Sunday, October 24, 2010


UPSIDE DOWN: THE CREATION RECORDS STORY is a deeply dull piece of pop hagiography created by fanboys and insiders for nostalgic middle-aged former floppy-fringed Brit-pop hacks. It is basically an homage to Alan McGee, ginger-haired rock impresario who came to London in the early eighties, started putting gigs together, and eventually formed a record label that put out acts that were typically acclaimed in the pages of the NME but sold precious few records. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream and My Bloody Valentine are the most recognisable of the bands, and even there, you don't get the idea that McGee's haphazard, drug-fuelled, indulgent mentorship did them any real good. Yes he signed them but often as not he let them drift along before imploding.  The Scream put out one genuinely great album and then disappeared in a whirlwind of their own hype. That's something though. Most of McGee's acts barely got a hit single. 

Creation - ramshackle, do-it-yourself, rude-and-loud - stumbled through the eighties and nineties until something truly amazing happened - and that thing, ladies and gentlemen, was Oasis. Oasis was a rare thing for a Creation Records band: they put out records chock-full of Good Songs. Strong hooks, catchy choruses, stadium-fillers, snarling frontmen. Sure, it might've been good luck to have come onto the scene just at the moment when Britart was causing a sensation. London was swinging again, and the kids from Madchester benefited from the inflated war with Blur. But underneath it all, there were some damn fine songs. And what did Alan McGee have to do with this? Bugger all. He was in rehab, and by the time he got out, the label was wound up. Managing a major pop act needs people who actually turn up to work, sober, and know about the money. You can't both be anarchic and rebellious AND be a mainstream record label making serious cash. Oasis is the best thing Creation ever discovered, but they were the beginning of the end.

Somewhere in all of this is an interesting story about the impossibility of harnessing raw indie energy in a mainstream record label. Somewhere, there is a story about a band who became successful despite the shambolic label they were signed to. Somewhere, there is an honest assessment about how bloody indulgent and forgettable most of these bands were. Because, let's face it, when it comes to seminal acts of the eighties and nineties, Factory kills Creation every time. But we never get that. This documentary badly needs opening out. It needs more context. Director Danny O'Connor doesn't have to agree with me that Factory was more important than Creation, but he needs to talk more about the wider musical context of Creation, as opposed to just showing McGee remembering getting high in the Hacienda. O'Connor needs to remember that he is a documentarian not a hagiographer - he needs distance, cool assessment and to attract an audience beyond the nostalgic core.

As it is, this film is basically not edifying to those of us who were there, and not interesting, I suspect, to anyone who wasn't. If you really want to know what happened, you'd be better off reading John Harris' superb book, "The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the demise of English Rock."

UPSIDE DOWN: THE CREATION RECORDS STORY has no commercial release date.


  1. Please, I really beg of you, the reviewer - do not ever write, in fact dont even speak again. You probably don't know anything about music, didn't understand half of what the Scots in the film were saying and haven't had a drug in your life.

  2. "you probably don't know anything about music" - I'd say almost definitely.