Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running A Label - Alan McGee (2013)

Chapter 18. BE HERE NOW

By the end of 1996 we’d sold millions and millions of Morning Glory across the world. The third Oasis album had started recording at Abbey Road. There was a media scrum around the place, and in the middle of it Liam got arrested for possessing coke. So they moved studios to Ridge Farm in Surrey. These days people see Be Here Now as the thing that stopped Oasis’ momentum, and I guess that’s true. But there are some great songs on that album. Songs that don’t go away are amazing songs. ‘All Around the World’ is an amazing song, for instance. That will stand the test of time.

The thing that let that album down was the production and having too many drugs in the studio. You could hear the coke in the production, all top-endy and no bass. It seemed to me that more than anyone else Owen Morris lost the plot producing that record. Noel was adding guitar part after guitar part and all I could think when I went down to the studio was, This is loud. Owen had taken all those overdubs off the first album, but now he’d lost control. I remember hearing ‘It’s Gettin’ Better (Man!!)’ and hearing Liam singing those words for the forty-seventh time in a chorus – and I knew it was too long. But the band were a runaway train by then. It was hard to say who was in control. I had to hope I was wrong.

At the start of 1997 I hadn’t been on a plane for nearly three years, not since Ed Ball took me back to Heathrow after my breakdown in LA. There were people at Sony America who had never seen me. After we’d renegotiated the contract with them they’d begun to realize that, for four more years at least, I could still write cheques, and I imagine this was quite worrying for them. I wasn’t quiet about what I felt was my worth to them – Oasis were their biggest sellers. I’d therefore decided to reward myself by commandeering the Sony limousine.

I was going to a lot of football games then. I had a box at Chelsea and I was mates with Walter Smith, who was managing Everton. I’d ring Walter and ask who he was playing. Man U, he’d say. Right, I’ll get the limo, I’m coming up. So I’d fill my limo – I’d decided it was my limo by then – with my mates and off we’d go.

For four years, with Oasis, we were pretty much paying the rent for Sony so I thought it was quite reasonable that I should have the limo. Of course, it pissed a lot of people off that I was being driven around in the company limo all the time. But I quite enjoyed that.

At Chelsea I knew Ruud Gullit, Gianluca Vialli, Ally McCoist, Pat Nevin. I was mates with most of them. I had the biggest band and I liked football and I was clean and I had a limo to drive people around to wherever they wanted to go – no wonder I had loads of friends then! I’d take them to whatever club they wanted to go to and sit there in the corner with my Diet Coke while they drank champagne. I had a good four years just coasting around in the limo. Who wouldn’t take advantage of that situation? Can we ask Sony to get us a helicopter to take us to the Isle of Wight? Can we? Of course we can! So that’s what we did. Should we get a helicopter over to Ireland? Of course we should.

Did we lose the plot? Gloriously! But I’m not apologizing for that. I just wanted to see how much I could get away with. I was waiting for Sony to say no, and they never did. I think it was easier for them just to say yes than to risk me being a cunt and threatening them with taking Oasis away. I couldn’t really have done that, but they were making so much money no one wanted to risk rocking the boat. They thought I was a fucking loony, to be honest. But I was a loony who sold a lot of records. They don’t care what you do as long as you sell. They hated me, but I didn’t mind. They should have hated me by rights, I acted like a cunt. I stole the boss’s limo for four years.

So it was no wonder Sony in America were getting concerned. They were hearing reports of this madman in London. Some of them had never met me and the ones who had hadn’t seen me for years. They’d delegated this young woman, Rachel Felder, the junior A&R person, to deal with me. She’d fly over from New York every couple of weeks to find out what the hell I was up to. I’d be swimming in the Landmark’s pool over the road from my flat and I’d hear a piercing American voice, Hi, Alan!, and look up to see her waving at me. I’m great friends with her to this day.

I realized I had to show the Sony people in America that I was still alive. And for myself, I needed to get over my fear of planes. I didn’t want to be stuck in Britain forever, watching Kate leave the front door with her suitcase packed for a holiday. It would be nice to see the sun again one day.

