From their beginnings as a tough garage R&B band, to their final years as an exciting hard rock/boogie outfit, New Zealand’s La De Da’s did it all.
Over the course of ten years they recorded five albums, toured Britain and Europe, scored hit singles and established themselves as one of the most innovative bands in Australia.
When a bunch of idealistic 17-year-olds formed The La De Da’s in Auckland during 1965, they had immediate designs on following in the footsteps of national heroes like Ray Columbus and The Invaders, and Max Merritt and the Meteors.
And before long, the La De Da’s were at the forefront of a vibrant New Zealand pop scene.
Their early singles, Little Girl, How Is The Air Up There?, On Top Of The World and Hey Baby (A New Zealand #1), were tough garage-punk, and the band’s second album, Find A Way, is highly regarded by aficionados of 60s music.
Having conquered New Zealand, the La De Da’s set their sights on Australia as the next logical step towards world domination. Arriving in 1968, they became the first locally based band to include covers of Vanilla Fudge, Traffic and The Doors in their repertoire. The band’s ambitious concept album, The Happy Prince (based on a tale by Oscar Wilde), was widely praised for its originality and production values.
Following a disastrous five-month stay in Britain, The La De Da’s changed direction and were quickly hailed as one of the funkiest, hard rock outfits in Australia.
Former bassist Reno Tehei was arrested in the early 70s for robbing a bank in Sydney, but by this stage, only two original La De Da’s remained – Guitarist Kevin Borich and singer Phil Key.
Key left in 1972 to form Band of Light, and Borich continued with the band as a three-piece (with drummer Keith Barber and Bassist Ronnie Peel).
The band featured prominently at the inaugural Sunbury Pop Festival in January 1972, and attracted one of the largest crowds ever assembled for a concert in Australia when they played with The Aztecs in front of over 200,000 people at Melbourne’s Myer Music Bowl.
The group pulled out all stops, and Kevin Borich was already firmly entrenched as Australia’s guitar hero supremo. Their first album in five years, Rock & Roll Sandwich, remains a classic rock album, and their final singles (Too Pooped To Pop and Honky Tonkin‘) were minor hits.
By 1975 the band had run its course and Borich threw in his lot with his new band, The Kevin Borich Express – An outfit which he fronted well into the 90s. Phil Key died in 1985 of a congenital heart condition.