Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Timeless Melodies of the La's

Lee Mavers' obsession with the batch of songs that would eventually become the La's self-titled album (without his blessing) is the stuff of legend. There are quite a few fans obsessed with these songs too, and I count myself among them. I have the singles, album, deluxe edition of the album and a box set, all more or less dedicated to around 20 tunes. Mavers had a particular sound for these songs swirling in his head, and not even a dozen studio sessions, 10 band members, at least seven producers, three years of recording and £1 million thrown at it could give the perfectionist exactly what he wanted to put down on wax.

As you know, the label finally had enough and asked producer Steve Lillywhite to do what he could to assemble a finished product. On Oct. 1, 1990, the album was released to critical acclaim. Mavers did his part to contribute to the album's minor chart success by panning it wherever and whenever he could. He also slyly reminded everyone the only way to hear the real La's was to see them live. If you lost control of an album you put your heart and soul into for three years, perhaps you would act the same way. The only problem with that tact is the album is great. It's chock full of indie pop that sounds as good today as it was the day it came out. Always will be, too.

Mavers' obsession with these songs didn't end with the release. Here's an insightful moment found in the extensive liner notes from the 'Callin' All' box set in 2010:

Lillywhite believes the reason the La's have never made a second album is that, according to Mavers, they are yet to complete their first. "It's still going on. I have no doubt that in his mind the first album has never been made. After we finished I got a call from Johnny Marr, who excitedly told me that Lee had asked him to go into the studio as a producer. A few months later I got a desperate call from Johnny: 'Steve he just wants to re-record the old songs!'

You can't help but wonder if he's still tinkering to this day. As for fans like me, we do our own tinkering. It's quite an exercise to create our own mixes of the album from aborted sessions led by producers like Mike Hedges, John Leckie and John Porter. For instance, I'll take the single version of "There She Goes" captured by Bob Andrews over the one found on the LP. I admit overuse of the album take on every two-bit rom-com through the years may have contributed to this bias. Here is that original and a couple other favorites that seem to always pop up on my mixes via these two releases below. Enjoy.

There She Goes (original single version, Bob Andrews, producer)
Timeless Melody (Mike Hedges, producer)
Feelin' (John Leckie, producer)