Apparently, Art Blakey once said that “Opinions are like arseholses, everyone’s got one…”
One night, in Suzie Q’s (a night club in Daventry) at what was called back in the day a junior disco; the opinionated, gobshite fourteen year old me, narrowly escaped lumps from an equally opinionated seventeen year old. All because I dared to suggest that The La’s were way better than The Stone Roses. Not that I didn’t love the Roses: when ‘The Second Coming’ came out in 94, it felt like I was the only person in the world who dug it. The music press was scathing and no one in my immediate universe was remotely interested either. And by that time, The La’s were already the stuff of folklore.
Despite any misgivings Lee Mavers may still harbour, the album that stumbled into the light in 1990, is still for me, far and away one of the greatest releases of my lifetime. The spartan yet protean backing, always evolving as anyone who listens to the BBC album will attest. The drawl and sneer in Lee’s vocals as he delivers his lyrics with a conviction that I think was missing until Liam Gallagher. And above all, most importantly, those songs. One aspect of The La’s tunes that inspires me endlessly is their brevity: Son of A Gun, clocks in at 1:56, Feelin’ at 1:44. Songs so emotionally and musically ‘there’, it’s almost unbelievable that so much can be conveyed in under two minutes. Learning they were big fans of early rock n roll, I can hear how they mined the seam that runs through Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran on to early efforts by The Fab Four. Whilst being a ‘beat combo’ in the classic 60’s sense, their song arrangements are anything but ‘trad arr’. The most obvious example being There She Goes, which is essentially a repeated chorus: like a house tune with the structure of a folk song!?
In some ways it’s a shame that The La’s dwell in the ‘cult following’ category of popular music and some ways not. As they never ‘made it’, I’ve been able to hold onto them in a way that makes them like mine and mine only. In a way that I know fans of The Verve would love to have.
Perhaps if I’d been able to state my case as I have here, I wouldn’t have ruined that lad’s night out...Then again, no one likes a smart arse.