Of Cappuccino and Polka-dot Shirts
I have on my desk the shoddiest book I've ever seen. No doubt. A leading contender for the title of the laziest, most incompetent, lamest piece of publishing perpetrated on these Isles. With one of the ugliest covers I've ever seen. Generously laced with typos, topped with mistitled chapters because somebody has forgotten to type over the default setting. Paolo Hewitt's bewilderingly titled Alan McGee & The Story Of Creation Records: This Ecstasy Romance Cannot Last is a book with no shame. None whatsoever. For instance, it consists entirely of transcripts of interviews hurriedly done with McGee, his sister and a handful of Creation characters. And the acknowledgement page informs us that "Truth be told, this book simply would not exist without the skill and professionalism of my tape transcription harem." If Jack Kerouac was accused of typing rather than writing, Brother PH is taking it to another level: claiming an author's credit for pressing the record button. Maybe this is a bold conceptual gesture inspired by Jeff Koons or Roland Barthes. Or perhaps not.
It doesn't stop there. At various points, McGee helpfully suggests names of people that Hewitt should interview. Take page 53: "I tell you who you've got to talk to for your book and that is Adam Sanderson. I've got his email address." Needless to say, Hewitt didn't talk to Sanderson or Clare Grogan or any of the other people McGee offered to set him up with. But he's left all the suggestions in, creating a Richard Rogers-like exposure of the working parts that it might just be mistaken for radical post-structuralism if it wasn't countered by the creeping suspicion that Hewitt hadn't had the time to read his book himself after the girls had done the typing.
Meanwhile, you're probably wondering what Paolo Hewitt doing 'writing' a book about Creation anyway. Paolo certainly is. "Ten years ago if you had told me I would have been writing this book I really would have laughed you off the dancefloor," he admits. Me too, son, me too. After all, in the NME hip hop wars of 86-87, Paolo was the guy who hated indiepop. The guy who, he claims, never got past track five of C86. Whose connection with Creation developed later when he followed his lord and master Paul Weller back from cocktail soul and deep house back to ugly rock in the early 90s, just in time for Oasis. So why has he assembled this book? Well, because McGee told him to. And why did McGee tell him to? Because veteran rock hack Dave Cavanagh was nearing completion of his exhaustive Creation story. "I don't know if McGee is a publicity junkie," PH ponders, "Or if he genuinely felt this other book was going to be so detailed it would miss the point."
Which is what? I'm still not sure, but if the point of the book is to make McGee look good, it doesn't. Partly because everyone's a little too honest: about the drugs, about the fights (not with anyone scary, you understand: they tried to beat up Roddy Frame), about the product (McGee cops to how cretinous it was to have a Confederate flag on the cover of a Primal Scream album), about how naive McGee was in his dealings with major record companies, and about how the Creation staff invited hapless foreign indiechicks up to the office so they could hit on them. Lovely. There are accidental insights: part of McGee and Gillespie's problem seems to have been that they came to drugs too late in life, rather than getting over it all in adolescence. And it turns out that Gillespie and McGee fell out years ago, because Bobby thinks he really is a rock star, and insists that everyone around him treats him accordingly. What undercuts the rock'n'roll bullshit the most is the claim that the most excessive character in the whole sorry tale was Guy Chadwick. The thought of the pompous House Of Love singer dropping Es and then his trousers in public will haunt my nightmares for weeks.
McGee does come clean about Screamadelica. "That album was really a compilation of singles and some extra tracks that we'd fucking fudged together. No matter what bullshit is spoken about that album they were off their tits and we were trying to pull things together... we were just capitalising on the moment." Cavanagh's book will doubtless explain what really happened, and contain stuff about the music (it's not just the likes of the Razorcuts or Felt or Silverfish or Adorable who get left out of this tale: even the Boo Radleys and Super Furry Animals barely get a mention). But there's something about the cheapness, the quickness, the hilarious tackiness of this book that makes a fitting monument to a label that, despite a handful of great records, was clearly a shambles from start (The Legend!) to finish (One Lady Owner). Although how anyone had the cheek not only to publish, but to charge a tenner for it, I'll never know.
© Mark Morris 2000Read Paulo Hewitt's reply to the criticisms.