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Music

How Ian Brown and Lee Mavers made Liam Gallagher become a frontman

@josephtaysom

Before two bands came swirling into Liam Gallagher’s life, he’d never contemplated becoming a frontman. Then he saw Ian Brown’s Stone Roses and Lee Mavers’ The La’s, which changed his perception of life. It would be a bone-shaking decision that would eventually lead to the formation of Oasis.

While people assume The Beatles were the biggest influence on Gallagher, he didn’t grow up when they were active, and he couldn’t connect with them as viscerally as those from his own era. His love of the Fab Four has developed with age, but it’ll never come close to his attachment with The Stone Roses or The La’s.

The eponymous 1989 debut album by The Stone Roses opened Gallagher’s eyes to the possibilities of music, and he’s never looked back since. “The first band that I ever really got into was the Roses and the first record I bought was probably The Stone Roses [debut album],” he told BBC 6 Music.

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While he’d listened to music before, it wasn’t of any significant interest to him and didn’t speak to him about his life. Gallagher added: “I know a lot of people will go, ‘Yeah liar! It was Whitney Houston’ or something like that, but it wasn’t,” the singer-songwriter promises. “I think [I first bought] The Stone Roses’ first album. That was round about the first time I was digging music… That album changed my life, it was my blueprint to music.”

Gallagher simply couldn’t relate to these popstars from America who were blaring their alt-rock and grunge sounds on commercial radio. However, when he saw Ian Brown and Lee Mavers, they dressed just like him, and as a boy from Burnage, they fluently spoke his language.

Speaking to NME in 2012, Gallagher described the bands as “The Beatles and The Stones of my generation”. Although the two groups only accumulatively released three albums, that’s all they needed to leave their mark on British culture.

“The La’s were as important to me as The Stones Roses, without a doubt. Those two to me are like The Beatles and The Stones of my generation,” he explained. “Just as a frontman for me, and his look, Lee Mavers is up there with Ian Brown. Amazing songwriter, but he was a proper, proper frontman as well. He’s got a Marley thing, I think. I met him a few times, he’s always a bit spikey and that, but I’m still intrigued by him, which is the most beautiful thing”.

Mavers has been off the grid for most of the last 30 years. Although he’s occasionally risen for reunions with The La’s, there’s now a fascinating mystique surrounding the Liverpudlian because of his reclusiveness.

“The thing about Lee Mavers is that he’s not being bought,” Gallagher added. “He’s not for fucking sale. I love that about him. But at the same time, I wish we could hear more music by him. It’s like ‘All right, you’re not for sale and you’re not having a sale, but at least open the shop doors every now and again.'”

The La’s remain one of British music’s most fascinating mysteries, and nobody knows what they could have achieved if it wasn’t for Mavers’ reluctance to the limelight. Perhaps they’d have become the band that defined the ’90s instead of Oasis, yet we’re left to ponder what could have been.