Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The La’s – The La’s

The La’s – The La’s

The La's formed in 1983, with original member Mike Badger claiming the band name occurred to him in a dream, as well as it being the Scouse for "lads" (which indicates the correct usage of the misleading apostrophe) and having obvious musical connotations. The band existed briefly as an arthouse / skiffle-type outfit with a few tracks included on local compilations. Lee Mavers joined in 1984 as rhythm guitarist, eventually gaining songwriting prominence and emerging as the band's enduring figurehead. Longterm bassist John Power joined the group in 1987, having met Badger on a council-run musicianship course. Badger however left the group in late 1986.

The La's attracted the attention of several record labels after a series of performances in their home town of Liverpool in 1986, and Bootleg demo tapes copied from a session at the Flying Picket rehearsal studio in Liverpool began circulating. After several record labels heard these and offered recording contracts, the band chose to sign with Go! Discs.

The band's first single ("Way Out", released in October 1987 on Go! Discs (GOLAS 112)), was mixed with producer Gavin MacKillop, but attracted little notice. It was praised by The Smiths' frontman Morrissey in the music magazine Melody Maker, but otherwise went generally unnoticed. Five thousand copies were pressed, making it a sought-after item for La's record collectors.

The band continued to perform shows around the UK and continued to gain success as a live act and drew comparisons to the Beatles due to their origins, vaguely Merseybeat sound, and Mavers' expressive lyrics.

Another single (from the Woodcray recording session), "There She Goes", was released in 1988 with the B-sides "Come In Come Out" and "Who Knows". The song garnered moderate attention and airplay, but performed poorly in the charts. The music video for "There She Goes" features The La's scampering through run-down Liverpool streets and was filmed in an afternoon on a handheld camera. The song has been used on several soundtracks, including the films So I Married an Axe Murderer, The Parent Trap and Fever Pitch and was later re-released.

After working with producer Jeremy Allom at the Pink Museum Studio in Liverpool in May 1989, the band were set to release "Timeless Melody" (GOLAS 3) as a single. While it became a "record of the week" in the UK magazine New Musical Express, Mavers was unhappy with how it sounded and it remained commercially unreleased. B-sides included a version of "Clean Prophet" that is still not officially released to this day, and a blues jam entitled "Ride Yer Camel". This record is extremely rare, as only a handful of test pressings were completed.

The group then spent two years fruitlessly recording and re-recording their intended album, with a constantly changing band lineup, where only the core of Mavers and Power remained the same. Discarded producers included The Smiths' producer John Porter, John Leckie, and Mike Hedges. Both Leckie and Hedges in interviews have been very complimentary about the band's songs and their respective sessions.

The previously volatile band lineup settled in 1989 with Neil Mavers, Lee's brother, as the drummer, and Peter "Cammy" Camell as lead guitarist. The group then entered Eden Studios, London in December 1989 to again attempt to record the debut album with Simple Minds and U2 producer Steve Lillywhite. Despite this lineup being arguably the strongest, and press interviews from the time painting them as extremely confident, the sessions still did not satisfy The La's. In one instance Mavers rejected a vintage mixing desk, claiming it did not have the right sound because "it hasn't got original Sixties dust on it". The Eden sessions would become the band's final attempt at recording their album, and the frustration of not achieving the right sound and mood in their songs—as well general friction with Go! Discs, who had spent a considerable sum of money on recording sessions for the band—led to them simply giving up on the sessions, leaving Lillywhite to piece together their recordings into what became the actual released album. The band, particularly Lee Mavers, were not pleased with this decision.

Among the band's complaints were that Lillywhite used vocal guide tracks on the LP and that he didn't "understand" their sound. According to Mavers himself, the band had played poorly deliberately during the sessions in the hope that the material wouldn't be released, as they didn't gel with Lillywhite from day one.

However, recognition, at least critically, came for The La's in 1990 when the self-titled album, The La's, was released. The album included, among new material, re-recorded versions of all the previous singles, including a remixed version of "There She Goes" which was then re-released as a single. This time around, the song reached number 13 in the UK singles chart and remains the most visible and enduring of all the band's songs.

The line up for this song features: Mavers (Guitar/vocals), Power (Bass Guitar), Byrne (Lead Guitar) and Sharrock (Drums). Chris Sharrock (previously of Icicle Works) subsequently went on to drum with Lightning Seeds and has more recently been Robbie Williams's drummer. John Byrne, an established classical guitarist who had recently qualified at the Royal Northern College of Music at the time of the "There She Goes" recording, now performs and teaches on the channel island of Guernsey

Additional singles from the album included the LP versions of "Timeless Melody" and "Feelin'". Both sold reasonably well, reaching chart placings around the top 40. "Feelin'" also saw a small box-set released, which included stickers, and remains a collector's item. A short promotional tour proceeded, accompanied by minor television appearances on shows such as Top of the Pops, however the band appeared unhappy, were visibly unkempt, and frontman Lee Mavers was vitriolic on the subject of their record and came across as generally uninterested in the music business by this point. Press interviews conducted during this period were generally confused in tone, owing to the fact the critics generally adored the album yet Mavers was assuring journalists that he "hated" the album and it was "like a snake with a broken back".

1991 promotional tour dates were fulfilled in the UK and Europe, including a few festivals, a well-received US tour, and a handful of 1992 dates. Bassist John Power left the group in 1992, frustrated with having played essentially the same set of songs since 1986, and resurfaced a year later with his Britpop group Cast. (It is an interesting note that "Cast" is the last word on the last La's song on the LP, "Looking Glass".) Power's departure was essentially the de facto end of The La's, as at that point the band seemed to vanish from the public eye.

The La’s – The La’s

1 comment:

johnv said...

Thanks for making this one available--I've curious to hear it for a long while.