Scottish music Svengali, the irrepressible Alan McGee, returns to the fold with a new label, 359 Records, and his first autobiography, Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running a Label, which is out in early November.
I can never be too sure whether Alan likes or hates the music business, but for now he’s back and I’m glad about that. I have known him on and off for years; we used to DJ together at his Death Disco night at Notting Hill Arts Club and he has appeared on my radio shows many times over the years. He’s always exceptionally good value.
His label, Creation Records, has gone down in the annuls of music history. He discovered Oasis, which is his defining musical moment, and he released records by the Jesus and Mary Chain and Primal Scream, before selling on his label in 1999 and launching Poptones, signing the Hives and releasing their album, Your New Favourite Band, which crashed into the top 10 in 2002.
There is more to McGee than meets the eye. He used to deal in drugs but these days dabbles in art and property instead and is now once again running his own record label.
Alan is funny and a wonderful raconteur. He regaled me with a few tales that unfortunately will not make his forthcoming memoirs, due to legal reasons. One particular story about Knebworth had me rolling on the floor in laughter, gasping for air.
His discovery of Oasis is legendary. Love them or loathe them, they inspired a generation with their anthems and antics and the very thing that made them stand out, the exhausting sibling rivalry of Noel and Liam, was the very thing that tore them apart.
I am hearing rumours they have been offered a substantial amount to perform their greatest album, the debut Definitely Maybe, to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2014. Would anyone be surprised if a tour happened? Maybe not, but for me I think it’s way too soon. Not enough time has elapsed in order to create “fever pitch”, to have fans buying tickets up for thousands of pounds, for a nation to wait with bated breath to see the squabbling brothers back on stage one more time. This will eventually happen but it’s some years off.
For now we have the return of the Mac, the man with the Midas touch, the alchemist and soothsayer. Will he be able, one more time, to create a phenomenon, a cultural change?
“You can never dictate was is going to happen because whatever you say you’re going to do, the opposite happens,” beams McGee knowingly. “In a perfect world I will have a great roster and enjoy doing it, but what invariably happens is that something blows up and you have to deal with it and it has happened a lot of times to me.”
McGee recently said that there is more to him than the man who discovered Oasis but I put it to him that he does have the knack.
“I’ve got the luck. I’ve been in the right place at the right time. Finding Oasis was just that. The way I remember that night is that I went to the gig to try and get off with my sister’s mate, who was a model, but she never showed up so I just stuck around. This unknown Manchester band bullied their way onto the bill. I think King Tuts in Glasgow, the venue I saw them at that night, took pity on them and said you have driven a long way so go on and play. They were very moody and it was easier to let them play four songs than to tell them to go home. I could have easily not seen them and it could have been a whole different story. It was a total fluke.”
Fluke or not, if this kind of thing happened to me with alarming regularity, then surely I would be tempted, periodically, to go out and see if I could wave my magic wand, so to speak, and discover the next big thing. So is Alan once again rubbing his hands together maniacally?
“We have six new acts and a whole roster of people waiting in the wings. The first six signings were acts I already knew about. My first signing John Lennon McCullagh, and that’s his real name by the way, he is from Doncaster and was introduced to me by his father. He got in touch with me on Facebook and I ended going to DJ in Rotherham and to see John senior play. I drove up and it was a terrible venue and there were about 30 people there. Big John asked me if his 13-year-old son could play before him. I thought this is Rotherham, only 30 people are here and it can’t get any worse than this. I thought to myself, ‘Oh no, I better think of something nice to say, no matter how bad he is.’
“John Lennon McCullagh Junior went on and nailed it. He played a few Bob Dylan songs and finished by playing The Masterplan by Oasis and he nailed that too. I said to him immediately that he should go away and write his own songs and consequently he became the very first signing to my new label.”
They say things always come full circle. Will Alan and his new venture bear fruit? Only a fool would bet against that happening. For me it’s just good to have him back in circulation and maybe just maybe, something big is about to happen. Welcome back to the fold, Alan McGee.
Catch Pete Mitchell on Saturdays from 10pm for Saturday Social on Absolute Radio. You can also hear him on Absolute Radio 90s from 8pm on Saturdays for Pete Mitchell’s 24 Hour Party People. absoluteradio.co.uk/listen