“Whatever you do, just make sure what you do makes you happy” – from ‘Weekender’ by Flowered Up.
In the early ’90s I was fortunate enough to work with Flowered Up singer Liam Maher, directing two music films for their songs ‘Take It’ and ‘Weekender’. During these intense projects we became pals.
I was last with Liam at the Heavenly Social at Turnmills, London – or to be more specific at Trade, the hardcore gay dance club that started in the same venue at 4am when the Social kicked out. Every week all the Social crew would lag behind to gain free admission into Trade – for good reason, as they knew that this was were the weekend would truly ignite.
Trade emphatically retained – perhaps uniquely – the non-judgemental liberating spirit of acid house 10 years after it began. This temporary utopia, where a heterosexual working class herbert could feel comfortable and welcome, is a modest testimony to Liam, Flowered Up and the cultural revolution that spawned them.
What made Liam a vital poet was that, like Pete Townshend before him, he was the first of his generation to eloquently question the sincerity of its unbridled hedonism. Nowhere more savagely succinct than in their swansong, ‘Weekender’.
Thus it’s with tragic irony that he arguably became what he was so passionately against – albeit in an illegal way – leading a life of numbed existence. There’s nothing romantic about this, as when ecstasy culture finally expired, he like many of his peers were cast-offs, left skint with crippling drug addictions, unable to reconcile the comedown and the missed opportunity (for social change) that he, before anyone else, had had the honesty to admonish.
If this sounds like a familiar and inevitable trajectory, there was nothing throwaway about Flowered Up. Indeed, although their performances were often shambolic, through Liam they could also reach for the shamanic. Often lazily compared to Happy Mondays, really they were much closer to The Clash or The Who, sharing the contradictions of white boys within a black music scene, Liam articulating with incandescent anger the doubts hidden by the prevailing euphoria.
Liam understood the power the moment had given him and, equally, how powerless he was to prevent it slipping away. On a good day among his supporters he could be mortally embarrassed by the selfishness of his drug dependence. Liam was a mini Robert De Niro character: beautiful, gifted and self-defeating. And ‘Weekender’ is one of the greatest British records of the ’90s.
WIZ, Filmmaker, Brighton, October 21, 2009