Mike Badger on The La's
With prospects for Liverpool's 80s youth bleak, an ill-fated scheme for unemployed musicians commenced, inadvertently shaping the future for members of Space, Cast, The Lightning Seeds and great lost Liverpool band The La's. In original member Mike Badger’s personal story The Rhythm and The Tide (Liverpool The La’s and Ever After), Badger offers new insights into the band.
Read part one of our exclusive extracts from the book below.
"...Early in January 1999, I received a call from Brendan Pickavance from ‘The Sunday Mirror'. He wanted to know if I had a contact number for Lee Mavers. I said I hadn’t and that I wasn’t aware of Lee choosing to do interviews, so he said he might just call round to his house. Well, Good luck, I said, rather sarcastically.
Next day, I received another call from Brendan saying he'd been round to Lee Mavers' house and spent two hours with him and it had been great. Brendan went on to say that Lee had said he loved me like a brother. He also left me Lee's current phone number. I was touched.
A couple of days later, after much contemplation, I thought it might be an idea to call Lee up and see how he'd been getting on. I hadn’t seen him since he called with his partner Nevada Christian and Ellis their son when Amber was a toddler. In fact, he'd called on me more than a few times since the La's days so maybe I shouldn't be so stuck in the mud.
When I phoned, he was surprised to hear my voice but said that the timing had been impeccable. He was just on his way out the door to where he did not know. He wanted to come over straight away, so that’s was what he did. When he walked in to the flat (now my studio space in Aigburth), he stood in the doorway, took a deep breath, his shoulders slumped and, seemingly exhausted, said one word:
We were both very happy to see each other and hugged. The air was filled with a deep emotion. He was looking good too, very healthy. I think this had been another factor in me getting in touch. I knew he'd struggled with drug addiction for years but I'd heard on the grapevine that he'd been clean for some time. He seemed calm and made no secret of his admiration and affection for me, which I reciprocated.
We had a couple of joints and a cup of tea, then took a walk to the river. The sky was very blue and the water was as still as could be with the sun shining lazily across it. We talked a lot more and Lee told me he'd been feeling at rock bottom just before I called. He thought he'd never see me again. I was touched by his openness and sincerity. Lee had come a long way and neither of us could really believe that we were talking and laughing so easily, like the firm friends we had once been.
Afterwards, we returned to the flat and played each other a few songs. It was obvious Lee hadn't lost any of his talent. We ended up waxing lyrical about The La's in 1986 and it felt like a piece of me I wasn't even aware of – or wouldn't allow myself to be aware of – had returned right out of the blue of a sky like the one we'd seen hanging over the river. I ran Lee home later to see his and Vada’s kids but they weren't there, so instead I looked around his house and had a cup of tea. Lee asked when he could call and I said he was welcome to whenever. He said “no, I'll call tomorrow” and I said I'd call him in the week and I would too…
…I met Lee again as arranged at the studio the following Monday. We chatted and enjoyed each other’s company once more. I put a tape on of some La's demos I had. Lee was knocked out by most of them, sitting there with a contented smile on his face which broadened especially when he heard 'Moonlight' which he had completely forgotten had existed.
Danny Dean popped in to pick up a porta-studio and ended up staying with us for a cup of tea. Then we listened to the rest of the tape.
Then Lee said something I hadn’t expected.
“I can’t do this without you,” he said casually. “Let’s get back together or my bones will just turn to chalk dust and blow away. How about it?”
He wanted to work with me again in a new version of The La’s. I was touched, but the history of what had happened previously still weighed heavy on me. I considered it for a while, but in the end I figured I’d be a mean-spirited bastard if I didn’t give this another go.
I would only do it I said it if everything was on a 50-50 basis, right down the line: the way it had started out. Lee said he wouldn’t want it any other way. No other parties would be involved for the foreseeable future either. He completely agreed, so the idea was that his studio would be set up in Aigburth shortly. However, I told him I wanted to clear the decks of The La's recordings we had done in the eighties also. Lee had always said in the press that the first recordings were the best.
“Let’s get ‘em all out at last,” Lee exclaimed enthusiastically.
We decided to go through the fabled demo tapes in more detail the next Thursday. It was all getting really exciting and then I found out that night that I was due to go on 'Blue Peter' with my tin sculptures in March. I saw Paul that night and filled him in on what had been a momentous seven days.
I saw Lee again soon after that. On January 21st, he called round just after mid-day in his battered old space cruiser filled with battered drums, amps and guitars, they'd all been round the block. We had a good old talk again and even though he'd just been hit with a large tax bill and Everton had lost 3-0, he was still made up. We filled in more gaps and confirmed again our need for each other when it came to music. Lee said he needed my guidance. I agreed.
We talked a little about the day and night we'd split up. Then we started talking about Chinese astrological stuff. I said we were both tigers, but that he was Fire and I was Water. He had evaporated me, but then I'd drenched him. He agreed. Then he said we had to “get the kettle back on the boil!”
We both laughed at that. Lee played around getting his “sound tone pulse vibration” – he did this by tuning the guitar to the hum of the amp which he claimed was the Earth’s energy. This was a bit confusing for me, but I trusted him as an artist. He told me he just wanted a vehicle for the sounds we would write and perform.
We went up to the studio to compile some more tapes for the epic La's project we were determined to put together. It was fascinating going through all the tapes and we found even more alternate versions of some of the tracks.
I had to go and pick up my exhibition from Bristol Museum and asked if Lee would like to come along which he did- and he brought along ex-La’s bass man and all-round good guy Jasper too! We had a great day down in Bristol packed up all my exhibition, returning home late in the evening. (NOTE wonder if Banksy got to see it?)
Since 'There She Goes,' Lee's most famous title had been a hit and used in too many films to recall, a rumour had started that it was about heroin use. I knew the lyric 'pulsing through my veins' but was unaware of any 'smack' being around when it was written. I can remember a very embryonic version in late '86 before he finalised the arrangement with Paul Hemmings in the Stables a few months after I had left in '87.
I asked Lee was this true? “Is there any relation to heroin?””
“No” he said emphatically. “I thought not,” I exclaimed.