Who do you want with you when you’re facing a frightening flight? Ed Ball, of course. So we set off on Concorde to see Tommy Motola, the head of Sony. It was scary, I admit. A white knuckle ride. But once you’re up in the air, what can you do? They were very thin planes, Concordes, quite cramped. They really rattled. Three and a half grand a pop, and it was quick, four hours to New York, but it was also quite easy to believe the plane was going to suddenly shake itself apart.

But we got there okay, and I was pleased to have jumped that hurdle. The next day we met Tommy Mottola. He’s quite an intimidating character. His office – I’ve never seen an office like it – is painted all over in dark mud brown. He opens his door with a remote control like a TV zapper. There he is sat behind a massive desk. There was nothing to worry about – I was responsible for him having just sold 20 million records. It must have been weird for Ed Ball, being wheeled in to meet him with me. Mottola was looking at him curiously and saying, ‘And you are?’ Ed was actually Creation’s most prolific recording artist. I just loved having him there with me. ‘Don’t shut the door!’ Mottola shouted as we left the office, and lifted up his remote controller to do it for us. He obviously enjoyed doing that. It’s a shame he never got to see the Bunker – I wonder what he would have made of that.

There were some funny moments on that trip. Ed and I were sitting in a restaurant with Joe McEwen, Seymour Stein’s A&R man. The whole music industry used to eat in the same restaurant in those days. Tommy Mottola was in there and bowled over, grabbed me and dragged me off to his table. ‘Alan, Alan, I want you to meet Daryl Hall and John Oates.’ And there they were, Hall and Oates, looking twenty years older, both eating huge plates of spaghetti bolognese. ‘You’ve got to manage them,’ he says to me. And then he turns to them and says, ‘Alan’s from the street! He’ll get you back on track.’ Just when you thought life couldn’t get any more surreal. I quite like Hall and Oates. But I couldn’t go for that.

And then, on the plane back, we met Michael Jackson for the second time. He was sat at the front surrounded by security guards and started laughing his head off when he saw us, like he’d never seen two bald guys before! Ed Ball wanted to go up and have it out with him. I had to stop him. Jackson was sitting there with a face mask on, giggling away. I was thinking, You’re a cunt, but you’ve got four security guards.

‘Calm down, Ed. What can we do?’ I said.

‘I’m not having it, I’m going to go up,’ Ed’s insisting.

I had to hold on to him to stop him. They’d have probably shot him dead. Tasered him at least.

You run into all sorts of people if you’re always getting planes. I was met once at the gate by a man with a machine gun. ‘Show me your passport!’ I didn’t argue. Even Michael Jackson didn’t have security this intense. And when I got on the plane, who was there, sitting in seat 1A?

Margaret Thatcher.

It was a good job I was off the drugs by then or who knows what I would have said.

Even as we were enjoying Oasis’ heyday, I could see the music business was changing, becoming even more commercial. Supermarkets were selling records, demanding massive discounts. It was getting harder and harder to compete on a level playing field. Guitar bands were going out of fashion again. Britpop was dying and the Spice Girls were coming through and another wave of dance music.

We were trying to break Hurricane #1 in this new market. We tried all the commercial tricks, multi-formatting, etc. It started off well. We had a bit of momentum beforehand. Oakenfold had done a really good mix of ‘Step Into My World’ and that had gone in at 19 in May 1997. Their first album went to number 11 in the charts and sold something like 100,000 copies.

But the next year I made a big mistake advising them to let their song ‘Only the Strongest Will Survive’ feature on a Sun advert. At the time, I thought it made sense because the money on offer would pay for their next album. But I think this killed their careers and lost them any credibility. If you played the corporate game too much, you alienated the indie fans. Having an edge had to be a big part of the appeal and we blunted any chance of them having this edge with that advert.

