‘Our songs crop up in strange places,’ said Eddie Phillips, lead guitarist with The Creation, who briefly rubbed shoulders with The Who, Small Faces and The Kinks in the mid-1960s. He wasn’t kidding.
You may have heard them at the movies, in the Sex Pistols film The Filth And The Fury or in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore; on pop radio, notably a cheesy disco-lite cover version by Boney M; in an advert for Audi cars; and on the Royal Albert Hall stage 25 years after the band split up.
Today, if you’re watching the fourth series of the wonderful Great Pottery Throw Down on Channel 4, you will hear one particular Creation track which has featured in every episode since the second series aired on the BBC in 2017.
Making Time is effectively the programme’s theme tune, the opening burst of stabbing, staccato guitar and rumbling drums making its entrance early in each hour-long wallow in ceramic splendour and sloppiness from the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent.
If one had to categorise the song it would probably be as Mod Rock, nestling alongside early Who singles I Can’t Explain (the Throw Down’s signature tune for series one) and Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, and The Kinks’ You Really Got Me and All Day And All Of The Night.
Yet the word Mod, in the context of The Creation, has nothing to do with swarms of identically attired lads on scooters à la Quadrophenia or girls with cropped hair dancing round their handbags to Motown.
When the group first formed, changing their name from the Mark Four in 1965, the sub-culture was still about flamboyance, inventiveness, looking forward and seeking ways to express difference from the older generation. The Creation were experimentalists, incorporating elements of Psych Pop and Pop Art into their records and gigs.
Making Time came out as a single in June 1966, shortly before Bob Dylan’s extraordinary double album Blonde On Blonde and The Beatles’ great leap forward, Revolver. Written by Eddie Phillips with the late Creation singer Kenny Pickett, it was produced by Shel Talmy, whose credits include My Generation, Waterloo Sunset and The Easybeats’ epochal Friday On My Mind, and released on the American’s Planet label.
It has been claimed the song is about the drudgery of working in a clock factory. That seems too literal an interpretation of the title. The short, sharp phrases that comprise its lyric do not, to these ears, amount to an exposition of the repetitive misery of the nine to five.
From the start, Pickett’s style is to attack the words:
For people to believe in
The concluding verse underlines a sense of youthful disaffection that countless singers down the decades, from Johnny Rotten to Liam Gallagher, have attempted to channel:
Take your pick
Makes you sick
Seeking new advances
In between, the chorus finds Pickett asking plaintively: ‘Why do we have to carry on? Always singing the same old song.’ This could indeed be a reference to the daily grind of the workplace. Music While You Work on the BBC Home Service still had 14 months of its 17-year run to go when Making Time appeared.
For me, however, the subject matter is secondary to the dynamic mood of the record, for which Phillips’s guitar work is largely responsible. Now 75, he once described The Creation’s music as ‘red with purple flashes’. Listen to his primal guitar solo and it makes sense.
What makes it stand out from a million other instrumental breaks is that Phillips was playing his cherry red Gibson 335 with a violin bow. Jimmy Page did the same with The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin but The Creation’s guitar maestro got there first.
Phillips also used the raw sound of feedback and distortion in a way that perhaps only Link Wray and Pete Townshend were doing (The Who’s record label, Brunswick, initially rejected Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, assuming it was a faulty pressing).
While he sawed away at his guitar during the break in Making Time, creating a long ‘sustain’ in the pre-fuzzbox era, Pickett sprayed paint on a canvas at the back of the stage. As the song ended, Phillips threw his bow at his partner’s masterpiece like a spear.
The fusion of sound and vision won an army of fans, but in West Germany rather than in the UK, where it peaked at No49. The follow-up, Painter Man, reached No36 here and No8 in Germany, only to become a huge Europe-wide hit for Boney M in 1979.
Phillips left The Creation in 1967, to be replaced by future Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. He worked with PP Arnold and drove buses before The Creation reconvened in 1993, playing the 10th anniversary concert for the record label which took their name at the Albert Hall.
Like the song says, Making Time is the sound of a group ‘seeking new advances’. Why it was chosen for The Great Pottery Throw Down – a cosy, gentle celebration of the pre-industrial craft of moulding beauty out of clay – is a mystery. But a thrilling, red-with-purple-flashes mystery for all that.