" ..Joey! Get us a drink, la! Get us a bevvy! .. "

No proper photo at the moment, just a creased photocopy..

  • PUBLICATION - NME or ' New Musical Express '
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION - 14th November, 1987
  • SUBJECT - The La's
  • TITLE - The Likely La's
  • AUTHOR - David Giles
  • CONTENT - Living in London, wasted youth..
  • PHOTO - A.J. Barratt

The major credential for greatness is often the number of noses you can get up. And the La's are set to delve into a fair few airborne nostrils before Christmas.

They started with the snottiest of bogey-ridden conks-The Limelight, where the VIP Lounge is a shrine to narcissism, literally a hail of mirrors for the trendies to pout and preen in.

The La's are not welcome in the VIP Lounge. You can tell by the expression on the manager's face, which wears a scowl of distaste, as though he'd just come across a dead gerbil in his jacuzzi. Yes, The La's have just been turned away from the guest bar in the venue where they are about to play a benefit concert!

Do I detect a spanner in the works? Only the sympathetic hands of the Go! Discs label could be expected to guide a band who are, to some extent, starting from scratch. Blessed with intuition, stuffed with talent, and snapped up by the label after less than a year's apprenticeship, their expertise is fully demonstrated on their debut 45, 'Way Out'. An acoustic-driven corker with shades of Who, Bunnymen and Stones, it is already gaining ground on Radio One, and that's the difficult part over with, really.

But A-sides mean little. To assess the true potential of a band the evidence must be there on the reverse; and 'Knock Me Down' and 'Endless', both on the 12" B, are all the confirmation we need.

In fact you can hear the headlines coming, littered with eulogies both patronising and facile. Watch out for the Beatles comparisons: four working- class scousers, terrific songs, '60s influences, yeah, yeah, yeah.

See how the moguls cheer at their sincerity! Thrill to the sound of real instruments being played properly! Laugh at the way they follow every other sentence with the word 'la'! And then cringe as one big hit becomes two, and they realise that they are here for good.

"We didn't even have any guitars or anything, we used to jump up on stage and borrow other people's stuff, like. We had to - the only instrument we had was a wooden guitar with about three strings left."

Singer and songsmith Lee Mavers is not a Morrissey or a Mark Smith. His few words are well-chosen, well-meant and blunt to the point where he can be construed as rude, arrogant, awkward. In fact he is none of these things. To use a tired cliche, he's just an ordinary bloke with an extraordinary talent. Sorry...

"A couple of years ago I decided that I wanted to write songs. I realised I had the talent for it, like. I had the idea of just playing by myself, and seeing if I could meet a band, kind of thing. Then I met these... "

'These' are John Power, 19 year-old bassist with cheeky grin; Paul Hemmings, quiet,good looking guitarist; and Timmo the drummer who manages to bunk off the interview ("We just gave him 50p and a smack on the head, like," says Lee. "He'll come back at ten crying.").

John: "Before he joined The La's, Paul had a party and his band - shall we mention them? The Twangum Banjos - were playing. And we gatecrashed the party and jammed for hours!"

Lee: "It was sound, like." John: "I suppose people got a bit sick of us. Everywhere there were these little hand made posters of ours that we stuck up ourselves!"

"You've got to make your own move, like. 'Cos no one's going to help you when you're no one, on the streets and on the dole, with no money. We were a great band - but no-one knew that."

Lee: "Our philosophy is simple: if you want it, you can get it! And we really believe in our music - really. It's not about being a musician - and it's not about being a face. lt's just passing a feeling."

It was nicely ironic that when the support band at The Limelight took the stage, they announced themselves thus: "We're not the La's. We want to fuck the La's." (That's what I heard, anyway.) A typically glitzy, post-Sputnik garage punk act that deserve no publicity, their music does not exercise any autonomous strength; it needs to be backed up with verbal rhetoric. Which creates the perfect antithesis to the La's....

"Do you reckon a lot of bands really mean it?" Lee asks me. "Everyone's trying to create new fashions and they're not. beacuse you can't."

What inspires you, Lee? Where does your songwriting talent come from?
"From listening to songs."

What songs?
"Good music. Good bands. Can't say any era, like. Out of anything there's 90 per cent shit, isn't there? No -  in fact more than that - there's 5 per cent that is worth it, that's cream. Out of anytime, any sort of music."

I try and extract a few favourites from him...

"Bob Dylan, la. I could go on, give you a list. But I can't think. John Lennon, McCartney - 
f--- ing hell! Chuck Berry, la. They're all samey and that, la, but his songs, la!"

It's difficult by now.
Three nights of Transit lag are beginning to take their toll. There are a few Moroccan cigarettes circulating the changing room. Eyelids are drooping, corners of mouths are starting to curl up, and butterflies are hatching out of caterpillars in stomachs...

Lee: "We get right into it on stage. Basically, before you go on, your adrenalin takes over. We always shit ourselves before we go on."

Paul: "First thing we do when we get to the place is check out the bogs. So we can can have a good shit!"

John: "You need one before you go on stage. When are we going on?"
Midnight, says manager Joey, who has suddenly materialised in the room.

"Ah, sound... an hour and a quarter, that's all la!"

Lee: "Let's get off, la!"

What were you like on your first night?

Lee: "Shit myself badly, la. Couldn't move - I was stiff! Specially so 'cos I'm the singer."

There follows a long, Pinteresque pause. Discourse is drying up in the soporific atmosphere. Probably not the best time to ask about lyrics.

Lee: "They're just words that fit the melodies."

John: "No, it's not! It's not just any words!"

Lee: "Well, what is it then?"

John: "It's sort of like stories. They've all got something to say to me."

One song, 'Calling All', has a markedly Olde Englishe feel about its lyrics: 'A battered street/A tattered coast/The wind did gather like a ghost".


Lee: "Yeah? Dunno, just came to me, like. I was buzzing at the time."

Are your parents fans?

Lee: "Yeah. Pests!"

John: "Me 'ard fella's got every cutting!"

Having moved down to London, where are you shacked up?

Paul: "We all live together - in a shed!"

Lee: "Me mam said we should have got married, like. I'm having none of it!"

Have the petty household arguments started yet?

Lee: "We had all that on the first day! We were like that before we moved in, so nothing's changed! We all used to chip in for food, but now it's just buy your own - and hide it!"

And how are you finding life in London?

Lee: "It's like, London. It's just nothing, like. We don't go out, we just stay in the house. Go down the local. Stay in and get wrecked!"

John: "No, he's just f---ing lying, the bastard

Lee: "You're just thinking your Ma's going to read this la!"
John: "Oh shit."

Lee: "Joey! Get us a drink, la! Get us a bevvy! Joey, our manager, "F--- off, scumbag!"

The last word, as ever, is left to the boss. Joey, a friend of Lee's from pre-dole days, offers some insight into their early lives:

"Lee spent his schooling in a record shop. John spent his hanging round bus stops, after the girls. And Paul spent his on the golf course, caddying for his 'ard fella!"

Now you can see what I mean about the La's at the Limelight. Although this is supposed to be a 'Scouse evening' the audience are all London trendies. The fact that the band go down well emphasises their potential: if they can perform to this rabble, they are par for any course.

On first hearing there are at least seven classics in their set. They even finish with an epic in the great tradition of seven minute wonders in 'Looking Glass'.

How can The La's fail when the entire London Underground is advertising their single? There are at least a dozen signs carrying its title at Leicester Square.

David Giles.

Back to La'zarus main page...