They were up against it anyway because they weren’t Oasis and they sounded like Oasis. They probably arrived about nine months too late to really capitalize on the Britpop fad. Cast sold a million albums and that could have been Hurricane #1 if they’d got there first. All those Oasis fans, like Andy Bell, wanted something else to listen to. After Andy gave up on Hurricane #1, he was about to become a student again when he got the phone call after Bonehead left the band: would you like to be in Oasis? Yes, he would. And now of course he’s in Beady Eye with Liam.

Be Here Now destroyed a lot of the affection people had for Oasis, for Noel and Liam. They’d been a refreshing change before when they’d first arrived, down to earth and laddish in a way the average guy from Salford understood.

The campaign for the album was all wrong and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. It made them seem aloof, like they thought they were above everyone else. Ignition management took control of it and insisted we embargo it heavily and not allow it to be played on the radio before release. In one fell swoop, we managed to turn all the journalists off Oasis. Ignition insisted on everyone signing non-disclosure agreements, stuff that wasn’t necessary. There was a real paranoia to it. And Ignition used us as patsies – it was our name at the top of all these agreements and so everyone thought it was us getting too big for our boots.

Jonny Hopkins was caught between a rock and a hard place. He was employed by Creation handling Oasis’ press, trying to please both us and Ignition. But we had no real power against Ignition – 90 per cent of our sales were Oasis and so we had to do whatever their management said. The risk of upsetting them was far too great.

But while Ignition were busy alienating the press, Verve got hold of the football and ran with it and became the biggest band of the moment with Urban Hymns.

I don’t think Ignition understood what they were doing. They decided they had to clamp everybody’s mouths shut and didn’t really understand how the internet was making it impossible to stop any leaks. It worked against the band and made them look as if they were prima donnas, as if they thought they were U2. Whereas in fact, the reason people loved Oasis, which I’d always understood, is that they were the people’s band. There wasn’t this big separation: this ‘I’m a rock star, I’m untouchable’ attitude. And now there was this big wall protecting the band, and it turned off a lot of journalists and people in the record shops. By this point, to be honest, it was Ignition who were in charge of Creation in a lot of ways. They had their people in the building and they were using us as the proxy Stasi. The waiver forms were issued from us but they came from Ignition management.

I remember the Sunday Times reporting that I was a Svengali controlling the press. It wasn’t true. I thought the way the press was being managed for that record was going to lose people. And it did. We let the Verve in. We blew it.

We blew it and we sold 11 million copies in the process. Now that’s a sentence you don’t hear said very often. That’s how big Oasis were at the time. But they’d never be as big again.

Be Here Now seemed to signal the end of Britpop, the end of the success guitar bands could have making pop music. The other big ‘Britpop’ bands moved on and became less poppy to reject the label – Blur’s new album was in a harder, more American direction, and Pulp’s was much darker and without obvious hits.

Success is a really weird thing, a paradox. The environment that made Creation so great, so different, was failure! So when we succeeded, we started to destroy the environment of adversity that made us so great.

Vanishing Point by Primal Scream had come out on 7 July 1997 and was an incredible record. The record did well, 300,000 copies, something like that. It went in at number 2. I thought it should have been bigger, but it was becoming harder and harder again to make ambitious music work commercially.

At the time it came out, things weren’t good between me and Bobby. I didn’t A&R the record, that was Jeff Barrett, and he was back doing their press too. Bobby and I were quite estranged, quite distant. I look back at that album and see there are some amazing songs on it. ‘Burning Wheel’ might even be their best. But at the time I was indifferent.

The flashpoint for us falling out was the gig they played in Liverpool, a benefit gig for the dockers. Bobby had really put the pressure on me to come and see them. I’d been wary of it. I knew they were still a drug band and I was fearful that contact with them might undo all the work I’d put in to my recovery. I hadn’t been in their dressing room for years. There was no attempt to hide anything from me. Bobby necked a couple of Es right in front of me. I thought, Dude, I’ve come all this way, can’t you have some consideration? There wasn’t one ounce of malice in him doing it but it still really hurt me that he couldn’t imagine what it would be like for me to see that. It wasn’t that it made me want to take them myself, but at the same time it freaked me out to see it, for me to know how close I was again to the lifestyle that had nearly killed me. How hard do you want to make this for me? I was thinking. I’m here, I live miles away, just give me an inch. I didn’t see them live again for years after that gig.

