The party doesn't stop until you're dead in Flowered Up's 'Weekender' [April 26, 1992]
Plus: Sisters of Mercy, Michael Jackson, Metallica, and The Cure
Welcome to the week of April 26, 1992, where the Top 5 looks like this:
‘Deeply Dippy’ — Right Said Fred (=)
‘On A Ragga Tip’ — SL2 (↑)
‘Temple of Love’ — Sisters Of Mercy (New)
‘The Days of Pearly Spencer’ — Marc Almond (↑)
‘Save The Best For Last’ — Vanessa Williams (↓)
We’ll be exploring some of the Top 40 and listening to our Album of the Week, but first, let’s listen to…
This week’s Number 35: ‘Weekender’ — Flowered Up
Something that’s changed—for the better—since the 90s is our relationship with celebrity.
Stars are no longer these distant, ineffable beings. Thanks to the ceaseless Truman Show-esque nature of social media, we can peer into their lives and see that they really are just like us.
And sometimes that allows us to relate to their humanity a little better. Britney Spears is the prime example here. In recent years, people have developed a deep empathy for this complex, vulnerable woman.
Which makes a change from the days when celebrity gossip was a bloodspot, and Britney was hunted without pity. She seemed so alien back then, this beautiful superstar, that it was hard to imagine her experiencing the grief and sadness of a normal human life.
We used to love celebrities going off the rails. Sometimes, it was the joy of tutting judgmentally at them (Amy Winehouse, most female celebs), while other times we wanted to live vicariously through their stories of excess and debauchery (Pete Doherty, most male celebs).
In the era of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, we loved hearing about how far people could go. How far it was possible to go. How long you could make the party last.
Smash your hotel room. Break out of rehab and go on a bender. Spend your advance on coke. Want to be a legend? Seek immortality in The 27 Club. Be our hero. Bleed for us.
This appetite for destruction is part of the reason that the music press fucking loved Flowered Up.
Flowered Up were a bunch of working-class kids from a London housing estate who had a titanic capacity for drugs and violence.
The early Flowered Up gigs are the stuff of legend, with the band and the audience competing to see who be most off their faces (the band always won.) They got themselves on the covers of NME and Melody Maker before signing a deal—a feat that can probably be attributed to them sharing their drugs with music journalists.
There are endless stories about Flowered Up getting banned from hotels, banned from venues, banned from cities, getting beat up, getting locked up, running from the cops.
And the drugs. The endless drugs. When London Records offered them a £1,000,000 contract, the band celebrated by pulling out a gigantic bag of coke, stabbing it with a knife, and then writing F U in giant letters on the boardroom table.
The resulting album, A Life With Brian, was deemed to be a flop (although that’s actually a bit harsh, it’s not terrible) and London quickly dropped them. But the band found a new home at Heavenly Records and convinced them to put out a 12-minute rant about part-timer clubbers who work Monday to Friday. There’s no reason to ever leave the party, you fucking causals, was the message of the song`, with Liam Maher ranting like Prince Prospero in Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”.
That song was called ‘Weekender’ and it is kind of a masterpiece:
‘Weekender’ was critically adored when it appeared. The stunning video/short film got a lot of airplay whenever MTV had a spare 15 minutes in the schedule (usually at about 2am).
But the EP was overshadowed by its own infamous launch party. A party so epic that it had a name: Debauchery.
The story behind the Debauchery party goes like this: Barry Mooncult, the Bez-style dancer in the band, was also a painter-decorator on the side. He was doing a job for a dodgy London millionaire who got lifted for tax fraud.
Barry was left with the keys to a vacant mansion.
And so, this mansion got turned into a vast nightclub. The ground floor was turned into a dancefloor with people like Paul Oakenfold on decks. The first floor was a hangout to drink and get high. The attic was a non-stop orgy. The band spent most of the party in the jacuzzi, naked except for top hats.
Around 1,000 people attended the party, which lasted somewhere between three hours and a week (accounts vary). The Mondays and Primal Scream dropped by, as did Kylie, Kirsty McColl and the Guildford Four. Britain’s hottest young novelist, Hanif Kureishi, called in and ended up writing about the party in his next book, The Black Album.
Everyone who remembers the party (and is willing to talk) says that it was like something that hadn’t been seen since the days of Caligula.
The band themselves don’t remember the party. By 1992, they had moved on to heroin and it was eating them alive.
The old system of celebrity worship was a form of human sacrifice. And sacrifices can’t survive. It ruins the ceremony.
That’s why The 27 Club was the best possible outcome. You get to leave this world as someone young, beautiful. People mourn your untapped talent, rather than taking the piss out of your misjudged late-career reggae album.
Flowered Up had the worst possible outcome to their story. The band largely imploded after ‘Weekender’ and all of their subsequent attempts to make music failed.
(Apart from Tim “the posh one” Dorney, who went on to form Republica.)
Liam and Joe Maher, the brothers at the heart of the band, stopped being party legends and became old-fashioned junkies, intermittently homeless and relegated to the absolute bottom of society. Around 2006, the rest of the band tried to get back together to help the Mahers back on their feet.
But it was too. Liam died of a heroin overdose in 2009. Joe struggled to get clean, but he went the same way in 2012.
It’s easy to criticize today’s oversharing celebrities. The whole Kardashian/Paul Brothers thing is exhausting. We don’t need to know every detail of a famous person’s life.
But I think this intimacy has destroyed the romanticism around problematic behaviour. There used to be something mystical, almost shamanic, about creative self-destruction. Like the artists were dying for us so that we could be reborn in them.
Now, I think we’re more likely to see what’s really going on. Addiction and mental health distress aren’t sexy, they’re relatable and extremely sad. And today’s young people get the message that it’s okay to leave the party when the party stops being fun.
