Thursday, 10 December 2015

Clandestine Classic XLII - Open Your Heart

The forty-second post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

What do you think of if I say The La's to you? More than likely, There She Goes, a track of such universally accepted excellence it's become an indie staple, a song that transcends its generation and genre, a track so often covered, a tune that even makes it into film soundtracks (and So I Married An Axe Murderer is actually a better film than you might think from that title). But beyond There She Goes, what else do you think of? The critically acclaimed, eponymous debut album, beloved of the music media and all indie kids around my age, famously not so loved by the band's creative maestro (by that point), Lee Mavers. Maybe, now I've mentioned him, you'd think about Lee, forever trying to commit to tape the same kind of jangly indie-skiffle that the band achieved live, and never quite making it, in his own view. And maybe, just maybe, you'll make the leap from Lee to bassist John Power, who went on to arguably bigger, if not better, things with Cast.

What you almost certainly won't think about is today's classic, Open Your Heart, which dates from sessions prior to the debut album, when band founder and original creative maestro Mike Badger was still with the group. The track is co-written by Badger and Mavers and features both on vocals (although I think Mike takes the lead). I say "think" because I'm no expert on pre-debut La's, and for once the Internet has not been a massive help. But I digress - today's classic. It's a deceptively simple song, intro'ed with a snippet of whimsy that would not be out of place soundtracking P'tang Yang Kipperbang (I know, I'm really showing my age now), before launching into a slightly discordant, guitar-driven, insistent riff and a close-harmonied chorus that, at times, makes you wonder what a lo-fi Scouse Proclaimers would sound like. There's a beautifully delicate guitar middle eight too. And the whole thing is over in a whisker over three minutes.

So there we go (see what I did there?). I used the phrase "indie-skiffle" earlier - I can't claim that, sadly, it's been used before, but it seems to me to perfectly summarise The La's' sound, especially at this early stage in their career. And this, Open Your Heart, is the finest example of that early style, in my book. It later surfaced on the slightly patchy pre-debut round-up Breakloose: Lost La's 1984-1986, which may well tempt you. Or you can have a little listen below, courtesy of YouTube:


  1. I could never really get into the Las beyond TSG. I always thought Teenage Fanclub did the Birdsy jangle better.

    1. Can't believe I haven't featured the Fannies in this series yet. To be remedied...