SXSW FILM 2011
By Don Simpson | April 23, 2011
Director: Danny O’Connor
In my humble opinion, Creation Records is one of the most important record labels in the history of British rock music (alongside the likes of Rough Trade and Factory). Founded in 1983 by Alan McGee, Dick Green and Joe Foster, Creation’s premiere release was the “’73 in ’83” single by The Legend! for which Creation acquired a £1,000 bank loan to fund. Creation went on to release albums by countless seminal bands of the British indie scene, including: Oasis, My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Pastels, Television Personalities, Primal Scream, The Loft, Super Furry Animals, Teenage Fanclub, Saint Etienne, The Boo Radleys, 3 Colours Red, Ride, Swervedriver, Slowdive, BMX Bandits, The House of Love, The Weather Prophets, Felt, The Telescopes, The Jazz Butcher, Momus, Sugar, and Teenage Filmstars.
Creation’s roster forever redefined music and — according to Danny O’Connor’s Upside Down: The Creation Records Story — McGee deserves a great deal of the credit. McGee fostered a 24-hour party [with the] people at Creation headquarters, which in turn developed a camaraderie and unique kinship amongst his bands. Then, when McGee dove headfirst into the acid house scene, he subsequently turned-on bands such as Primal Scream, Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, drastically influencing the sound their music forever more.
The festering problem, however, was that McGee was Out Spaced on Serious Drugs 24-hours a day and he never remained sober enough to run the label. When McGee finally checked into rehab, it was already too late. Creation’s debt (which some — arguably, I might add — attribute to the recording costs associated with My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless) had already become insurmountable; McGee was left with few choices, so he sold half of Creation to Sony Music in 1992. Shortly thereafter, Creation signed Oasis (thus quickly losing the respect of yours truly — yes, I am an Oasis hater) whose Definitely Maybe became an amazing commercial success; then, Oasis’ sophomore effort — (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? — became the highest selling British album of the 1990s.
Named after the Jesus and Mary Chain’s groundbreaking debut single, Upside Down clears up some of the Fuzzy Logic of Creation’s history. Was McGee a “Godlike Genius” (as NME proclaimed him to be in February 1995)? Upside Down does not dispute that moniker, though it does showcase his sheer recklessness in management decisions (or lack there of). The Beaster of feedback produced by Creation will never be File[d] Under Easy Listening and there Isn’t Anything else like it. But, other than Oasis, the attitude in the United States about Creation has been Loveless at best. Just For A Day the U.S. should have the Good Humor to check out the Valium Orgasm that the wily Brits on Creation’s roster created with their unbridled Screamadelica.
There have been many copycats over the years; but no one, Nowhere will ever be able to mimic the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Slowdive, The Pastels, Television Personalities, Primal Scream, Swervedriver, or Felt. Sure, all of these bands were in one way or another derivative of their sonic ancestors; but they all added their own touches in developing novel soundscapes unlike anything else produced prior to them. My primary criteria for judging music has always been whether or not the musicians are offering anything new to the altar of music history; as inventive new sounds become more of a rarity, that only makes labels like Creation so much more important in the rock pantheon.
Just to reiterate: this is all just the opinion of a Creation geek (not to be confused with a Creationism geek). I would like to believe, however, that O’Connor’s Upside Down has the power to show the uninitiated the true genius of Creation’s roster. Upside Down represents Creation’s musical spectrum quite well; with its fantastic array of live performances and other archival footage, interspersed with informative talking head interviews, you can really get a good feel for what Creation was like during its early years and heyday. That said — as an avid fan, I feel like O’Connor may have directed Upside Down a little too far towards the non-fans in the audience, as it sometimes feels a little too much like an episode of Behind the Music on VH1. Most of what is documented in Upside Down has been said and/or seen before, so there are very few new revelations to make any knowledgeable fan’s “head hit the ground, uh-huh-huh…”