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Re-creating the Creation

Reliving 1966 through a great unknown Mod band.

by Rod Scopint
September 19, 2002

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Re-creating the Creation_Rod Scopint-Reliving 1966 through a great unknown Mod band. Ever wish you had been in London in the sixties? Caught the Beatles at the Cavern? Seen the Who at the Marquee? Maybe see an early Rolling Stones show? Ah, classic rock in its infancy; what must have those shows been like? Well, on Tuesday, September 17, 2002, I got a rare glimpse into that world.

Playing at a small club in Chicago’s Bucktown area, I caught the aging grace of the Creation. Never heard of the Creation? It’s not surprising. The Creation was one of the many London bands that never quite made it big.

At their peak, the Creation was one of the biggest rivals of the Who. So impressive was lead guitarist Eddie Phillips, Pete Townshend once tried to recruit Phillips as a second guitarist for the Who. Phillips also developed the violin bow-style of playing guitar that was later stolen and made famous by Jimmy Page. But a series of mismanagement, line-up changes and sunken record deals pushed the Creation into unknown oblivion. Only by the grace of having one of their songs, “Making Time,” land on the “Rushmore” soundtrack has the Creation escaped complete anonymity. It is based on the new popularity of this song that the Creation has reformed and started touring again.

After two opening acts, the Creation took the stage at 11:30 pm. Looking no worse than their Rolling Stones peers, original members Eddie Phillips and Bob Gardener emerged from the crowd with two new band mates, clad with Mod-like army shirts covered in patches and the number 1966, the year the band started. In 1966, original lead singer Kenny Pickett would splash paint on a canvas, Jackson Pollock-style, throughout the concert (this was, after all, a Mod band). In 2002, Bob Gardner spray-paints a canvas, reviving that early Mod feel. “I asked for six colors,” Gardner revealed, somewhat disgusted, “all they gave me was black and red. They must be color-blind!”

Realizing they were playing to a crowd young enough to be their grandchildren, Gardner quipped, “Anybody here remember 1966? Was anyone here alive in 1966?”

Yet the gray-haired band rocked the house, easily smoking their much younger opening acts. The Creation, of course, opened with “Making Time” and worked their way through their other minor hits, such as “Biff Bang Pow,” Try and Stop Me,” and “Nightmares.” The songs were as good as anything else released in 1966, carrying both the snarl and pop sensibilities of most music of that time. It was easy to see why this band rivaled the early Who.

Though the majority of the audience was too young to have heard the Creation in their heyday, the crowd knew all the songs and sang along to many of the classics. The Creation even introduced two “new” songs, “Shock” and “Red with Purple Flashes,” a song written but never recorded 36 years ago. They closed with an encore of “Painter Man,” the song that made them big in Germany, and “How Does It Feel to Feel,” their only U.S. hit.

The Creation may not have turned back time that Tuesday night, but they certainly gave it their best shot. Though now pushing sixty, guitarist Eddie Phillips gave the audiences flashes of the man he was at 20, not only in his music but stage mannerisms, and if one could imagine his gray, thinning hair into a scruffy mop-top, one could almost believe they were in a London club, circa 1966, instead of a Chicago pub, 2002.

Bands like the Rolling Stones and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were lucky. They caught on, had long musical careers, and have a large repertoire to choose from when they decide to revise their act. The sell out packed arenas and have two-hour shows. Some label these bands as nostalgia acts, but for a true taste of nostalgia, check out a band like the Creation. They’re harder to find, usually playing small clubs, just like they did nearly 40 years ago. But their music is still vital and fresh, and they play it with the heart of a band that isn’t heard all over the classic rock stations. Their sound is both new and familiar, and there’s an intimacy you just can’t get with bigger bands.

One final note on the Creation; Rolling Stone guitarist Ron Wood once had a brief stint as guitarist for the Creation. The Stones (who were also in Chicago that night) are known for making surprise appearances at small clubs, and it wouldn’t be unlikely for Ron Wood to check up on his old band mates. It didn’t happen for us, but you never know…

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Cap'n Jim Kirk from The final frontier writes:
June 1, 2011
No mention of "If I Stay Too Long"? - one of the first singles I ever bought. You can hear it here: www youtube com/watch?v=h6_XtwJw0vY

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