Purveyors Of Taste

Monday, May 9 2011
Purveyors Of Taste

Creation Records was, for some 15 years, a leading light in independent music, first when indie really meant outside of the system and, after Sony stepped in and bought the label, when indie meant the great wave of guitar groups that followed in the wake of arguably the label’s greatest discovery, Oasis. Influenced in equal proportions by 60s pop and proto-punk, as well as punk itself, and later reinvigorated by acid house, it had an ethos, plenty of ideals and impeccable taste in music. Hugely influential, the label is celebrated in the superlative documentary Upside Down, released by Revolver in a welter of publicity about the label and its illustrious history. Here, The Raygun’s Tim Murray, HMV marketing director Graham Sim, a Manic Street Preacher, assorted Revolver staffers and industry types talk about the label, pick their favourite songs from its vast catalogue and reminisce about why the label, and Upside Down, are so important…

I’m from Glasgow and so, essentially, was Creation Records. There was London, Oxford and finally Manchester but the spirit of the label was always Glaswegian.

A Thin Lizzy gig at the legendary Glasgow Apollo looms large in Creation’s history. A history shared by Alan McGee and Bobby Gillespie both from King’s Park on the City’s South Side. Orange Juice and Postcard Records reflected Glasgow’s West End. But if Postcard was Pop and Art then Creation was always more about the mythology of Rock’n’Roll: The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, Ramones, Sex Pistols.

East Kilbride – a Scottish New Town 8 miles from Glasgow – sums up the difference between Postcard and Creation pretty well. Postcard found Aztec Camera in East Kilbride; the label’s answer to Arthur Lee’s, Love. Creation found the Jesus And Mary Chain – The Stooges crossed with The Shangri-Las. Creation never had a design aesthetic like Factory or 4AD. Its significance was in the records themselves not the sleeves. But what records! The Jesus And Mary Chain’s Upside Down; Primal Scream, Screamadelica and  Teenage Fanclub, Bandwagonesque.

For me the greatest Creation band is Teenage Fanclub. Who would ever have thought that a band from Bellshill could create sun-drenched harmonies to match Sunflower-era Beach Boys or chiming guitars to rival those of Big Star from Memphis? Unbelievable. It is fitting that Alan McGee discovered Oasis in Glasgow’s King Tut’s. Creation’s final glory would belong to Manchester but its heart always remained in Glasgow.

Graham Sim
HMV

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Put simply, Creation Records released some of the most vital and innovative pop singles during the ’80s which shaped and formed my aesthetic and mood. Songs like Where The Traffic Goes (The Jasmine Minks), Therese (The Bodines) and Almost Prayed (The Weather Prophets) left a lasting impression that educated and enriched me forever.

James Dean Bradfield
Manic Street Preachers

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I’m torn between two [favourite Creation songs] – Come Together by Primal Scream, which really is a massive anthem for the 90s and astounding live, and Take Me Away by Oasis. I think, for purposes of nostalgia, I’m going to plump for Take Me Away, which was a B-side to Supersonic.

I’ve always thought Oasis B-sides we arguably better than the singles, but Take Me Away was always a favourite. I think, looking back, there’s been more times when we’ve played it on guitars, drunkenly singing terribly, murdering harmonies, than played the actual record – it was always in our post-pub repertoire. And the source of endless arguments about whether he needed a lie or a line in the closing lyrics. For the record, I maintain it’s “you could be me and pretty soon you will be, but you’re gonna need a line”. A simple, beautiful song.

Hollie Richmond
Revolver

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I grew up on Oasis and Rock ‘n’ Roll Star – it’s unquestionably the indie anthem of my generation.

Pete Thonpson
Revolver

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For me, though I inherited a love for the earlier Creation Records thanks to having an older indie-head of a brother, the tracks that still get my heart soaring and represent a turning point in me accepting that dance music didn’t necessarily have to dirty my precious love for guitar bands and mixing the two genres could actually send you into a whole new hemisphere (sounds a bit naive now) are My Bloody Valentine’s Soon and the Primal’s Loaded. When the latter came and played at our local back-of-a-pub-venue, The Wellhead Inn, I seem to remember a gang of us only having to step up a foot to join the band onstage and chaos ensue… just brilliant. Watching Upside Down, as joyous an experience though it is, it does make me feel a bit sad for the lack of such a maverick scene today.

