Flowered Up – Weekender

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In terms of ‘classic’ – it’s become almost an overused cliche anyway, a matter and taste and clique for the most part of someone’s record collection being more diverse than another’s.

There is a track however, that perhaps deserves a shining light of recognition in terms of both it’s genius and historical value. A song that perfectly encapsulated what it was like to be young and hedonistic and working class trying to escape a chain gang of fools in this country. Released in 1992 on Heavenly records Flowered Up’s ‘Weekender’ was the flash of youthenasia that seemed to arrive from nowhere. Although the Camden five piece had been heavily courted by the music press at the time, they were seemingly just another band in a long list of Southern pretenders to the Happy Mondays. A few good singles granted but in the quick turnover of revivalists and column inches it was difficult to work out if a lot of those bands had any longevity in them.

What set Flowered Up apart from their Emperor’s clothes counterparts however was the authenticity of their frontman. In Liam Maher the band had a genuine midnight man, a talented hedonist who soaked in the influences of acid house dance floors and classic rock and roll with a slightly dilated painters eye. For him the eye of the storm of escapism was something to be lived not intellectualised. He partied hard but in his head he heard a symphony too: a sound of Chicago house and Floyd. Bootsy Collins and Quadrophenia. It was witches brew that kept playing over and over in his mind. The past and the beautiful future. Something that would set them apart from the rest. Give them a foothold.

In 1992 they managed it. In what was an incredible feat of balance more than anything, the band released a twelve minute masterpiece upon the world. What ‘Weekender’ had managed to do was articulate all those disparate elements floating around in Maher’s head in turn them into something exciting and original. To this day there has never been anything that’s sounded quite like it. Part acid house, part progressive rock, part film soundtrack it was the sound of young alienation and creative ambition. It was sly and brilliant glimpse into the secret world of underground London too. A world of dance floors and quick fixes. Truly, it was an absolute game changer.

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Or it should have been. The problem was what to do with it? Although critically acclaimed upon its release, the tracks length running in at twelve minutes posed it problems when it came to radio play. Commercial stations demanded an edited version but having created such an artistic, brilliant vision Maher and the band refused to compromise and to their credit Heavenly records also dug their heels in too. Despite receiving virtually no airplay, ‘Weekender’ still managed to reach the confines of the top twenty and universally topped most critics’ end of year lists, but there was always a sense that it should have been much bigger. There was also a sense of a momentum being lost.

Flowered Up never really recovered. Whether it was out of sheer frustration or sheer boredom, they became more notorious for the nefarious side of the record industry rather than their talent. Pretty soon there were rumours circulating of heavy habits and heavy incidents. Studio sessions came and went with little productivity and even less material. By 1994 they had even reached their breaking point. Just two years on from releasing arguably the greatest piece of music of the entire nineties, the band tragically split.

From then on in, Liam Maher kept promising new projects but rumours of ongoing drug problems seemed to stall his attempts at every turn. Sadly in October 2009 he was found dead aged 41 from a heroin overdose. Although many obituaries talked of wasted opportunity and a talent that should have been realised, he had still managed in his short lifetime to create one of the most visionary pieces of music ever put to vinyl. Something that perfectly captured the idea of dreaming above your station and acting with sheer abandon.

Oh, and living for the weekend.

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