An Open Letter To Alan McGee

By shane

An Open Letter To Alan McGee:
Creation Records, London

Dear Alan,

Piss off. Please allow me to elaborate.
As founder of Creation Records, you have always been an inspiration and "musical God" to me, which is pretty astounding, given that you're in music business - most of my true idols are musicians, not industry folk. But Creation's always been different.

To have the insight to realize that the Jesus and Mary Chain were the Saviors of Indie Rock way back when was simply brilliant. Few others in the industry would have realized the potential lurking behind their unstable wall of sound, and you did, so cheers. Granted, they left your label for greener pastures shortly thereafter, but you essentially started a revolution with that one. Top move.

Then there was the House of Love - a seemingly perfect mix of pop purism and dreamy bliss. The divine mix of Guy Chadwick's lazy vocals and Terry Bickers' post-psychedelic guitar would influence a generation of bands to throw their pop manuals away and stare at their shoes for awhile. Another good discovery - cheers.

Then there was My Bloody Valentine - the band least likely to actually sell records... until you got ahold of them, that is. "Loveless" damn near broke your label, but I bet you still feel justified to this day in putting it out. It's simply that good, and a blueprint and influence for upstart musicians everywhere to go, "You can do THIS with a guitar?" Ground-breaking, revolutionary, demented genius. Cheers.

Then there was Primal Scream - a band that most Americans just don't get, but that's just because we didn't have the exposure to the acid house bonanza that many Europeans did at the time. The notion of making "Screamadelica" into a perfect commercial blend of roots rock and dance grooves came at just the right time. It's not the genius album that many have claimed - it was just genius for the moment. But that doesn't matter - it was yet another great way for you to introduce tons of kids to a new destination in sound. Cheers.

Then there was Teenage Fanclub - It's nice to have Creation around to pick up on Scottish talent that some of the majors wouldn't be bothered to check out. Teenage Fanclub did nothing new whatsoever, but merely took the sound of Big Star and modernized it for the 90's. And that alone was pretty cool. It's good to have at least a couple of bands on your roster who just simply r-o-c-k. Cheers.

Then there was Ride - the group that made it all come together for me. I still say that if Nirvana hadn't happened, Ride might have had a better chance at cracking the States - think about it, their music was more innovative and at times even a little more angstful. Sure, they couldn't write lyrics to save their arses, but they were KIDS. You saw the talent. You realized the dream. And I bet you think Loz Colbert's still one of the best drummers in the world. You can spot talent, Alan. Cheers.

Then there was Slowdive - a band that took heaping piles of critical dung, but the albums were bloody genius. Their only problem was they didn't make for great press, so the weeklies killed the scene before it was allowed to fully thrive and flourish. "Souvlaki" should still remain one of the top albums of the Nineties in any true music fan's thoughts. Cheers.

Then there was Oasis - the most important discovery of your career. Forget Marilyn Manson, he's all glitz and no content - it's actually Oasis who embody Rawk N Roll Hedonism at its finest. You found the devil, you signed the devil, you promoted the hell out of the devil, and the devil now reigns as the greatest rock and roll band on the planet. Cheers.

But that's ALL I'm gonna give you ever, Alan. 'Cause you're botching things up royally left and right lately.

It all started a few weeks ago, when Oasis made the shock announcement that their new bass player would be Andy Bell, the former lead guitarist and songwriter for both Ride and Hurricane #1. This announcement came as a bit of a shock to many folks out there, especially those of us that are a wee bit biased in our opinions of Bell. You see, there's many people out there like me who reckon that Andy lost the plot a bit in his recent decision to join Oasis. This is, if you think about it, a pretty easy argument to back up:

Key Point of Discussion #1: Andy Bell is known for being a guitar player.
Key Point of Discussion #2: Andy Bell is known for being a songwriter.

In his new role in Oasis, he'll be doing neither. There's obviously only room for ONE creative mind in Oasis, and that (arguably) is Noel Gallagher. Noel calls the shots, Noel writes the songs, Noel is the boss, and he's taken every opportunity to tell anyone with a microphone just that.

