There is nothing like persistence as the LA’s would know. They were formed in Liverpool in 1983 by original member Mike Badger and it took six years and four attempts for their best known track, There She Goes to be a decent hit.
Lee Mavers, who once had a childhood dream of playing for Everton, is the mainstay who joined in 1984 but is one of the most mysterious characters in music. He was asked in 1990 if the Art Schools of Liverpool, which are good training grounds for musicians, played a part in their formation, to which he replied, “Our school is the school of the universe, y’know. The universe is my university, y’dig. My school is the streets; my school is the world, the universe. I’ve got me own point of view about things, not somebody else’s.” Excellent!
He is a very enigmatic character much like Lou Reed or Syd Barrett and certainly as prolific as the latter. He met with John Power in 1986 and named themselves after the scouse slang, where they call everyone La (short for lads). Over the next four years, they tried out eight different producers and 12 different band members and were still unable to capture the sound they wanted.
In 1990, they released their long-awaited first album, of which Mavers said in a Q magazine interview, “We hate it!” he explained, “We walked out on it while we were doing it. We hated it because we weren’t getting our sound across so we turned our back on it. Then the record company decided to do it themselves from a load of backing tracks and mixed it up themselves and put it out. There was no choice as to what single we wanted or anything, they even put a different cover on it. So it didn’t take us years to make, it just took the Go Discs (their record company) years to put it out!”
The first single was There She Goes which, when first issued in 1988, went nowhere. Rumours abounded that the song was inspired by the Velvet Underground’s There She Goes Again, which, apart from the similar title and lyrics, is completely different. Before it had a chance to be re-issued, because everyone said it sounded like a classic, there were more line-up problems, and Lee’s brother Neil, formally their roadie, stepped in on drums. The song was put out again in January 1989 where it limped to number 59 on the UK chart.
They decided to go with another track called Timeless Melody, which many close to them cited as another masterpiece. Test pressings were sent to radio stations and music papers for review and although Melody Maker made it Single of the Week, Mavers wasn’t happy with the production and had it scrapped. Around this time many new bands like the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, The Charlatans and Inspiral Carpets were coming through and not wanting to get left behind they eventually decided to issue Timeless Melody but sadly it petered out at number 57.
As it did get slightly higher than There She Goes had, it proved that there was interest and There She Goes was issued again towards the end of 1990 this time receiving fairly extensive airplay and thus reached number 13 and in turn attracted universal critical acclaim with Mavers being compared favourably to rock God’s like Pete Townshend and Ray Davies.
So what is the song about? Well it has no verses, just a chorus that is repeated four times and is generally cited as being about heroin mainly because if the lyrics ‘There she goes again, racing through my brain, pulsing through my vein, no one else can heal my pain’. One music paper carried the sub-headline, The La’s’ ode to heroin. The bassist John Power was asked to comment, he gave a rather evasive answer, while La’s ex-guitarist Paul Hemmings flatly denied it. They certainly had a influence on the wave of Brit Pop bands of the mid-90s with Oasis’ Noel Gallagher stating in 1994, “We kind of want to finish what the LA’s started.”
They released one further single the following year, a track called Feelin’ but that fell short of the top 40 and they decided to call it a day.
With their cult following, many wanted to know what was happening. Mavers was not very forthcoming. He was interviewed in 1997 and asked how long’s it gonna take before The La’s release a new record? to which he replied, “As long as it takes, because that’s how long it takes…” It’s nothing new; in 1991 not a word would be spoken onstage. In interview, particularly in a notorious NME trip to New York in September ’91, Lee would have to be cajoled into saying anything, forever telling his inquisitors to feel the message in the music, to soak up the vibes. Nothing else was important.
In 1999, Sixpence None the Richer recorded a cover, seemingly not knowing the content of the song, and peaked once place lower than the LA’s did. It renewed interest, or more likely the record company seeing a chance to make a few quid, decided to re-issue the LA’s version, for the fifth time but unsurprisingly, it didn’t pay off by only reaching number 65.
In 2003 a book called In Search of The La’s: A Secret Liverpool all about lee and his musical accomplices was released and it included an interview from three years earlier which saw Lee talking about his personality and what he intends doing musically even mentioning his return to the fore. Still nothing happened.
Two years later Lee reformed the band – bringing back John Power and they played a few dates in the UK including Ireland. They even appeared at Glastonbury. After that it all went quite again until 2011, when he and his friend Gary Murphy, formally of the Liverpool band The Bandits decided to go out and play some acoustic sets under the strange moniker Lee Rude & the Velcro Underpants. They played one place, which was classed as a secret gig at the Deaf Institute in Manchester. I wonder if the deaf people realised it was an acoustic set! Well at least for those who turned up, after all, it was a secret gig!