Creation Stories is a Sky Original film which attempts to dramatise the life of Creation record label founder, Alan McGee.
A quick glance at the promotional material fills you with hope:
Missing from that is that this was co-written by Irvine Welsh. But there’s Danny Boyle’s name given prominance. And although you may not recognise him from the picture, that’s Ewen Bremner in the main role.
And what a soundtrack that promises to be!
Here’s the trailer:
Looks good, right?
*Scrolls through the rest of the imdb entry*
Look, there’s actual proper acting royalty in the form of Steven Berkoff and Saskia Reeves. Actual comic acting royalty supplied by Paul Kaye, Rufus Jones and Danny John-Jules. There’s Richard Jobson, making a pretty good fist of doing something useful for the first time since The Skids split up. There’s comedians Ed Byrne as…er…Alistair Campbell (I wish I could say: “Now that’s ironic!” here, but it isn’t) and Alistair McGowan as Jimmy Savile (are you sure about this? – Ed). Blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos by Bez, Carl Barat and Brix Smith-Start. And practically the entire cast of This Is England is involved (well, the ones who haven’t gone on to super-stardom since, anyway) and that can’t be a bad thing.
Danny Boyle is just the Executive Producer. Along with fourteen others (not including Co-Executive Producers). Which means he’s put some cash into the project and that’s about the end of his involvement.
I don’t know if you saw it flash up in the trailer, but this is directed by Nick Moran, who also plays Malcolm McLaren. Hmm, this is starting to look less promising by the second.
And so it proves to be.
There’s an awful lot that’s wrong with Creation Stories.
The first thing is that given the vast amount of Class A drugs ingested by McGee in the film, and given he is played by Ewen Bremner – a fine actor, and no mistake – it becomes almost impossible to shake off the memory of the other drug-guzzling character he has played in a Boyle/Welsh collaboration: Spud in Trainspotting.
There’s nothing here but reminders of Spud’s most iconic moments, the interview:
and the…er…morning after scene:
(The fact that in a review of one film, I’m posting clips from an entirely different film speaks volumes.)
To be clear, I’ve seen Bremner in many other productions, and after the initial recognition has passed, not once did I have Spud on my mind. It’s not Bremner’s fault that Creation Stories is such a dud, he does the very best he can with what he’s been given. I just think they could have cast somebody who didn’t invoke all these memories and comparisons, which have an undesirable effect on his performance and the film. Although I am struggling to think of who that might be.
And what of the crowd-pleasing creatives, namely Boyle and Welsh? To be honest, I can’t see Boyle’s influence at all here, and I reckon the most that Welsh had to do with writing it was ensuring the Scottish vernacular remained honest and true. “I’ve finished the screenplay now Irvine, can you chuck some swear words in, and make sure they’re not snorting when they should be smoking?”
To drive the plot, the film uses perhaps the laziest premise for a biopic: a journalist is interviewing McGee for a retrospective article in an American paper, or magazine, or TV show, it’s not made terribly clear. His story is told via a series of anecdotes, transposed to flashbacks. This method is employed so that the narrative can jump from one momentous moment to the next without really having to explain how we got from point A to point B.
(I wasn’t taking notes, but I also suspect there were several errors in the chronology.)
And I wouldn’t get too excited about that soundtrack, for the moments when you’re swept away by the music are few and far between.
I appreciate, of course, that Creation Records were responsible for a lot of amazing output during it’s all-to-brief tenure as the self-proclaimed “Coolest Record Label on Earth”, and there’s a lot to try and cram into one movie, but there are some acts who are conspicuous by their absence: there’s no mention at all of Super Furry Animals, and they once hired a tank and drove it through London to promote one of their records, which surely would have been visual gold.
Similarly, Teenage Fanclub barely get a mention, overlooking how integral to the label’s success their Bandwagonesque album was. I think I heard a snatch of this in the background in one scene, mind:
McGee is presented as an egotistical chancer, who repeatedly got lucky by being at events where unsigned bands just happened to be playing, and I’m not sure that’s entirely true.
But it’s here that I found the one true highlight of them film, when McGee’s own band are playing in a dingy backstreet London boozer, the Television Personalities invade the stage and take over, perform one song, announce “Here’s our second song. It’s the same as the first one, BUT LOUDER!” once it’s finished, before launching into exactly the same song, which they do indeed played louder than they had the first time.
It’s Saturday morning, and that can mean only one thing round Dubious Towers: Rant or Chain?
Any hope of building suspense is already ruined by the title of course. But believe me, after the humiliation of the press shots of Shagger Johnson looking at his most bumblingly unkempt on Thursday evening, and what his utter failure means for all of us here in the UK, it was by no means a foregone conclusion as to what would appear here this morning. Anyway, we’ve got all weekend until the announcement we’re all now expecting, so there’s plenty of time for me to cobble something together.
So. The Chain. We ended last time with this as the source record:
We were a little thinner on the ground than usual this time around, which I wasn’t especially surprised about, because there’s not a lot to work with there, is there? So hats off to all of you that contributed.
