Creation Stories, Riots Rave and Running a Label (Sidgwick & Jackson)
Louder Than War’s Carl Stanley reviews the new biography of Alan McGee, a man who’s arguably done more to affect the musical landscape of modern times than anyone else. We also have some extracts from the book.
What Andrew Loog Oldham was to the 60s day trippers and what Malcolm Mclaren was to ‘all the young punks’ of the late 70s, is exactly what Alan McGee means to me and my generation.
You know the kind of people we’re talking about. It’s a select bunch who also include Larry Parnes and Tony Wilson amongst others, the sort of people who pop up every 10-15 years to discover for us the most important and dangerous bands, the ones who change and inspire everyday people’s lives.
The Jesus and The Mary Chain, Primal Scream and Oasis are for many some of Alan McGee’s greatest discoveries, but times spent with those groups represent just a small fraction of McGees life.
And so, at long last we finally get the full story from the man himself, lovingly told through his recently released biography; Creation Stories, Riots, Raves And Running A Label.
If you’re like me you’ll think you know a lot of his story, but then you start to read this book and realise that maybe you don’t. His home life, combined with a young marriage, could have quite easily ushered McGee towards the life of a cab driver if we’re to believe what we read in here. But what keeps cropping up in his life story is the knack for trusting his own instinct, an instinct which rewards him time after time throughout his career and which sees him returning to us band after band.
But it’s the dark and rather depressing home life that proves to be McGees first battle, the one he needs to win in order to follow his dreams of moving to London to either play in a band or work in the music business and ultimately, in actuality, to put his own nights on and have his own label.
The most enduring feature of the book is McGee’s Glaswegian ‘in ya face’ honesty, delivered in a writing style that almost makes you feel like he’s talking to you personally. His bare honesty in looking back on the bands, the music, the labels, the drugs and his relationships, plus the way he opens up and shares of his inner thoughts with the reader, makes it hard to put down.
But don’t take my word for it, check out the selection of extracts we’re printing for you today from the book; Creation Stories, Riots, Raves And Running A Label…
As I got older at secondary school I’d become more and more lonely, more depressed. Home was miserable. I’d become too old to get hit or Gran Barr. I wouldn’t stand for it. But the violence from my dad had started, and it was much worse. My mum and Gran had always been in control of themselves, and not that much stronger than me. My Dad was a strong man, and he’d completely lose it.
Andrew Innes, what a bastard, he wanted me to leave Glasgow just when life there was finally getting good. It had taken 19 years to become ‘good’, and now he wanted me to start again in London! I said goodbye to Yvonne, but we decided we would stay together and give long distance love a go. I quit my job and caught the train down with Andrew Innes. I took nothing with me except a new Yamaha bass guitar bought on credit and very small bag of clothes. We had no plan, except that we would arrive in London and become pop stars.
Then the radio banned it from the breakfast show – ‘Candy’ was a reference to drugs, apparently. I got ready to make a fuss about the establishment trying to censor the music that kids wanted to hear, but no, I wasn’t allowed to. The band and Jeff Travis were sick of controversy – just ignore it, I was told. And then in September I was called in for a meeting in the usual venue, a Wendy’s Burger bar on Oxford Street. It was William (Reid) who told me the news, I was fired.
Manchester / Acid House
I’d taken a lot of pills already that night, but then I made the mistake of asking Shaun Ryder for another one. He only gave me half, but it was the strongest pill I ever took. That’s when Debbie’s face became a giant green diamond and I had to wander off. Tony Wilson was there, in a shining white suite, like God, or a king. I found Debbie dancing and suddenly I started dancing too and I understood what the music was about. It was something new, something incredible. It felt like it was going to change everything.
Word must have got out that we were in trouble and thinking of selling. In the middle of our talks with Sony, when they were offering two million Derek Birkett from One Little Indian requested a meeting to discuss making an offer to buy us. At the time I was fucking angry at the cheek of him. He came down to the Bunker and offered £400,000, told me what a reasonable offer it was. He had no idea Sony had just offered 2.5 million and that I was hopeful of getting more out of them. I listened to him trying to hustle me while I kept calm. You should have seen Tim Abbott’s face when they started talking. He didn’t know if I was going to whack them with a chair. I kept calm, let Birkett say his piece and then told him he was an absolute piece of work, told him to get out of my office, that he should be embarrassed. I laughed at him. You’re a complete whore. Told him to fuck off.
I was on the plane, with no downers. No Valium, no Temazepam, my heart pounding away, just in hell, really. The panic came as soon as we took off. There were voices in my head. I thought I could hear the conversations of people at the far end of the plane talking about me. The stewardess was asking me if I’d taken acid. “I’ve taken a line a cocaine the size of and width of Robert Young’s forearm” I wanted to say, but I didn’t. I was trying not to scream “Just get me off this fucking plane”. It lasted the whole trip. My poor little sister was next to me. I was supposed to be showing her a good time in L.A. The stewards phoned ahead for an ambulance. I thought I was dying.
Be Here Now
Be Here Now destroyed a lot of the affection people had for Oasis, for Noel and Liam. There’d been a refreshing change before when they’d first arrived, down to earth and laddish in a way the average guy from Salford understood. The campaign for the album was all wrong, it left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. It made them seem aloof, like they thought they were above everyone else.
All words by Carl Stanley. More writing by Carl on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.