The UK Indie Dance music scene (often referred to as the “baggy” or “Madchester” movement) of the late 1980s and early 1990s represented, amongst other things, the first stylistic fusion of clubwear and football terrace fashions. In a sea of Northern, particularly Manchurian, groups such as The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, Flowered Up stood out as the most influential London group of the movement.
Their cult, 12 minutes 53 second single, Weekender, in the words The Farm’s Peter Hooton “summed up the period... they lived life to the full and meant it when they sang it.” Their live shows remain legendary, blowing their contemporaries out of the water for raw energy and atmosphere. Flowered Up drummer John Tuvey agreed to model the Spring Summer 2018 C.P. Company collection for C.P. Magazine and at the end of last summer, together with photographer Giasco Bertoli, we visited him in King’s Cross London to shoot him at his house and in the streets in which he grew up and still today lives and works as a London Black cab driver.
— My style in influences, both music and fashion- wise came to me first and foremost through my mum and dad who were born and lived in Camden, not more than a mile from where I still live today. My dad had been a Mod, my mum a Modette and both still carefully followed the fashions. My dad also played bass in his own band.
When I was just a little kid I’d go through his record collection and there’d be things like The Who, Bob Dylan, Creem. When I got to a certain age I’d ask him about this music and he’d explain to me the whole thing about TheWho and the Mod movement, to which he’d belonged, Italian scooter and all, or the Skin movement and things like that.
I remember one day my dad, who was the caretaker for the building we lived in, came home with all these records that he’d found in a flat he’d had to clear out. In amongst these records there was stuff by Generation X, Ian Drury, a copy of Never Mind the Bollocks... just all these new punks bands.
It was great. I got these albums and took them to my room and played them on my little record player. I remember being totally blown away by that music. I remember around the same time – I must have been 9 or 10 – I began seeing people from punk movement around Kings Cross as well and that was quite something too.
The thing that really did it for me, though, was Quadrophenia which my parents went and saw at the cinema when it came out, and also bought the VHS of shortly afterwards.
I don’t know why or how but somehow I knew about the film. I knew that I wanted to watch it. So one day I lied and said I was sick and that I couldn’t go to school and stayed home. Whilst my dad was coming in and out the house, checking up on me occasionally, I put the Quadrophenia video on and it just blew me away. It all started from there. It all started from getting this better understanding of Mod culture.
Clothes wise my parents were, as I said, both what you’d call followers of fashion and as a kid they would always buy me up-to-date fashionable stuff like Louis Jeans, and Fred Perry polo shirts when they became fashionable and Adidas – always Adidas – models like the Kick or Leader.
As I grew up, through my early teenage years, my look remained very Mod. I like that clean look. At some point, I was even wearing the Levis StaPrest with desert boots. My older cousin was a mod and I wanted to be like him. During this time my grandfather gave me my first drum kit.
But mostly during my teens, I was more into football than playing music. I’d started going to the football because the guy who lived upstairs from us was Arsenal and I was lucky enough to be taken by him a few times until I was old enough to start going by myself. It was at the football in the early 1980s which I found out about labels like C.P. Company, which I also began to wear, though mostly just t-shirts and sweatshirts because it was incredibly expensive, C.P. even more so than Stone Island. If you saw a guy wearing a C.P. coat you knew he was out there.
People would think you had a load of money. C.P. Company was considered the gentleman’s version of that Football look. By ’87-’88, I had started playing drums properly, in a decent pub band called Taratay. At the same the club and rave scenes – which were closely linked to the football scene, with a lot of the East London firms starting their own club nights – were properly kicking off.
One day I was hanging about on the Regents Park Estate, where my Nan lived, and I heard the name of a group that Liam Maher, his brother Joe, Andy Jackson and John O’Brian were forming being thrown about. The name of this group was Flowered Up.
As a childhood friend of most of the guys in the band, I went to their first two gigs at a club called Kazoo in the basement of the Great Western Hotel in Paddington and at the African Center. The gigs were ok, in all fairness, but not great.
After the second gig, Liam called me and asked me if I’d be interested in joining Flowered Up as they said that the drummer, John O’Brian – who in my opinion was an amazing self-taught drummer, a natural – wasn’t the right fit for them. I wasn’t sure, I thought he was joking but no he said he was serious...
So I went and had a jam with them - I wasn’t nervous as I’d own the boys since I was a kid – and afterward spoke with my girlfriend and my dad about it and they said yeah go for it, it’ll be good for you.
I mean, it was evident that Flowered Up were going somewhere, you could just tell from the way people talked about them. As a band, we never really had discussions about what our musical style should be or who we wanted to be like or who we wanted to be better than. We would just jam and see what came out. Joe Maher was different to any other guitarist I’ve known. He was a natural. I mean he liked Hendrix and all that stuff but he did his own thing. And it was great to be able to just watch him do it.
There was no formula, he was free spirited. Jacko, the bass player, on the other hand had his roots in more technical bass playing, while Tim, the keyboardist, was a DJ and liked house music and was very synth based.
My drumming heroes were Keith Moon first and foremost, Kenny Jones, Paul Cook, Topper Headon and Rick Buckler... But as I said there were no real conversations about what our sound should be. To give you an example I recorded the drums for Weekender in a single take!
Playing live though, specifically our fans, is what made us as a band. When we played there was just this unbelievable energy. Somehow, for some reason, the crowd would just take it upon itself to get on stage. First one or two, then another couple, and by the end of the show we had a lot of people up there. Liam just said bring it. He accepted it. Sometimes it was a bit hairy and it felt like the stage was going to collapse but it was what it was.
For Liam it was all about the fans. For him being in the band was all about enjoyment, not money or prestige. Flowered Up was there to create an atmosphere and memories and that’s what our show was all about and I think looking back we’ve achieved that. Live, we blew other groups of the period like Blur or EMF out the water (which is exactly what we did at Reading in ’91). I mean we were on the front cover of the NME and Melody Maker before we’d even released a record.
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