Artifact, Part 1 – Longjohn Reviews

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Creation -Artifact

Artifact – The Dawn Of Creation Records

Cherry Red CRCDBOX19

Artifact – The Dawn of Creation Records 1983-85 is a 5 CD box set containing 124 songs devoted to the early years of Alan McGee’s Creation Records. The collection pulls together singles, album tracks, rarities, demos and BBC sessions by a diverse range of bands including The Pastels, The Bodines, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Loft, Primal Scream, The X Men, The Legend, The Jasmine Minks and The Membranes.  Also included is a 12,000-word essay by journalist Neil Taylor plus a detailed biography off all the bands signed to Creation Records in this seminal period.

When Alan McGee set off from Glasgow to London in 1982 to pursue his dream of being a musician and forming a band, it would be fair to assume that he could never have envisioned that within 15 years he would form arguably one of the most influential indie labels in the UK, sign some of the most iconic bands of the 1980s and 90s, sell half of Creation Records to the monolithic and corporate Sony Records, and end up in No 10 Downing Street quaffing champagne with Tony Blair.

The story of how Creation Records came into existence is fascinating as it is improbable. The label itself was started in 1983 in conjunction with McGee’s influential club night The Living Room. This seminal early club night was set up to showcase bands that McGee liked, and the success of the club allowed McGee to use what profits there were to start releasing singles by the bands that were a regular feature at The Living Room, and thus Creation Records was born and the rest as they say is history.

This article will focus on disc 1 of the Artifact box set and the bands featured here became the blueprint for what might be considered the definitive indie sound, while embodying the DIY ethos of punk. However, there are a few exceptions on this particular disc that do not necessarily fit this indie stereotype. With hindsight you would have to question McGee for giving any recording time to The Legend, aka Jerry Thackray. Both singles are feature here, including the ridiculous 73 in 83, as well as You (Chunk Chunka) Were Glamorous, The Legend! Destroys The Blues and Arrogant Bastards. These songs are spoken word, rambling and nonsensical but good fun nonetheless.

Glaswegian cult band The Pastels teamed up with Creation Records to record a number of singles in 1984, including Something Going On, Stay With Me Till Morning, Million Tears, Surprise Me and Baby Honey. The core members of the band were Stephen McRobbie and Katrina Mitchell, and the songs included on this particular disc clearly display their talent for recording joyously catchy shambling pop songs with nonchalant ease.

The problem for The Pastels was that they were never very prolific and only sporadically recorded when they seemingly felt like it. This might explain why they remain nothing more than a cult phenomenon. The highlights here are Something Going On and the beautifully ragged and dreamy pop of a Million Tears. These melancholic and angst ridden tracks are joyously uplifting, despite the sombre nature of the lyrics. Both songs are addictively catchy and they feel immediately familiar after only a couple of listens.

Revolving Paint Dream and Biff, Bang, Pow, owe something of an obvious debt to 1960s pop, beat and psychedelia. Revolving Paint Dream cut 2 singles and 2 albums with Creation, and featured here is the first single Flowers In The Sky. The band featured former Primal Scream guitarist Andrew Innes and on occasions Alan McGee.  Flowers In The Sky has a continuous Byrds like guitar chime, and despite its slightly pastiche nature it is nonetheless still a great and catchy tune. However, it is the B-side In The Afternoon that may attract the listener’s attention. This particular track was written by McGee and has a dreamy swirling organ sound coinciding with a chiming guitar melody. The song is completed by Christina Wanless’ breathy, fragile vocals, which blend in beautifully to create a song that should have been a stand alone A-side in its very own right.

Biff, Bang, Pow took their name from a song recorded by 1960s freak beat band The Creation. Their early singles featured Alan McGee on guitar and vocals and included on this disc are the singles, Fifty Years Of Fun, Then When I Scream, There Must Be A Better Life and The Chocolate Elephant Man. All these tunes have clear British psychedelic influences, and a swirling organ sound (Then When I Scream) and jingle jangle guitar wig outs on the other 3 songs. There is also a cheeky bit of riff pilfering on Fifty Years Of Fun, and the opening guitar chords sound suspiciously like the opening riff to The Who’s So Sad about Us.

The Jasmine Minks have several songs included here including, Think, Work For Nothing and Where The Traffic Goes, which were all recorded in 1984. These singles are fast up-tempo numbers, featuring the almost customary jangly Rickenbacker sound, and sit somewhere between 1960s pop and post punk. Not much is known about the X Men, but they did record some great records for Creation in 1984. Bad Girl, Talk and Do The Ghost all have a demented psychobilly thrash and these tracks would not sound out of place on the Nuggets and Pebbles compilation albums. Do The Ghost in particular is a fantastic single and on first listen there is a somewhat obvious comparison to the deranged sound of The Cramps. However, according to the notes in Artifact the song was inspired by The Novas stupendous 1964 single The Crusher.

It seems incredible that The Loft only released 2 singles with Creation Records, before disbanding in 1985. The 3 songs included on this disc demonstrate a promise that was never quite fulfilled. Why Does The Rain, Like and Winter all have the customary jangly guitar work delivered by guitarist Andy Strikland, and ruminative lyrics delivered in a somewhat languid tone by singer Pete Astor. These tracks ably demonstrate that The Loft could have been a creative success, but they never stuck around long enough to find out. Why Does The Rain in particular is an outstanding single and was one of the first releases on Creation Records, and it is arguably the most accomplished single that was released by the label in 1984.

This early period for Creation Records yielded nothing by way of commercial success but as the songs on this disc demonstrate it was a creatively fertile period for the bands on this fledgling label that always seemed on the verge of bankruptcy. McGee’s dedication and love of music somehow kept the label afloat and gradually the hit records and commercial success arrived, but that is another story. Stay tuned pop pickers as we delve even further into the Artifact box set in part two, which will be coming your way soon! BUY HERE!

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Long John

Charming Chap and a new sharp force for Eyeplug, being a toppermost writer with a keen appreciation for things of quality and distinction. A well known face on the London ‘Mod’ Scene but with an open mind and heart. Got a strange interest in Pirates? One to watch out for!

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