Monday, February 17, 2014

Upside Down: The Story of Creation Records

Directed by Danny O’Connor, Upside Down: The Story of Creation Records is a documentary about one of the greatest indie labels in British music founded by Alan McGee who would introduce the music world to such acts as Oasis, the Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, and many others. Bands that defined a new music scene in Britain that was a true alternative to the mainstream as the label was a major success from 1984 to its end in 1999 when McGee left the label which led to its end. The result is one of the most thrilling and captivating documentaries about one of the most important touchstones in the history of British popular music.

The film is about the history of one of Britain’s most important independent music labels that not only would give the country’s music scene a massive visibility in the mid-1990s in the era known as Brit-pop. It would also spawn some of the greatest albums and acts of the late 80s and early 90s that would influence countless of bands in the years to come. Heading that vision is Alan McGee who co-founded the label in the early 80s with friends Dick Green and Joe Foster as they wanted to give bands they loved some exposure in a very crowded music scene in Britain. McGee’s friendship with Primal Scream vocalist/the Jesus & Mary Chain drummer Bobby Gillepsie would help McGee sign the Jesus & Mary Chain as its first act. From there, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Teenage Fanclub, Swervedriver, the House of Love, and Ride would be part of this first era of the label.

It was during that time that McGee and his cohorts ran the label as if it was a party where everyone did drugs and alcohol while running a label that had some decent success in the 1980s until the Primal Scream single Loaded which became its first major hit as it was this crossover between indie music and the acid-house music of the time. 1991 was the peak of the label at that time due to the three albums that would be considered classics in Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque, and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. It was also a time of financial turmoil due to crazy spending as McGee revealed that all of the claims about My Bloody Valentine bankrupting the label wasn’t true.

By making a deal with Sony to keep the label out of debt comes this second period of the label that led to the discovery of Oasis that wouldn’t just put the label back on top but also British music itself. It was a time where McGee’s drug use and such led to trouble as he wasn’t around for Oasis’ huge worldwide success with the single Wonderwall due to his own recovery from that near-death experience in which Dick Green and Joe Foster were running the label. McGee, Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, and some of the people in the label reveal that the deal with Sony would have some repercussions over how things were supposed to be ran which led to McGee closing the label for good in late 1999 just months before Primal Scream was to release their album XTRMNTR which was the label’s last release.

Danny O’Connor maintains a sense of style for much of the film by shooting McGee, Gallagher, Gillespie, Green, Foster, My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub/BMX Bikers, and many others through black-and-white film through cinematographer Daryl Chase. Many of the shots in color are essentially archival footage that is wonderfully edited by Jonny Halifax where O’Connor uses much of the voices from the people interviewed to help tell the story with the help of sound mixer James O’Brien. Much of the music of the film features cuts from the acts of the labels along with a few score pieces by Mark Gardener of the band Ride for some of the inserts in the film.

Upside Down: The Story of Creation Records is an extraordinary film from Danny O’Connor about the famed indie label. Fans of British music and indie music must see this film to understand the story of one of the great indie labels in music. Especially for the acts that came from that label who made music that defined a movement. In the end, Upside Down: The Story of Creation Records is a rapturous documentary from Danny O’Connor.

© thevoid99 2014

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