Pop, Politics and Jimmy Savile: the True, Sinister Story Behind 'Creation Stories'

Laura Martin
·7-min read
Photo credit: Sky
Photo credit: Sky

From Esquire

The year is 1997 and Cool Britannia has just hit its stride. The country is still riding high from Euro 96, the Young British Artists are stomping all over the art world, Trainspotting is the biggest film in the cinemas and its Britpop soundtrack – featuring Blur, Pulp, Elastica and that “Lager! Lager! Larger!” Underworld tune – is also the soundtrack for life. Vanity Fair releases the iconic Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit cover, with the two of them in bed with a Union Jack draped over them, and it declares: “London swings again!”, before Labour sweeps into power with a landslide victory.

One of the first people through the doors of 10 Downing Street to celebrate was Alan McGee, co-founder of Creation Records, and famously, the man who discovered Oasis. Footage of the knees-up to toast Tony Blair’s win show a besuited McGee and his then girlfriend, Kate Holmes, heading up Whitehall, led by Noel Gallagher and his then wife, Meg Matthews. This is the moment Britpop had officially jumped into bed with politics.

It’s a strange era that McGee recounts in both his 2013 autobiography, Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running A Record Label, and the high-octane film version, Creation Stories, which reunites Irvine Welsh and Danny Boyle on script and producing duties, respectively.

But among all the highs – of which there were many, in every sense, as McGee was famous for taking partying to a stratospheric level – there were also some calculated, exploitative and downright sinister moments as the music industry mingled with the newly-elected establishment.

Photo credit: Sky
Photo credit: Sky

The endorsement and deal

The Brit Awards, one of the biggest music events on the TV at the time, proved fertile ground for the rise of New Labour in 1996. Not only did Tony Blair make an appearance on stage, declaring “British music is in its rightful place back at the top of the world”, but Oasis, when winning the Best Band award, also gave the future PM a shout out.

Noel Gallagher said on the podium: “Seven people in this room give a little bit of hope to the young in this country. That’s me, our kid, Bonehead, Guigsy, Alan White, Alan McGee and Tony Blair. And if you’ve all got anything about you, you’ll get out there and shake Tony Blair’s hand. He’s the man. Power to the people!”

Speaking as part of a BBC documentary, Moguls of Pop, McGee revealed what really spurred on Gallagher’s call to arms: “When you’re on ecstasy, you make ridiculous statements. He just happened to make it in front of a hundred million of people.”

But the endorsement of Blair by the (now official) best band in the UK was a huge coup for Labour, and it was swiftly followed up by Margaret McDonagh, Labour’s general secretary and the inner-circle of the New Labour campaign, who wanted to see if the situation could be leveraged further to align Blair with this swelling youth movement.

In the film, McGee (played by Ewan Bremner, best known as Spud in Trainspotting) is first shown being courted by Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson (“who we’ve got to thank for the modernisation of the Labour party,” says Ed Byrne-as-Campbell, “the man is a political genius!”). Mandelson tells him that they’re all big fans of “The Oasis and The Blur...all the Britpop” and then he’s thrust out into a press conference flanked by the two politicos. “I can’t picture any of this lot on a picket line,” says a bemused McGee, to which he’s simply told it’s “New Labour”.

In reality, Blair bigged up McGee, Creation Records and Oasis in the party conferences, and McGee was told he would have a say in issues such as unemployment in the music industry. In return, McGee reportedly donated £100,000 to the party, while Blair got a return on investment of a priceless sum: cool cachet, which helped seal his party’s historic win a year later.

Photo credit: Sky
Photo credit: Sky

Friend of New Labour: Jimmy Savile

Now firmly nestled up with the Blairs, in 1999 the couple invited McGee and his wife Kate to Chequers, for a dinner party from hell. Not because it included Dame Judi Dench or former Celtic chairman John Reid, who were also sat around the table of the prime minister’s 16th century country manor, but because the guest of honour was who we now know as one of Britain’s most prolific paedophiles: Jimmy Savile.

The bizarre scene plays out in Creation Stories with the strange revelation that the Blairs were on very friendly terms with Savile, and that the child abuser was given pride of place at the table. Savile (played bravely by Alistair McGowan) then proceeds to sexually harass McGee’s wife in full view of everyone.

In McGee’s autobiography, serialised in The Daily Record, he says: “At dinner, Kate was between Jimmy Savile and Judi Dench. Savile started to hit on Kate, kissing his way up her arms, kissing her fingers.

“I was thinking, ‘What a dirty old man’, but at Chequers, it’s not done to break Jimmy Savile’s nose. Kate came over and said, ‘He’s a pervert’. He left her alone once she was next to me.”

He added: “There was an edge to him, a quiet menace, the threat of violence. I come from Glasgow, I can tell when someone is dangerous...I’m convinced he was a gangster.

“Why he was invited I don’t know. It was as if he was the host rather than Tony. It really shows the connection he had to the establishment.”

Photo credit: Sky
Photo credit: Sky

The end of New Labour and pop's political cachet

Just as quickly as this new era of Labour politics arrived, it fizzled out. Blair, who once had a rock ‘n’ roll audience at Earl’s Court cheering on his arrival, now has the legacy of orchestrating an illegal war in Iraq. The working class people who Labour were meant to fight for have been largely ignored, leading to a Conservative surge over Labour’s supposed Red Wall, and the party is somehow polling worse than a government with the blood of 140,000 coronavirus victims on its hands.

In Moguls of Pop, McGee is sanguine about being exploited for political power and says that the new era of spin pulls the wool over everyone’s eyes: “We got conned, but what can you do? Me, and the rest of the country.”

He added to The Guardian: “Noel and I got slagged off for it but I don't regret it. I saw a lot of stuff, how it worked, brilliant insights. Tony Blair, Cherie Blair – Cherie's the brains, by a mile. Stuff like that. Everybody at the time wanted the Tories out. What we didn't realise was that we were voting in the Hugo Boss version of the Tories.”

In a recent interview with NME, McGee added he was now looking to the positives of that time: “People go on and slag Labour off for the late Nineties and early Aughts, but look where we’re at now. Blair and Brown made Britain money, and you could be a musician on the New Deal [for Musicians, legislation that provided support for unemployed musicians]. I changed the law on that! Now if you’re on benefits the government just wants to take you out.”

That may be true, however, from all the wild tales in Creation Stories, the most important take out seems to scream that pop and politics should never collaborate again.

Creation Stories is on Sky Cinema now

Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more delivered straight to your inbox

SIGN UP

Need some positivity right now? Subscribe to Esquire now for a hit of style, fitness, culture and advice from the experts

SUBSCRIBE

You Might Also Like