Art and Music      


Upside Down: The Creation Records Story

HARVEY WILLIAMS:  One of the many music documentaries to have its premiere at this year’s London Film Festival was “Upside Down: The Creation Records Story”, directed by Danny O’Connor. Being an “official” reading of the story, the narrative is mostly handled through interviews with (Creation founder) Alan McGee and Bobby Gillespie, friends since their teens. This bond is almost the subtext to the film’s storyline, and O’Connor digs reassuringly deep into Gillespie’s and McGee’s - and the label’s - formative years. It was certainly refreshing to find a documentary which understood that Creation didn’t start with The House Of Love, or even the Jesus & Mary Chain. O’Connor has done his research, and it was a joy to see some of the label’s earliest bands represented: Jasmine Minks, Revolving Paint Dream, The Loft (pictured above). There’s plenty of terrific archive material too, including some vintage clips from McGee’s first club The Living Room, footage of the infamous Mary Chain riot gig at North London Poly, and The Loft’s only TV appearance on 80s yoof show ORS. However, a little more contextualisation wouldn’t have gone amiss. OK, the music scene from which Creation emerged was quite barren, but there was more to 80s pop than Live Aid.

And – though I appreciate it’s now seen as a pivotal moment in rock ‘n’ roll history- how many times do you need to hear the story of how McGee strolled into King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and stumbled upon the future of pop music? Well, here it is again, backed with the same fuzzed-out VHS footage. The remainder of the tale is well-worn too: the inexorable rise of Oasis, Alan’s breakdown, the Britpop wars...though it’s always a delight to see John Humphrys spitting out that Blur vs Oasis story with such contempt on BBC News.

However, it is really, all about the music and what impresses is how great it still sounds. The film opens with The Jesus & Mary Chain’s debut 45 (and the single which gives the film its name), and this Velvets-from-the-provinces wall of squall still sounds utterly incendiary; a galvanising call-to-arms which the band would never better. Everything else sounds a little tame after such an onslaught, but most of this music has aged surprisingly well. Except Swervedriver.

This isn’t the first time the label has been documented. Back in the late ‘90s, the BBC screened “The Man Who Discovered Oasis”, an hour-long skip through McGee’s back pages, which opened with the now all-too-familiar shots of Noel, Meg & “the president of pop” at a number 10 bash. Upside Down is streets ahead of “The Man...”; it’s a heroic tale vividly told. But the real Creation story –for me at least - lies in the true outsiders of the label: the Lawrences, the Legends, the Stephen Pastels, the Momuses...not to mention the dozens of one-shot acts that came-and-went throughout the label’s lifetime, and who in truth made up the bulk of the label’s output. McGee sets himself up as a maverick who was lucky (or canny) enough to strike commercial gold a few times in his career, but there’s a whole other story to be told; a story which may not be as populist, but would certainly be more pop.


Leave a comment

Utopia - Roundhouse
Threadneedle Prize
Prestel Publishing
Mat Collishaw - New Art Gallery Walsall
Cass Art