Creation film and my days as Creation artiste!

Creation

Just seen the Creation film.
It’s a brilliant document. Full of energy and madness- like all the best rock n roll. When you watch the film you understand the true context of Oasis- not the yobs portrayed in the media but the perfect Creation band
The pure energy and madness of Creation comes from a different time and place. A time and place when a seven-inch single meant everything and rock n roll could still change the world.
I love the early days stuff in the film- Alan McGee and Bobby Gillespie as kids going to gigs in Glasgow- on the train at 14 and 15 off to their first show- Thin Lizzy and then punk rock totally changing perceptions and forging relationships.
This rush of youthful idealism, fired by punk rock and great records is a prime example of the DIY independent spirit that came out of punk rock. Before punk there is no way this maverick list of characters which now included the even younger Douglas Harte and Andrew Innes would have had a chance. The idea that a bunch of kids from the outskirts of Glasgow pre-punk could kick-start a musical avalanche would seem preposterous.
Alan McGee moved to London with Andrew Innes but in a weird way never left Glasgow- if Creation could talk it would have the strongest Scottish accent- the key players and the attitude came from that fine city and transplanted it to London. And this was their trump card. Whilst they came from the underground and loved the artful possibilities of rock n roll McGee never lost touch with his roots and understood the power of popular culture. That’s how he signed Oasis and Factory turned them down. He got it. He understood.
When it started Creation came out of the indie scene but was far too punk rock for that codified world. Mcgee is a dangerous individual and that’s what makes all this work. Some people don’t believe in the barriers and these people are the real punks. Mcgee is one of those people.
No holds barred dangerous. Genius.
My own links with Creation go back a long way. Before the label had even started Alan Mcgee was running a club called the Living Room, when I say club it was more like a tight, sweaty weekly gig in London above various pubs. The capacity was about 150 and it was here that he persuaded the Membranes to come and play. He had been putting on the Three Johns, TV Personalaities, The Nightingales- which was just about the whole underground scene then.
It was a mixture of paisley shirts and black clothes, a weird interzone of pop culture fanatics.
We had given up on London gigs at the time. That round of dead clubs on Monday nights and rubbish Rock Garden style venues didn’t suit us and were a waste of time. The Membranes were out of control. We were into intense noise and fucking with things, tearing the fabric and causing chaos. We liked feedback and discord. We didn’t give a fuck about being on a major. We certainly were not the kind of band for a ‘showcase’ or a new band night.
We preferred playing round the rest of country on the fringes of punk rock where people were into music- not these cocktail bars. The kind of people that operated in the music biz were on a different planet.
We didn’t want a career, we wanted trouble.
It was somehow inevitable that we would hook up with Alan McGee.
McGee was incessant. He would ring all the time so we came down and played and it rocked. Despite us being full of feedback and noise we were accepted by the indie freaks and psychedelic droogs that hung out at the club and I became good friends with Mcgee and used to run around London with him. He was talking about starting up a record label and we would go round to places like Pink records bedsit or Rough Trade. McGee had no idea about running record labels but he was the only person anyone new who could look after money and he had a proper job! Oddly, he almost seemed responsible but also still a dangerous individual.
The Membranes could have possibly been the first single on Creation, the track would have ‘Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder’ but we could not afford to record the song and Alan could not afford to put us in the studio. We ended up on Criminal Damage records, a small Goth label in Reading, and missed our chance for a place in rock n roll history! Ha!
When we did record the track McGee still came up to Manchester that night on May 4th 1984 and hung out with us and was the first person to hear the song outside the band when he stayed over with us.
I was there for loads of those early Creation gigs and events seeing it all come together. We would stay in London with the Legend who was then part of the initial maverick creation crew- he was nicknamed the legend by McGee as a joke on the shy, gangling skinny kid who loved music as intensely as he did and was forced to be the compere of the club as ‘the legendary Jerry Thackery’.
We all had fanzines, the Legend had his own fanzine, McGee had Communication Blur, I had Rox and we would switch between bigging up genius new stuff and causing trouble with our missives.
We would play gigs with the Pastels, and I would write about the Creation singles as they came out of the first ten singles in their idiosyncratic artwork and bags. I always loved the Revolving Paint Dream as well as the Pastels. Hardly anyone else did. Creation was out of time- the singles didn’t really sell but you always felt that Mcgee would make it work- vision, self belief and determination go very well with an enthusiasm that lit people up.
Mcgee then starting raving about this new band he had found and sent me a demo by the Mary Chain and I loved it. This now sounded serious, here was a band that was operating in the noise area like we were but also made it sound like the greatest pop music.
Their soon to be released debut single, ‘Upside Down’ would be one of the great singles of the decade.
There is a bit more to the Mary Chain story as well, the Membranes played this gig at Reading University in late 1984 and there was a bit of a kick off with the promoters, we kicked over all the gear and attempted to demolish the PA it got us banned form loads of gigs and number one on the PA blacklist.
