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Friday, 26 November, 1999, 15:41 GMT
Alan McGee: The alternative music man
Alan McGee The future is multi-media according to Alan McGee

Record label boss Alan McGee is renowned as a backroom boy with a taste for the limelight - the shock announcement that he is to leave Creation, home to the mighty Oasis, is just the Glaswegian's style.

McGee set up Creation records 17 years ago with close friend Dick Green. The 24-year-old former railway worker had only 40 a week in his pocket and a single O-Level - but he was blessed with a passion for music and an ear for a hit.

Andy Strickland's band The Loft were one of Creation's early signings. "It was a very low key, low rent operation," he remembers.

Alan mcgee McGee set up Creation aged just 24
"There weren't any contracts and nobody knew if anyone would be interested in the records we were making."

Creation financed its recording activities with pub gigs in London, with McGee deciding the bill and Green taking the money at the door.

McGee's break came with The Jesus and Mary Chain. Confident that the Scottish brothers Jim and William Reid would be the next big thing, he convinced them to move to capital.

Chain reaction

Picked up by the legendary Radio 1 DJ and trendspotter John Peel, the band secured McGee's image as a man with his finger on the pulse - and a canny eye for publicity.

"He probably invented the term soundbite," suggests Strickland, whose own band's demise, halfway through a major London gig, secured plenty of headlines in the music press.

Liam Liam Gallagher and Oasis made McGee's fortune
As the major record labels woke up to the existence and earning potential of "indie" bands, Creation was perfectly placed to take advantage of the growing interest.

In 1991, Creation signings Primal Scream won the first Mercury Music Prize. Despite such successes, the label accumulated debts which prompted a sale of 49% of its shares to Sony.

These financial troubles saw McGee drift towards drugs - he later described the period as a "blur".

Tea and coke

"In the early days it was cups of tea around Alan's house, maybe a joint for the rhythm section," says Strickland, now editor of webzine dotmusic.

By 1994, McGee's rock 'n' roll lifestyle led to a celebrated incident in which he was rushed from an aeroplane at Los Angeles airport to a hospital ward.

"The paramedics thought I had a blood clot," said McGee.

Oasis McGee cleaned up his act to keep Oasis
The precarious state of his health was not McGee's only motivation to beat his drink and drugs problems.

The year before, while visiting his native Glasgow, McGee had arrived at a gig early enough to catch the support act, a Manchester band called Oasis.

Although he had intended to miss the act - unimpressed by their reputation as troublemakers - he signed them on the spot.

Behave now

Three years, two Oasis albums and a couple of mega-gigs at Knebworth later, Creation had a turnover of 32m.

"If I'd been coked up I probably wouldn't have been able to hang on to Oasis in their rapid rise," said McGee, who claims Noel and Liam Gallagher threatened to "batter" him if he took the drug again.

Gallaghers Gallagher brothers: Take coke and we'll 'batter' you
McGee's drugs past made him a curious choice to be invited into the inner circle of the Labour Government.

The Creation boss, who gave 50,000 to Labour before the election, attended Prime Minister Tony Blair's now infamous 10 Downing Street cocktail parties and was given a seat on the Creative Industries Task Force.

"I'm not out for an OBE," said McGee, who has slammed the government's treatment of the young unemployed and the drugs czar Keith Hellawell's attack on drug-taking pop stars.

"If things don't improve, they won't be getting my money next time," McGee has vowed.

Shake, rattle and roll

As well as rattling cages in the halls of power, the entrepreneur has shaken up his own industry - claiming that record companies are failing the public and that they will be swept away by direct marketing on the internet.

McGee's decision to leave Creation, along with Dick Green, was reportedly prompted by his desire to become a multi-media magnate.

PM Blair PM Tony Blair: No longer McGee's cup of tea
The 39-year-old has already begun building a new empire, bidding to take over the BBC's London radio station GLR and set up an alternative music station in Scotland.

Those who scoff at his plans make films - supposedly 10 for 100,000 each - or set up a publishing company should perhaps remember his spectacular success in the music industry.

"It's incredibly hard for anyone to make their mark as at times it seems to be run by public school boys," he has remarked.

McGee, the archetypal square peg, has already more than made his mark.

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See also:
25 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Oasis record boss quits
26 Aug 99 |  Entertainment
What's the story so far?
10 Jun 98 |  Entertainment
Record label boss predicts end of music industry

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