Posts Tagged ‘the la’s’

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EverLa’s-ing Love

April 26, 2017

There’s a scene in Roddy Doyle’s Commitments when Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan is talking to band manager Jimmy Rabbitte’s dad about his time spent working with Elvis. A picture of Mr Rabbitte’s favourite singer hangs above the mantlepiece, noticeably just above a picture of the Pope.

Tell me Joey,” Jimmy’s dad asks with pleading eyes. “Did ye ever see him take drugs?

No, Mr Rabbitte. Never.” As he fixes him in the eye, Joey replies with a genuine plausibility, but given that most of his stories are taller than the quiff atop The King’s head, even Mr Rabbitte must’ve taken it with more than a little pinch of salt.

Likewise The La’s. To clarify, Lee Mavers grinning, gurning, mop-topped Mersey head doesn’t take pride of place on my living room wall, nor do any leaders of world religion, but in this house he holds God-like status. A nutty, 60’s dust-covered, guitar-tuned-to-the-humming-of-the-fridge God-like status, up there with all the greats. One album in and then nothing. The odd low-key comeback where he was hellbent on sabotaging affairs should be quietly forgotten about. But not the tunes. They live on, immortal. The one bona fide rhyming, chiming hit on his hands allows him to live in relative luxury forever. If you want to hear Lee singing live, these days you’re more likely to do so on the terraces of Goodison Park.

  

See that song There She Goes? It’s about mainlining heroin, so it is….

That’s a common concensus and it fair pisses me off.

Now, I once spent a week on Minorca with Lee Mavers and AT NO TIME did I see him mainline heroin. No, Mr Rabbitte. Never. This is a true story – I was on holiday with my missus, so was he. We were holiday pals. One night in his company chatting about The Who and The Kinks and The Beatles – favourite Beatles song? “She Loves You, man!“, said as if it was the most obvious answer in the world, was good enough for me. ‘I’ll leave him in peace,’ I told the future Mrs Pan. ‘I can’t be pestering him for the next week.’ Unbelievably, thrillingly, it was he who pestered me for the next week. ‘Don’t look now,’ said the missus over a midday breakfast the following day, ‘but your pal’s coming over.’ With an ‘Alright kiddo?!?‘ and a punch on the arm, he sat down to join us and we were new best friends.

Over the next few nights he’d beat me at pool, introduce me to gin pommades and sing, SING! La’s songs across the table to me.

I love ‘Man, I’m Only Human’ I told him one night. “D’you know all the words?” he asked, and before I could reply that I didn’t, he sang them to me, right there at the table, with the same high, floaty voice he’d used a few months before in the Mayfair in Glasgow. Putting extra emphasis on the ‘Man, I’m only wo-man‘ line, he sat back, arms folded as if to say, ‘What d’you make of that, then la?‘ The bar was full of folk oblivious to who was in their presence and it was magic.

He told me about the 2nd La’s album, due for release in “one nine nine four“. It’d be called Cocktail and would be the defining album of the era. It would knock ‘the Stoned Poses‘ off their perch and restore The La’s in their rightful position at the top of the musical tree. Lee envisaged a mountain with the sides littered with all the bands of the day climbing to the top (but not quite getting all the way there), drawn by a flashing blue light. “Callin’ All, la. Callin’ All. And who’s at the top, above them all?” he asked rhetorically.

Now, at no time did I see my new best pal mainline heroin. No, Mr Rabbitte. Never. But he did have a fondness for disappearing into the trees and returning a short while later with a certain sparkle. If Jimmy ‘The Lips’ Fagan told tall stories, Lee’s stories were perhaps taller. Higher, even.

The La’s.

A band with more line ups than Lulu roon’ the back o’ the Barras

Here’s The La’s when they were a skiffly, Beatlish, band from the Merseyssippi, full of promise, mysticism and tunes to die for. April 1987 – 3 whole decades ago! – found them working with Mick Moss on one (just one) of the sessions for their ill-fated, beatifully flawed one and only LP.

The La’sCallin’ All

The La’s were seemingly never happy with any recordings of Callin All’, ever. It’s one of the few La’s tracks not to have seen an official studio release. La’s trainspotters have multiple versions, of course, from the rootsy, acoustic version above to full on sultry Stones We Love You-era inspired takes. Each one a classic, every one a lost gem in the small but perfect La’s back catalogue.

The La’sCome In, Come Out

Come In, Come Out exists in better form, on the b-side of There She Goes and on ‘Lost Tapes‘, a long-forgotten download-only release from the embryonic days of the first legal downloads. The Mick Moss version is missing the percussive back beat on those two versions, but skips along with frantically scrubbed acoustics and a full-on ‘n funky bassline. Not for nothing did The La’s tag ‘Rattle ‘n Roll’ onto their record label. I know someone who knows someone who knows John Leckie quite well and he told me (so it must be true) that Mavers often strapped a box of Swan Vestas round his strumming hand for this one in order to achieve a more rhythmical effect. Can’t hear it on this version, but I believe it to be fact, Mr Rabbitte. Fact.

The La’sWay Out

The debut single. A brilliant lilting, waltzing introduction to the band. Some weak vocals on this take, possibly as the band run through it for the first (or hundred and first) time. Who knows? Lee’s vocals provide the blueprint from which all future versions are hatched, John Power listening with a keen ear to appropriate the backing vocals.

The La’sDoledrum

Unlike the previous track, here’s a fully-formed take; skiffly guitars, walking bass, harmonising backing vocals, the whole shebang. Really great rhythm playing. It swings with a certain confidence, knowing it’s a great song.

Mavers can fair pluck the melodies and the tunes out of the air with ease. If only he’d done so a bit more regularly.

