Courtesy of the Numero Group
When I was a wee lad in the ninth grade—in 1981, I think—I borrowed a compilation of Merseybeat tracks from my local library in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. If memory serves, that record introduced me to loads of one-hit wonders riding the coattails of the Beatles—Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Searchers, the Swinging Blue Jeans, Manfred Mann—and served as my education on early British rock for many years to come. Sure, I knew the Who, the Kinks, and the Rolling Stones, but I didn't look much further until years later. In 1987, when I was drinking in the punk rock of the day (indie rock, in more common parlance), I encountered a song by British band the Creation
via a cover of their tune "How Does It Feel to Feel" by antisocial Minneapolis trio Halo of Flies. I don't know exactly when I got around to hearing the original, but I remember being shocked that the rude noise of the modern version was only barely jacked up in comparison to the Creation's late-60s recording.
From all accounts, the Creation could've been British rock royalty, but they fell flat on their faces. Managerial missteps, infighting, and bad luck pretty much doomed them to footnote status, but the original material they recorded during their brief heyday—roughly 1966 till '68, after two years of near misses—holds up remarkably well. I still can't believe I didn't hear them till I was in college. Alan McGee, a Scotsman, was such a big fan that he named his first band, Biff Bang Pow!, after a Creation song—and his famous record label, Creation
, after the group itself. I'm even more embarrassed to admit that I didn't hear a second Creation song until I saw the 1998 Wes Anderson film Rushmore
, a situation I've since rectified. At least now I'm finally prepared to fully appreciate the good deed that the crate diggers at Chicago's Numero Group
have done by turning their attention to this overlooked combo.
Last month Numero released the two-CD set Action Painting
, which collects the Creation's complete studio recordings along with a clutch of recent stereo remixes overseen by the band's original producer, Chicago native Shel Talmy—as a whole it presents convincing evidence that the band possessed at least minor genius. Creation guitarist Eddie Phillips was not only brilliant at molding feedback as a compositional element, he also pioneered the use of a bow on an electric guitar, predating Jimmy Page's experiments in Led Zeppelin by several years—his unholy skree must've sounded radical in the late 60s, but as a result it still feels fresh today.
In typical Numero Group fashion, the new release includes loads of rare artwork and voluminous liner notes—including an explanation of the collection's title. Original singer Kenny Pickett would paint a canvas onstage and often set it ablaze during an extended instrumental break in the band's song "Painter Man." The Numero Group made its reputation digging up impossibly rare material, but in recent years it's applied its rigorous methodology to a growing number of less obscure subjects: Unwound, White Zombie, and Minneapolis R&B from the scene that produced Prince, among other things. The Creation are an unfuckwithable addition, wholly deserving of the label's exhaustive treatment. For today's 12 O'Clock Track
you can check out the U.S. mix of "How Does It Feel to Feel," which is still as vicious and ear-cleaning as ever.
Mika Vainio and Joachim Nordwall, Monstrance
Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Pond Scum
Kaja Draksler Octet, Gledalec
Jari Haapalainen Trio, Fusion Machine
Vanessa Rossetto, The Way You Make Me Feel