Mylene Bradfield
Marketing consultant, formerly at, among others, Optimum, Momentum and Epic Records

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March, 1985. Your Raygun correspondent was at one of the first London gigs by the fledgling Scottish group The Jesus And Mary Chain. Their first single, Upside Down, on a similarly nascent record label, Creation,  had barely been off my dansette record player (no, seriously, it was a 60s affectation). I’d discovered the rest of the label’s output too, thanks in no small part to the Wow! Wild Summer sampler released by the label to showcase its already impressive roster.

So there I am, with one or two of my bandmates (I’d just joined my first band, The Excellent Scottish Football Fanzines, who were similarly influenced by the Jesus And Mary Chain), at the North London Poly up the Holloway Road, fuelled on cheap cider. There was a real frisson in the air, a sense of danger and excitement. Creation Records stablemates the Jasmine Minks and Meat Whiplash were supporting, upping the tension by taunting the audience and, in the latter band’s case, throwing bottles into the audience. By the time the Mary Chain arrived on stage accompanied by a howl of feedback, there was a palpable threat that was soon realised – bottles raining down on the group, noise, more feedback and, within minutes, the band had exited. Chaos ensued, as the main hall at the venue played host to a major riot. It was the most exciting thing I’d ever seen. We later had a bootleg tape of the gig, which contained 10 to 15 minutes of music and the rest of a side or more containing the riot. At one point on the tape you could hear someone say “this is better than Millwall”.

As an 18-year-old at this time, who’d been just 10 when he’d seen The Sex Pistols on the Tonight Show with Bill Grundy (I didn’t know what they sounded like, but I realised that it must be great as it was supremely exciting), this was the most exciting thing I’d ever witnessed first-hand. The Jesus And Mary Chain and, by de facto, Creation Records, were my punk rock.

Within a few months I’d bought into the label lock, stock and barrel, attending gigs in the upstairs and back rooms of pubs dotted around London. For a good few years, the label soundtracked my life.

A few snapshots? I witnessed some of Primal Scream’s earliest gigs, around the time they released their first single, at venues such as Thames Poly, in Woolwich, when they had a tambourine playing member of the band (not even backing vocals, just tambourine). The B-sides of their first two singles are still outstanding sluces of Byrdsian pop…

Meat Whiplash: one single and one Peel session, still, to my mind, my favourite Creation single… Don’t Slip Up is still closest to the label’s earliest philosophy; part Velvet Underground, part Phil Spector, the marriage of noise and harmony.

The Bodines; Therese: a great lost pop single…

There was a gig in the Medway towns where, as it transpired in Upside Down, McGee signed My Bloody Valentine on the strenth of their live maelstrom of noise. I was there, seeing the band and McGee’s own Biff Bang Pow!, another one of the label’s great lost bands. McGee bought a fanzine off me, told me it looked great and, in that small way, became a genuinely inspirational figure to me in my early career…

Bill Drummond: Solo album, another indicator of Creation’s maverick streak, as the former Bunnymen manager and future KLF mainman released an LP full of oddities, including the neo Scottish gospel of King Of Joy…

And then, as acid house hit, I too was consumed by this. And Creation soon came round to this way of thinking too. I remember receiving a white label of Loaded, Andrew Weatherall’s take on I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have and realising that both I and the label had come full circle…

Similarly, receiving a promo of Come Together and rushing round to my then partner’s to tell her I’d just got the most amazing record, a truly spiritually enlightened tune (complete with Jesse Jackson samples). After insisting she listen to it in its 10 minute plus entirety, she was distinctly unimpressed: “It’s a bit long,” she complained, the missing the point and then some…

There were those Primal Scream gigs at, say, the Empire and Hammersmith Palais around this time too. Midweek, late night club events, with the band and Weatherall among others DJing, huge, celebratory events for which it was essential to book the next day off work.

And then there was Oasis. Despite the empty bluster of the latter years, those early gigs were outstanding. Seeing them at the Venue in New Cross, when they’d barely released a record, and knowing that McGee had done it again. It was truly exciting, and you could just sense that they were on the verge of something big…

As the later years went on my interest may have waned, but I even went and bought many of the records on his Poptones label, that’s how much I trusted him.

If I had to pick one top moment, I’d have to plump for either Meat Whiplash, that first Jesus And Mary Chain single, The Loft’s Up The Hill And Down The Slope… the list could be endless. But in the end my favourite Creation moment will always be Come Together, for its euphoric optimism, tinged with sadness. A truly outstanding record I’m having played at my funeral.

That devotion to Creation illustrates why Revolver’s release is so important to so many, and why it’s so eagerly awaited among the devotees who followed the label from those early singles in the hand-folded sleeves through to the multi-million selling Oasis years. This really was our label, and at times, at their best, they really were doing it for the kids…

Tim Murray
The Raygun

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