Elsewhere in the charts
Number 3 (New Entry): ‘Temple of Love’ — Sister of Mercy
There’s something low-key depressing about how 1992’s album charts were dominated by Best Ofs and reissues. But occasionally these reissues give the spotlight to something that didn’t get enough attention the first time.
‘Temple of Love’ is one such track. Sisters of Mercy released it as an indie EP in 1983, and a half-dozen goths bought it. It lived on in bootlegs and compilations for the next decade and was quite well-known, but never had a proper release.
Until 1992, when Sisters of Mercy released a Best Of called Some Girls Wander By Mistake. The collection featured a new recording of ‘Temple of Love’, which gave The Sisters their biggest chart hit and introduced a new generation of gloomy teenagers to the joys of Andrew Eldritch.
The history of Sisters of Mercy is an absolute chaotic mess, with the band effectively broken up in 1992. Half of the Sisters went off to form The Mission, who are also in this week’s charts with ‘Never Again’. It’s okay, but it’s no ‘Temple of Love’.
Number 8 (New Entry): ‘In The Closet’ — Michael Jackson
This is one of the best tracks on Dangerous and one of MJ’s best post-Quincy songs. Great video too, with no gimmicks except Naomi Campbell looking incredible.
Let’s leave it there and avoid any jokes about what else might have been in Michael Jackson’s closet.
Number 12 (New Entry): ‘Nothing Else Matters’ — Metallica
This belongs in some dystopian sci-fi film, in a scene where the exhausted protagonists find a safe place to rest and end up banging.
Like the bit in The Terminator where Reece and Sarah conceive John Connor. Somebody make a fan edit please.
Number 24 (New Entry): ‘Remedy’ — The Black Crowes
It’s so weird to think about Bobby Gillespie in 1992, still buzzing after recording one of the greatest, most experimental albums of all time (and also buzzing off the heroin he bought with the royalties), wondering what sonic experiment to pursue next. He hears a Black Crowes record and thinks, “yeah, let’s do a whole album of that.”
Like, I don’t know for sure that The Black Crowes are the ones who influenced Primal Scream. But ‘Remedy’ definitely sounds like a track off Give Out But Don’t Give Up.
Number 33 (↓ from 32): ‘Do You Want It Right Now’ — Degrees of Motion
In 1985, Sidney Poitier directed a dance movie called Fast Forward that vanished without a trace (only 200 people have marked it as seen on Letterboxd). The soundtrack for Fast Forward included an original song that’s wasn’t a big hit either, yet somehow persists in pop culture.
‘Do You Want It Right Now’ was first recorded by Siedah Garrett and it’s a fairly average synth-heavy mid-80s pop track that sounds typical for the time. A few years later, Taylor Dayne recorded a more up-tempo version for her album Tell It To My Heart, which is good but never got released as a single.
In 1992, American house music collective Degrees of Motion did perhaps the best-known version of the song, although it still failed to make the Top 30 (Degrees of Motion will crack the charts soon with ‘Shine On’.)
Since then, it’s become something of a house classic, showing up in mixes by people like Armand Van Helden. A surprisingly long shelf life for a song that has never been an especially big deal.
Album of the Week
Wish — The Cure
Disintegration turned out to be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy for The Cure. Almost as soon as that record was finished, the titans of soft-goth began the slow process of breaking up.
Drummer Lol Tolhurst was struggling with alcohol, and things reached a point where the rest of the band went to Robert Smith and said, “it’s him or us”. Tolhurst didn’t go quietly and launched a gruelling lawsuit that rumbled all through the recording of Wish.
Perhaps that’s why Smith sounds so exhausted at the opening of this record. ‘Open’—much like ‘Weekender’—is a description of a never-ending party that seems almost purgatorial, with Smith singing:
“I really don't know what I'm doing here
I really think I should've gone to bed tonight”
Side A of Wish is very much in this mode, a sad, exhausted record that carries on where Disintegration left off. The main single from this half of the record is ‘High’, a shimmering, melancholy study of lost love.
But perhaps the best moment on this side of the record is ‘From The Edge of the Deep Green Sea’, a seven-minute epic that shows off The Cure’s dirtiest secret, which is that they are excellent musicians with slight prog tendencies.
Wish is one of those records that makes you miss when things had a Side A/Side B, because you need that deep breath you take while you flip the cassette and listen to the next track, ‘Friday I’m In Love’.
Like ‘Lovecats’, it’s an immensely catchy pop song that reveals almost nothing about the band that created it. Even the sound is artificial, slightly speeded up so that it’s a quarter-tone higher than the way they normally play it. You can hear a more authentic version on their live album, Show:
This version definitely sounds more Cure-ey, but it’s also a less devastatingly effective pop single.
The result, I think, is that ‘Friday I’m In Love’ sticks out like a sore thumb on Wish, even among the more up-tempo Side B numbers. Which is not a problem for Cure fans, who are used to the band’s hyperactive jumping between musical styles and ambitions.
It might have been a surprise for people who bought Wish because they liked ‘Friday I’m In Love’ though. And there were many such people—Wish went to Number One in the UK and sold over a million copies in the US.
But none of this was sufficient to stop The Cure’s ongoing disintegration. The Tolhurst lawsuit put a lot of pressure on them, and there were endless lineup changes over the coming years. The band would only release one more record in this decade: 1996’s Wild Mood Swings, which is fine.
Wish is a very strong record, but it’s also the end of a journey that began 14 years previously, with 1978’s ‘Killing An Arab’. There have been highs and lows, bouncy pop songs and songs that make you want to slit your wrists. The Cure did it all, and there were no lands left to conquer.
No wonder Robert felt like maybe he had stayed too long at the party.
A new Number One! Plus, a new album from Nick Cave.