The La's are an English rock band from Liverpool consisting of frontman Lee Mavers (vocals, guitars) and John Power (bass, backing vocals), plus a rotating cast of guitarists and drummers. The band's best-known song is "There She Goes".
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 Scouse for "lads", 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. 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 broke in to the top 100 and 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. This was the beginning of The La's music career, which would last for little more than four years until the band slipped away from the limelight in 1992.
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 as 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 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.
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, although the band appeared unhappy, were visibly unkempt, and front man 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 frustration 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.
After his split of the band, John Power had great success with his band Cast. Drummer Chris Sharrock (who was a band member only briefly) also had high-profile post-La's gigs as an official member of World Party, The Lightning Seeds, Oasis, and Robbie Williams' backing band. Other ex-members of the band generally pursued their own musical directions, though none achieved the same sort of success as Power or Sharrock.
Lee Mavers himself, however, 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, and rumours persisted about him that were left undenied in his absence, ranging from perceived eccentricity to drug abuse.
However Mavers and an impromptu configuration of The La's did play some low-key shows again in the mid 1990s. 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. 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, 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.
Following a reunion between Mavers and Power, in June 2005 The La's, with yet another new lineup, played six dates in England and Ireland ahead of an appearance at the Summer Sonic festival in Japan and sundry other festivals, with the line-up of Lee Mavers (vocals, guitar), John Power (bass, backing vocals), Jay Lewis of Liverpool band Cracatilla (guitar) and Nick Miniski (drums). Miniski was replaced by 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 had become the full-time drummer. This was televised in part by the BBC.
The set lists were the same as ever, although the encores consisted of one unreleased (but a popular bootleg) song "I Am The Key" and an 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 late Summer 2005 such as Oxegen (Ireland), V (UK) and the aforementioned Summer Sonic festival (Japan), and embarked on a short tour of Japan, which saw them play songs by The Who such as "My Generation".
Since then it is believed that Mavers is again 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 can’t tell you where and when . . . 'cos whatever he does, whether it’s in this lifetime or the next, it can’t be rushed".
A compilation of The La's radio appearances for the BBC was released on 18th September 2006, called The La's - BBC In Session.
|UK Singles Chart||US Hot 100||US Modern Rock|
|1987||"Way Out"||#86||-||-||The La's|
|1988||"There She Goes" (first release)||#59||-||-||The La's|
|1990||"Timeless Melody"||#57||-||#12||The La's|
|1991||"There She Goes" (second release)||#13||#49||#2||The La's|
|1999||"There She Goes" (third release)||#65||-||-||The La's|
The Seattle Band Pearl Jam covered Timeless Melody in their Binaural Tour on 6/4/2000 when they played at The Manchester Evening News Arena, Manchester, England. During the concert Eddie Vedder states (incorrectly) that they are going to play a song written by a band are from your town. The concert is available as an Official Bootleg.