This is really about the great London band of the early 90’s Flowered Up – a band of rowdy kids from Camden Town who led by the charismatic Liam, and including a bald guy dressed in a leotard with a flower round his neck (hard to believe) inspired us lost kids of London, to get down and get on it. They wrote the classic Weekender and many other great songs, their gigs and stories of excess are legendary.
Matt is a freelance journalist who has written for the likes of Gigslutz, Shindig magazine and Louder then war he has recently produced this excellent book that not only shows the band at its prime but is a brilliant snap shot of youth culture. I thought it would be a good idea to find out how it all came together.
If you were there and can remember it – you weren’t really there.
Its On you Matt.
So why did you decide to do a book on Flowered Up?
It all started after I did the article on flowered up for louder than war, I was asked by a few people if I’d do a book on the band which I thought I’d never be able to do, I’d never done anything like that before and had no idea how to do it. However, once I spoke to Liam’s daughter Tao who said she would love to have something permanent to remember her Dad and Uncle by that was it, I literally took the bull by the horns and set the wheels in motion.
How did you get into the band?
I can’t remember the first time I heard the band but I remember them appearing in the weekly music papers of the time. I thought they were great maybe a little eccentric what with Barry being in the band, but it was an appeal that was around at the time, The Stone Roses had a dancer, so did Happy Mondays, so it kinda was normal at the time.
For the uninitiated can you sum up what they were and what they sounded like?
The band consisted of Liam Maher – vocals, Joe Maher – Guitar, Andy Jackson – bass, John Tuvey – drums and Tim Dorney – keyboards. They mixed various influences including The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays and kinda merged them all into one gigantic musical montge, releasing classic singles It’s On, Phobia, Take It and the stone cold classic Weekender.
Why were they special to so many? (Me Included)
They were unique, no other band sounding quite like them plus their live sound was tight, they played better than many of the bands that emerged at the time. It was also their live shows that all the fans that attended have never forgotten. Stages packed with fans, shenanigans going in before, whilst and after the gigs, left an imprint on everyone’s memories that never left. Anyone who attended one of their gigs have said it was their favourite ever.
How did you go about setting up the book – can you talk about the crowdfunding aspect please?
So before the crowd funding took place I said on twitter and Facebook that I was thinking about writing a book on the band, from here a number of flowered up’s fanatical fans contacted me with reems of photos, memorabilia and their own stories about the band, their response was just phenomenal. With all this to hand I just had to try and find a publisher. I approached Penguin and a few other publishers but unless I could guarantee 1000’s of books shifting no one was interested.
That was until Dave Hewitson, the guy behind 80’s Casual said he would help with the book. All that was needed was a few grand to get the design done and the book actually published. Kickstarter had been used by a few peoples I’d seen so we just went with that, the 200 books sold out well before the campaign finished. Adam Gill, the designer, did a world class job on the design, he just caught the imagery of the band, I think it’s a great little book on a great band.
Were you surprised by the response to the crowdfunding? And the interest in FU as a whole?
I was surprised with the amount of pics that were to hand for the book, everything in the book had been previously unseen. Yeah the response to the crowdfunding was just unbelievable, I still can’t believe that so many wanted to see the book happen.
What’s been the response to those that have seen the book? How did the remaining FU members take it?
Positive, no bad word from anyone. Andy, John, Tim, Tao, Darren (Maher, Tim and Joe’s brother), Barry, Anna Haigh (backing singer), Mags (Joe’s widow) all love it. Many have shed tears when they got hold of it which is a memory that will always stay with me. The book was never about casting further dark clouds over the band, the book was to celebrate the band in a dignified way, which I achieved, I’m really happy with it.
What are your overall memories of that 1990 Baggy scene?
A carefree time, with loads of emerging bands that left an imprint on many young aspiring characters that attended gigs and bought their music. Loads of great bands including those that maybe didn’t get the rub of the green like some did including Flowered Up, The Wendys, Northside, The High, World Of Twist, I could go on.
Your book is a great snapshot of one of the last great youth cultures /movements in the UK – do you think we will see anything like that again?
I don’t think so, but I might be wrong. There are some fab bands that remind me of glimpses of those times including The Orielles and Shame, but will we see a band with a guy dancing around on stage with a flower around his neck? I don’t think so.
What are your thoughts on the current music scene?
There’s some good stuff about if you look in the right places. Ex Norwegian, Swimming Tapes, Hooton Tennis Club plus some reissue labels are digging up some right good tunes, inculding Be With Records Far Out Recordings and others. Good job too, I’m starting to do a regular radio show on Totally Radio.
Any favourite bands/acts you think are worth checking out?
The 3 I just mentioned plus Cow, Garcia Peoples and Kestrels.
What are your favourite songs of FU? What’s your favourite memory?
Weekender, Egg Rush and the original single version of Phobia. Well, I never got to see the band live, I did have tickets to see them but broke my ankle the night before the gig. However, it was fantastic to spend some time with Andy when he accompanied me at the Flowered Up exhibition I did at the Shiiine On festival. Loads of fans talking to him about their memories, he got a kick out of it which was really nice to see.
Would you do a follow up? Further extended version?
Hmmmm, I’m not sure. I think we used just about the best of the material we had to hand, so I wouldn’t want to ruin a good thing, but who knows what might happen in the future. One thing I do hope that happens is a reissue of A Life With Brian. Amongst the material I was sent was a whole bunch of live recordings, demos and BBC sessions, I really hope these will get the release they deserve, I know the fans will want some of the stuff.
Finally what do you think FU legacy is? What should they be remembered for especially Liam and Joe?
One of the best bands of the period that left an everlasting imprint on the memories of their fans who attended their gigs plus they delivered timeless music that will go on being loved by new fans for years to come. Thanks Liam and Joe x
Thank you Matt, great words and a massive credit to you for putting this together – it brought back so many happy memories for me. They were a special band to many and testament that 30 years later they are still remembered fondly for all the right reasons.
Best to end with this, the last line from the single Weekender as it sums up how we should all feel.
“Weekender whatever you do – just make sure what Ya doing makes you happy”
P N L
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