This week’s NME is a Creation Records Story special issue, telling the story of the legendary record label from its punk rock beginnings through its debauched rave apex right up to the messy comedown finale. Marking the release of the new film and featuring first person accounts from Alan McGee, Bobby Gillespie, Andy Bell and numerous other key figures, it’s a comprehensive history of the label and the bands – Primal Scream, My Blood Valentine, Oasis and so on – that were signed to it. Here Bobby Gillespie recalls his memories of the whole thing…
On the beginning, and the legendary Creation office parties
It used to be a great place to go, everybody was a great laugh and pretty wild, they’d been up all night you know? Alan McGee, when he got into acid house, he’d have crazy office parties, they’d get the Valentines to come, Primal Scream, people who worked in the office, they’d be giving Es to everybody. He gave me my first Ecastasy pills. And the first one he gave me never worked, and he’d bought it off the Happy Mondays! The second one worked.
On the explosion of ‘Loaded’
After two [Primal Scream] albums, nobody was really listening. There were little pockets of people but Creation Records weren’t really interested. They financed it but they never took it seriously. Then ‘Loaded’ happened. We went on a European tour in 1989, got back to England and people were going crazy for it. It was single of the week in all the music papers, but more importantly it was going through the clubs like a fuckin’ disease. It was the big youth explosion of the time. It was a big record on the underground acid house scene, and then it became a big chart record. It was the big first Creation record to get in the charts and stayed there for weeks and weeks and weeks. Mostly indie records go into the chart and go right out again, even to this day, but that stayed there for weeks like a real, proper hit record.
On creating ‘Screamadelica’
We suddenly moved from being on the dole to getting 70 quid a week – McGee gave us a wage. Creation also gave us a tiny advance and with that advance we built a studio in Hackney and we bought a sampler, and then we kind of started writing ‘Screamadelica’. We’d come in from clubs on E, Andrew would have a four-track setup, sometimes we’d mess about, we’d be high from the night and the energy of where we’d been, the good spirit, the good feeling. That whole time of going out to acid house clubs and being part of that culture and meeting people like Andy Weatherall and hearing those records, it fed into us, which then fed back into the music.
We started sampling sounds and making collages, using everything from S Express to Chicago house tunes. We weren’t influenced by contemporary rock music. We fuckin’ hated it. We thought that everything rock music should be, it wasn’t at that point. It wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t sexy, it wasn’t exciting. People got on the stage in jeans and t-shirts and that stuff – it’s a bit studenty for us. I just thought it was really boring, rock music in the late ‘80s, and I think the acid house thing just destroyed it.
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On the death of boring rock
For a brief time in the early ‘90s some bands were actually trying to take rock music somewhere new and different. Stretch it, make it more out there, more psychedelic, just fuck with the fabric. Maybe ‘Loveless’ was the last great rock record, because it was going somewhere new, and since then everybody’s gone backwards. It sounds like 1978 or 1983 or something, it’s not gone any further than where it’s been.
On Creation selling out to Sony and the infiltration of marketing types and money men
I think that all through that time they were having financial problems. The press always blame [the costs involved with My Bloody Valentine’s] ‘Loveless’ but that’s a load of shit. I think their ambitions and their vision far outstripped the financial income and they were just running around. McGee was running around, going to America and Europe and doing deals and basically everyone was just kind of winging it all the time. It came to the point where they got sick of doing that. Sony came in with an offer and they went for it.
I remember Alan McGee calling me up after ‘Screamadelica’, and saying “listen, I’m sorry man, I’ve let you down, I’m gonna sell the label to Sony”. He felt that he’d failed. I just said ‘give me the money’! I think you do a deal with these people and they want more and more and more and more, and also if you sell it to a big record label they don’t really want you putting out the Felt records or the Slaughter Joe records or the Pastels records. They want the Primal Screams and the Oasises and the My Bloody Valentines. They want the bands that are big acts, so really the Creation Records Story, I guess it’s about the death, the end of the independent thing.
You had a label full of personalities and mad, wild people, none of them had been involved in record companies or corporate things before, they were making it up as they went along, so it truly was an independent thing. In the late 80s and early 90s it was a wee bit more experimental and weirder. There were more outsiders, chancers, and lunatics involved in it, and those terms pretty much defined McGee and Dick themselves.
Then in the mid-nineties those people left or were asked to leave and there was a new influx of people who’d worked at other record companies who came in and it changed. It was like a different place, pretty soulless to be honest with you. Suddenly you had a marketing department. How do you market Liam Gallagher or Primal Scream? It is what it is, you don’t need to convince anybody that it’s fuckin’ great ‘cos it is fuckin’ great. They brought in a lot of people who had no passion for rock ‘n roll or for music. They could have working at Coca-Cola or Levis or fuckin’ selling baked beans to be honest with you. So it did change for the worse.
One final memory of my time on Creation
It was a great label to be on. They gave us the freedom to do what we wanted, they financed our fuckin’ dreams, and even when they never had any money they went out of their way to find the money to do it. I think maybe another label wouldn’t have stuck with us after our second album. But they stuck with us. Rock music all sounds the same now, it’s not experimental, it’s not underground, it’s not weird, it’s not taking chances, and that’s why I think it’s fuckin’ shit at the moment because people are so conservative and they make conservative music, and the great thing about Creation was they didn’t give a fuck, they were risk takers and they loved rock ‘n roll. They found certain individuals or bands interesting people and thought that they had a unique voice that had to be heard. I don’t think anybody else would have taken the chance with Primal Scream ever.