This article first appeared in issue 3 of the excellent Speakeasy Fanzine that I recommend you all subscribe to.
Baggy – A term that for a while made music fans snigger – wasn’t it all a bit naff – all that funky drummer beats, wah-wah guitars, baggy clothing (natch) and the drugs – Oh it’s all so last century.
But thankfully it seems with the rise of Affleck’s Palace, Moonlight Parade, Crimson Bloom and the 30 years that have past since the last Summer of Love, the music and the bands can be looked upon as a great time and one of the last periods of youth movement this country has produced (apart from Brit-pop).
Therefore as one of THE songs of the era “It’s On” turns 30, I thought it was time to look back at one of the great Brit bands of the scene and certainly one of the last proper working class bands to come out of London – Flowered Up.
I first started to hear of FU in the early months of 1990 – a cheeky, cockney band full of life and colour with tunes to match as well as a bald guy in a leotard, with a huge flower around his neck dancing like Bez. This is something me and my mates needed to see and hear.
Over the next couple of years, I must have seen FU live about 6 times, from small venues around Camden (where they were from) including their own club night, through to bigger venues and a great night at the Brixton Fridge. They were always rammed, sweaty nights out with a connection between band and audience that I have rarely seen since. Most gigs ended up with fans on the stage dancing and singing along with the band as one.
They were more then just a Happy Mondays tribute act (as some did say), they were street urchins alright, a gang, a bunch of lads from London Council Estates with attitude and smart clothes – they walked it like they talked it. For me they are like a modern-day Small Faces or dare I say it a template for Oasis. Swagger, tunes, great gigs.
Flowered Up were fronted by the enigmatic singer Liam Maher and alongside his brother Joe, they were completed by John, Tim, and Andy with Barry Mooncult as the flower dancer. The story goes that Barry was a double-glazing window fitter and was at least 10 years older than the rest – it didn’t matter. He was their Bez, someone to get the crowd going and represent us on stage.
Their first release was the pan pipe heavy hook and call to arms of It’s On. “It’s On you Sonia” Liam would sing – it maybe made no sense lyrically, but we knew what he meant – I still when occasion strikes use this phrase in day to day conversation. The band I also believe were the first to appear on the front of the NME before being signed and certainly before the single came out on Heavenly records – the buzz was big and rightly so. They were then signed to London records which was a big deal in those days and London records tried to make them pop stars.
Over the next year or so they released classic songs such as Phobia, Take It and a rerelease of It’s On whilst hastily putting together their debut album – A Life with Brian – momentum was with them – the gigs got bigger and bigger, they supported Madness at the first Madstock, and slots at Reading festival appearances cemented them as a great live act. However as is always the case, scenes move on and Grunge was pushing the day glo sounds of FU and other bands to one side. However, FU had one final stab at superstardom (they also did a great cover of a Right Said Fred song for charity) they really did end on a high!
Weekender is a stone wall classic indie dance song – I first heard it at one of their later gigs – it went on for 10 minutes plus, building and building taking you on journey just like a DJ set in the rave clubs I went to at the time – you couldn’t fail to dance and sing along to it. The video is something else and I encourage anyone whose not see it to do so on You Tube – it’s a mini Quadrophenia for the rave generation – directed by WIZ who went onto bigger things, it sums up perfectly what it was like for me and my mates to be “on one” all weekend whilst trying to hold down a job until the next weekender. It reached number 20 in the charts and at 12 minutes long has got to be a record!
And then they were gone – rumours emerged about the band losing it and were dropped by London, so I assume without major label support I guess they just split up. Keyboard player Tim re-emerged in the mid 90’s with Republica who did very well in the USA and over here for a bit. But the others just disappeared.
In ‘94 Heavenly released the song Better Life as a limited edition 7 inch single – it was slower paced, dubby, reggae influenced which I assume was from second album sessions – it gave a glimpse of what could have been.
Other than that, in the early 00’s there were some reformed one-off performances at those day festivals where bands of yesteryear performed to an ageing bunch of baggy enthusiasts. I never got to see them during this time, but I heard they were brilliant, and hope was that they may a full comeback.
It wasn’t to be as both Liam and Joe died in 2009 and 2012 respectively – I wasn’t surprised but also I was very saddened – even now I think they would have an audience – there is a lot of love for those bands that are still around, that for a brief period made our grey lives just that little bit more brighter and hopeful.
Final words must go to Liam – “Weekender whatever you do – just make sure what
Ya doing makes you happy”
**Copyright of the image is owned by Baba Youngblood – thank you for letting me use it**