The La's were an English rock band from Liverpool, originally active from the mid-1980s to early 1990s. Fronted by singer, songwriter and guitarist Lee Mavers, the group is most famous for their hit single "There She Goes". The band was formed by Mike Badger in 1984 and Mavers joined soon after. For most of the group's history the frequently changing line-up consisted of Lee Mavers (vocals, guitar) and John Power (bass, backing vocals) along with numerous other guitarists and drummers such as Paul Hemmings, Chris Sharrock, Barry Sutton, Neil Mavers and Peter "Cammy" Camell.
After the departure of Badger in late 1986, the band signed to Go! Discs in 1987 and commenced recording of their debut album. Following the singles "Way Out" (1987), "There She Goes" (1988) and "Timeless Melody" (1990) and after several aborted recording sessions with different producers, the band released their debut album The La's in 1990. The group has been on hiatus since 1992 and following short-lived reunions in mid-1990s, 2005 and 2011, the group have yet to release any new material.
1984-1986: Formation and early years
The La's formed in 1984, with original member Mike Badger stating that the band name occurred to him in a dream, as well as it being Scouse for "lads", and having obvious musical connotations. The band existed briefly as an arthouse/skiffle-type outfit with a few tracks released on local compilations. Lee Mavers joined in 1984 as rhythm guitarist, eventually gaining songwriting prominence and emerging as the band's enduring figurehead. Longtime bassist John Power joined the group in 1986, having met Badger on a local council-run musicianship course. Badger however left the group in late 1986, to form The Onset.
The band attracted the attention of several record labels after a series of performances in their home town in 1986, and demo tapes copied from a session at the Flying Picket rehearsal studio in Liverpool began circulating. One of these demo tapes was sent to Underground Magazine. A journalist there with the task of reviewing unsigned bands gave the cassette to Andy McDonald at Go Discs. Several record labels later became interested in signing the band. The band chose to sign with Go! Discs.
1987-1991: Record deal and debut album
The band's first single "Way Out" was mixed with producer Gavin MacKillop. When it was released in October 1987, it broke in to the top 100 and was praised by The Smiths' frontman Morrissey in the music magazine Melody Maker, but attracted little notice. The band continued to perform around the UK and gained success as a live act, drawing comparisons to The Beatles due to their origins, vaguely Merseybeat sound, and Mavers' expressive lyrics.
"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. It was later re-released a number of times, the earliest being 1990's Steve Lillywhite mix. After working with producer Jeremy Allom at the Pink Museum Studio in Liverpool in May 1989, the band were set to release "Timeless Melody" as a single. While test pressings had been sent out for review, and was nominated for "record of the week" in the NME, Mavers was reportedly unhappy with the production and the single release was scrapped.
The La's 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, as well as 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 Lee's brother, Neil Mavers on drums, and Peter "Cammy" Camell as lead guitarist. The group then entered London's Eden Studios in December 1989 to again record their debut album with Simple Minds and U2 producer Steve Lillywhite. Despite this lineup being arguably the most stable, and press interviews from the time painting them as extremely confident, the sessions still did not satisfy Mavers. In one instance Mavers was reported to have rejected a vintage mixing desk, claiming it did not have the right sound because "it hasn't got original Sixties dust on it" although this claim has since been revealed as apocryphal. The Eden sessions with Lillywhite would become the band's final attempt at recording the album. The frustration of not achieving the right sound and mood in their songs, as well as increasing friction with Go! Discs, who had spent a considerable sum of money on recording sessions for the album, led to them simply giving up on the sessions. Lillywhite pieced together the recordings he had made with the group into what became the eventually 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 did not "understand" their sound. Mavers would later go on to claim that the band had played poorly deliberately during the sessions in the hope that the material would not be released, as they did not 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 reached #30 in the UK charts and received a Silver certification, but the album did not fare as well overseas. The album only reached #196 on the Billboard 200 and to date has sold fewer than 50,000 copies in the U.S.
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.
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. A short promotional tour proceeded, accompanied by television appearances on shows such as Top of the Pops. 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".
1991-1992: Post-album and departure of John Power
1991 promotional tour dates were fulfilled in the UK and Europe including a few festivals, a well-received US tour. Bassist John Power left the group on the 13 December 1991, frustrated with having played essentially the same set of songs since 1986, and resurfaced a year later with his band Cast. The remainder of the 1991 concerts were performed with James Joyce on bass as well as a handful of 1992 dates. The band stopped touring and rehearsing in 1992 until further short-lived reunions, with various line-ups, throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
1992present: Hiatus and reunions
The La's reunited sporadically for a series of live performances throughout 1994 and 1995. The comeback was brought about due to a merchandising debt from the 1991 U.S. tour and the band played support slots to artists such as Oasis, Paul Weller and Dodgy. The reformed band consisted of differing line-ups for each concert and as well as Lee Mavers other performers included several former members such as Barry Sutton, Lee Garnett, John "Boo" Byrne, James Joyce, Peter "Cammy" Camell and Neil Mavers.