 

*all pictures used are in black & white for authentic analogue retro appeal

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Kinks, Konkers and Kids in Kasualty (slight return)

October 3, 2013

Slightly recycled from Plain Or Pan’s back pages, this article is adapted from one that first appeared 5 years ago…

Autumn. The nights are drawing in and the curtains are drawing shut. The heating comes on a bit earlier than normal and stays on that wee bit longer. You can smell winter coming in the air. The leaves are turning red and yellow. Conkers are on the ground and in the playground. Kids are off to the medical room for a good dose of TCP and a telling off.

kinks rsg

It’s round about now that I like to dig out ‘Autumn Almanac’ by The Kinks, a song that so perfectly sums up this time of year. You don’t even have to be quintessentially English to appreciate lines such as, “I like my football on a Saturday, roast beef on Sundays, alright! I go to Blackpool for my holidays, sit in the open sunlight.”

No doubt about it, it’s one of my all-time top 5 favourite songs ever. Just ahead of ‘Ally’s Tartan Army’  by Scotland’s 1978 World Cup Squad, though just behind ‘There She Goes’  by The La’s.

Lee Mavers once lectured me on the brilliance of Autumn Almanac  for a good 10 minutes. “From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpill-ah!” he offered, in his sing-song Mersey twang. “How good a line is that, La!?! ‘Friday evening, people get together…hiding from the weather…’ The chords, the feel, the melancholy…….it’s not as good as Waterloo Sunset, though, is it?”

kinks autumn almanac ad

The single version of Autumn Almanac was recorded in September 67 and released 3 weeks later. No great strategic marketing campaign with focus groups, target audiences and avoidance of any other big act’s single being released at the same time. Get in the studio, cut the record, release the record. Times being simpler then, Autumn Almanac climbed to either number 3 or number 5 on the charts, depending on which music paper you were reading.

Recorded for Top Gear just a few weeks after, on October 25th 1967 at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studio 4 and broadcast 4 days later, the above track is taken from a well-known Kinks bootleg* called ‘The Songs We Sang For Auntie’, a 3 CD set that compiles most of (or all?) the unreleased BBC session stuff from 1964-1994. A must-have for any fan of a band who were matched surely only by The Beatles in terms of high quality output.

Ask anyone to name 3 Kinks singles and they’ll give you all the usual suspects, but I bet it’d be unlikely Autumn Almanac would feature in too many lists. It’s an under appreciated classic, that’s for certain. Just ask Lee Mavers.

*Since writing this article, there’s been an official Kinks BBC release. But you probably knew that already.

Yes, yes, yes! It’s my Autumn Almanyac!

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A plea for Lee and GOLAS3

July 16, 2009

Hoy! Mavers! C’mere til I gie you a smack roon’ the heid. And make it quick, before that Pete Doherty gie’s you a different kinda smack roon’ the heid. In two weeks time, a bastardised version of The La’s will play a free festival in Sheffield. The band will consist of Lee Mavers (of course) along with selected Babyshambles personnel and Pete Doherty hingers oan. Not good. I asked Mavers if I could be in The La’s once. True story, but I’ll save it for another day. He told me I could never be in The La’s because I wasn’t a Scouser. Nowadays, anyone with the right haircut, Cuban heeled boots and fondness for illegal substances can seemingly fit right in. This new version of The La’s promises to be a car crash of even greater proportions than the 2005 version. And that’s really saying something. Bop bop shoobedoowop.

Don’t do it Lee. Stay at home, dig out the back catalogue and reminisce. That’s what most La’s fans have had to do for long enough anyway. It’s what I’ve been doing this week. Someone contacted me from Chile (!) and asked me to write a piece on The La’s for a cultural South American website. It’s being translated into Spanish as I type. I dug out my old La’s bootlegs and session material and buried myself in the stuff. It’s been magic. I have all The La’s small but perfect back catalogue apart from this…

timeless melody ad

The unreleased version of Timeless Melody, GOLAS3 (or GOLAS312 for the 12″). Almost 20 years to the day, 500 copies were pressed up and promoed to the music weeklies very briefly. GOLAS3 subsequently became the most sought after item in The La’s canon. It was withdrawn very quickly after Mavers decided he no longer liked the mix. But you knew that already. After hearing tape after tape of La’s sessions I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t think even Mavers knew what he was really listening for some of the time. GOLAS3 is a fantastic release. I’d imagine you’ll all be familiar with Timeless Melody, but the withdrawn version is something else entirely. It has a full-fat mono-sounding thunk that is obviously missing from the watered down, more well known album version. “Almost an anti production!” raved St Etienne’s Bob Stanley, reviewing the singles in that week’s Melody Maker. The withdrawn version of Timeless Melody is The Beatles in Hamburg’s Reeperbahn, Jeff Beck in The Yardbirds and Bummer In The Summer-era Love rolled into one. ‘Wild’ Billy Childish must’ve cried into his impeccably imperialistic droopy moustache if he was ever fortunate enough to hear it. There’s even more to follow…

GOLAS_312-Melody_Maker-May_27-1989

Skip past the more familiar sounding Clean Prophet and you’ll get to Ride Yer Camel, a 7 minute lo-fi homage to the Delta Blues, recorded late one night in one of The La’s umpteen guitarist’s flats. Beefheart, Bo Diddley and the blues. I’ve written about it before (canny be arsed linking to it to be honest) but have a listen. You won’t believe your sanitised in-ear speaker system 21st century ears.

Timeless Melody

Clean Prophet

Ride Yer Camel

My mp3’s come courtesy of a very kind and decent Irishman. He made my day about 4 years ago. If you happen to have a copy of GOLAS3 or GOLAS312 lying around gathering dust in your collection, drop me a line and I’ll take it off your hands forever. You could make my day today. I’ll even give you some money for it. Everyone’s a winner baby, that’s no lie.

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