Inspired madness remembered in Upside Down: The Creation Records Story
If the year 1991 is defined in your memory by the albums Screamadelica, Loveless, and Bandwagonesque, boy do I have a film for you.
Screening on Monday (July 16) at the Vancity Theatre, Upside Down: The Story of Creation Records is Danny O’ Connor’s acclaimed documentary about the UK label that somehow, through 15 years of outrageous decadence, heroic drug-taking, and a total commitment to its amphetamine pop-art vision, managed to make an enormous imprint on Brit culture and eventually the world.
Those three records pretty much defined the A-Z of Creation Records in one of its many peaks, from the rebirth of Primal Scream as ecstasy evangelists, to My Bloody Valentine blowing up the label’s shoegazer leanings into what Gavin Friday calls the “Sistine Chapel of rock,” and Teenage Fanclub providing the yeoman-like guitar pop somewhere in the middle.
Upside Down naturally takes it back to the beginning, with Jim Reid recalling the night he spent stuffing copies of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s first single into its sleeve and thinking, “Marc Bolan never did this.”
Marc Bolan also never played to a hundred billion people at Knebworth. Oasis did, and that’s more or less where the story ends, with Noel Gallagher affectionately stating, “When you’ve got a label that big, it can’t be run by drug monkeys from Hackney.”
Label head and all around savant Alan McGee was hobbled by that point, a victim of his own insane appetites. As Ride’s Andy Bell says, “Every time you went to Creation you got ready for a weekend out.” McGee himself concedes, “I was a professional good time.”
Not that McGee was going it alone. Everybody connected to Creation was a lunatic, most notably House of Love’s Guy Chadwick, thought of at first as a bit posh, “like Kenneth Branagh,” but revealed here to be the craziest of the lot.
Chadwick is there to tell his side of the story, while Upside Down in general benefits from the participation of Creationites like Adam Franklin of the mighty Swervedriver, Bobby Gillespie, Norman Blake, Gruff Rhys, Kevin Shields, even the Loft’s Pete Astor, and behind-the-scenes legends like Ed Ball, Joe Foster, and “the Abbots”, all of them eager to dish the dirt and expand on the Creation myth.
O’Connor’s film (which apparently almost killed him) sometimes suffers from confusing timelines and the utter impenetrability of Alan McGee’s Glasgow-by-way-of-East Kilbride accent. But it also doesn’t really matter. Upside Down is a riot of colour, sound, and giddily remembered tales of inspired madness, and it’s only appropriate that it should leave you feeling a little disoriented.
Upside Down: The Story of Creation Records screens at the Vancity Theatre on Monday (July 16)
You can follow Adrian Mack's contribution to the lobotomizing techno-nightmare known as Twitter at @AdrianMacked.