As the years went on I became able to watch people take drugs and not feel weird. (It’s basically impossible to work in the music industry and not be surrounded by people on drugs.) But then it was hard – and doubly hard because Primal Scream were my crowd, from when I was a child. Being with them was like being back in my old body, and I couldn’t block out what had happened to me, what I was recovering from.

They couldn’t understand where I was at, because they were still out of their minds. It’s hard to make thoughtful decisions when you’re in that state. And it’s probably unfair of me to have expected it. There’re no badges when you get clean or sober. They were probably looking at me and pitying me, thinking what a better time they were having than me. It’s fair enough if they did – you’ve got to decide how to live your own life. I needed to have a break from the band so we could get on again, so we could remember we were friends first and foremost and not business colleagues. Any problems we had we kept strictly between ourselves and out of the public domain, and I think this is why we’ve managed to stay friends.

Occasionally Bobby would still call me up to battle for him. He wanted to release ‘Kowalski’ as a single and the rest of Creation were telling him he couldn’t. That’s not how it works in my company, especially not with Primal Scream, so I overrode everyone and told them we were releasing it as a single. We still had the same gang ethos, even if we were keeping our distance temporarily. Let’s be honest, we both didn’t like each other much at the time. They were out on their own in many ways.

There was a clear line from the Jesus and Mary Chain to Oasis. It was there in the sense of danger, the classic melodies and the fuck-you attitude. Bobby Gillespie arrived in my office one day in 1997 and told me I had to re-sign the Mary Chain. No one else would have put the record out. Their sales had been on the slide for a few years now and Geoff Travis had turned it down. I listened to the demos and knew it wouldn’t be an amazing Mary Chain album but I knew it would be a good one. I really liked the Mary Chain but Bobby loved the Mary Chain. I didn’t think much about the financial repercussions of decisions in those days. I thought I’d earned that right. So I just said: ‘Let’s do it.’ It was an attempt to try and reclaim our past and get back to the early days; and it was a naive ambition, because we’d gone beyond the point where that was possible.

We offered them a reasonable deal, they agreed and then on the day they were supposed to be signing the contract they rang to ask for a load more money! We’d offered them a £60,000 advance to include the cost of recording, and they’d thought we meant £60,000 plus the cost of recording. No one else in the industry would give them a deal and they were still demanding last-minute improvements. But because it was the Mary Chain Dick and I just went, Oh, yeah, give it to them. It wasn’t worth the hassle. They were the same old band.

It was only at that point that William Reid and I ever got close. He’d decided he wanted to get to know me. Perhaps because I was so friendly with Jim. So we were walking down Charlotte Street near Soho. He isn’t very worldly at all, William.

‘What is this, Alan?’ he’s asking me. ‘Who lives round here?’

‘Malcolm McLaren,’ I said.

‘Can we go and see him?’ he asked.

Er, if you like. So we called for Malcolm McLaren at his flat but he wasn’t in. Still, just ringing the bell had made William quite excited. ‘What shall we do now?’ he asked me.

At the time I was a member of the Groucho Club and that was round the corner, so I mentioned that – not very enthusiastically. If there’s one place I’m certain I’ll never set foot in again these days, it’s the Groucho. I don’t think I’d be comfortable even walking past it.

William, however, was amazed by the idea. ‘The Groucho Club! The Groucho Club!’ he starts repeating in glee.

I know the place is a fucking pit but he hasn’t been there. ‘Yeah, it could be . . . okay?’ I said.

‘The Groucho! Do girls go there?’

‘A few,’ I said.

‘The Groucho! Can we go?’

