Posts Tagged ‘Action Painting’

The Creation

Our first introduction to the character of young Max Fischer in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore comes by way of his lengthy extracurricular resume—Stamp & Coin Club, Fencing Team, Trap & Skeet Club, Rushmore Beekeepers, etc etc etc. But just as memorable as Fischer’s list of exploits is the music that scores it: the fuzzed-out 1966 single “Making Time” by the UK group The Creation.

The song, which kicks against the mundanity of working in a clock factory, is cut from the same cloth as equally ecstatic mid ‘60s anthems like The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and The Who’s “My Generation,” and with good reason: all three were produced by Shel Talmy, a Chicago native who spent the meat of the 1960s living in London. In The Creation, Talmy saw a band willing to push the boundaries of rock ‘n’ roll, and to explore the use of noise and overdrive in the context of melodically-driven tunes. Where the feedback Talmy added to The Who’s “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” was rejected by Decca Records (they thought there was something wrong with the test pressing), The Creation, led by singer Kenny Pickett and guitarist Eddie Phillips, were more than willing to crank things up to 11. Phillips even ramped up the noise factor by using a violin bow on his electric guitar, a technique that would be hijacked by Jimmy Page a year later when he made his debut as the new member of The Yardbirds and then, more famously, in Led Zeppelin.

Eddie Phillips was looking for was something that would give me a long sustain, and the fuzzbox wasn’t even invented yet back then. So to get that long sustain, I thought maybe what I could do was to get a thing that would make the bottom E play while I can hammer on notes on the top E. First thing that I tried to do was take a hacksaw and put a bottom E guitar string in it, so the windings on the one string would go one way and the strings on my guitar would go the other way and these windings would sort of rub on each other to make the sound I was looking for, which it did. But unfortunately, the hacksaw cut some scars on the guitar neck, and those scars were still there when Dave from XTC took it.

Biff! A violin bow scrapes across the strings of a guitar
Bang! The hiss of a an aerosol can releases paint on to canvas
Pow! As the violin bow pierces the canvas.

The Creation

Sadly, the band never scored a hit single during their initial run, but a decade after they split up, Boney M.’s Eurodisco version of “Painter Man” finally put The Creation in the UK Top 10. As it turned out, this was only the beginning of a wave of appreciation for the group: The cover art for their single “Biff Bang Pow” can be seen on the inside of The Jam’s classic third LP All Mod Cons, and, in the ‘80s, Alan McGee decided to call his new record label “Creation,” in direct tribute to the group. The label’s earliest signings—the Jesus & Mary Chain, Ride, Swervedriver—all shared The Creation’s signature fondness for noise and distortion.

The scant yet sacred discography The Creation produced during their initial two-year run has been compiled and released a number of times over the course of the last 50 years, but the Numero Group’s new collection Action Painting is by far the most exhaustive anthology to date. A beautifully-packaged, two-disc hardcover box set, Action Painting gathers up all the original singles recorded by the group’s original lineup and pairs them with songs by their first iteration as The Mark Four, as well as newly mixed versions of the group’s most well-known tunes. Like the originals, the remixes were produced by Talmy who, at 79 and legally blind, is still a genuine master of amplified fidelity.


Creation guitarist Eddie Phillips comments about Action Paintingas well as the history of one of the most electrifying, influential, and underrated acts to emerge from the British Invasion.

We were on [‘60s music TV show] Ready Steady Go the same week Little Richard was on it. After the show, we did a two-week tour of the UK with him, which was a real gas.  He didn’t really come very often to the UK. But when you talk about an awesome performer—he really was that. It was just fantastic.

He signed my cherry red Gibson 335 , ‘To Eddie, Good Luck Always, Little Richard.’ After I left The Creation, I still stayed friends with Kenny Pickett, and I lent him the guitar in the early ‘70s for a short period of time. While he had it, the neck got broken. He called me afterwards and said, ‘I’m sorry, but I sort of had an accident with your guitar. Can I buy it off of you?’ So I sold it to him for 100 quid. Then, it ended up in the hands of Dave Gregory from XTC. Dave said he needed to bring it in for repairs—because I half-wrecked the guitar to begin, with using the bow on it—and, unfortunately, Little Richard’s autograph got rubbed off. How mad is that?

John Lydon used to say that The Creation was one of The Sex Pistols’ favorite bands, and they actually covered “Through My Eyes.” They featured [that cover] in that movie that came out about them around 20 years ago, The Filth and The Fury.Our songs crop up in strange places. They made a movie about Jimi Hendrix a couple of years ago, and they used “Through My Eyes” in the movie.

When I first heard Oasis, I just thought they were a ripoff of The Creation. Well, not a ripoff , but you knew they looked at our videos and listened to our songs. Plus, the way Liam Gallagher was onstage, that persona—it looked to me as though he got that from Kenny Pickett, because Kenny had this arrogance about him when he was on the stage. Oasis used to remind me of The Creation quite a lot. We actually did a night at the Royal Albert Hall, and it was a Creation Records birthday bash. When we were on there we played a few songs as The Creation with the original lineup.

We loved the 1960s Batman; I personally don’t enjoy the new Batman movies. I quite prefer the lighter, campier Batman with Adam West and Burt Ward. We got the title for “Biff Bang Pow” from those captions in the show when somebody gets knocked on the chin. We would actually open our live sets with the Batman theme, and we’d really rock that thing.