When you think of 90s Britpop, you probably think of Oasis, Blur, and Pulp. While these rock outfits were paramount in popularising the genre, one band is especially seminal. That band is The La’s, a band Noel Gallagher has cited as “important to me as The Stone Roses”.
The La’s consisted of enigmatic frontman and perfectionist Lee Mavers, bassist John Power, guitarist Cammy and Neil Mavers on drums in their prime. If you haven’t heard of the band or any of the members, you’re not to blame. The Liverpudlian’s were famously recluse and only released one full-length album before disappearing.
Creating the self-titled debut
The La’s came together in the mid-1980s, signing to Go! Discs and jumping right into the creating their debut record. Due to the impossible standards imposed by frontman Lee Mavers, the band would spend the next 3 years completing this album. Mavers embodied the ‘tortured genius’ persona completely, shifting through band members, producers, time and money (supposedly £1 million) to create the perfect sound.
Esteemed producers included John Leckie (Radiohead, The Stone Roses) and Mike Hedges (The Cure). Still, all somehow fell short of Mavers’ vision, as he continued to insist that they couldn’t match the magic of the band’s early demos. Steve Lillywhite (U2, Talking Heads) ended up finishing the record, but it didn’t appear to be an enjoyable experience for anyone involved. “We’d record six songs that were fantastic, but if there was one thing wrong on the seventh, he [Lee Mavers] would be convinced everything else was terrible, and we’d have to start everything again”, said Lillywhite regarding the project.
The chaos continues…
The stories only escalate from here. The folklore surrounding Lee’s creative process tiptoes between madness and meticulousness. Some stories claim he sprinkled dust from Vox amplifiers onto instruments before recording for the “right vibe” and tuned his guitar to the hum of the fridge. The only band members that stayed throughout the entire years of recording were Lee (of course) and bassist/backing vocalist John Power.
At long last, the label stopped shelling money at the record, releasing it without the band’s permission in 1990, with unapproved album artwork. To make matters worse, Mavers immediately started blatantly criticising the album to the press upon its release. He’s called the record a “pile of shit” and stated, “It never captured anything we were about”. Mavers insisted on re-recording the entire project, though a new release of the debut has never surfaced.
Don’t be fooled by Mavers’ quips. The La’s debut is a melting pop of bright, inspired Britpop with timeless appeal. If it was released today, the Soundcloud to mp3 remixes would be everywhere.
The biggest hit off the album was their three-minute masterpiece, There She Goes. With a melody so effortless and melancholy, the single reached #13 on the UK charts. However, aside from a few reformed shows and solo performances from Mavers, The La’s have dissolved.
Despite the incessant demand for more output from The La’s, Mavers’ still insists on re-recording the debut. This has resulted in a cult status around the project and Mavers’ as a creative figure. Perhaps afraid to tamper with his now heroic status, the album stands alone, consistently adored by critics and musicians alike for its flowing blend of jangle-pop, blues, and gutsy vocal performances. Never have the opening lyrics to an album rang so true: “If you want, I’ll sell you a life story, about a man who’s at loggerheads with his past all the time.”
- There She Goes
- Timeless Melody
- Son Of A Gun