McGee was unknown to us at the gig and after the show he was buzzing ‘total sex’ he kept saying and gave our mate and Membranes fan Fat Mark a lift back to London Fat Mark was a crazy speed freak and a Doors obsessive, he kept telling McGee to put the Membranes in leathers. The next day McGee phoned up and told us to get leather trousers but we were far too skint to do that.
Weeks later the Mary Chain riot happened in London at North London Poly on March 15th 1985. The leather clad band played for 15 minutes of pure genius white noise you could surf on and some people got pissed off and there was a mini ruck- nothing compared to the riots at punk gigs but unheard of in the indie world and the band became big news catapulting them into the mainstream. Whether Alan had prodded the riot into action is unclear and probably untrue but the energy of the situation would have thrilled him, it would have thrilled anyone who grew up with punk rock and was bored of the mid eighties musical zeitgeist. McGee and the Mary Chain electrified the stale scene in a way that we had all wanted to do. Power to them they deserved it.
The Mary Chain had already come up to Manchester to stay round my house for their first ever-national press interview which I did for the long lost Zig Zag magazine. The Reid brothers, Douglas and McGee, they turned up on the train because Alan could blag these free train fares because he worked at British Rail. I met them in town and we all went to meet the wonderful Linder who was initially being asked to design the sleeve for their debut single.
The interview back at my then rented house on Burton road in Manchester was mainly the band being fantastically surly and Alan ranting away about how they were going to change the world and Creation were going to be massive- oddly it all came true. I also remember him rushing down to the off licence to get a plastic bag full of beer to get the band pissed up.
The band argued about whether you could take a piss on a train when it had stopped, they sneered at the music business and detailed the hatred for them in Glasgow- it was total attitude backed up with great music.
That night I blagged everyone into the Hacienda to go and see Lee Scratch Perry- a gig put on by radio Lancs legendary DJ Steve Barker and Alan got to know the Factory people- an oddly crucial night in the scheme of musical things.
Eventually we signed to Creation and released the Gift Of Life album which was a bit of a mess, McGee called it schizophrenic and maybe it was. I can’t decide about that record now and I couldn’t decide then! I guess what should have happened was that there should have been some discipline but the amazing thing about Creation was that it was total freedom which worked sometimes. If I had signed a band like us at the time I would have got a producer in and forced the greatness out- instead we just splurged out everything that we had with a nervous engineer doubling as producer- if only John Brierley had not retired the year before- his ears finally gone after working on the Membranes ‘Death To Trad Rock’ EP.
The album came out and got rave reviews in the music press but was far too mental for the mainstream but got us a crazed cult following.
By now Creation had moved somewhere else and we were heading for a bust up. We played a night in London at the Riverside in 1985, one of a series of cutting edge new bands put on by Cerne (the following night the Stone Roses were the first on supporting That Petrol Emotion) who would end up the manager of Franz Ferdinand.
We were top of the bill and people came down accordingly- the only problem was that Creation insisted that we drew lots on the running order- which may have been the plan in the first place but no-one told us till we got here! Of course we lost and Slaughter Joe got to headline which pissed off the crew of people who came to our gigs (incidentally I always really liked the Slaughter Joe singles) there was an emotive stand off and lots of shouting down from the stage.
We went back on at the end and played two songs- I have the tape of them somewhere and we basically resigned from Creation live on stage- McGee would have sacked us anyway! It sounds hilarious listening to it now.
The Pastels walked off Creation that night in an act of loyalty that is astonishing.
The odd thing is that despite this a few years later I became friends with McGee again. At the time of the gig we were young, idealistic, headstrong and very crazy. I was into extremes and there was bound to be a collision. We were outsiders and misfits and as the label got an identity we were isolated- that’s cool, that’s the way it’s got to be.
Creation accelerated after that and become one of the key UK indie labels. In many ways I wish it had worked out better at the time. I loved the maverick spirit of Creation and Mcgee’s hundred per cent trust in his mental rosta of bands. We were too out of control though and I would have kicked us of the label if I ran it!
The film documents this spirit and it’s a great rock n roll movie, McGee’s spirit is more exciting than most of the bands he signed and he is sorely missed on the scene.

5 Responses to Creation film and my days as Creation artiste!

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by john robb and Ian Sherwen, T. Tex Edwards. T. Tex Edwards said: RT @johnrobb77: new blog! Creation film and my days as a Creation band! http://tiny.cc/5ug4a […]

  2. Spirit of revolt says:

    Great blog johh sums up the times well

  3. Wally says:

    Thanks John – this is a great post and an amazing description for those who were not there. I wish I was there as it sounds a lot more exciting then being on the other side of the ocean just collecting the records (Alive at The Living Room album being the closest thing to capturing the variety and excitement especially when they shut them down). I loved (and still do) all those early Creation singles and remember doing a radio show featuring all the early singles on the university radio station.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Wally

  4. Brian O'Neill says:

    It was very exciting wasn’t it? Alan and Joe used to sleeve the creation singles in my office at Rough Trade. I loved being in Alan’s company – he was always so positive.

    Cheers

    Brian

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