FORMER Creation Records boss Alan McGee talks to ICScotland about life in Glasgow, the moment he fell out of love with music and the new film based on Creation - Upside Down.
Growing up in Glasgow’s Southside, the young Alan McGee displayed his entrepreneurial streak from an early age when he started selling copies of his local newspaper on the city’s Victoria Road.
Lying to his employers that he was indeed older than his 11 years, McGee would be selling 200 papers per day – this first job would show him the enterprising traits that eventually helped him in later years when running Creation.
Other jobs taken on by McGee would include filling donuts with jam in his local bakery, embarking on an unwanted career as an apprentice electrician and then becoming a stores clerk for British Rail.
Music was a love of McGee’s and in turning sixteen, Alan became a big fan of punk, which veered him onto the road of playing in local bands, notably with Andrew Innes of Primal Scream.
The pair moved to London and became The Laughing Apple, releasing three singles before splitting up.
Alan decided he wanted to stay within the music scene and set up a club for bands to play – his first evening was a great success with 200 people turning up.
He said: “There wasn't a real plan to it, but to my absolute astonishment, 200 people showed up and I was like f****** hell, I'm quite good at this!"
“We were making about £600 to £700 a week from it - me, Joe Foster and Dick Green.
“The first three months of that, we were getting p***** and then after that I got guilty and we started a record label because I thought, this is too good to be true, this can't go on forever - you have got to make the most of it".
Soon, Creation Records was up and running and real success came quickly when McGee signed Scottish band, The Jesus and the Mary Chain.
It was all hands to the pump for the little known label and soon the spotlight would be upon then.
Alan said: “I started putting people's records out and the twelfth record I put out was The Jesus and the Mary Chain – other bands had sold about between 1000 and 2000 copies.
“Then we put out The Jesus and the Mary Chain and it sold 50,000 in a month - I was literally in a cupboard at Rough Trade folding sleeves and putting them in plastic bags with Joe Foster - that's how we got into the music business.”
And now McGee admirers and Creation fans get to follow the record label’s journey with the release of Danny O’Conner’s film - Upside Down – The Creation Records Story.
The film does not disappoint and McGee was full of praise for the portrayal of the company.
Speaking about Upside Down, he said: “I think Danny has really caught the spirit of Creation – I am forever indebted to Danny O’Connor, he has truly captured what Creation Records, in my head, was actually about.
“No one else has done that – there have been books out about it, but nobody else has got it right – Danny got it right.
“The film is sort of my truth and I don’t mean that I edited it, it was completely Danny’s call – but what you realise is that the truth is down to the individual, because the way that one person remembers it is not the same as another person remembers it.
He added: “The music is bigger than the people. In the nineties people were claiming that I was some sort of genius because I had sold 60million records, but I am not a genius at all – I basked in the shadow of amazing talent of people like Noel Gallagher, Bobby Gillespie and Jim Reid.”
Stepping back to 1994, Creation was on the up but with great achievement, came great celebration and the former boss admits that partying hard landed him with a surreal view of the world and indeed the music industry: “It was definitely surreal, but I don't regret a moment of it - all the good bits and the bad bits.
“And there were bad bits like seven years of partying and a nine month hangover.
“I came off tour on February 1994 - at that time we were putting out some classic records, but I was out my mind.”
Alan’s lifestyle of parties and drugs soon came crashing down when he was confronted by his distraught sister after he was admitted to an LA hospital: “I came round on a hospital bed in Los Angeles in February 1994 with my sister, Susan at the end of the bed looking at me crying, saying 'I don’t want you to die' - that was the last time I done class A drugs.”
Turning his life around and quitting his drug abuse, Alan admits with touch of sadness that the day he gave up drugs was also the day he lost his passion for music.
He said: “If I am being honest, I probably lost interest in the music business around the time when I stopped taking drugs.
“In the middle of all this, Oasis were breaking into being the biggest band in the world, and by 1995/1996 they actually were.
“That was a buzz and we rode that train as hard as we could and it was f****** amazing”.
When Oasis reached the pinnacle of their career, Alan’s thoughts were turning to winding down the infamous Creation Records.
He said: “Really we should have ended it (Creation) at Knebworth but we didn’t, just because it was great fun being Brian Epstein.
“By 1999, we were like ‘f*** it’ we had achieved what we always wanted to achieve – which was merging punk with pyschodelia, so we knocked it on the head.”
For information on Upside Down, please visit www.upsidedownthemovie.com
And to hear about Alan's hotly tipped Scottish artists, Pete McLeod and Jeye T, please visit their myspace pages at http://www.myspace.com/petesolomusic and www.myspace.com/tierneyjohn