So off we went and the minute we got there I saw seven or eight girls in their mid-twenties I knew, good pals. So I introduced them to William and they were all going, ‘The Mary Chain! You were my hero!’

This was about thirteen years after we’d released ‘Upside Down’. They must have been about twelve then and they were telling him, ‘You were my fucking hero!’

Anyway, we hung out with them for a while. William was having the time of his life. I was a bit bored. The next thing I know, Will Self comes up and calls me a cunt. No reason. Just comes over and informs me I’m a cunt. Then he’s off.

‘What did he call you?’ asked William.

‘Ah, he just called me a cunt, don’t worry about it.’

I didn’t give a fuck. This was when Will Self was an alcoholic, a junkie. I just thought, Go off and take some more smack, overdose and die, do us a favour.

The next thing though William has gone up to him: ‘You, you cunt, outside!’ He was trying to drag him outside and batter him. Will Self was holding on to the bar, smacked off his tits, as William was trying to drag him outside and give him a doing. That was the day I decided I quite liked William sometimes.

And it was great to have the Jesus and Mary Chain back on the label again. I’d always loved the band. It was a link with the time of Creation when it had been really exciting. It just wasn’t like that on a day-to-day basis any more.

I proposed to Kate that year and she accepted. I was a bit nervous about getting married again, not because I had any reservations about Kate, who I knew I loved and wanted to be with. But I dreaded all the fuss. We’d talk about a wedding and who we had to invite and, before you knew it, it was Knebworth all over again.

We had a holiday planned that Christmas in Nevis. I’d hired a huge house with ten bedrooms and we’d invited lots of our friends to stay with us. Three days before we flew, I had the idea that it was probably the kind of place where you could organize a marriage quickly. I mentioned it to Kate and she was into the idea, though she didn’t believe I’d go through with it and manage to get it organized in time. Go on, I dare you, was her attitude. When we were out there, on New Year’s Day 1998, I got in touch with a local judge and priest called Cecil Byron – he could have people married or executed – and he agreed to execute, no, marry us the next day in the porch of the house we were all staying in.

So that night Kate had a hen do and I had a lads do – me sipping Diet Cokes while Paul Gallagher (Noel and Liam’s brother who worked in A&R for Creation) made everyone cry with laughter.

The next day we were married. The moment they said, Do you take this woman, I flashed back all those years ago to Yvonne and thought of the mistake we’d made. But I knew that I wasn’t making a mistake with Kate.

I stopped going to the political dos after a while. I remember sitting at the high table next to the American ambassador at a dinner at the Labour conference in Bournemouth. He asked me what I did, and I was always quite modest about it in that company: Oh, you know, I do music. He’d heard of Oasis so we had something to chat about. Campbell was walking Blair about to say hello to different people. The minute he saw the American ambassador, he went into overdrive, really turned on the charm. You got the real sense that Blair had to snap to attention for him, that it was the American who was really in charge.

In the end I became disappointed. I realized they weren’t listening to me. They had their own agenda, and if I said anything that fitted in with that, that was fine, but otherwise they were ignoring me.

The whole idea of it being a glorious time to be British, the whole Cool Britannia thing, that was made up by the press. But Oasis’ support of the Labour Party, and their huge success at the time, did give Blair a sense of being the man of the moment. They used us and got what they wanted from us. I don’t feel bitter about it. The New Deal for musicians did something good for bands trying to make it, and I’m glad I could make that difference.

Doors were opening up now everywhere I looked. The royals were courting me for a while. Charles invited me for ‘supper’ three times at Buckingham Palace. Perhaps Blair had told him what fun I was. Kate’s always been mad that I never accepted the invite. I can’t stand the royals, fucking can’t stand them, and once I said that in the papers the invitations stopped.

Now I sort of wish we’d gone. My new philosophy is, if you don’t go, you don’t know. I don’t know what Prince Charles is about and if I had gone I’d know now. But I had and have no respect for them. I was more principled then: I didn’t believe in the monarchy so I couldn’t bring myself to go. The invitation was up on the mantelpiece for about a week and Kate was getting excited, and I just told her, I can’t go. I can’t.

