‘Upside Down’, the Creation Records documentary featuring new interviews from Oasis, Primal Scream, Alan McGee and the rest of the mob who changed British music in the ’90s is out on DVD in May. Hamish MacBain had a sneak preview
Director Danny O’Connor discovered Creation in the same way that many people his age did. He bought The Jesus & Mary Chain’s first single, then more Mary Chain records, then, as he tells us, he “saw Ride’s ‘Like A Daydream’ on TV and went straight into town to buy it”. Then he slowly started to notice that a large proportion of the records in his collection were being put out by the same label.
His labour of love then began about five years ago, when he put the idea to Alan McGee and got what he describes as “the standard Creation response: ‘fuck off!'”. About a year later, though, the man who started the label relented and work began.
With help from McGee he managed to secure interviews with all the key players – from The Loft to Kevin Shields right through to Noel Gallagher, as well as supporting roles from Irvine Welsh, Howard Marks and Gruff Rhys – and started to piece together the definitive tale of Creation Records, or as Alan McGee accurately describes it in the closing credits, “The Ultimate Fucked Up Family”.
And really, there could not really be a better tagline for what Upside Down is all about. There’s no narrator: the family members all tell the story in their own words, and are all given equal billing. There’s extensive (and rare) interview footage with co-owner Dick Green, in many ways the silent hero of the whole Creation thing, and whose appearance, in O’Connor’s words, “validates the film.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Noel is as entertaining as ever and Oasis feature in the opening montage, but the band that sent Creation into supernova don’t appear in earnest until over an hour into a film that runs to 141 minutes.
Indeed, it’s McGee’s stretchering off a plane in Los Angeles (after what he describes as “a Throb (from Primal Scream) line of coke”) takes centre stage as the ‘…Morning Glory’ lunacy begins. As much attention is paid to Ride, Swervedriver, the Mary Chain, The House Of Love and all the other crazies.
More so, at its heart – as O’connor stresses – the film is very much about the relationship between McGee and Bobby Gillespie. They are the two constants throughout, offering the most candid, at times brutally honest accounts of what went on: from McGee chaperoning a too-young-to-go-alone Gillespie to gigs in Glasgow, to the Mary Chain, to their joint ecstasy/acid house epiphany, to Primal Scream becoming the hottest band in Britain with ‘Loaded’ and ‘Screamadelica’, to Gillespie blasting that his band – just about to release ‘XTRMNTR’ – were “shafted, totally fucking shafted” by his old friend’s decision to dissolve the label, to McGee saying that he “couldn’t have done it without Gillespie”. There’s animosity, yes, but also love.
One of the key points that McGee makes is that he “doesn’t sign bands, but people.” This statement comes as My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Soon’, the Scream’s ‘Higher Than The Sun’ and Teenage Fanclub’s ‘The Concept’ swirl still-magnificently around him, and it makes you feel warm that for a long time this philosophy paid off.
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When he laughs about how he later found out Noel liked U2’s ‘Rattle & Hum’, and that had he known he would never have signed Oasis, you believe him. When you see the scenes of utter, utter chaos in the various offices of Creation, you wish you were there.
When you see Super Furry Animals spending £12,000 destined for an advert in the music press on a tank (“From a guy named Baz in Nottingham,” as Gruff remembers), you want to be in the turret. And the footage of the Mary Chain riots at North London Poly in 1985 is worth the admission fee alone.
As well as being released on DVD the film is being toured in the same manner as you would a band. Says O’Connor: “You’ll see the film, get really excited and rather than get on a bus home and quietly discuss what you thought of it, you’ll go to the aftershow and get drunk, and there’ll be a DJ or band playing. The idea has always been that it should be part of a night out.”
This article originally appeared in NME magazine