As you know, what I try to do with these is to bring your suggestions together into, if not an actual narrative, then some sort of cohesive whole, so that it’s not just me going “And here’s so-and-so’s suggestions”. And that’s what I’m going to try to do this time, but as many of the songs were related to other songs with years in the title, I figured I’d slip those in every now and then, in their true chronological order.
But first, a little tune, the title of which perfectly describes that Pumpkins source song title:
Look, I know I say this quite a lot, but not all Quo records are of the chugga-chugga three chord boogie variety. A Year is taken from their Piledriver album where they had almost permanently settled on their winning formula, but this is a far more bluesy affair, with a bridge which nods back to their psychedelic days. Seriously, give it a listen.
I’ll be using any songs which simply link to the word “year” as an alarm to warn you it’s about time we went time travelling. If you think about it, it’s a really clever way for me to crowbar all of the ones I thought of into the narrative, and isn’t a bit crap at all.
Ok, so it’s time for some time travel, and we’ll head back to the earliest of the yearly-titled suggestions. Care to hop aboard?
And we’re heading back to 1959 for this bit of flamboyant gothness, which, just as A Year doesn’t sound like Quo, so this doesn’t sound like a Sister of Mercy record, it sounds more like a Jim Steinman composition (checks this: it isn’t, but I had no idea that Sisters mega-hit This Corrosion is a Steinman song, and he has a co-writing credit on Dominion/Mother Russia. Seems he rubbed off on Andrew Eldritch. (Not like that, you mucky lot!)):
Anyway, that was suggested by…erm…me, too. (Note: not #MeToo). I suppose I’d better let some of you lot play, hadn’t I?
Ok, so let’s kick off proper with songs which can be linked to the band name, and for a starter, here’s Rol from My Top Ten:
“Pumpkins are gourds.
So I’ll go with The Gourds and their cover of Gin n Juice by Snoop Dogg. (Or Lion. Or whatever he’s calling himself this week.)”
“You could also have Cucumber Castle by The Bee Gees,” Rol continues, “although it is pretty awful (and I like the Bee Gees).”
Rol is right, of course. I like the Bee Gees too. And that really is not good.
As an aside, for those of you old enough to remember them, was it just me that thought Barry Gibb looked like the blue one (a lion?) from 1970s kids TV show Animal Kwackers?
And you never saw them together, did you? (as I believe it is customary to say when making this kind of joke.)
Anyway, sorry Rol. You were saying?
“Melons are also gourds. Apparently. Which might explain why The Smashing Pumpkins came up with one of the worst pun album titles ever created.”
He is referring, of course, to the album from which our source record is lifted, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. But watch yourself Rol, now you’ve mentioned puns, I have a nasty feeling about where you’re going with all this, since way back in The Chain #32 this very topic came up and I ventured The Beach Boys’ Gourd Only Knows and Teenage Fanclub’s Gourd Knows It’s True and absolutely nobody noticed.
“And then there is…” Rol innocently continues:
Phew. No puns then.
Whilst we’re on all matters gourd-related, here’s the ever reliable Stevie from Charity Chic Music:
“Getting in early with The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead by XTC a song I once heard played at a funeral.”
This, I think, deserves some further explanation. Was the coffin much bigger at the top than the bottom? Did the cremation take ages and start from a single, strategically placed candle? I think the world needs to know.
God, I love a good harmonica. I sense a new idea for a (probably quite brief) series.
And since Rol mentioned the album name from whence our source was ripped, here’s The Great Gog:
“I’ll go with the fact that 1979 is taken from the album Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, and linger on the last word albeit with a different adjective. So that will be The Saw Doctors and Exhilarating Sadness.”
Whoa! What was that and where did it come from?
That, good people, was the sound of young people making music. I know, seems a bit out of place round here, doesn’t it? It was also an artiste which links to the word “year”, which means it’s time to hop in our time travelling machine which looks remarkably like a more famous fictional one but which, for legal reasons, is called something completely different. I don’t know. Haven’t given it much thought.
How about: This Is Travelling in Time and Space? That’ll do.
Hop into TITTS and we’ll be off.
(I am 51 years old.)
And we’re landing back in 1966, for the first of several suggestions from Pat from PhonicPat who gives us our obligatory Half Man Half Biscuit song of the month (and a bit):
Since we’re already in Pat’s charming company, he’s given us another couple of songs which link to the source band’s name, thankfully devoid of gourd-related puns:
Allow me to squeeze another couple in. Firstly, here’s legendary jazz pianist Fats Waller:
The really rather ace:
The considerably less ace:
And if I’m chucking a load of Smash references in, I may as well throw a Pump in too:
…which leads me to this piece of genius:
**TIME TRAVEL KLAXON ALERT **
Here we go:
And here we are in 1969, the year when all the cool people were born, and I’ll leave you in the hands of babylotti for a while:
“Immediately, I don’t know why, but 1979 made me think of 1969 by The Stooges…”
“…then 1970 by them too….”
Whoa there cowboy! Let’s finish off 1969 before we go gallivanting across the years.
