Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running A Label - Alan McGee (2013)
Chapter 13. BREAKDOWN
Hanging out with Oasis was exhausting. I’d go from one night out with Liam and Noel – Noel could really put it away – to a night out with Primal Scream. I’d be down in Wales with Oasis recording the album, doing drugs every night. They’d arrive in London and I’d go on another two-dayer with them. Then on to hang out with Throb Young. I was just waiting to snap.
I was supposed to be in LA over Christmas 1993 but I took a bad overdose of MDMA powder. I was in the penthouse in Rotherhithe with Grant Fleming, his girlfriend Jenny and Alex Nightingale. It sent me to bed for days. I didn’t realize how strong it was and took big lines, like it was cocaine. I snorted what I think must have been the equivalent of thirty-six Es. I thought I was having a heart attack. I was psychotic. I went over the edge and had to claw myself back up the cliff. Grant Fleming was trying to give me a pull on a spliff, thinking it might calm me down. I was in bed for nearly two weeks with him looking after me and perhaps I never really got over it.
Any sane person would have stopped at that point, and I made a vow that I was going to, but I didn’t know how to live without drugs. I was on them again by mid-January and flew out to Los Angeles, where Abbott had been waiting for me for weeks. I wasn’t allowed to stop. Creation was getting bigger. Primal Scream were getting bigger. Oasis had just been signed. It was coming up to the Creation tenth anniversary. The pressure was on me to be the larger-than-life Alan McGee, no matter how bored I’d become with the performance.
When I made it to Los Angeles in mid-January I hooked up with Abbott and we went at it again. When you’re a drug addict every town in the world is the same, and there isn’t such a thing as jet lag. You get off the plane, get drugs, get pissed, and the same party continues. I got back to my room at four in the morning, and that’s when the earthquake hit. It was serious. The lights went out. The whole room was shaking. That’s what it felt like in my head too. The whole building felt like it was about to topple to the ground.
Back in London I got back to the penthouse. I’d hoped I might see Belinda, that she might have come back, but there was no sign of her stuff. It was six or seven in the morning. The phone rang almost immediately. It was Noel, to tell me that all of his band mates had been arrested for brawling with Chelsea fans on a ferry to Amsterdam and sent back without playing a note – every one of them apart from Noel, who’d been in bed.
This was the first trouble we’d really had with the law. Primals were outrageously out of order at times, but incredibly had never been arrested. Abbott and I had never been arrested either, which is also quite amazing.
The arrest was brilliant publicity for the band in the end. It made them stand out from a lot of the other contenders. There weren’t many dangerous bands left, and people wanted to hear one. Jonny Hopkins did a great job of blowing that up in the press and it made the band immediately notorious.
I didn’t have any time to rest. Next up were some serious sessions with Primal Scream, who were rehearsing in Waterloo. I had the flu. I should have been in bed. But I was taking coke with Throb Young. This was Throb after Memphis. He racked them out nearly as long as your arm. I made the mistake of taking one of those lines, and that was that, a night of madness began. All back to mine, to the penthouse. I didn’t get to sleep before it was time to get another flight to Los Angeles. Another line from Throb before I left.
My sister Susan was with me. I was supposed to be showing her a good time in Los Angeles. She fell asleep, but there was no chance of that for me.
I was on the plane, with no downers, no Valium, no Temazepam, my heart pounding away, just in hell, really. The panic came on as soon as we took off. There are eleven hours before I can get off the plane. I could lose my mind before then. Eleven hours is eternity. I felt like I was on a bad acid trip. There were voices in my head. I thought I could hear the conversations of people at the far end of the plane talking about me. The stewardess was asking me if I’d taken acid. ‘I’ve taken a line of cocaine the size and width of Robert Young’s forearm,’ I wanted to say, but I didn’t. I was trying not to scream. Just get me off this fucking plane. It lasted the whole trip. My poor little sister next to me, who I’m supposed to be showing a good time in LA.
The stewards telephoned ahead for an ambulance. I thought I was dying. I was met by paramedics who diagnosed me with ‘nervous exhaustion’. It’s an American code-phrase, ‘nervous exhaustion’. It means: go and check into rehab immediately. I didn’t go to hospital because they thought I just needed to dry out. But I still hadn’t learned. I went to bed that morning but got up in the evening to go and see Swervedriver at the Whisky a Go Go. I’d have felt guilty otherwise for not showing Susan around – that’s how crazy my thought processes were at the time. I was doing a lot more than that to feel guilty about.
That night was the final straw. I drank a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and downed a load of diet pills when Susan started pleading with me to take it easy. I was totally addicted. I just couldn’t control myself.
When I went to Warners the next day I was hallucinating. The walls were literally moving in on me. I thought I might be going mad permanently – it was terrifying. I still don’t really understand what happened to me. It’s hard for me to remember the days leading up to the breakdown. I’ve no idea how much sleep I was getting.
I got out of that meeting fast but in the taxi back to the Mondrian Hotel things weren’t any better. I felt like I had a steel rod in my back, like I was on fire. I got back to my room and had a shower, hoping it would calm me down, but I started panicking again. My bones felt so hard, like steel, like I was turning into metal. I had hypertension, that’s what it feels like. It was really painful. I thought it was a heart attack. I told reception to call an ambulance. They asked me what the problem was. I didn’t want to admit to being a drug addict so I just said I’d had some diet pills and a bit to drink.
I knew when the guys in orange jumpsuits were putting the oxygen mask on me and carrying me out that I’d fucked up. It was like a bad American soap, except this time I was the fucking main character. They measured my blood pressure and decided my life was at risk. Thought I might have a blood clot or be having a heart attack. They were really worried that I was going to die before they could get me to hospital. I don’t know if they were overreacting or if I was under-reacting. I was conscious throughout all of it.
In the hospital they sedated me. My sister had been out at the zoo all day, came back and couldn’t find me. She rang my mobile, ‘Where are you, Alan?’ I was in hospital with wires coming out of me. When she turned up and saw that she started crying and I felt awful for putting her through that. ‘What’s Dad going to say?’ she was asking. Of course, I didn’t want him to know.
I left the hospital after a couple of days and went back to the hotel. They had a doctor who used to come round every day and give me a painful shot of sedatives in my arse cheek. Fuck knows why he had to do it that way. Maybe it’s an American thing. I stayed there for a couple of weeks, feeling pretty insane. I couldn’t access the energy in my body – my brain had shut down my body completely: ‘You’ve had enough, you need a rest.’ I had my own private nurse, who I proposed marriage to at one point. She’d told me earlier that she was a virgin. When my Gran Barr called up, I announced I was going to be married.
‘She’s a virgin,’ I told her.
‘What, verging on the ridiculous?’ she asked.
I wasn’t talking to anyone from Creation on the phone by then. The phone was off. I couldn’t face the idea of a plane home, but I couldn’t stay in America either. Two weeks in my room and Susan stayed with me. At one point I got driven to see the Jesus and Mary Chain record a video with Hope Sandoval. ‘I’d heard you were dead,’ said Jim when I arrived.
I ended up calling Ed Ball, who was in Japan playing keyboards for the Boo Radleys, and asking him to come and help me get back. I flew back with him and my sister. I was too weak to even hold my bags when we got the plane back. Ed had to carry everything for me.