Alan McGee founded Creation Records 10 years ago. Now this former British Rail clerk's labour of love is a floatable proposition, with nearly half of its shares owned by Sony. McGee surprised many when he got into bed with the company, not least because he was supposedly no fan of corporate structures. But that may simply be a sentimental view, judging by the candid assessment he gives over coffee at the Dome, Regent Street.
"In September 1992, I got fed up with selling 200,000 Primal Scream records in England and 18,000 in Germany," says McGee. "I got tired of selling only 3,000 Bandwagonesques there. It's all about distribution. If you're signed to some shit fuckin' indie, no matter what it does for your credibility, it does nothing to promote your group. Sony help us get worldwide distribution. At the moment, we're still getting some crap sales, but the potential is there. I've sold Sony 49%, which makes them feel good, but I'm very loyal to our bands. I've got their best interests at heart.
"The truth is that, without financial backing, it is now very hard to exist in England, but when I've gone in to Sony and said: 'Look, you need to help us with so-and-so,' they've always done it. And they don't talk to me about the music we put out, ever."
In 1984, McGee was looking after a young and irascible Jesus and Mary Chain. Like his proteges, McGee's clothes may be sharper 10 years on, but he hasn't really changed that much, and he remains a patron to like-minded fanatics such as Bobby Gillespie, the Jazz Butcher, Bill "the Man" Drummond and Lawrence from Felt/Denim.
In celebration of Creation's first decade, McGee has gathered together his 10 most personal mementoes. It comes as no surprise that what feature most among his choices are items that spark off memories of liaisons with some of rock's greatest mavericks.
"This group, Oasis, are the one recent thing that made me go: 'Fuckin' hell, I still believe in rock'n'roll.' I saw them last year and it was a complete fluke. I was at an 18 Wheeler show in Glasgow at King Tut's Wah-Wah Hut. Third on the bill were a band from Manchester. They were friends of Oasis and they'd told the band they could play fourth on the bill. So Oasis hired a van and drove up from Manchester with their mates and when they arrived the promoter says: 'No. Fuck off.' And they're saying: 'Look, it's cost us £200 to hire the van and equipment and get here. If you don't let us play, we'll smash your club up. There's 10 of us and only two security …'
"So the promoter lets them play. Now, I wouldn't have got to see them normally, because when a band of mine's playing I usually get in five minutes before they come on stage. However, because I'd gone with my sister Susan, who doesn't happen to own a watch, I got there two hours early. I witnessed all the shenanigans, so I wanted to see what they were like.
"The first song was really good. Then the second was incredible. By the time they did this fantastic version of I Am the Walrus, I'd decided I've got to sign this group, now. I said: 'Do you have a record deal? Do you want one? I wanna do it.' Eventually they had 20 record companies offering them deals and at the last minute Mother Records, owned by U2, phoned and said: 'We'll offer double what McGee is offering.'
"The music is a cross between the Kinks, Stone Roses and the Who, and the cover of this tape, which is incredibly rare, only 10 ever made, is important because it's a Union Jack going down the toilet. That sums up our country at the moment. I don't want to herald them too much, but they're already one of my favourite groups. Seeing them is what seeing the Stones must have been like in the early days. Brutal, exciting, arrogant."