Alan McGee: ‘I was, and still am, a record geek’
In the week in which Creation Stories, a biopic of music impresario Alan McGee, is released, Dan Carrier discusses rock and roll excess and Cool Britannia with the man himself
01 April, 2021 — By Dan Carrier
Creation Records founder Alan McGee
OASIS had not been booked to perform. The publican did not know who they were, and wasn’t interested in the gobby Mancunians who had shown up unexpectedly in a Glasgow venue, saying they were here to play.
Supping a pint by the bar was Creation Records founder Alan McGee, and when the band managed to get on stage and tear into their ad hoc set, he took notice.
The rest, as they say, is music history.
This week, Creation Stories – a biopic about the life and times of the music impresario – is released. Part produced by Camden Town’s Music Walk of Fame group, a body that marks music industry influencers in NW1, Alan’s roster (among others) of Oasis, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream and My Bloody Valentine forged a sound for a generation.
But there was no secret Midas touch to discovering bands that would earn global fame, he says.
“The only common denominator with the bands we had was I thought they were good,” he told Review.
“It was that simple. In the 80s and 90s, I kept signing the same bands – gnarly guys playing post-punk music. They had obviously been influenced by punk rock and that period, made into something else. But it was the same spiky characters and they would have been in a punk bands if they had been old enough… that’s the bands I signed, the same characters, for 20 years.”
Above all, it was a love of music, a fanaticism that gripped him from his childhood onwards, that helped him build a stable of hitmakers.
Ewen Bremner as Alan McGee in Creation Stories. Photo: Burning Wheel
“I have to be honest – I was, and still am, a record geek,” he says.
“Bobby Gillespie [of Primal Scream] and me – we are both geeks, and that was it. We were record collectors, seven-inch punk rock single collectors, and that’s how it began.”
Alan combines his ear for a joke with a life that has not been spent quietly, and told via the prism of a broad Glaswegian accent.
And it was this stock of anecdotes, tall-sounding tales, a combination of rock and roll excess mixed with a dash of politics and social history that prompted the film.
It was 2013: Alan had moved out of London, living near Hay-on-Wye in Wales, was enjoying bringing up his 11-year-old and steering clear of alcohol and other drugs that had once been part of his routine.
Publishing group MacMillan approached him, but the idea did not immediately appeal.
“I had all these stories – and I knew they were brilliant, because I had a brilliant time,” he says.
“They said ‘do you want to do this book?’ I said, ‘no – not really, I’m not doing it for £15,000 or whatever.’
“But they came back with a six-figure sum and I said ‘all right, you are giving me £100k for writing the book? OK then.’
“On to paper they went.”
Called Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running a Label, it was well received.
“It was liked by people who liked music, were a bit left field – and it was Christmas No 1 in the rock and roll book charts, which was pretty cool,” he adds.
Oasis in action. Photo: Will Fresch
It was adapted for screen by Alan’s friend, the writer Irvine Welsh.
“I sent it to my pals – and one of them is Irvine,” he says. “He loved it, and said this would make a good film.”
Welsh’s Trainspotting, released in 1993, and his other novels Ecstasy and The Acid House, reflect the same hedonistic rock and roll pop culture Alan’s bands epitomised during the decade.
However, despite the film’s scenes of salacious indulgence, much was left on the tour bus.
“There was loads I could not put in – I’d be sued,” he says.
“Some of the things we got up to, and some of the things that happened, were so nuts. There was a lot we had to leave out because it was too, too mad, and not for public consumption, going on around Oasis and Primal Scream at the time. Irvine ran with that – and if he didn’t like the ending of my stories, he changed them.”
The benefit of hindsight is handily applied to Alan’s role in the rise of New Labour. Hoping to finally see the end of 18 years of Tory government, Alan and Oasis represented a brighter, post-Thatcher world and as the film reveals, New Labour were keen to enlist Creation to get the young vote out and create the Cool Britannia zeitgeist. Blair is portrayed as a smarmy pantomime dame crossed with a League Of Gentleman villager. It’s hilariously poisonous, as is Welsh’s portrayal of Alan meeting the sex offender Jimmy Savile at Chequers.
Alan has been bringing out records since 1984.
“I still do it the same way,” he says. “If I go to a gig and see a band I like, I’ll sign them. The industry hasn’t changed for me – but I am an anachronism now. It is all about stats and data – but I don’t know if I am part of the music industry anymore. I do it in a different way. I am kind of a weird character in a creative world that often just plays it safe.”
• Listen to the The Camden New Journal Podcast Alan McGee – Underneath the Haçienda on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stitcher. For more details go to www.camdennewjournalpodcast.buzzsprout.com