The La's

Liverpool, Northwest, UK
Artist / Band / Musician
Rock / Big Beat
The band, named after the Scouse for "lads" as well of the obvious musical connotations of "la", attracted the attention of several record labels after a series of performances in their home town of Liverpool in 1986. Bootleg demo tapes copied from a session at the Flying Picket rehearsal studio in Liverpool in 1986 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 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" which ran for about nine minutes. This record is extremely rare, as 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. Interestingly, both Leckie and Hedges in interviews have been very complimentary about the band's songs and their respective sessions, in spite of the fact both their efforts were ultimately rejected by Lee Mavers.

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. 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 [[LP]. 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 finally released despite the band's objections. The album included, among new material, re-recorded versions of all the previous singles, including a remixed version of "There She Goes" re-released as a single. This time around, the song reached number 13 in the UK singles chart and remains the most visible 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. "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.

Rumours that Mavers had vowed not to record any new material until after the first catalogue had been re-recorded to his satisfaction circulated, much to the frustation of fans and journalists who didn't especially see a problem with the released album. No releasable studio work was completed on a second album, despite Mavers' reportedly numerous unreleased songs and, according to local sources, endlessly recording them by himself in the privacy of his own home.

Lee Mavers never appeared comfortable with media attention or with the results of all his recording sessions, and did not reciprocate interview requests made by music journalists after the band broke up. His uninterested attitude to the press no doubt contributed to the "Mavers as recluse" personality as portrayed by music publications. However Mavers and The La's did play some low-key shows again. With a few random ex-La's, Mavers played hastily-organised short-notice support slots with Dodgy, Paul Weller and Oasis in 1994 and 1995, although he has since claimed this was to raise funds owing to a merchandising debt from their 1991 US tour, as opposed to staging a full-blown comeback. The set lists, usually consisting of The Who covers and inpromptu disorganised jams, seem to support this notion. After these dates, nothing concrete was heard from or about Mavers for a number of years, and it was unknown what, if anything, he was going to do with his unreleased songs.

In 2001 The La's was re-released in the UK, under the Universal label. It featured the album, now digitally remastered (although audibly identical to the original), plus previously available B-sides "All By Myself", "Knock Me Down", "Clean Prophet", "IOU Alternate" from the jettisoned Hedges sessions, and "Over (Live in a Stable in Liverpool)", yet the release is missing many B-side tracks that most La's fans found essential.

Surprisingly, following an unpredictable reunion between Mavers and Power, in June 2005 The La's, with yet another new lineup, played six dates in the UK and Ireland (three in Ireland, three in England) ahead of an appearance at Japan's Summer Sonic festival and sundry other festivals, with the line-up of Lee Mavers (vox, guitar), John Power (bass, backing vocals), Jay Lewis of band Cracatilla (guitar) and Nick Miniski (drums). Miniski was replaced Lee Mavers' schoolfriend Jasper by the time The La's played their fourth reunion date, the June 13, 2005 Sheffield Leadmill gig, and by the time of the Glastonbury Festival 2005, Jasper, who by his own admission is not even a drummer, had become the full-time drummer. This was televised in part by the BBC. Amusingly both Miniski and Jasper played their gigs standing up, at Mavers' behest. The setlists were the same as ever, although the encores consisted of one unreleased song "I Am The Key" and unreleased and unheard song "Gimme the Blues" (the former having been played live from as early as 1989, but having yet to appear on a record). One other new song, "Sorry", was played at the Cork, Ireland show.

The group played festival dates in later 2005 such as the V Festival and the aforementioned Japanese Summer Sonic festival, and embarked on a short tour of Japan, which saw them play songs by The Who such as My Generation.
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