In 1996, Mavers began recording at The Arch studio in Kew, London owned by ex-The Damned drummer Rat Scabies. Initially working alone, he was later joined in the studio by ex-The Stairs frontman Edgar Summertyme, Lee Garnett and Neil Mavers. The sessions ended because of damp in the studio, however Mavers and Summertyme continued to rehearse and record in Liverpool for a year. After the collapse of Go! Discs, Mavers recording contract with the label was acquired by PolyGram and eventually expired in 1998. In 1998, Mavers began rehearsing with the then unsigned Liverpool band The Crescent. A bootleg recording of one of these rehearsals known as The Crescent Tape would later leak on to the Internet.
In the late 1990s, Mavers renewed contact with founder member Mike Badger and subsequently two compilation albums of early demos and home recordings were released by The Viper Label (founded by ex-La's Badger and Hemmings), Lost La's 1984-1986: Breakloose (1999) and Lost La's 1986-1987: Callin' All (2001). A Japan only compilation album Singles Collection (2001) was released by Universal Music Japan containing all of the band's singles and b-sides released from 1987 to 1991. A biography about the band In Search of The La's: A Secret Liverpool by MW Macefield was published in 2003. The book contained interviews with many former members of The La's including Lee Mavers, Mike Badger, Paul Hemmings, Barry Sutton, Peter "Cammy" Camell and Neil Mavers.
Following a reunion between Mavers and John Power, The La's reformed in June 2005 with a lineup of Lee Mavers (vocals, guitar), John Power (bass, backing vocals), ex-Cracatilla frontman Jay Lewis (guitar) and Nick Miniski (drums), playing dates in England and Ireland ahead of an appearance at the Summer Sonic festival in Japan and other UK festivals. After three concerts, Miniski was replaced as drummer by roadie Jim "Jasper" Fearon, who was Mavers' school friend and one time bass player for The La's. The set lists were mostly the same as in the late 1980s, although certain encores contained some previously unheared songs such as "Gimme the Blues" and "Sorry". Since the reunion gigs it has been rumoured that Mavers has continued working on The La's' elusive second album. When interviewed in August 2006, John Power explained that Mavers was still "tinkering with something that's majestic" and of the release date, "I cant tell you where and when...' cos whatever he does, whether its in this lifetime or the next, it cant be rushed".
A compilation of The La's live radio sessions BBC in Session was released on 18 September 2006. In 2008, a new deluxe edition of The La's was released containing the lost Mike Hedges album, alternate recordings and live recordings for radio and television including previously unreleased songs "I Am the Key" and a Buddy Holly cover "That'll Be the Day". Also Lost Tunes (2008) was released as a download only EP of studio out-takes and alternate recordings.
After being introduced to each other by Gary Murphy of The Bandits, Lee Mavers began jamming with Pete Doherty in 2008 and appeared on stage with Doherty during his 2009 tour. Mavers then started performing live with artists such as Drew McConnell and Jon McClure in London in April 2009. In 2009, Babyshambles drummer Adam Ficek revealed plans of The La's second album to be recorded with the Babyshambles as backing band and Drew McConnell revealed plans for him to join The La's as bassist, however this supposed line up did not materialise and live appearances were cancelled. In 2010, a four disc box-set of singles, b-sides, studio out-takes, alternate recordings and live material Callin' All (2010) was released by Polydor which collected most of the band's still unreleased recordings produced whilst signed to Go! Discs.
In June 2011 Lee Mavers, accompanied by Gary Murphy on bass guitar, played a surprise concert in Manchester under the name Lee Rude & The Velcro Underpants. Following this Mavers and Murphy reformed The La's and played a series of "stripped back" shows across the UK and Europe including a performance at Rock en Seine festival in France in August 2011.
Musical style and legacy
The La's' sound has been compared to that of Merseybeat and 1960s British rock music and the band often faced comparisons to The Beatles who were also from Liverpool. Founder member Mike Badger has named Captain Beefheart as The La's' main influence and the band have also cited artists such as Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, James Brown, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix as influences. Lee Mavers has described their sound as "rootsy" and "raw and organic" whilst Allmusic have noted the band's "simple, tuneful, acoustic-driven arrangements". The La's were also noted for their distinctly different style to other popular British bands in the late 1980s such as The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays.
The La's have gone on to influence many other British alternative rock artists for the next twenty years. The band had great influence on the Britpop movement of the mid-1990s and have been cited as an influence by artists such as Oasis, Paul Weller, The Charlatans and Travis. Pete Doherty of The Libertines and Babyshambles has also cited the group as an influence. The La's have also influenced many later Liverpool bands including the "cosmic scouser" bands of the early 2000s such as The Coral and The Zutons.
