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Upside Down – The Creation Records Story | reviews, news & interviews

Upside Down – The Creation Records Story

Upside Down – The Creation Records Story

A surface-level canter through fascinating events and personalities

Creation Records' Alan McGee: 'The president of pop'

“I thought I was creating metaphysical history by running Creation,” says the label’s Alan McGee in Upside Down. Seconds later the meat-and-potatoes rock of Oasis blasts from the soundtrack. The drug-assisted disconnect between such lofty aspiration and the grounded music of Oasis was never going to be bridged. Even by the man billed as “the president of pop”.

Creation Records was destined to go down the tubes at some point, and the success of Oasis hastened that fate (Noel Gallagher of Oasis, pictured below). Luckily, unlike great British failures like Eddie “The Eagle“ Edwards, Creation issued some fabulous records. It also, as tediously recounted here, homed lads behaving laddishly on drugs and booze. Creation seethed with drug addicts, misfits and sociopaths. We get it – drugs were taken. OK. How many times does it need to be said?

upside_down_005_Noel_Gallagher_webNot only is Upside Down, as we are told, The Creation Records Story, it’s also billed The Definitive Fully Authorised Story. As any ful kno, the authorised hardly strays from party lines. And so it is here, with this supposedly candid, but hardly definitive surface-level canter through the ups and downs of Alan McGee and the label he co-founded. He might have been the front man, the mouthpiece, but he did have co-conspirators and they also feature.

His early partner Joe Foster – who recorded as Slaughter Joe and produced the early Creation releases in lacerating style – sits beside McGee, looking uncomfortable. McGee's is the upper hand in the interview. McGee’s inspiration, The TV Personalities' Dan Treacy, appears in the same way, also uncomfortable. Not much chance for off-the-cuff revelations then. Other label cohorts, like Dick Green, are interviewed separately. His contributions are measured, even-handedly describing the label's financial chaos, McGee’s breakdown and the fraught dealings with major labels. No doubt that what Green said was accurate, as it was all covered in David Cavanagh’s book The Creation Records Story: My Magpie Eyes are Hungry for the Prize.

People come and go, with no explanation of how they arrived or why they departed. The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon is an interesting fellow, but hardly relevant to Upside Down. Fleeting clips of St Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs offered little. With so many talking heads, too many characters from the backroom, there was no flow. Graphics of maps pointed out that - goodness! - Glasgow is in a different place to London.

The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream and Oasis get the most coverage. Otherwise, minutes are spent with those who achieved a measure of traditional success: The Loft got on TV; The Boo Radleys had a hit; The House of Love almost became a stadium band; Ride were biggish in America; so were Teenage Fanclub; Bob Mould’s Sugar charted; My Bloody Valentine redefined music and were and are hugely influential. Creation’s enigmas were largely absent in this unimaginative reading: Felt, Slowdive, the scam that was fake girl band Baby Amphetamine, the useless Mishka. At least Creation’s last great band Super Furry Animals are here, as are Swervedriver. Joe Foster says Creation was “the mainstream sound of a generation”. He might have been joking, but Upside Down sees it this way.

upside_down_006_Bobby_Gillespie_webUpside Down does capture some memorable moments. The grainy footage of The Jesus and Mary Chain's North London Polytechnic riot show of 1985 is fun. Noel Gallagher is great value, and him and McGee meeting Tony Blair in Downing Street will always be golden moment. My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Sheilds talks about the music with eloquence and grace. The Jesus and Mary Chain's Jim Reid is terrifically stylish. A shifty Bobby Gillespie distances himself from the McGee of Creation’s final days (pictured left). But what of the wonderful music and its genre-defining cultural effect? It's impossible not to be moved by Ride's elegant “Leave Them All Behind” on the soundtrack. Whatever the importance of the event, Oasis at Knebworth does not speak to the soul.

Some say their ascent was so easy. The Boo Radleys' Martin Carr marvels at their rise up the charts with “Wake Up Boo!”, forgetting the raft of idiosyncratic and superb records his band made previously for Creation and others. Never is it asked if it really was that easy, or what made it happen. Was it enough that it was Creation, the label? Clearly not if you look at bands like Adorable or the once hotly touted Three Colours Red. And if you look at the post-Creation Oasis too.

Upside Down is a story of Creation, a story of Alan McGee. With little or no context and without digging, it leaves a job that still needs to be done.

Bruce Dessau adds:

It is not often that I can claim to have been in at the start of something big, but I was certainly there for the start of Creation Records. I was a regular at Alan McGee's Living Room Club in central London in autumn 1984 and was impressed enough by this fast-talking fanzine-seller to write the small NME article about him which is mentioned in Upside Down. I went on a European tour with The Jesus and Mary Chain and ended up playing guitar with them in Berlin – for a couple of songs, which was half a gig for the JAMC – when William Reid was stranded in a broken-down tour van. For the only time in my life I slept on a pool table. I was at their North London Polytechnic gig that ended in a riot. I owe all of that to Alan McGee.

I really never thought McGee would make it in the music business. In fact, when I was writing a profile of Creation in 1986 and the page designer lost a complete set of record sleeves I'd lent him, I laughed, saying, "Don't worry, they'll never be collectable." Looking back now, I can see why he made it. McGee's success owes much to a combination of front, luck and perseverance. By the late Eighties the mainstream record business, still dominated by ponytails and bomber jackets, was finally waking up to the commercial potential of "indie" and "C86". Alan was in the right place at the right time with the right connections.

It was good to see so many old faces again, with "old" being the operative word

Upside Down works for me as a shamble down nostalgia alley, but as Kieron says above, it is hugely flawed. Director Danny O'Connor seems to have been inspired by the Factory film 24 Hour Party People, but McGee was no Tony Wilson. Primal Scream's debauchery overlaps neatly with the rock-rave anarchy of Happy Mondays, but Creation never had a Joy Division and Oasis were never as interesting as New Order. As for veteran publicist BP Fallon repeatedly appearing on a flickering TV screen, that owes a little too much to the Julien Temple School of Arty Rockumentary, as recently seen on Oil City Confidential.

I drifted away from Creation in the early Nineties so it was good to see so many old faces again, with "old" being the operative word. The Loft's Bill Prince seems to have matured nicely into a badger-bearded Griff Rhys Jones. And if anyone reading this remembers finding some discarded X Men picture sleeves in west London in 1986 could they contact me please?

People come and go in Upside Down, with no explanation of how they arrived or why they departed

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