative high for Creation. For me, they caused me to headbang while very pissed to God! Show Me Magic, banging my head on a metal railing and knocking myself out (well nearly).
However, the next few years were odd for both of us. I had a job with a professional body of accountants. You might think that dull (I don’t blame you), but I had a blast, getting to travel to Asia, making some of my oldest and closest friends and drinking with some genuinely mad and hilarious colleagues. My social life was a riot, I bought my first home and dated various people. Life as a bachelor with my own pad was a ball.
Meanwhile McGee was hanging round with Tony Blair, signing some fairly unlikely artists, including Nick Heyward from Haircut 100 (who made a really fab album), Bernard Butler from Suede (again, a great album, despite a fairly weedy voice), St Etienne (their arch, cinematic pop was quite different from the traditional Creation fare) - all good choices , but none felt very “Creation”.
Be Here Now came and went and eventually we could finally see that it was spectacular shite. Really bad decisions happened under McGee’s watch (Hurricane #1’s Only The Strongest Will Survive was used on an advert for The Sun – pretty unforgivable…). Things felt odd at Creation HQ.
There were high points - Primal Scream’s Vanishing Point was another creative handbrake turn, but it was super cool, trippy, dub…
But you couldn’t help but feel the end was coming, and McGee closed the circle as if in anticipation of the inevitable…
23. Jesus and Mary Chain - Cracking Up (1998)
No real change for me by now. I had a home I loved, my folks had finally gone home to Ireland, but I felt safe, secure and stable. My love life was erratic in a good way. Hair was a bit rubbish, mind. Nothing is perfect…
The Mary Chain had dumped Creation back in 1984, but by 1998, no one would put out their new album, Munki. At the behest of Bobby Gillespie, McGee stepped up for his old charges and released it. McGee finally becomes friends with William from JAMC, who nearly batters a drunk, high Will Self in defence of McGee’s honour. Life is good. Plus, McGee gets married to the woman he is still married to 23 years later. It all worked out in the end.
But McGee is now the establishment, invited to number 10, invited to Chequers, invited to Buckingham Palace by Charles ( I would pay a lot of money to be a fly in the wall at that dinner party, though McGee declined sadly). It must have felt very odd indeed...
24. Kevin Rowland – Thunder Road (1999)
1999, the end of the millennium. I was dating a lovely woman, but my commitmentphobia broke us up for a while, but by Xmas we were back together. The year was ended on a high – we did indeed party like it was 1999. Well, it was, so to do anything else would have been daft. My hair basically hasn’t changed since and that’s a good thing. Nor has my wardrobe really. Again, a good thing.
Meanwhile McGee had one last completely bonkers decision in him. He signed Kevin Rowlands from Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Not mad in itself. Rowland has the most beautiful voice I have ever heard and is a proper, bona fide genius. But his My Beauty album was an ill-advised album of orchestrated covers. It was…..odd? Misguided? Not very good? It’s not his finest moment…but it’s a bloody-minded piece of fuck you creativity and if you love a genius, you have to ride the rough with the smooth. His version of Thunder Road is the highlight. You can’t help but feel McGee did it to piss Sony off…
And he and Dick had decided enough was enough. They hated their jobs; neither had wanted to tell the other – the sign of true friends. It was time to finally rest on the seventh day (well, probably the 5,845th day…).
As the new millennium was ushered in, Creation ended….
25. Primal Scream - Shoot Speed Kill Light (2000)
But Creation had one last hurrah, the Scream’s album XTRMNTR was the label’s last release. It was their finest moment - dance rock meets Krautrock. Bobby thought it was their best ever album and I think he was right. This track, featuring Bernard from New Order on some blistering guitar, is quite wonderful.
If you are going to end, then what a way to go. And as they ended, I finally felt like a proper adult. I was about to turn 30, my chaotic years were behind me (though that unexpected mid-life crisis was only 11 years away, who knew? That’s for another day). McGee had, from a distance, sound tracked my growing up years. And I am grateful to him for that.
Since then, he has dallied with new labels like Poptones, management of bands like The Libertines (the man's a glutton for punishment), discovered The Hives (awesome), became friends with Courtney Love (a highly underrated artist), became a DJ (which he clearly loves), written a book, made a brilliant documentary about Creation, advised a film of his own life, and now has yet another label, It’s Creation, Baby. And the latter is brilliant, putting out records by one of my current favourite bands, The Clockworks.
McGee has still got it and my life is the best it’s ever been. I am glad we are both happy, glad he is still influencing my tastes. I missed out on meeting Tony Wilson, I really must find a way to meet McGee while we are both still here. I reckon that would be a quite marvellous afternoon…