Alan McGee launched Creation Records with a small ad in Melody Maker - ‘Creation Records seeks pop groups with fantastic songs and a hatred for the current pop scene…’ McGee was a psychotically driven character who’d relocated to London from Glasgow in an effort to avoid the life of drudgery experienced by his violent father and become a pop star. When his band, The Laughing Apple fizzled out after a couple of self-released singles he tried his hand at running clubs and in 1983 The Living Room, essentially a night offering four indie or unsigned bands in the upstairs room of a pub, provided something unique and took off in a big way. McGee used the profits from this venture to start putting out records, largely by bands who were regulars at The Living Room, and Creation was born.
Creation Artifact: The Dawn of Creation Records ’83 - ’85 is a beautifully packaged, five-CD collection exhaustively documenting the first couple of years of the label. Discs one and two contain the first singles and B-sides released on the label in that time while disc three is composed of rarities and album tracks. Disc four is made up of demos, most of which are previously unissued, while the final CD is of BBC sessions.
McGee’s concept for the label was ‘the punk spirit and the melodies of 60s psychedelic pop’, which largely describes the content of this collection and, later, would make Creation the perfect home for Oasis. The Creation sound is typified by The Pastels, a massively influential band who sounded something like Jilted John singing Velvet Underground. Their entire Creation output of eight songs (one 7-inch, two 12-inches) is included here, the pick of which is the trippy, kaleidoscopic B-side Baby Honey. The Jasmine Minks are another archetypal Creation band of the period and their first singles, along with album tracks, demos and two live tracks are in this collection. This band’s energy and melodies might have made them stars ten years later in the Britpop era and the breezy, punk-pop of tracks like Think!, Black & Blue and The Thirty Second Set Up stand out today. The Bodines with God Bless, The Loft’s Lonely Street and Up the Hill and Down the Slope and Meat Whiplash with the classic Don’t Slip Up are among the other highlights.
Some bands in this compilation stray further from the Creation template, from the avant-garde noise of Five Go Down To The Sea to The X-Men’s sleazy brand of psychobilly – their Do The Ghost and The Witch (from a John Peel session) are fast, raucous fun. The Moodists were an Australian band who played a Birthday Party-tinged blues, exemplified by Justice and Money Too and Other Man from their Peel session. There’s pure Jefferson Airplane- style psychedelia from Revolving Paint Dream with Flowers In The Sky and In The Afternoon, both of which are great tunes. McGee’s own Biff, Bang, Pow! also dabble in psychedelia and are understandably well-represented in Artifact. They’re often reminiscent of The Byrds, especially on The Chocolate Elephant Man, though the funky, fast-paced, harmonica-infused instrumental Waterbomb is the best of their many tracks featured here.
Maybe the least Creation-like of all the acts featured is The Legend! (his exclamation mark). The Legend! was Jerry Thackray, a friend of Alan McGee’s with whom he’d previously written a fanzine and started a club. McGee gave him his ironic stage name and played drums on his first single ’73 in ’83 which became the very first Creation release. A contemporary review in the fanzine Jamming described it as ‘totally worthless’, which is an accurate assessment. McGee himself described it in his autobiography as ‘fucking awful’, but ‘at the time I was shocked that people didn’t think it was a work of genius’. Unfortunately, there are several other examples of The Legend!’s work on this compilation and every one of them is crap – unconvincingly ranted, punk-poetry drivel - but at least none of them last very long. Admittedly, this analysis takes the songs out of context and it’s hard to tell how seriously The Legend! was taking himself. Apparently his on-stage acapella slaughtering of contemporary hits were very popular with The Living Room crowd and he continued to release music on John Robb’s Vinyl Drip label after he’d left Creation.
Two Creation bands from this era went on to much bigger things and their first releases are included in Creation Artifact. The Jesus and Mary Chain released just one single with Creation before they became too big for the label and Alan McGee had to content himself with just being their manager. He acted as their answer to Malcom McLaren in the early days, ramping up the hype around them and causing riots and major violence at gigs. Manager and band seemed to be made for each other, but during their astonishing early success, McGee claims that William Reid always seemed ‘really annoyed we were imposing on his life of being a hermit in East Kilbride’. Upside Down is a feedback-drenched classic which became a huge hit for the band and raised the profile of Creation massively. This and it’s B-side, Vegetable Man took the punk spirit/60s pop ethos to a whole new level.
It was Bobby Gillespie who’d brought The Mary Chain to McGee’s attention and he became their drummer (playing one floor tom and one snare, standing up). Despite the band’s success, he left shortly after the release of the brilliant debut album Psychocandy to concentrate on the band he’d fronted since 1982, Primal Scream. Their first recordings, All Fall Down and It Happens were in the same jangly guitar and androgynous vocals style of Velocity Girl, the ultimate C86 song, which came out a year later. They alienated many of their fans by later switching to a hard rock style for their second album, before embracing acid-house and finding massive commercial and critical success with their third LP, Screamadelica in 1991. Gillespie was a huge influence on Creation in its early years as a musician, unofficial A&R man and printer of their labels through his day job in Glasgow.
Creation Records was founded on big personalities with a love for music and the determination to keep offering a real alternative to what they heard and hated in the mainstream. Some, like Gillespie and Neil Innes of Primal Scream and the Mary Chain’s Reid brothers became big successes and took pop music in new and interesting directions. The Legend!, going by his real name of Jerry Thackray and later by the pseudonym Everett True, became one of the most divisive, antagonistic and brilliant music journalists of his generation, writing for both NME and Melody Maker. And Alan McGee, the main driving force behind the label used his gift for leading the zeitgeist to keep unearthing brilliant bands and creating hype around them. Without people like these, whose first forays into music are recorded on Creation Artifact: The Dawn of Creation Records, some of the best bands of the 80s and 90s - My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, Teenage Fanclub, Super Furry Animals, House of Love- might have remained underground.
Creation Artifact: The Dawn Of Creation Records, 1983 - 1985 is out now on Cherry Red. Get it here