A Battered Street

Some buildings in the Northern Quarter have been pulled down recently, allowed to fall into a state of disrepair and then condemned. Cheaper than renovating them. The landlord can then demolish and sell the land (prime location, city centre land) and build something new and cheap. Cities always change, old being replaced by new, but it’s hard to see the new ones they put up and not feel something is being lost.

The La’s released one album and a few singles, all nearly 30 years ago. Since then their slim back catalogue has been fleshed out with all manner of demos, sessions, ‘lost’ recordings and live tracks. Their Scouse skiffle found a wide audience during the late 80s and early 90s, all the while Lee Mavers complaining that the songs didn’t sound right, hadn’t been recorded properly. The group had been going in different line ups for several years by that point. This version of Callin’ All is a demo from around 1987 but sounds pretty finished to me and has exactly the kind of vibe and produciton I’ve always assumed he was looking for, Lee Mavers’ vision of the ’60s in the ’80s already fully realised right in front of his nose.

Callin’ All

The Melody Always Finds Me

I remember buying the 12″ of Timeless Melody by The La’s, rushing home by bus, and dropping the needle onto the groove and being dumbstruck by it. Its sheer brilliance, the perfect guitar pop song, those clanging chords, a song about being in love with the song. Funny really because as everyone knows the band hated it and the album it came off and the proper fans had to hate it too. We didn’t really have anything else to go off though so the badmouthing of the album was a bit odd when it all sounded so good. I saw them in Liverpool some time later and the songs were the same but different- rougher, rawer, all wrapped up in those chewy Scouse vowel sounds. This version is from a 1990 BBC session (for Bob Harris I think) and it’s, y’know, the same song but different enough for you to prick your ears up and begin to understand what the fuss with the album was all about. I’m not going to describe it- listen to it and see. Whether this version matches the sound that only Lee Mavers can hear when he hears his band in his head I don’t know. There’s another version here on Youtube, from an acetate of the first album that was withdrawn. Many of the aficionados reckon this is the one. I think they could be right. There’s probably other versions out there. The internet seems to have been partly invented for La’s fans to share alternate versions of those dozen songs off that one single album. Craig at Plain Or Pan once posted twenty two different versions of There She Goes. I still don’t know which is the best. Possibly the John Leckie one. Possibly not.

This is Timeless Melody, without doubt the best version of this song released back in that week in 1990.

Timeless Melody (BBC Session 1990)

You Are The Door

The La’s- keepers of the mystic flame? Or overrated 60s revivalists?

They hated their first and only album and slagged it off relentlessly in the press.
Their gigs at the time featured live versions of the songs on the album that didn’t sound that different from the recorded ones.
The only track Lee Mavers liked was the fourth song on the Timeless Melody 12″ that was recorded in a barn somewhere in Liverpool.
There She Goes is a modern classic.
The original 12″ or 7″ pressing has a really good sleeve but is identical to the later release in every other way.
Lee Mavers has lived off this song for years, funding occasional live comebacks.
John Powers formed Cast. On it’s own this is a crime.
Internet obsessives have the only true recordings that sound like the sound in Lee’s head.
Lee will only record new songs on an original 1960s studio desk with 60s dust on it.
The record company continue to find ‘new’ La’s stuff to release.
The album is great. Flawed maybe, but great.
When Timeless Melody came out I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever heard.
Some of these things are true.

This is I Am The Key (which wasn’t on the album or it’s singles), recorded for Manchester’s Key 103 radio station in January 1989. Like many of The La’s songs it sounds brilliant he first time you hear it. Then it nags it’s way into your brain. Then you can’t listen to it again for six months.