When you look at the situation from that angle and ask yourself questions like, "Now why would Andy want to play bass and take orders from someone else..." Well, it doesn't take a great deal of intuition and fact-gathering to come up with a conclusion that Andy's now simply in it for (a) the money, (b) the fame, or (c) both. Or, to put it more bluntly, that the man's sold out.

Now, don't get me wrong here - this isn't necessarily MY opinion, it's just one that's out there. I'm not going to say in a public forum whether I think it's true or not - that's irrelevant. The point is, that theory's out there, out there en masse among former Ride fans, out there allllll over the Internet.

And when fans get mad - especially Internet ones - they tend to get a little verbal, which is exactly like one bloke did on your message board under the header "Andy Sold Out." I'll be honest - I didn't see the post, but I'm certain it was quite harsh, uncouth, and probably a little bit uncalled for. However, NOTHING was as uncalled for as the public reply that was posted on the Creation Records forum by someone claiming to be McGee shortly thereafter.

Allow me to reprint (with my comments, of course.)

"That attack is too personal man."

(fair enough - I bet it was.)

"If you think that's a sell out you should get out the house and stop buying the NME so much. Andy Bell is a class act as a musician and a human being. He tells you to 'Fuck off,' I would say grow up, mate. Hurricane stopped having hits because the market changed for the worse. These peer bands were all dropped because you, the fans, stopped buying the records."

(And nothing to do with Creation lacking a bit in the promotions dept. of late? Nothing to do with the horrible reviews of the last Hurricane #1 album? Nothing to do with the fact that they simply weren't altogether good or ground-breaking - but that must be what a 'peer band' is. And the point is, if Hurricane #1 were to be dropped, it most certainly was news to any of us! Creation still maintained at this point that the band were together and whipping up a third album.)

"Andy Bell is a world class musician."

(Yes, that's true... but he's also a world class songwriter, lest you forget.)

"So what does he do? Play to 100 people on Cardiff or 75,000 people in a stadium. Grow fucking up!"

(Here's where you totally lose me. Soooo... basically what you're implying is that the goal of any musician should be mass appeal? Success? Sales? Riches? Was that actually what you were thinking when you signed up the Jesus and Mary Chain and kept their records in your bedroom? That you were going to be massively successful and wealthy? Was that the goal of Creation Records, a label that heralded in a new wave of artistry into British music? I tell you what, if I was in a band, I'd certainly take a roomful of 100 music fans who really appreciated the art behind the music rather than 75,000 people who were there to chant football slogans, get pissed, and hang out to some decent background music.)

"He has a kid and a wife."

(Even I will refrain from stating a rather obvious and tasteless chuckle that he now has to support his wife because she's no longer signed to Creation herself.)

Get ready, kids, here's the kicker:

"In life, you make it as good for yourself as you can."

(Alan, you've just justified "selling out." You've just inferred that it's okay to lower your artistic standards or totally change your direction in order to "make it as good for yourself as you can.")

"He is a world class musician playing in a world class band."

(Yes, as a bass player.)

"Do me and Andy a favour. Don't ever tell people you were a fan of his, as we both would be embarrassed that we had anything to do with your prejudice and jaundiced view on life. Andy might say 'fuck off,' I say don't come back here. You are not wanted by him or my label. Give us a call when you grow up..."

Good points here and there, my friend. But the fact is, you've totally lost it with one sentence alone. "In life, you make it as good for yourself as you can." The words just echo through my head. If that statement were true, wouldn't My Bloody Valentine never have been? If Kevin Shields was trying to "make it as good for himself as he could," wouldn't he have come out sounding like Robbie Williams? Elton John? People that sell records? Are popular? Play to 75,000 people in a stadium?

Really, come on. I know I'm taking the piss here a bit, but if YOU were trying to "make it as good for yourself as you could," then why on God's green earth would you sign up Kevin Rowland and then allow him to pounce about the festival circuit with a dress, 2 strippers, and a backing tape?

But enough on the Andy Bell thing. In the end, it's totally Andy's decision. Maybe he really, truly likes it. Maybe he wanted to be in Oasis all along - all you really have to do is put on a Hurricane record to realize that. Maybe he's doing it for the money. Maybe he's doing it for the fame. Maybe he's doing it cause he wants to. Who cares? In the long run, it can only mean good things for Oasis, and I have no problems with that.

