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May 21, 2023

“Supposing we started a record label and nobody listened”

“Weirdos who love melody,”is an affectionate yet not unrealistic phrase to describe Creation Records, the London label founded by Alan McGee, Joe Foster, and Dick Green that operated from 1983 to 1999. McGee called the label a random collection of misfits, drug addicts, and sociopaths. He was probably referencing himself, too: a passionate Scottish music obsessive and believer of Johnny Rotten, who became the Malcolm McLaren of “indie”.

After falling in love with club music (and its drugs) heading into 1988, McGee then championed Manchester’s burgeoning acid-house scene that blurred the lines between rock, psychedelia, and dance. History records that all those bands he first signed, who then tried to make the next ‘Loveless’ or ‘Screamadelica’, were made instantly obsolete by a Creation band that played one of the largest shows in U.K. history at the height of Britpop: Oasis. And then it all collapsed.

The label’s output is a lot. It’s occasionally great, often middling or at the very least serves as a fascinating case study of an industry outsider determined to play by whatever rules other than the establishment’s rules. Seminal also springs to mind as does misguided, baffling or just plain inspirational. But through all the chaos, the music remains vital and influential. McGee’s famous management philosophy: Take as many drugs as the band.

Founded in 1983, Creation Records began life in the tradition of fiercely independent labels like Postcard, Whaam! and Cherry Red, but a decade later would end up home to Oasis, Primal Scream and more. At its centre was Alan McGee, a rock ‘n’ roll true believer who, in the words of Momus’ Nicolas Currie, “wanted to present himself as a cross between Andy Warhol and Malcolm McClaren,” cultivating a scene of like-minded musicians and determined to make the world’s ear bend to them though some great records and a whole lot of ego and attitude. It was a dream that became a reality, if only for a short period of time, in the mid-’90s when Creation could do no wrong.

Alan McGee wasn’t just the head of Creation Records, he was also one its musical artists, involved in a few projects over the years, including Laughing Apple, Revolving Paint Dream and his longest-running group, Biff Bang Pow! that also featured, at various points, label co-founders Dick Green and Joe Foster, as well as Primal Scream’s Andrew Innes.

Most people associate Creation Records with their ’90s heyday of Oasis, Primal Scream, Ride, Super Furry Animals and My Bloody Valentine, but the label’s first five years were full of singles from jangly, ’60s-inspired bands who most people have probably never heard of. McGee notes that “The first twenty came in hand folded sleeves which Joe Foster and I used to stay up and fold all night four or five times a week.” They include great early singles by The Legend!, Biff Bang Pow!, Jasmine Minks, The Pastels, The Loft, The Bodines, Primal Scream, Slaughter Joe, Meat Whiplash and significantly Jesus and Mary Chain.

The Jesus and Mary Chain’s 1984 debut single, ‘Upside Down’, turned the UK indie scene upside down with its then-novel approach of taking a Phil Spector-eque pop song and wrapping it in pummelling noise and feedback. It also put Creation Records on the map, paving the way for House of Love, My Bloody Valentine, Ride and many more of the label’s most famous groups. JAMC eventually jumped ship but Alan McGee stayed the band’s manager, and JAMC quickly became “rock stars”.

You can’t really tell the story of Creation Records without including Peter Astor, the label’s first shining star, who wrote charming, literate songs with his Television/VU-esque bands The Loft and The Weather Prophets. (The Loft’s original name was The Living Room, which was also the name of Alan McGee’s pre-Creation London club night; Astor changed it to avoid confusion). So if House of Love, Felt, Weather Prophets, Momus, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, The Telescopes, Slowdive, Teenage Fanclub, Silverfish, Boo Radleys, Sugar, Adorable, Primal Scream, 18 Wheeler, BMX Bandits, Ruby, Oasis, Super Fury Animals, 3 Colours Red, Hurricane #1, Saint Etienne, Kevin Rowland or Guided by Voices (and many, many more) stir your emotions then this is the session for you. We can’t promise to play everything listed, in fact we’ll struggle to scratch the surface (no pun intended) but just in case you really want to hear a specific artist or track we invite you to bring along your favourite Creation label track (vinyl only please) and we will endeavour to fit it into our program.

Gruff Rhys, Super Furry Animals on the label’s demise: “Nostradamus did say that Creation would end in 1999… but he didn’t specify it would be a space rock label.”

Music boss Alan Mcgee on his first encounter with Oasis frontman Gallagher at Glasgow, Scotland’s King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut venue in 1993: “There was this amazing young version of Paul Weller sat there in a light blue Adidas tracksuit. I assumed he was the drug dealer and that Bonehead, the guitarist, was the singer. It was only when they went on stage I realised it was the lead singer Liam Gallagher. I knew I had to sign them.

” Bobby Gillespie: “The first time Alan McGee saw The Jesus and Mary Chain was the soundcheck at his club and he thought they were incredible. ‘It’s insane, it’s mind blowing, it’s not music but it’s, like, complete enthusiasm’ he said.

”Alan McGee: “I found this letter about a year ago in a box of old tapes. It’s a nice letter, not embarrassing. Bobby Gillespie had this tape that a guy called Nick Lowe (not the same one) had given him with some Syd Barrett demos on one side. Bobby played the other side, which was this band who sounded like Billy Idol meets the Ramones. He said to me: ‘You’ve got to get them to yer club, McGee.’ So I phoned them and I spoke to Douglas Hart and then Jim Reid – they were perfectly nice. The thing was they hadn’t left their bedroom for about five years. They used to be called the Daisy Chain and they’d been speaking about this Jesus and Mary Chain idea for ages. I thought the songs were good, but the guitars were too safe. There was no feedback then. That all happened by default at my club, the Living Room, which was this place above the Roebuck pub on Tottenham Court Road. We had a vocal PA that all the other bands coped with by turning their guitars down. Not the Mary Chain. They played the guitars so loud they all fed back. It was incredibly violent. At the soundcheck, they did ‘Upside Down’, ‘Never Understand’, ‘In a Hole’, ‘Vegetable Man’ and the best version of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Somebody to Love’ I’ve ever heard. The Mary Chain summed up what me, Joe Foster and Bobby were into, namely garage psychedelia. This was May 1984 and I signed them at the soundcheck.”

This session will be presented by the Colchester Arts Centre Vinyl Collective.

The bar will be open throughout.

Doors 12pm, Starts 12.30pm

Tickets £3


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Sun, May 21, 2023
11:00 am - 2:00 pm


Colchester Arts Centre
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Colchester Arts Centre