Leonard here. My colleague Mark Searby is going to be sharing columns with us highlighting British cinema past and present. Please enjoy A Bit of Crumpet.
A RAVE REVIEW
The 1990s was a rich time for dance music (or EDM as it is now known) in the UK. A musical movement that started in the late 80s and spread across the country to illegal raves in fields before the Conservative government put a law in place to stop that. Up sprang nightclubs across Britain playing dance music and hosting DJs from around the globe. The rave generation was born. Living for the weekend after the monotony of the Monday to Friday 9-5 job.
Flowered Up were not a popular band (whatever that meant in dance music circles) back in the 90s. However, they released Weekender in 1992. A baggy, indie disco number reminiscent of the type of music the Happy Mondays were putting out. It peaked at Number 20 on the UK’s music charts. It wasn’t a hit as such. Yet, they hit big by making a twenty-minute video to accompany the song. This video showcased a night out for a young man. From coming home after working in a betting shop to realising his home life is miserable through to him losing himself on the dancefloor and beyond. It was the first real and detailed film about dance music and drug culture. Described by many as ‘the Citizen Kane of acid house’, the film was banned upon release. The powers-that-be at the BBC and beyond refusing to showcase what looked to them like a pro-drugs movie. Weekender, the video, became the stuff of legend. Passed around schools, pubs and clubs on copied VHS tapes for years. So how did this music video go from being banned to being heralded as one of the most innovative music films ever made?
I Am Weekender sets out to explain it all from start to finish. A sort of behind-the-scenes documentary mixed with educational thesis about what the video meant and how it influenced people through the years. Film director Danny Boyle has stated that without Weekender there would be no Trainspotting. Such was the pull of this music video. Within I Am Weekender there are talking heads from those who were involved at the time including members of the band, those that signed them to a record label and even some that appeared in the music video itself. Also, popping up to give their input are the likes of author Irvine Welsh, film director Lynne Ramsay and conceptual artist Jeremy Deller. There are also appearances from musicians Shaun Ryder (the Happy Mondays), Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream), Roisin Murphy (Moloko) and David Holmes (music composer for the James Bond movies). It’s a pretty standard timeline documentary showcasing how the band got together, the putting together of the music singles and then onto the making of the music video. Interviews are interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage (courtesy of the Weekender’s director’s original archive) of the video itself. It makes for entertaining and educational viewing as those involve detail the push back that not just the band but the entire dance music movement were making against Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government. As alluded to in the documentary, it seems that those involved in making the epic twenty-minute music video did treat it like a night out and allegedly… possibly… maybe… partook in illegal substances during filming. Method acting or just an excuse to party?!
But this isn’t a story about just the highs of not only making dance music but also making a stand-out music video as well. It’s about the lows of not just the come down next day, as seen at the end of Weekender, but also the struggles that some members of Flowered Up had to deal with through the years. Open and honest a documentary as you are likely to see about the 90s dance/drug culture. If you never lived the rave era in Great Britain then this is an illuminating documentary about just one small part of it and how even a band that never had a song hit the top ten in the charts could influence an entire generation and beyond.
Included in I Am Weekender is the original, uncensored music video for Weekender in it’s full twenty-minute viewing experience. I found it best to watch I Am Weekender, the documentary, first followed by Weekender, the music video. It gave a great understanding and deeper meaning when watching the actual music video.
I AM WEEKENDER + WEEKENDER is available on Blu Ray for the first time ever. Released by the BFI in the UK from 19th June 2023.