- Lee Mavers guitar, vocals (1984-1992, 1994-1995, 2005, 2011)
- Gary Murphy bass (2011)
- Former members
- Mike Badger guitar, vocals (1984-1986)
- John "Timmo" Timson drums (1984-1985, 1986-1987)
- Phil Butcher bass (1984)
- Jim "Jasper" Fearon bass, drums (1985, 2005)
- Bernie Nolan bass (1985-1986)
- Tony Clarke drums (1985-1986)
- Paul Rhodes drums (1986)
- John Power bass, vocals (1986-1991, 2005)
- Barry Walsh drums (1986)
- Paul Hemmings guitar (1987)
- Mark Birchall drums (1987)
- Peter "Cammy" Camell guitar, bass (1988, 1989-1992, 1994-1995)
- Iain Templeton drums (1988)
- John "Boo" Byrne guitar (1988, 1995)
- Chris Sharrock drums (1988-1989)
- Barry Sutton guitar (1988-1989, 1991)
- Neil Mavers drums (1989-1992, 1994-1995)
- James Joyce bass (1991-1992, 1994)
- Lee Garnett guitar (1994-1995)
- Jay Lewis guitar (2005)
- Nick Miniski drums (2005)
- The La's (1990) #30 (UK), #196 (US)
- Lost La's 1984-1986: Breakloose (1999)
- Singles Collection (2001)
- Lost La's 1986-1987: Callin' All (2001)
- BBC in Session (2006)
- Lost Tunes (2008)
- De Freitas Sessions '87 (2010)
- Callin' All (2010)
|Year||Title||Peak chart positions|
|UK ||NL ||US ||US Mod |
|1988||"There She Goes"||59|
|"There She Goes" (remix)||13||57||49||2|
- A Secret Liverpool (1984) "I Don't Like Hanging Around"
- Elegance, Charm and Deadly Danger (1985) "My Girl (Sits Like a Reindeer)" and "Sweet 35"
- Unearthed: Liverpool Cult Classics, Vol. 1 (2001) "Don't Lock Me Out"
References and footnotes
- MW Macefield (2003). In Search of The La's: A Secret Liverpool, London: Helter Skelter Publishing. URL accessed 24 August 2011.
- Steve Jelbert, "Pop: The One and Only" The Independent (London: 26 January 2001, p. 16)
- 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Dave Simpson, The Lost Boy. URL accessed on 1 July 2011.
- Ben Todd, Loner Lee Has the La's Laugh, 21 July 1999. URL accessed on 1 July 2011.
- Lost La's 1984-1986 - Breakloose (French). Les Inrocks. Les Inrockuptibles (31 October 1999). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
- The La's Broadcast?. NME.com. NME (16 February 2004). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
- The La's Eyeing Reunion?. Billboard.com. Billboard (19 February 2004). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
- The Las Reform For Festival Show. Xfm. Xfm (18 March 2005). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
- The La's reform for UK concerts. BBC News. BBC (24 March 2005). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
- Dave Monks (28 June 2005). The La's - Live!. BBC Liverpool. BBC. Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
- John Power. Troubadour (12 October 2006). Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
- 12.0 12.1 Pete Doherty plays gig with The La's frontman Lee Mavers. NME.com. NME (26 March 2009). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
- Pete Doherty and The La's team up. NME.com. NME (22 August 2008). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
- Pete Doherty closes solo tour with Lee Mavers and a stagediving stripper. NME.com. NME (30 March 2009). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
- La's Lee Mavers plays gig with Carl Barat, Babyshambles. NME.com. NME (26 April 2009). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
- Lee Mavers planning second La's album with Babyshambles. NME.com. NME (22 April 2009). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
- La's Lee Mavers' second album plan revealed. NME.com. NME (28 May 2009). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
- The La's and The Rascals pull out of Tramlines festival. NME.com. NME (22 July 2009). Retrieved on 1 July 2011.
- The La's Lee Mavers makes surprise comeback in Manchester. NME.com. NME (19 June 2011). Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
- The La's (15 August 2011). @TheLasOfficial. Twitter. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
- 21.0 21.1 21.2 Stephen Thomas Erlewine. The La's review. Allmusic. Rovi. Retrieved on 7 July 2011.
- David Giles (14 November 1987). "The Likely La's". NME.
- 23.0 23.1 Bob Stanley (10 June 1989). "Side Lines". Melody Maker.
- Andrew Collins (26 November 1988). "The La's Chance". NME.
- 25.0 25.1 25.2 John Power & Lee Mavers. Interview. "The La's X-Ray (video)."
- John Power & Lee Mavers. Interview with Erica Ehm. "Much Music (video)." 2 July 1991.
- The La's. Chart Stats. Retrieved on 2010-03-19.
- Discography The La's. Ultratop. Retrieved on 2010-03-19.
- 29.0 29.1 The La's Album & Song Chart History. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-03-19.
- MW Macefield (2003). In Search of The La's: A Secret Liverpool, London: Helter Skelter Publishing.
Lee Mavers · John Power · Jay Lewis · "Jasper" |
Mike Badger · Paul Hemmings · Peter "Cammy" Cammell · Neil Mavers · John "Boo" Byrne · Chris Sharrock · Nick Miniski
Albums: The La's
Singles: Way Out · Timeless Melody · There She Goes · Feelin
Compilation albums: Breakloose: Lost La's 1984-1986 · Callin' All: Lost La's 1986-1987 · BBC In Session
Bootlegs/Unreleased Recordings: The Kitchen Tape · John Leckie Sessions · Mike Hedges Sessions