Tonight, ALAN MCGEE, owner of the renowned record label ‘Creation’ appears at The Phoenix in the heart of Exeter where he will discuss his career, the music industry and his relationship with some of the UK’s biggest bands, how did the evening go? Well read on to find out….
You’ve probably heard the story, young chancer moves to London from Glasgow, forms a record label with a couple of friends, signs some great bands, hits the big time, spunks it all up the wall and ends up suffering a breakdown in the 90’s after an extended phase of partying that lasted far longer than it should have.
Bands such as RIDE, Teenage Fanclub, My Bloody Valentine and of course OASIS signed to McGee’s Creation label and enjoyed enormous success on the back of it, would they have done without him at the helm? I guess we’ll never know but I do know that the pretty much everything McGee touched during the 90’s turned to gold.
Gone was the stage from the main auditorium and in its place, two brown leather couches, a small coffee table and a couple of microphones, ready for the evening to begin.
The night was kicked off by a Phonic FM DJ who also took the role of question master (in the absence of author & broadcaster Rob Fiddeman) who explained the format of the evening before introducing Alan to the room. We would listen to questions posed to Alan for the first half of the show and then, after a brief intermission, would have the chance to ask our own questions.
For the next hour, we were taken on a tour of McGee’s life from the early days, growing up in Glasgow where it wasn’t until 1977 (a year after the punk movement had lifted off in London) until he and Andrew Innes formed a band called The Drains. He commented on how they were really just a “bedroom band” and never gigged (and had no intentions to), he later formed a band with Bobby Gillespie called Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons which usually ended up with Bobby rolling around on the floor after a couple of songs.
McGee moved to London with Innes (by way of a threat from Innes that if he didn’t move, he would be kicked out of the band) and with just five pounds and a bass guitar, he boarded the train to see if the streets really were paved with gold, they weren’t. They slept rough on a roof of a branch of Boots the Chemist in Covent Garden for ten nights prior to meeting a pretty punk girl who offered them to stay at a squat that she frequented in Clapham.
Whilst in London, McGee managed to obtain £500 from CND and used this to create a small business to get some records pressed. He created the artwork for the sleeves, promoted and distributed the material himself and after setting up a live music night at a venue called ‘The Living Room’, he found that he was making a profit of £600-700 a week and decided to plough this into a new venture, this is when Creation Records was officially born!
“There’s a moment you realise that everyone in bands are fucking mental”
Meanwhile, in Glasgow, Bobby Gillespie had heard The Jesus and Mary Chain and suggested that McGee bring them to London and let them play at The Living Room. He did just that and one and a half songs into their set, Jim and William Reid starting fighting on stage, bringing a close to what is possibly one of the most memorable gigs of his career.
McGee went on to say that the 80’s were great, honest times and with The Jesus and Mary Chain blowing up across the world, he was able to tour with them and see most of the world, he had to learn to become a businessman and FAST, things were just taking off around him and if he stood still for one minute, things would have passed him by.
He spoke of how bands such as Primal Scream (Screamadelica), RIDE (Nowhere) and Teenage Fanclub (Bandwagonesque) (all signed to Creation) had released albums within a six week period which would all go on to sell millions of copies, making Creation a very worthy company that were fast getting a name for themselves as THE label to be on.
There are many stories flying around about how McGee got to sign Oasis to Creation ulture’ label, the pubs and bars decided to stay open 21 hours a day, which was “a very bad thing indeed!” in McGee’s words! He recalls going backstage to meet the band, he saw a lad dressed in a Manchester City tracksuit, deciding that he was FAR too good looking to be in the band, he passed him off as their drug dealer and looked around some more, he stumbled upon Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs and decided that with his thinning hairline, he fitted the bill of the frontman a lot better so settled on the fact that he must be the singer.
He said that he allowed them to play four songs (Up in the Sky, Bring it on Down, Rock n’ Roll Star and a cover of Helter Skelter by The Beatles). After their performance, he asked to speak to whoever was in charge of this motley crue of meddlesome Mancunians and was led into another room where Noel Gallagher was sat. McGee introduced himself and offered him a record deal there and then but it took around 5 months to get them signed owing to some complexities in the paperwork that surrounded the deal. Three years later, they were playing to a quarter million people at Knebworth and racked up a tidy 65 million sales worldwide! Not bad for a bunch of chancers from Manchester!
