[The first part of this week's Sunday Supplement was written by Blueback Hotrod photographer and all-round pish-talker Dylan]
Earlier this week, Liam Maher, frontman of Flowered Up, died aged 41.
As any good student of the baggy scene will recall, London’s Flowered Up rose to a brief period of prominence at the ecstasy-fuelled, rave-influenced periphery of indie music in the early 1990s. A commonly used description of the band is the “cockney Happy Mondays”.
With just one album and a couple of singles making up the band’s complete discography, it’s difficult to draw anything other than such broad comparisons. In fact, theirs might have been the briefest of footnotes in the story of alternative music, had it not been for one of those singles in particular; their exquisitely daft, magnificently bemusing and utterly irresistible opus, Weekender.
With the full-length version clocking-in at a jaw-dropping 13 minutes, Weekender was quite literally one of the baggy scene’s biggest anthems. Astonishingly, given its epic proportions, there’s barely a wasted bar of music in the song. Raucous guitar riffs soar as the song rollercoasters from one sequence to the next, powerfully driven forward by the piledriving locomotive provided by the rhythm section.
The song; a bittersweet, condescending ballad of the nation’s working class twenty-somethings, stuck in their offices and factories five days a week, and only escaping as far as the local bars and clubs each weekend, could have easily ended up as another of the countless lumpen, turgid facsimiles anonymous young boys in baggy jeans and brightly-coloured sweatshirts were pumping onto Top Of the Pops on a weekly basis at the time, had it not been for a sense of wild inventiveness in the composition and arrangement coupled –crucially – with a disciplined craftsmanship in the performance and musicianship.
The syncopated drum pattern is classic indie, but delivered with imagination, expression and vigour, while the bassline is remarkably accomplished throughout the entirety of the track, providing a swaggering, funky groove sadly missing from so much of today’s guitar music.
The song itself is something of a ‘concept’ piece. The sections are meant to loosely illustrate a week in work, leading to a night in the pub in the first instrumental passage, on to a nightclub for the trancey, electronica bit, then a noisy hangover before returning to work on Monday. If it wasn’t for such high concepts, they might not have got away with the splashes of brass and – ahem – jazz oboe that lend the song its sense of identity and drama.
For me personally, it was a key part of the soundtrack to my adolescence, regularly reverberating around the prefab walls of our sixth form block’s demountable hut. Me and my mate Rob would gleefully sneer the line “Weekender, fuck off! Fuck off and die!” at each other, revelling in our impersonation of Maher’s venomous gibe, and relishing the rebelliousness of such clearly pronounced profanity in a pop song, still uncommon back then.
Few details have so far been released about the circumstances of Liam Maher’s death, but he had been a habitual drug-user for much of his life, as suggested by the article in The Guardian written by his friend, Robin Turner of Heavenly Records.
Perhaps Weekender is a fitting legacy for a largely unfulfilled life led to excessive hedonism; perhaps it’s a tribute to a unique moment in the development and diversification of British guitar music. Maybe, after all that, it’s just a great way to spend quarter of an hour.