In 2000, Pearl Jam treated their audience to a cover of The La’s’ “Timeless Melody.” Eddie Vedder, addressing the Mancunian audience characteristically mumbled, “Hey! There’s a good, uh — fuckin’ good? — a great band who made one great record and they’re called The La’s and I think they’re from your town… I believe. A great songwriter from your town… his last name ain’t Gallagher.”
Vedder’s geographical mix-up could’ve, under the wrong circumstances, ignited a full scale riot but The La’s were a great band and what sensible person wouldn’t want to be associated with their brilliance. Also, Lee Mavers’s name “ain’t” Gallagher but — along with other Scouse bands like Rain and The Real People — the so-called Cosmic Scally scene arguably had much more influence on Oasis than the Manchester scene which quickly stole its spotlight. Also, both the Gallaghers and Mavers are dyed-in-the-blue-wool football supporters — the Gallaghers of “The Sky Blues” (Man City) and Mavers of “The Blues” (Everton).
Although from Liverpool and weren’t in the slightest bit Baggy (aside from their hair and track suits, at least), the La’s definitely benefit from Madchester’s prominence. They first began in 1984, with Mike Badger on vocals and Lee Mavers in the background. It wasn’t until Badger’s departure in 1986 that Mavers’s songwriting genius revealed itself. In 1987 they released Merseybeat-like “Way Out” which was praised by Morrissey but failed to make them stars. “There She Goes” was released in 1988 and climbed only to #57 on the British charts. In 1989, “Timeless Melody” was praised by Bob Stanley at Melody Maker, who designated it “Single of the Week” but Mavers was bafflingly unhappy with it and its release was scrapped after promos were sent out.
After all eyes turned to the North in search of the next Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, or Inspiral Carpets, “There She Goes” was rereleased in 1990 at which point it climbed to #13 in the UK and #49 in the US. Mavers’ crippling perfectionism again came to fore when he spent the next two years making the band’s only album with a rotating cast of musicians and producers like John Porter, John Leckie, and Mike Hedges all hired and fired. Against Mavers’ wishes, fourth producer Steve Lillywhite released The La’s.
It was a glorious masterpiece, of course, but Mavers was unhappy. In 1991 he toured to fulfill contractual obligations and afterward the band’s John Power left and formed Cast. Mavers revived The La’s in 1994 and ’95 for a series of live performances and returned to the studio in 1996 but again was unhappy with the results. In 1998 he played with an unsigned building, The Crescent. A new line-up of The La’s (with Power) surfaced in 2005 and in 2008 and ’09 Mavers performed for a bit with ex-Libertine Pete Doherty. At the time of writing, more than 25 musicians have been members of the La’s and after more than 30 years of existence, they’ve never released a second record. Given their track record and conclusion of the Album Era, they’re unlikely to ever do so but there is more La’s out there for fans. The Mike Badger years are covered by Viper’s Lost La’s 1984-1986: Breakloose and 2001’s Lost La’s 1986-1987 Callin’ All is worth a listen for those interested in the early Mavers recording. A four-disc box set, also called Callin’ All, features 92 versions of 27 songs and is presumably for the completists who now doubt didn’t wait until 2010 to acquire every B-side, demo, live version, radio session, rehearsal and fluffed outtake.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Click here to offer financial support and thank you!
3 thoughts on “One Album Wonders: The La’s”
I saw The La’s at the Wiltern. Their album is still on heavy rotation on my iPod.
Lucky you! I was living in Tampa when that album came out. I doubt that they played there but either way I never saw them live. It’s one of those albums that I remember seeing for the first time, hearing for the first time, and as far as I’m concerned there’s not a weak song on it.
I agree, there is no weak song on the album. If I recall, the band had such a short list of songs to play, they simply replayed ‘There She Goes’ for an encore.