Creation Stories

Creation Stories (2021)

Creation Stories first published by

Scotland. Irvine Welsh. Drugs. Ewen Bremner. The Nineties. It is a combination that will inevitably have viewers thinking of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996), and just possibly Paul McGuigan’s The Acid House (1998) – and its recombination in Creation Stories is no coincidence, even if this is more a musical biopic, like director Nick Moran’s previous Telstar: The Joe Meek Story (2008). For it chronicles the rise and fall of Alan McGee, who founded and ran the independent music label Creation Records from 1988 till he closed it in 1999, introducing to the world acts like The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine and Oasis. Written by Dean Cavanagh and Welsh, this depicts McGee (Bremner, and Leo Flanagan when he is younger) as “a ginger cunt from Glasgow”, loving only music and money, and on a path away from his strict father (Richard Jobson) to any rebellion that will have him. And just as the soundtrack of Trainspotting was fuelled by many of the mid-Nineties musical movements that McGee helped establish, Creation Stories comes with the same punkish energy as Trainspotting, as well as casting a knowing sideways glance at a truly disgusting shit-stained toilet (albeit in LA rather than Edinburgh), and including its protagonist’s frank, Renton-like admission about his destructive addictions: “Bottom line is, it was fun.” Meanwhile, trains keep playing a significant rôle in the narrative of McGee, who was employed for a time by British Rail and serially misses trains to or from Glasgow.

Presented as an informal interview given by a coked-up McGee to the up-and-coming journalist Jemma (Suki Waterhouse) in LA, and then another two meetings with her later in London when her career has taken off, Creation has a fractured, anecdotal structure that enables Moran to cover several decades of McGee’s life while skipping manically to all the wildest bits: the punk posturing, the serial scrapes with greatness, the rock-and-roll lifestyle, the crazed benders. In keeping with the punning title, McGee is endlessly interested in origins, and the source of his serendipitous power to be in the right place at the right time. “I’m talentless but I’m a situationist – I make things happen,” he tells Jemma, referring to the Crowleyan ‘alchemy’ which lets him see the gold in shit (Aleister Crowley, played by Steven Berkoff, turns up in one of McGee’s bathroom hallucinations). Yet McGee’s ear for saleable music is not matched by a head for balance sheets, and his intoxicated, devil-may-care blundering through a business that he is changing without ever quite understanding is part of what makes him such an endearing character – like Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum (2019) lost in London’s dives and Manchester’s clubland. 

“Stick to making your little records – stay away from politics,” a radical feminist tells McGee at a house party. McGee might, as he exploits Margaret Thatcher’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme, graphically fantasise about patting “this fucking witch’s” Prime Ministerial posterior, but he also admits in his narration that what we have just seen “never happened” – even as earlier he had corrected himself to suggest, “Forget everything in that last voiceover”. Here McGee is both self-conscious and unreliable narrator, and Creation Stories keeps reminding us of the liberties that are being taken with this real man’s life. Decades later, McGee forgets the advice he was given and allows himself – and his fashionable Britpop brand – to be co-opted by New Labour in their (successful) bid for power. Mc Gee’s disillusionment with them comes fast – but in a sense everything that he does from the first is political, serving a countercultural drive towards recalcitrant independence and the hedonism that would define and dominate the Nineties. And so McGee’s misadventures in the music industry are a Creation myth of both where we have come from and what we have lost along the way, told with wit and brio to spare. 

strap: This bravura semi-fictionalised biopic of 90s music label owner Alan McGee has wit and brio to spare.

© Anton Bitel