Perhaps they were sounding me out about giving me an honour. They can stick their honours up their arse, I’d never take one.

It was sometimes a bit rocky between us and the Blairs. Cherie always liked me and seemed to think I was the kind of guy she should be hanging around with. She once asked me and Paul Smith to take her to London Fashion Week. I’ve really got no interest in fashion, not much then and less now.

(I dress for the country these days, tweeds and dark greens. I saw Lee Mavers in Leeds recently, when I was dressed head to foot in Barbour and wearing a tweed hat. ‘Why are you wearing that?’ he asked. ‘It’s my image,’ I said, straight-faced. He walked away, shaking his head. Apparently it is becoming fashionable now. But I don’t see Bobby Gillespie turning up on stage in plus fours any time soon.)

Anyway, Kate loves fashion and runs her own label, Client, so she really wanted to go. But when I asked if she could come along I was told no. Not famous enough, I guess, not enough of a photo opportunity to help advertise Cherie’s ‘sense of now’. The next day Kate called up New Labour and told them never to ask me for another donation again. (I’d given them another £20,000 recently.) They really didn’t understand the dynamic going on in my family. It’s Kate who’s in charge.

Two weeks later, to make amends, an invitation arrived to spend a night with the Blairs at Chequers. This was on 23 October 1999. We were driven down there by a West Ham football hooligan in the Sony limo I had been stealing very frequently, and we arrived at half seven. There were full SWAT teams over the lawn to greet us. I got out, Paul Smith-suited-up, Kate wearing Prada, and we walked on in. And there was Blair, scruffy bastard in his Gap jeans: Hello! Tony and I had a ten-minute discussion about music, about Oasis and Blur, and just as that finished we turned round and Now then, now then, now then, Jimmy Savile walked in the room with a security guy. We both stood there looking at this 1980s TV star, with a cigar and a mad fucking rock and roll jacket on. Now then, now then, now then.

‘This can’t get any more bizarre,’ I said to Tony, and he burst out laughing.

At the table, it was Tony and Cherie, me and Kate, John O’Farrell and his missus, Judi Dench and her husband Michael Williams, Admiral Boyce (the guy who presses the nuclear button), John Reid (the home secretary, a Scottish guy who did well for himself and later had a spell as chairman of Celtic FC), and a couple of others. And Jimmy Savile. Kate was placed right between Jimmy Savile and Judi Dench. And he immediately started to hit on her (Kate, not Judi). He was kissing his way right up her arms, kissing her fingers. Kate wasn’t too happy about this. I was thinking, What a dirty old man. I had no idea he was a nonce, just thought he was a dirty old fucker. And a cheeky cunt to boot. His security guard looked tasty so it would have been a bad idea to put an elbow in his face, much as it was tempting. When at Chequers, it’s not the done thing to break Jimmy Savile’s nose. The fact that I was in a position to even consider it was mindblowing enough in itself.

Eventually, the dinner was over. Kate came over and said, ‘He’s a dirty old pervert,’ and I said, ‘I know!’ He left her alone once she was next to me at least.

I’ll tell you something about Jimmy Savile though. I couldn’t tell he was a paedophile, all that’s just the benefit of hindsight. But I knew straight away there was something sinister about him. This hasn’t come out yet, but I’m sure at some point it will. He was a gangster, I’m convinced of it. I’ve dealt with people like that. There was an edge to him, a quiet menace, the threat of violence. I come from Glasgow, I can tell when someone’s dangerous. I could tell he was connected. He was perhaps seventy at this moment but I knew he was a gangster.

In fact everyone was trying to avoid Jimmy Savile. Why he was invited, I don’t know. It was as if he was the host of the party rather than Tony. He was speaking to the whole table apart from when he was trying to suck Kate’s fingers. He’d stand up and walk around too. It really shows the strange power and connection to the establishment he had. I don’t think we’ve heard the half of what he got up to yet, and we probably never will.