McGee went on to talk about receiving the ‘Godlike Genius’ award from NME and that he had also received the award for the Best Indie Label from 95 – 98. Someone asked if he still had all the gold and platinum discs that would have been awarded to him over the years, McGee cooly replied saying that his son acquired a crack habit and as a result, ended up pawning a lot of them for cash to fund his habit but he does still have a couple lying around.
He spoke of when he bought the rights to band’s music and put it out on his own label for a few years, whilst in Germany, he was channel hopping one night and stumbled upn a band called The Hives, after some investigation, he found out that they were a complete flop having sold in the region of 600 albums worldwide, he decided to offer their label $2500 for the rights to their first two records and hey presto, a 4 year deal was struck and he managed to sell a few million copies of the albums! Much the same story developed around a Glasgow alt rock band called The Vaselines, he bought the rights to their music and after Nirvana covered both ‘Son of a Gun’ and ‘Molly’s Lips’ on their Incesticide album and also went on to perform a cover of their ‘Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam’, McGee and the management at Creation looked forward to a six figure cheque landing on their doorstep every six months for the next ten years! Talk about the midas touch!
After a short break, the room reassembled and it was over to the audience to throw questions at McGee, these covered a multitude of topics including bands that had been signed to Creation, his thoughts on the differences in the music industry today compared to when he started Creation and a few wild stories including how he had taken Carl Barat and Pete Docherty (The Libertines) to his house in Wales to write the next album. After a seemingly quiet evening, the silence was shattered when Barat burst into Alan’s room clutching his head, after a brief inspection, it was clear that his eye had popped out of its socket and was hanging from his head. McGee called an ambulance, but being in the deepest darkest depths of Wales, it was going to be hours until one arrived so he had to enlist the assistance of a farmer to drive Barat to the local hospital to seek attention. Once at the hospital, for some reason, it was assumed that McGee was Barat’s lover and was questioned about what he had done to cause the situation. McGee assured them that there was nothing going on and that he was actually the band’s manager and they had decided to visit his Welsh home in order to get some peace and quiet, away from the city to focus on their new album. After a gruelling 8 hour operation, Barat was in recovery, with his eye back in its socket and back to normal (well, as normal as one can get!) Upon quizzing the pair on what had happened, they admitted that a bottle of very strong Irish whiskey was to blame, after consuming the majority of the bottle, Barat said that he would headbutt the sink in an attempt to break it, clearly, the porcelain won on this occasion!
My favourite time at Creation was when OASIS went to #1 in 32 countries…..
After the show, Alan kindly hung around the bar, chatting to people and posing for photos, this was a great chance to find out some more dirt on his career and after 15 minutes of questions and funny quips, I found out that he was actually banned from the studios where My Bloody Valentine were holed up in the process of recording their seminal album ‘Loveless’, now I don’t mean that he wasn’t allowed to go in whilst they were recording, I mean he wasn’t allowed anywhere near the studio in the first place and this was after he had pumped in over £250k of his own money to the project!
Guy Chadwick held McGee 100% responsible for turning him into a drug addict, I asked McGee if he agreed with this statement and after a few seconds, he looked me square in the eyes and said, “well, owing to the state I was in, I probably had something to do with it!”
I asked him if he looks back over his career with any regrets, again, he looked deep in thought and said that he should have signed Public Image Limited (P.I.L.) when he had the chance though does remain very good friends with John Lydon to this very day.
It was a tremendous evening, some of the questions were standard fodder and the answers were freely available from the likes of Wikipedia but after a little more digging, you could see McGee’s brain working overtime to bring a few more nuggets of truth to the surface, facts that were previously unknown and for that, I am so glad I made the trip to The Phoenix to catch him in conversation.
So what;s next for McGee? he recently launched ‘Creation23’, a new label and is busy signing acts all over the place, Danny Boyle has offered to produce a movie based on the the BOOK that was published in 2014, I asked Alan if he’d be starring in the movie, “fuck no, I’ll have someone far more glamorous playing me in the movie!” I asked about the cast and he said that ‘Spud’ from Trainspotting (aka Ewen Bremner) will be playing his role and Nick Moran (Lock Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels) will be taking on the duty of Director. He hopes that it will be a success and judging by 99% of his past projects, I don’t think there’ll be any problems whatsoever!
I’ll leave you with my final question to Alan, I asked him what his favourite time of Creation records was and he replied, “when OASIS went to #1 in 32 countries was up there as one of the highlights”, I bet it was Alan, I bet it was!
For anyone that is interested, here’s a list of bands that released material on the Creation label;