The La De Da's

1964 to 1974

Biography

The Mergers

The Mergers started with three lads from the rural Huapi district, near Auckland on New Zealand when school friends Kevin Borich, Brett Neilson and Trevor Wilson were all at Rutherford High School in Te Atatu, Auckland.

The Mergers formed in late 1963 as Shadows-style instrumental group and began playing local dances and school socials, but The Fab Four's visit in June 1964, and the emergence of The Rolling Stones, crystallised the need for change of style and a lead singer. Trevor Wilson suggested a friend from nearby Mt Albert Grammar School, Phil Key whom was subsequently invited to join the band as vocalist and rhythm guitarist.

The lads realised pretty quickly that "The Mergers" didn't really reflect the toughness of their music, so they experimented with other names. (One promoter even changed their name to The Gonks for an early 1965 gig at a summer carnival!) They decided on something a bit more hardline -- The Criminals -- but Phil's mother was less than impressed and after rehearsals one night at the Wilson house she jokingly suggested instead that they call themselves "something nice, like the la-de-das ...". Phil loved it, and the name stuck.

 

the La De Das

In their 12-year journey through New Zealand and Australia in the 1960s and 1970s, The La De Da’s never took a backward step. They conquered New Zealand with a passionate live show, a string of hard, uncompromising chart singles and two of the best NZ albums of the 1960s.

Changing gear from R&B to psychedelia, The La De Da's shifted base to Australia in 1967 and 1968 where they released New Zealand’s first rock opera, The Happy Prince. In England in 1969 they captured a fine version of The Beatles’ voodoo rocker ‘Come Together’ at Abbey Road studios before returning to Australia and success as pioneering festival blues rockers.

By the time the Auckland band went their separate ways in the early 1970s they were a chart group once again and considered among Australasia’s best. An exert thanks to Audio Culture NZ written by Andrew Schmidt 2013  Read more....

Talented, sexy, sophisticated, adventurous, dynamic, innovative -- just some of the many tags that have been been attached to The La De Das' name. But one word was always associated with them more than any other - the La De Das were cool. 

Their career spans the entire '64-'75 period, and we're fortunate that the story has been been documented in considerable detail, by Glenn A. Baker, who interviewed the band members for his extensive liner notes to the definitive double album retrospective Rock'n'Roll Decade in 1981, and then by New Zealand rock historian John Dix, who devoted a entire chapter to them in his seminal 1988 book Stranded In Paradise. 

Formed in New Zealand at the very start of the beat boom, they were already major stars at home when they relocated across the Tasman a couple of years later. They're practically the only major group (on either shore) to emerge from the beat boom of 1964-65 who managed to ride out the massive musical changes of the Sixties and adapt to the new scene in the Seventies, emerging as one of Australia's most popular hard rock groups during the first half of the Seventies. 

There are a lot of similarities to their Aussie contemporaries The Masters Apprentices. Both were touted as their country's answer to The Rolling Stones. Both survived for so long in that mercurial era because they had tons of talent, determination and the ability to adapt their sound and look to align with prevailing trends. Both groups went through major personnel changes -- by the time the Masters split, singer Jim Keays was the only remaining original member, and by the time of their final 1973-74 'power trio' incarnation, only guitarist and singer Kevin Borich remained from the original La De Das lineup. 

Like the Masters, they started off as blues/R&B purists, and their original style leaned heavily on British R&B practitioners - The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers - and on the American originals like John Lee Hooker, Elmore James and Muddy Waters. They moved into their 'mod' period - with covers of Ray Charles, Motown and Northern Soul favourites, replete with tartan trousers, satin shirts and buckle shoes. Then they plunged headlong into psychedelia (the obligatory concept album, covers of songs from West Coast outfits like Blues Magoos, paisley shirts, sitars, long hair and moustaches). They almost came unstuck after the inevitable -- and ultimately futile -- attempt to "make it in England". But it's here that the stories diverge -- the Masters fell apart in England in 1972, but the Las De Das survived (just) limped back to Australia, regrouped, and bounced back with a mature and reinvigorated take on their R&B roots. Their final incarnation as a hard-rockin', no-frills, blues & boogie band carried them very successfully through to the mid-70s. An exert from MilesAgo Read More....

 

Discography

The La De Das

Debut album though (Phillips NZ) 1966

TRACKS - Bright Lights Big City . How Is The Air Up There? . I Put a Spell on You . I Take What I Want . I've Got My Mojo Working . Jump Back . Land Of A Thousand Dances . Little Red Book . On Top Of The World . Parchman Farm . The Pied Piper . Ride Your Pony . Shake  . What Ya Gonna Do About It?

Find Us A Way

(Phillips PL08792) 1967

The Happy Prince

EMI/HMV 1969

Track List Here

Rock'N'Roll Sandwich

EMI 1973

Track Listing here

Legend

EMI - 1975

Track Listing here

Rock'n'Roll Decade1964-74

EMI 2LP 1981

Track Listing Here

Line-Ups

1964 (formed as The Mergers) 

Phil Key (guitar, vocals) 

Trevor Wilson (bass) 

Kevin Borich (guitar, vocals) 

Brett Neilsen (drums, vocals) 

 

1965-67 

Phil Key (guitar, vocals) 

Trevor Wilson (bass) 

Kevin Borich (guitar, vocals) 

Brett Neilson (drums, vocals) 

Bruce Howard (keyboards)

1968 

Phil Key (guitar, vocals) 

Trevor Wilson (bass) 

Kevin Borich (guitar, vocals) 

Bryan Harris (drums) 

Bruce Howard (keyboards)

1968-70 

Phil Key (guitar, vocals) 

Trevor Wilson (bs) 

Kevin Borich (guitar, vocals) 

Keith Barber (drums) 

Bruce Howard (organ) 1970 

Phil Key (guitar, vocals) 

Reno Tehei (bs) 

Kevin Borich (guitar, vocals) 

Keith Barber (drums) 

Bruce Howard (organ)

1971-72 

Phil Key (guitar, vocals) 

Peter Roberts (bass) 

Kevin Borich (guitar, vocals) 

Keith Barber (drums) 

 

1973-75 

Phil Key (guitar, vocals) 

Keith Barber (drums) 

Ronnie Peel (bass, vocals)