What really drove a wedge between me and the Labour Party was when I backed Malcolm McLaren for London mayor ahead of Frank Dobson at the end of 1999. I’d always loved Malcolm. I’d even tried to be him for a while when I was managing the Jesus and Mary Chain. We’d met first in 1996 when we’d done an interview together for Punch and I pulverized him in it. I was a right cunt. I said if I’d had the Sex Pistols they’d still be going, I’d have sold 60 million records. He couldn’t really answer back about that, because I had the biggest group in the world by then in Oasis.

Of course, to be fair, with the Sex Pistols he changed culture and I never did. Unless you count inventing Shoegazing.

We became pals afterwards. I used to go and see him in his office on Denmark Street. He’d phone me up regularly and we’d go for four-hour dinners, during which he’d order the two most expensive bottles of wine on the menu and proceed to talk for three hours and forty-five minutes. Then for fifteen minutes he’d want a rest and to eat his dinner, during which time I would be allowed to talk. I must have bought him dinner twelve times. He never paid once. But it was an education, worth every penny

I’ll tell you what – he was genius. This was in the mid-1990s and he was going on about China, how they were going to become the world’s biggest economy, about the internet and MP3s and how that was going to transform the music industry. It’s all come true. (It was listening to him that gave me the ambition for my next label Poptones, and the problem with listening to a man so far ahead of his time is that the idea for my label was ahead of its time too.)

Malcolm was always doing speaking tours. He bragged to me once about one talk he gave to an audience in Norway for eleven hours! He waited till they were all asleep before he stopped! Malcolm, you’ve got to love him!

Particularly for the way he got me to put him up for Mayor of London. I had absolutely no say in the matter. In fact, I was in the Caribbean when I heard I was putting him up. I was with Kate and my sister Susan and her husband at the time, Louis, and her fantastic daughter Jade who’s the only one in my family who likes the music I released. (Everyone else thinks it’s fucking rubbish.) Anyway, so we’re there on holiday and we started getting calls because it had been announced that I am putting Malcolm up for Mayor of London.

This wasn’t the first I’d heard of his plans to run for mayor. He’d told me all about it over dinner the week before and asked me to put him up. And I hadn’t agreed. I clearly remember not agreeing to put him up for the Mayor of London. So, he just announced it anyway!

I was impressed by that. See, it was an education hanging around with Malcolm. I sounded vaguely intelligent in those days. The biggest problem Malcolm had was how to connect his ideas with making money. His ideas were miles better than mine – he just didn’t know how to make money out of them. That was my skill. That was why I was in a position to help. So I went back to Sony and asked them to write a cheque to Malcolm for £20,000.

‘Why are we doing this, Alan?’

‘It’s an art project,’ I said.

Creation’s accountant was looking at me thinking, This man should not be in charge of the company. I’ve always been pleased I got Sony to pay for that. And I’m glad Malcolm tricked me into supporting him for mayor. It was time to end that link with New Labour.

We ran the campaign for a few months but then Malcolm withdrew when Ken Livingstone stood as an independent, as we both liked him. And of course Ken Livingstone beat the Labour candidate Frank Dobson. I felt bad for Margaret McDonagh then. She took the blame for that and finished as Labour Party general secretary soon after that, but I don’t think Malcolm McLaren had much to do with it.

I was gutted when Malcolm died. I’d had no indication at all that was going to happen. He was always so full of life.

The last time I saw him was in LA, maybe a year before he died. He had a laugh unlike anyone else’s in the world. I didn’t see him first, I heard him. From a table on the complete opposite side of the room. There’s only one guy who laughs like that. It was a delight to hear. I’ll always remember that laugh.

There’s nothing that could make me get involved in party politics again. I no longer believe in the political system we live in. I like individuals in the system who try to sort out people’s problems, like our local MP. But I’ve come to realize, no matter what, Labour, Tory or Lib Dem, they’re all puppets for the shadow government above it, business, America, the people who really run the world.