Cocaine, fine wine and Viagra: Alan McGee’s rock ‘n’ roll life

Absolute Radio DJ Pete Mitchell hears some of the outrageous stories from the Creation Records boss's new biography

The founder of one of the UK’s most out-there and exciting record labels has just published his first memoir. Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running a Label is Glaswegian Alan McGee’s story. The 300-page biography tells of his working-class beginnings and his out-of-control life in rock ‘n’ roll. He famously signed Oasis, as well as Primal Scream, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Ride, Super Furry Animals and My Bloody Valentine.

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Talking with Alan is always a complete and utter joy. Only the other day we chatted for the best part of three hours about everything from family to the possibility of a Smiths reunion and his love of the new Morrissey biography.

We covered the Stone Roses along with another truly hilarious McGee story about one of the most famous men in music — who shall remain nameless — who insisted that unless his promoter immediately supplied him with Viagra, he would refuse to go on stage. The promoter duly obliged and the international superstar went on at the SECC in front of 12,000 people with more than a smile on his face.

There a hundreds of stories like these that never made the book; the lawyers had a field day. Everyone written about in this fascinating insight was sent a copy before publishing for approval and the majority went with it.

I have heard many of those unpublished stories, and the ones left out for legal reasons are stuff of legend. “Someone suggested that I write a no-holds-barred account, naming names and incidents. It was suggested that I deposit it in a bank vault only to be published in the event of my death,” he says. I’m not sure if he’s bluffing but he is always convincing.

McGee is a brilliant raconteur who can talk the hind legs off a donkey. Noel Gallagher says of the man, “He gave me, and many people like me, a chance to change my life.” His oldest friend Bobby Gillespie states, “He was an instigator and motivator, a born upsetter.”

We spend time talking about his addictions. His energy came from booze, pills, cocaine and music. His drug habits changed dramatically when Sony bought a 49 per cent share in Creation for £2.5 million. He explained, “Overnight I went from buying one gram of cocaine at a time to buying seven”.

He was becoming very unpredictable. He was out of control and it was only a matter of time before it all caught up with him. On a flight to Los Angeles with his sister, and without any enhancements, the fear gripped him. His heart began pounding and he went into severe panic mode: “I felt like I was on a bad acid trip”.

By the end of the 11-hour flight he was in a bad way. The paramedics who met him off the flight diagnosed him with “nervous exhaustion”; he was hallucinating and on the verge of a breakdown. It was rehab time back in London after a spell in hospital in LA.

McGee recalls, “I knew when the guys in orange jumpsuits were putting the oxygen mask on me and carrying me out that I’d f***ked up.”

Alan is now 53 and looks back at his past predicaments with great humour. He is self-deprecating and reverential and loves to take the mickey out of himself.

He took his foot off the gas and straightened himself out and is now dry and drug-free but admits to drinking the odd tipple a few years back. I put it to him that at least he could afford to drink a decent bottle of wine. He said, “Yes that’s right, but my problem was that it was two bottles a night, so that had to stop.”

Alan is a voracious reader and I asked him what makes a good biography. He pondered, “I think humanity, to give something away about yourself, is what it’s all about, that for me is what makes a great read. I think I explain in the book why I am the way I am, it’s quite honest. One review said it was shockingly honest. It stands up as a book and I’m not embarrassed by it.”

Reading the book you may well be shocked and inspired but he offers up something that you won’t find anywhere else. “My career doesn’t define me. I am many things to many people – a father, husband and brother and I have a lot of other interests. Making music is not about making money for me, it’s because I want to do it,” he says.

I was present at his book launch and there was an enormous amount of respect and love for the man in the room, something I think overwhelmed him a little.

“To be honest with you I do find it quite hard, that kind of thing, because I’m Scottish and we just assume everybody hates us. I start from the basis that I expect nothing from anyone or anything.”

As we while away the afternoon putting the world to rights we talk more about addiction. Alan is an addict. These days however, he is simply addicted to rock ‘n’ roll and will always be. Here’s to volume two.

You can hear Alan McGee talking to Pete this Saturday at 10pm on Absolute Radio. Listen live here.


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