Written for Spoonfed, London Film Festival 2010
In a run down office in Hackney, aged only 24, Alan McGee redefined the term Record Executive. In this unapologetic, no-holds-barred documentary by Danny O’Connor, we take in rapid-fire story-telling from McGee, Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie and Noel Gallagher among others, on the drama and music of Creation Records from its birth in 1983 to its demise in 1999.
He’s championed Malcolm McLaren for mayor and saluted Susan Boyle, and, in Upside Down: The Creations Records Story, the Glaswegian ‘President of Pop’ looks like what would happen if the artful dodger became a pimp. Talking heads help tell the story of McGee’s relationship with Bobby Gillespie and his journey to London where he signed The Jesus and Mary Chain, took copious amounts of coke and somehow managed to turn a bit of a profit.
McGee’s reputation forms the foreground of this documentary and his personality drives it. O’Connor sets his audience up with an image of the young McGee and the people around him at the time. Making an effort to portray the man behind the music, as it were, the film focuses on the stories of how McGee comes across the musicians who carved the name Creations Records into this history of British music. We learn about the late discovery of acid house and the invention of Brit Pop and question indie music in general, but only a bit.
McGee admits more than once that really it was the success and money held by the likes of Sony that made him want to create Creation, but unquestionably, he did it his way. If the goal then was always fortune and a kind of fame, one might be tempted to ask whether indie ever really existed in the essential form we revere it. Wasn’t ‘indie’ perhaps just the rebel baby brother that wanted the privileges of its straight-laced older sibling without any of the responsibility? The documentary asks no such pompous questions; it just tells a mad epochal story of renowned names without the romance or the sentiment.
Images of the coolest kids in town as middle-aged men provide a creepy delight, whilst a sometimes cold dose of reality comes as McGee recounts the mass of debt he clocked up and his friends deny involvement with his drug problems. It’s the pace and sharp editing of O’Connor documentary, as well as its legendary subjects, that will draw in the crowds at this year’s London Film Festival.