And here’s Pat (who also suggested The Stooges) with another suggestion:
When I was feverishly searching t’internet to try and find some more tunes, I stumbled across this rather surprising entry:
And I don’t suppose we can really leave 1969 without giving this an airing, even if it is rather well known that the digits in the title don’t actually refer to a year, but to something altogether much ruder:
And since we’re on the edge of the 1970s, we may as well let babylotti finish what he started with his Stooges talk and drag us into a slightly more recent age:
“…then 1970 by them too….”
“…then I remembered the great cover version of that song by Flesh for Lulu.”
Here’s a thing. About fifteen years ago, Rocco from Flesh For Lulu was in a fly-on-the-wall property documentary called A Place in Spain: Costa Chaos. It turned out to be one of those excruciating, uncomfortable shows that should go down in legend, but it seems only me, and me good mate Val who I was living with at the time and who watched this with me, remember it.
Actually, not quite us two. For fortuitously, someone has posted most of the episodes on YouTube (I think one is missing), but if you have time to spare, then I’d thoroughly recommend you spend it watching this (first episode only included here):
Seriously, when the commentary says things like “But neither of them seems to have considered how they’re going to pay for it”, you know you’re watching car crash telly. Quite how I’ve managed to get writing this finished with such a distraction, I’m not sure.
Over now to a couple of suggestions linked to Smashing Pumpkins main man Billy Corgan, and first off the boat is Hal:
“Billy reputedly had a fairly healthy self-regard, which reminded me of the opening couplet to ‘San Francisco Fat’ by personae non gratae NOFX
And in a similar vein, here’s Swiss Adam from baggingarea:
“Smashing Pumpkins singer and professional misery Billy Corgan played on New Order’s 2001 comeback album, on the song Turn My Way- which as songs go on that album is pretty good and better than anything on the follow up Waiting For The Siren’s Call.”
He’s not wrong:
He also co-wrote this (Billy Corgan, not Swiss Adam):
Let’s shift ever so briefly to 1973, just so I can post this, which is ruddy magnificent:
And just as I thought I was running out of suggestions, here Devonian with three on the bounce:
“Remember how Smashing Pumpkins had to add a “The” to make sure we all understood that they were referring to the excellence of said squashes, rather than the act of setting about them with hammers? That made me think of songs by other bands with similarly enthusiastic names, such as… da-da-da-DAH…”:
Here’s Pat, back with another related suggestion:
“The Sonic Youth version of The Simpsons theme with the link The Smashing Pumpkins, The Homeralooza episode which included the following conversation
Billy Corgan: Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins.
Homer: Homer Simpson, smiling politely.”
And so on we march to 1979, and I’ll hand over the reins to Rigid Digit:
“1979 could be a very broad subject. Arguably, I could offer a list of the best songs of 1979 (and there were many – it was a fine fine year in the world of Pop).
A personal memory – 1979 is the first year I really started taking note of pop music, and on an episode of Top Of The Pops saw Dave Edmunds performing Girls Talk – that says more to me about 1979 than Alan Sunderland scoring a last minute winner for Arsenal.”
Sorry, you lost me with that last bit. But here’s Dave anyway:
“Written in 1978, Tom Robinson had a go at guessing the state of the nation 18 months into the future. Not all (any?) of his predictions came true – and certainly not the one about Spurs beating Arsenal (they lost 5 Nil).”
Times have changed, matey, what happened last weekend…? Oh, yes, this:
The Beard doesn’t know when to stop using an analogy, so I’ll let it slide:
“Alan Sunderland scored the winning goal for Arsenal in the 1979 FA Cup Final.”
“There’s the band Death From Above 1979, although I believe they often drop the 1979 bit from their moniker, it is a bit of a mouthful after all… anyway, this leads me to think of ‘Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above’ by CSS, fronted by the marvellously named Lovefoxxx.”
I thought Lovefoxxx was your dating profile name?
It would be rude at this point not to feature some actual Death From Above 1979, so you can decide whether or not you wish to make love to them:
Poor old Willie, having to churn out albums of covers to pay that tax debt back.
But wait: that’s a **TIME TRAVEL KLAXON ALERT **
Which takes us to our last few records, all suggested by yours truly:
…and this odd little thing I stumbled across:
..and this, from Pat:
…and finally, this, which I was very surprised that Swiss Adam didn’t suggest:
I say “and finally”, but what I actually mean is “and finally from the past”, because what’s the point in having a saucily-named time travelling machine if we can’t go into the future as well as the past?
Off we pop:
Which just about wraps it up.
Oh wait. Here’s Rol again:
“And then there’s Little Red Courgette, obviously.”
Which just leaves me to announce what the actual next record in the real Chain is, and it’s this:
“The pumpkin patch featured in the cartoon strip ‘Peanuts’ which featured Charlie Brown, so…:”
Which just leaves me to ask for your suggestions for songs which link to Charlie Brown by The Coasters, to be submitted via either the Comments function on this page, along with a brief explanation of your link, or if you prefer anonymity that you ultimately won’t be afforded, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org