'Recovering from drugs was the greatest challenge': Alan McGee talks ahead of Birmingham show
He’s never had a hit. He’s never headlined a stadium. And yet there’s a compelling case to be made for describing Scottish businessman Alan McGee as the most important figure in music over the past 30 years.
The founder of Creation Records famously discovered Oasis while propelling a slew of other, credible bands into the pop charts. He changed the music we listened to and was instrumental in creating Britpop – not that he’d ever want us to use that grubby little term.
McGee’s charges included the Gallagher brothers, Primal Scream, My Blod Valentine, Teenage Fanclub and many, many more. At one stage, Richard Branson phoned him up and offered him £5 million to lead Virgin Records. McGee said no. He was always far too cool to be corporate.
Having overcome substance addiction and lived a wilder and more rock’n’roll life than any man since Keith Richards, McGee has decided to share his life and times in a series of spoken word shows. And if, as William Blake told us, the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom, then McGee is the smartest man in rock.
Lest we forget, in 1997, the revitalised Labour Party took note of McGee's accomplishments with Creation and got him to spearhead a media campaign prior to the General Election in order to appeal to Britain’s youth culture. He was largely responsible for changing Government legislation in relation to musicians being able to go on the New Deal, which gave them three years to develop and be funded by the Government instead of having to take other jobs to survive.
Other significant bands that were signed by Creation records include: 3 Colours Red, The Boo Radleys, Bernard Butler, Heavy Stereo, Bob Mould, My Bloody Valentine, Teenage Fanclub, Saint Etienne, Kevin Rowland, Super Furry Animals, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The House of Love, RIde, Slowdive. He is currently the manager for the Happy Mondays, Black Grape, Shaun Ryder, Cast, Glasvegas and The Bluetones.
The show reaches The Mansefield, in Rugeley, tomorrow before returning to the Midlands on November 4 to feature at Birmingham’s Glee Club.
McGee says: “The content is me. I do 45 minutes, I talk about my upbringing and then it’s 45 minutes of people asking questions – they can ask anything and they do ask everything. The most mad questions that you’d never think anyone would ask are always coming up.
“And then I get the usual: ‘Who’s your favourite Gallagher brother?’. It’s a mix of all sorts.
“I don’t think I’m a particularly funny person but people kill themselves laughing. I don’t know why it’s so popular.
“If I’m up north, people want to know about Oasis. If I’m down south, it’s an indie crowd instead and it’s all about Bobby Gillespie and Primal Scream.”
McGee doesn’t remember everything he got up to. The year 1993, for instance, is a blur; a distant, hazy fudge.
“The bits I remember are good and I remember weird things that nobody else remembers.
“We lost money on our first 11 records. Then we got Jesus and Mary Chain and put out My Bloody Valentine and House of Love. I was still only 27 at that point. When it got to Screamadelica, I was only 29. I started in my early 20s so I’d been around.”
McGee’s guiding principle is simple: he signed bands if he felt them in his gut.
“My Bloody Valentine were a brilliant band. With Teenage Fanclub, I picked them up with Bandwagonesque. It exploded and suddenly we were in America.
“But the real truth is, I had no clue what I was putting out. I still trust and follow my instinct. I only work with people I like. Creation bands were bands I personally loved.”
McGee struggled with drugs, like so many rock’n’roll stars. “I had a drug problem for a lot of the time and I was trying to deal with that. I remember when I was given the Godlike Genius Award by NME and I was too mashed to go and get it.
“We did some strange things. I bought the back page of the NME once, so I could print a letter. Then I bought Noel Gallagher a chocolate brown Rolls Royce. The watch I bought for Liam cost the same - £12k – but everyone just remembers the Rolls. It was a cheap, rubbish Rolls. But I wanted to keep it when I got in it because the inside was great.”
For a while, McGee was the hottest man in rock as the band he discovered and whose records he released, Oasis, became the biggest on the planet.
“It was like being Alex Ferguson. Richard Branson offered me a mad amount of money. He told me he’d give me £5 million to just go and work for him. He wanted to start a label and he offered me that as a present. I didn’t even take it.
“Some of the things we wanted to do bloew Noel Gallagher’s mind. I wanted to do a pay per view gig in the Antarctic to launch the third Oasis album Be Here Now.”
These days, as well as his spoken word shows, McGee manages fellow Britpop survivors Happy Mondays.
“Recovering from drugs was the greatest challenge. Now I’m the most boring guy you’ll meet. I do ten lengths every morning. I’m fit now. I don’t drink coffee or anything, there’s no beer. I started How I got the Mondays management was just down to them looking around and seeing how was still alive. That was me. A lot of people they know have died. We just went and done Australia and sold it all out. It was dads on tour. I love working with Sean Ryder and Bez. We all just get on.”