Pop: It's over (definitely maybe)

The founders of the record label that was set up on a shoestring and went on to discover Oasis have bailed out. What went wrong? By John Harris

On 10 and 11 August 1996, Oasis gave two performances at Knebworth Park, the aristocratic estate just outside Stevenage that still stands as a byword for rock success. On each day, 125,000 people came to pay their respects - but the most telling spectacle of all was hidden in the backstage guest area. A vast marquee had been erected: the kind that is usually seen at race meetings and polo matches. Within, specially-invited members of the music business made merry, while a clutch of VIPs - Kate Moss, Mick Hucknall - partied behind a length of scarlet rope. A vast sign above the tent's entrance spoke volumes about the barrel-chested confidence that underpinned the whole event: "Creation Records," it read. "World Class."

Yesterday, however, came news proving that that world is long gone. Alan McGee, the 40-year-old ex-railway clerk who began Creation on a garden- shed budget in 1983, announced that he and his partner Dick Green were exiting the label - the Sony Music Group, it seems, will now take full control. The latter has owned 49 per cent of Creation since 1991 - now, it seems, the label is destined to be little more than one of several Sony imprints. Whether Oasis will remain part of any Creation set-up is unclear. A statement yesterday from Oasis's management said: "Any talk about new labels is pure speculation at this juncture."

A recent deluge of sour-faced claims suggest that 1999 has been one of British music's worst ever years - and Creation's effective demise only backs up such pessimism. Operating from a rather shabby set of offices in London's Primrose Hill, it was the last refuge of the "indie" ethic, frequently issuing records with little thought for their market potential, and laying constant claim to disdain for balance sheets and profit forecasts.

Indeed, there have been occasions when McGee's fondness for the inexplicable, taste-driven project seemed to get the better of him. In 1997, he issued an album of light orchestral music conducted by his father, a Glaswegian ex-panel beater. This year, he indulged in quite the most spectacular folly of all: an album called My Beauty by ex-Dexy's Midnight Runners frontman Kevin Rowland - who had emerged from the career doldrums wearing stockings and suspenders, singing nothing but cover versions. The disc is reputed to have sold less than 500 copies in the UK, but McGee seemed unconcerned. "I don't give a fuck if it's a commercial disaster," he spat, "because it's one of the most beautiful records I've ever heard."

One of Creation's founding maxims was "Doing It For The Kids" - but there were times when McGee and his associates seemed to be in business for no one but themselves. Still, the label's track record entitled him to more than a little indulgence. Creation's cultural potency peaked three times: in the mid-Eighties, when they pioneered the nascent culture of indie, put the tin lid on the canonisation of the Velvet Underground, and made tight black trousers a totem of cool; in 1991, when Primal Scream's Screamadelica successfully embodied the height of the UK's love affair with ecstasy and scooped the Mercury Music Prize; and during the Britpop era - the time when Oasis made McGee his fortune and fleetingly put Creation on the world stage.

According to legend, McGee discovered them quite by accident. Visiting relatives in Glasgow, and keen to kill a couple of hours before getting his train back to London, he strayed into the King Tut's Wah Wah Hut venue and clapped eyes on his ideal band. The Gallaghers had reputedly turned up unannounced, and threatened to smash the place up if they weren't allowed to play - such hard-faced assurance, coupled with their songs, instantly convinced McGee that he should sign them.

Back then, he was all but dissolving in the effects of cocaine and alcohol abuse. Indeed, even among his own musicians, he had a reputation for unfathomable behaviour: "When we played Alan `Supersonic'," said Noel Gallagher, "he poured a bottle of Jack Daniel's over his head and said he was going to phone up each and every one his bands and fire them." Instead, it was McGee who had to temporarily exit the music business. In February 1994, just as the ascent of Oasis decisively began, he boarded in a plane in LA after a huge drug binge and had a convulsive fit. The result was a year-long period of rehabilitation, during which he was absent from Creation altogether. Oasis paid reputed tribute to his talents: while he was away, they would dedicate renditions of "Live Forever" to him.

Britpop eventually kick-started the politico-cultural moment known as Cool Britannia. The newly-straight McGee was in the forefront, advising Tony Blair on arts policy, and accompanying Noel Gallagher on his post- election visit to Number 10. One of the photos taken at the event embodies an occasion that looks like something from another era: Gallagher, dressed more like a footballer than a rock star, shaking hands with Blair while McGee looks on, oozing pride. It represented both the highpoint of British music's cultural impact, and its effective castration - for, if rock stars were now friends of the Government, how could they continue to be truly exciting? Such, arguably, was one of many factors behind the bursting of the Britpop bubble. Whatever, the charts are now dominated by teen clones and safe American imports, and the success of the next Oasis album is by no means assured.

According to rumour, McGee has decided to throw in the towel because his brand of maverick business - not to mention the guitar-rock in which he has always specialised - is simply proving untenable. Churlish minds would argue that Creation Records hardly helped its own cause, but its effective demise is undoubtedly part of the banalisation of the UK's music scene. Couldn't its friend Mr Blair indulge in an act of state intervention and preserve them as a national treasure?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus brought her Bangerz tour to London's O2 Arena last night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams' life story will be told in a biography written by a New York Times reporter

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
    Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

    From strung out to playing strings

    Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
    The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
    Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

    Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

    The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
    On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

    On the road to nowhere

    A Routemaster trip to remember
    Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

    Hotel India

    Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
    10 best pencil cases

    Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

    Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
    Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

    Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

    Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
    Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

    Pete Jenson: A Different League

    Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
    This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

    The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

    Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis