How Liam Maher from Flowered Up changed my life | Robin Turner

Before their single Weekender became an anthem for hedonists, Flowered Up inspired me to put on my first ever gig

Thinking about it now, I owe my career to Liam Maher, the frontman of Flowered Up who died yesterday.

Back in 1990 I was just another a teenager in thrall of the music press itching to leave my hometown of Newport. There were no clubs in South Wales playing acid house or its low-slung rock'n'roll counterpart, "baggy" (not yet a term of derision). Flowered Up were part of that new breed. They had graced the cover of the Melody Maker before releasing a note. They embraced a club culture that seemed utterly vital from my voyeuristic standpoint on the wrong side of the Severn Bridge. I put a call in to Flowered Up's record label – Heavenly Recordings – and asked whether I could book them to play "the legendary TJ's". I had never promoted a gig before – I didn't even know what a rider was. With a float that I'd cobbled together doing summertime odd jobs, I set about learning.

On the night, we shoehorned 400 people into a 180-capacity venue. The band made a sound that seemed to strip the paint from the ceilings. They were gloriously unhinged, as only five council estate kids with seven songs to their name and every A&R man in town on their tail could be. Liam was the singer, and the main reason they stood out from a hundred other post-Happy Mondays also-rans. With his butter-wouldn't-melt face, Liam had A-Bomb energy on stage – Shaun, Bez and the Artful Dodger rolled into one. Over a decade before the Libertines, he was "street" London elevated to Top of the Pops and the cover of the NME. And, like the Libertines, his band would be broadsided by drug abuse.

At the point when it should have been hitting its stride, Flowered Up's career stalled. After a clutch of frenetic singles on Heavenly that threw punk rock onto the dancefloor, Flowered Up signed to London Records and made a half-arsed album that failed to capture the incendiary nature of their gigs. Live they were a force of nature. The album sounded like force of habit. When they delivered their masterpiece single, Weekender, London Records baulked and returned the band to Heavenly. Weekender was 13 minutes long and took in everything from Pink Floyd to Phuture. It was a huge critical success, but sadly it arrived too late to stabilize things. The band imploded in a fug of opiates shortly after its release and disappeared from view.

By then I'd moved to London and, in the summer of 1993, I met Jeff Barrett and Martin Kelly, the visionaries behind Heavenly. I had my TJ's story to break the ice, and ended up helping them in the office. Sixteen years later, we're all still working together on whatever we can do to stave off getting day jobs.

Liam passed through our lives again when we ran the Heavenly Social nights at Turnmills in London. He was trying to stay clean and trying to get another band off the ground, as he proudly told us week in, week out. Sadly, like all great junkie plans, that band – Greedy Soul – never ended up happening, and I never got to hear the classics-in-waiting Dark Side of the Spoon and – oh yes – Saturn Uranus.

Apart from a short-lived Flowered Up reformation a couple of years ago, I hadn't really heard much about Liam in a long time. With the call from Jeff yesterday came the inevitable flood of memories, and raising of glasses over a sad lost career and sadder loss of life.

I just wish I could have bought him one last beer to thank him.

Robin Turner

The GuardianTramp

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