But then came the shock announcement. You're leaving. Packing it all in next June. Moving on.

Good. It's time. You yourself "grew up," eh?

But I'm also forced to tell you that that, too, sadly, is a giant load of shite.

How "cool" is it just to pack it in, Alan? Creation's always just been your plaything all along then, eh? Doesn't matter that there are bands still trying to squeeze some success out there on your label that will soon be dropped... doesn't matter that you have a staff of dedicated workers who've worked for you all these years and will soon be homeless...

It's also a pretty nice move to wait until June. With a new Oasis album coming out in February, that should give you enough time to reap the profits off of at least three singles before calling it a day. Way to "make it as good for yourself as you could." Way to turn your back on the industry that you yourself shaped. Your answer? You're 40. Man, maybe Kiss WAS right when they said, "If it's too loud, you're too old." Hell, man, I'm pushing 30 myself, but hopefully I'll be the elderly bloke hanging out in the balcony at the top shows, the one that all the kids make fun of. I won't care, though - music's THAT important to me. I thought it was to you, too.

Your other answer? Time to move towards the future. The Internet. Multi-media. "Record labels will be extinct in a few years," you say. "Bullshit," I reply. I'm never one to mock the advances of technology - hell, I live for it. But the simple fact remains: We're a loooooooooooooooong way off from "a computer in every home." Most people DO have internet access these days, yes. But it's one thing to have an e-mail account somewhere; it's another altogether to have the capability to (a) download a song, (b) save that song, and (c) play that song with ease and comfort in your home. My alma mater, for instance, prides itself on its massive computer lab and easy Internet access. BUT... my alma mater's computer labs don't have speakers, let alone a CD burner and the capability to download off mp3's at the drop of a hat. It's gonna take TIME to get to that phase... it won't happen overnight, it won't happen in a year, it won't happen in five years.

Are record labels on their way out? I'm certain of it - maybe in a decade or so. But for now, it's still damn near the only way that kids and adults both have of getting the music that they crave. And you're just chucking it in the bin right away. Sad.

Anyways, I wish you the best in whatever you end up doing. No matter how many letdowns I've gotten lately, I'll forever respect anybody with the balls to sign the bands you once did. But I hear today that Oasis is now telling the press that the February album won't come out on Creation. They don't think you'll promote it properly. They're probably right. Don't try to sue or force them to put it out - do me a favour and respect their wishes. If you don't, they'll be likely to hand you a record just like Teenage Fanclub handed Matador with "The King" - a half-arsed record made solely to get them out of a record contract. After all, you can't blame 'em... they're just making it as good for themselves as they can.

Give us a call when you grow down,

The Cynical Admin
Excellent Online

ADDENDUM: 12/19/06: I can't believe I'm writing this. It is now almost exactly SEVEN years after this column was posted. Today we've been contacted by someone claiming to be Alan McGee. This McGee claims that the McGee of seven years ago never posted the 8 comments we've cited above. To our knowledge, those comments were sourced from an administrative profile accredited to McGee posted to the former website of Creation Records (long since shut down.) On the internet, it's obviously next to impossible to validate the authenticity of posts on a message board, so there's always a chance that the quotes ARE from an imposter. The McGee that contacted us today is threatening legal action against ME for character defamation. Hence, we provide this disclaimer: Someone who may or may not be Alan McGee claims that the Alan McGee cited above is not THE Alan McGee. Make sense? We're equally perplexed... We don't make up quotes, folks, and we stand by our story (even though this isn't a story, but a column.) Someone DID make that post on the Creation website claiming to be McGee. Whether its him or not really isn't the crux of the article. It's all moot, because (a) the Creation website ceased to exist years ago, and (b) most of the column itself is outdated and a piece of history, as McGee founded Poptones shortly after the demise of Creation, and (c) those quotes are but a small part of the overall column, which we feel indicates the mindframe of many fans of the Creation world around the time of its demise. But hey, if someone (who may or may not be Alan McGee) decides to get upset about something seven years after the fact, then we're prepared to issue this addendum letting you know that a possible Alan McGee is saying it's impossible that he said the above 8 quotes seven years ago. Make sense?