The dawn of Creation
January 20, 2012
In 1983, a Glaswegian-born, London-living British Railway employee named Alan McGee founded a music fanzine named Communication Blur, which span off into a fledging record label called Creation.
Having sporadically released records by the likes of Biff Bang Pow!, The X-Men and The Legend! (better known as NME journalist Everett True), McGee started a weekly music night called The Living Room in August 1983. The gigs fulfilled two purposes: the headliners sold tickets, meaning McGee could put the profits back into his record label, and it gave the largely unknown acts he had signed a chance to get some exposure.
The club opened at The Adams Arms (now the Lukin) in Conway Street, in an upstairs room which had been a folk club called Dingles from the mid-1970s. In front of an audience of some 150 people, the Television Personalities headlined the first night, and the gig was reviewed in Groovy Black Shades issue 6 (1983).
The PA was minimal, the lights were either an anglepoise lamp or a slide show depending on the band. And it was so bloody hot!! But there was a very relaxed atmosphere, so relaxed that the first band Miles Landesman were still in the bar when they should have been on ‘stage.’
The first Creation LP (released in August 1984) was a compilation entitled Alive In The Living Room, consisting of recordings made on hand-held recorders from the audience at the Conway Street pub.
The bands recorded at the Adams Arms for the album include The Television Personalities, The Mekons, The Jasmine Minks, The June Brides, The Legend!, The Pastels and Alternative TV.
After a period as an O’Neills, the pub was renamed The Lukin in the 2009. I had wondered if this was a continuation of the pub’s musical history, and it was named after the American Mark Lukin, the bassist in the Melvins and Mudhoney (he’s practically the only Lukin that comes up on Google.) But after I said I thought it was a “crappy pun name” (as in ‘Look In’), I was emailed by Shaun, the owner. He rightly said if I’d wanted to know where the name came from, I should have just popped in and asked. So the next day, I went along.
From the outside, I’d thought it was a chain pub; I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s a charming, large, jam-packed local, and on the Friday I went in, it was heaving with people ordering roasts. Shaun couldn’t have been more welcoming, and he urged me to pop upstairs to see the room where the club had originally been.
To the left is a bar, to the right, a huge fireplace. It’s exactly as it was when the club was running nearly thirty years ago.
Sadly, there’s no chance of it being used for any more live music, Shaun told me – the area is now residential enough to mean complaints about noise. He also let me know that The Lukin is named in honour of his grandfather.
The Living Room moved from the Adams Arms in 1984 to the upstairs room of The Roebuck (now The Court) at 108 Tottenham Court Road. The new venue already had a small musical footnote associated with it – in July 1965, 18-year-old Davey Jones performed a successful audition for manager Ralph Horton at the pub with his band The Lower Third (two months later, Jones adopted the stage name ‘David Bowie.’)
It was at the Roebuck “in front of 10, possibly 15 people” on the 8th June 1984 that East Kilbride’s The Jesus and Mary Chain performed their debut London gig.
Reminiscing about the night in MOJO, Jim Reid recalled “it was an absolute racket. We’re still having a blazing row while we’re supposed to be playing this song…” Bass player Douglas Hart remembered that “there was a lot of pent-up energy released. Years of frustration. It was total chaos. People just stood and stared.”With the guitars untuned, a broken fuzz pedal creating a horrible noise, the PA emitting ear-splitting shrieks of feedback as it struggled with the volume, and William Reid playing with his back to the audience, the set lasted just ten minutes.
Even though Creation’s co-founder Dick Green later admitted “I’m sure nobody meant it to sound like it sounded,” an awestruck Alan McGee signed the Jesus and Mary Chain to his fledging label immediately.
The Jesus and Mary Chain with (R) Alan McGee in Plymouth, 1985 (photo by Valerie Hicks)
Their first single Upside Down stayed on the UK indie chart for 76 weeks, becoming one of the biggest selling indie singles of the 1980s, and would kickstart McGee’s rapid rise into the big leagues. The Living Room shut up shop sometime late in 1984 as McGee went on to sign a who’s who of British indie acts throughout the next decade, including My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Oasis, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub and the Super Furry Animals.
The name ‘Creation’ became famous worldwide, but it was in these two Fitzrovia pubs where the label’s rise truly began.
But it’s hard not to feel there’s something daft about changing pub names, which wipe out even the most recent years of history in a single stroke.