Creation Stories: for the records

Ewan Bremner excels as music impresario Alan McGee in pop period drama

Monday, 29th March 2021 — By Dan Carrier

Creation Stories Ewen Bremner

Ewen Bremner as Alan McGee in Creation Stories

Directed by Nick Moran
Certificate: 12a

THINK of what defined the popular culture of the 1990s and the image likely to appear in your mind’s eye has its roots in the genius of Alan McGee.

Alan was the music impresario who gave us The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream and Oasis. His label, Creation Records, cherry-picked sounds coming from sweaty clubs across the UK and made them global sellers.

Hand in hand with McGee’s soundtrack came the baggy jeans and hooded tops, the floppy hair, white trainers and bucket hats worn by his bands. Creation Records shaped high street fashion.

Then there was the whole Cool Britannia shtick, with Liam and Patsy in a bed decked out with a Union flag duvet, and the advent of Blair and New Labour. This imagery can also be laid at McGee’s door.

It was quite a ride for Alan – and he poured a take of the period into an entertaining and thoughtful memoir, Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running A Label, in 2014.

Now director Nick Moran has taken the McGee story to give us a pop period drama from the not too distant past.

Using a narrative framework created by Alan looking back via an interview to a Los Angeles music journalist, we are walked through McGee’s early life in a tough Glaswegian family, falling in love with punk and disgusting his Freemason, Tory-voting, working-class dad.

We canter through his growing pains, hear of life at school with his later rock-conspirator Bobby Gillespie, rejecting his father’s working world, playing in a band but being no good at it, working for British Rail, finding his feet pressing other people’s tracks and then realising his eye for a look and ear for a sound was majestic.

Then it’s the not unusual tale of success, sin and redemption, a trundle along the same furrows dug by recent biopics of Elton John and Freddie Mercury.

McGee offers both a nostalgia trip and a good laugh. There are some marvellous send-ups.

Director Moran gives himself a little role as Sex Pistols manager/punk originator Malcolm McLaren, and the glee he brings to an all-too-brief appearance is infectious.

While the film charts the rise of a seminal moment in recent popular culture, it’s played for laughs rather than offering a consideration as to what McGee’s Midas touch consisted of. Maybe his alchemist’s secret is just too much gut instinct and appreciative ear to make for a grand soliloquy on the meaning of the three-minute pop song.

Even if the answer is it is hard to define, that isn’t made clear – a shame, as that is surely the most interesting element of McGee’s remarkable life, as opposed to the fact he enjoyed taking the loved-up dance drug ecstasy and raving to Acid House.

Never mind – with a screenplay penned by Irvine Welsh, Ewen Bremner excelling in the lead, the League of Gentlemen-style turn by James Payton as Tony Blair (marvellously grotesque), Moran does not hold back when interpreting the highs and lows of the life of Alan McGee.

It’s a rock ’n’ roll of a picture.

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