Sunday, 13 October 2013

World Of Twist / A History

"The World Of Twist were a Manchester based band that meant, and mean, a lot to a dedicated fan base of whom I am one. The band was made up of a group of music lovers who wore their hearts on their sleeves. They are part of my mental image of the city, so when I think of Manchester I think of them." - Jeremy Deller

A history of the band.

In 1990, when Manchester's Madchester was turning into an embarrassing cliché, many of us had the day saved by the wonderful, and still missed, World Of Twist.

Difficult to musically pin down, they might be described as early Roxy Music meets BBC Radiophonic Workshop meets Northern soul meets Joe Meek meets Hawkwind meets early 80s British Electropop. With a few teaspoons of Can thrown in.

Nevertheless, the World Of Twist were, without question, the first band to be making futurist-retro electronic slightly proggy pop music of the kind of that bands like Pulp (who supported WOT live in 1991), Air and Goldfrapp would later be exploring and gaining wider success with.

The origins of World Of Twist begin at Stockport's Art & Design college, with a punk band called Blackout (1977-79). The line consisted of Dave Connor (vocals), Tony Odgen (drums), Gordon King (bass), Julia Adamson (guitar) and Jamie Fry (guitar). [1]

The first World Of Twist formed in Sheffield 1984. This line-up consisted of James Fry (vocals, wasp synth), Gordon King (guitar, casio MT32), Tony Ogden (drums), Rory Connelly (saxophone) and Andy Robins (organ). A later line-up lost Andy Robins but gained Andy Hobson (bass) and Nick Phillips (keyboards). They recorded a dozen or so songs, some of which can be heard here. This World Of Twist soon fell apart, but a new Manchester version would emerge a few years later.

The bands name, was inspired by the well known late 1960s /1970s 'World Of...' series of compilation albums by Decca records, usually featuring middle of the road acts. The inspiration for the Quality Street lettering is also from these. The band members at one point had a club night in Manchester called 'World of Music' in 1986.

The 1989(?) MK2 World Of Twist had Tony Ogden (now singer and co-songwriter) and Gordon King (guitar & co-songwriter) joined by Andy Hobson (synthesisers), Alan Frost aka Adge (visual effects. synthesisers), Julia McGreechin aka MC Shells (swirls & sea noises) and Angela Reilly (visual effects). Nick Sanderson (drums) joined a little later. James Fry was now the band photographer.

A four track demo tape released in early 1990 (featuring The Storm, Blackpool Tower Suite, The Spring and She's A Rainbow) gained considerable local alternative radio play and rave reviews in the local press. The inevitable London A&R frenzy soon followed.

World Of Twist finally settled for Circa Records (a subsidiary company of Virgin Records), believing they would best meet the bands creative needs. Within the year, they had released the critically well received singles The Storm / She's A Rainbow (one of Martin Hannett's final productions) and Sons Of The Stage. They both only just failed to make the top 40 [2].

The band toured the UK and Europe, gaining a cult following along the way with their extravagant and eccentric stage shows. The music press showered them with coverage and superlative reviews. Meanwhile, two excellent Radio 1 sessions for John Peel (June 1991) & Mark Goodier (Sept 1990) hinted at what the debut album should sound like. It seemed like a collision with wider success was just around the corner.

However, in October 1991 when the album Quality Street did appear, it (almost heartbreakingly) failed to live up to the expectations for many fans and most reviewers. The fault definitely lies with the somewhat limp production (by The Grid) who clearly didn't understand what made the band click, failing to capture the colour, energy or 'art school' edge of either the band live or the earlier singles. They unfortunately produced six of the twelve tracks, The singles on the album escape mostly unscathed. The two tracks produced Martin Moscrop (Jellybaby & The Scene) work nicely.

That said, there's still a great collection of songs lurking within. And while a 'Let It Be...Naked' version of the album is unlikely to ever appear, the new Quality Street Expanded does at least add the aforementioned BBC sessions, as well as the utterly brilliant Blackpool Tower Suite. A better picture has now been finally painted as the band's existence.

Regardless, Quality Street was a modest success, and Circa continued to have faith in the band. Plans were made for a follow up album and further touring.

In early 1992 World Of Twist, or rather Circa trying to gain a hit single, reissued She's A Rainbow along with a Fluke remix (Tony described this to me as a "fucking pile of shit”), and a new version of the albums opening track Lose My Way. The band performed Lose My Way on two children's TV shows. A tragic and humiliating career finale, by anyone’s standards.

Big problems emerged when Tony Ogden - who was increasingly unhappy and loosing his confidence in the lead role - decided that he actually no longer wanted to sing. He urged drummer Nick Sanderson, who refused [3]. Wider auditions happened, but without much success. As soon as Circa caught wind of Tony's decision not to sing they were reluctant to re-new the bands contract. Creative differences within the band, and outside pressure from Circa to have a hit, also contributed to the band breakdown.

World Of Twist officially ceased to be in June 1992. (NB. Branson sold Virgin Records to Thorn EMI in June 1992, this lead to a cull of bands on it's labels).

In 1993, the band (with possibly a different line up, but definitely one that included Tony) almost signed to Creation Records. Alan McGee himself was a huge fan. Exactly why that never happened is somewhat a mystery.

The final World Of Twist outing was New Electric Pop And Soul in 1994 on Saint Etienne's Icerink Records. As Earl Brutus were already up and running, I suspect that this was just Tony.

Tony Ogden soon after disappeared from the Manchester music scene and became something of a mythical and reclusive Brian Wilson character. During this time he privately continued to record hundreds of songs at home in demo form, and many are a continuation of the World Of Twist idea [4]. In the mid 2000s Tony had began tentative steps back into the music business. In Jan 2005 he spoke to The Guardian about his history and future ambitions, but before these plans could even progress any significant distance, Tony died unexpectedly in 26 July 2006. This music remains officially unreleased.

Meanwhile, Gordon King and Nick Sanderson, along with Rob Marche, Jamie Fry and Stuart Boreman, formed the future-glam 'conceptual art' pop band Earl Brutus in 1993. Like World Of Twist, Earl Brutus received favourable press interest, and gained a cult following, but ultimately this never broke through to wider success (Noel Fielding & Jeremy Deller were amongst their fans). If you've never heard any Earl Brutus, they can be found on Spotify. Enjoy.

"Earl Brutus (had) some common ground with the conceptualised output of the Brit Art school. But they celebrated the poetry and desolation of contemporary life in a more demotic, populist style. Rather than the gallery, Earl Brutus's natural habitat was the rubbish-strewn rock festival – or, even more, the pub. Strange, impassioned snug-bar tirades set loose by alcohol, but this time preserved forever on record." - Roy Wilkinson

Nick Sanderson sadly developed lung cancer. He died on 9 June 2008 at the age of 47. Earl Brutus ended as a group soon after.

In June 2010 Jamie Fry, Gordon King, Stuart Boreman and Shinya Hayashida with Laurence Bray, George Phillips and Vincent Gibson formed The Pre New. They have been known to play World of Twist and Earl Brutus songs as well as new material.

Notes

Most facts about the World of Twist, in interviews, should be taken with a pinch of salt. They never gave much away, and what they did give away, was usually nonsense. The above came from conversions with Angela Reilly, Tony Ogden, Julia McGreechin, Jim, Fry, Ian Rainford (who helped with the visuals and stage design), Andy Robbins (WOT MK1) and various other people I met on the way who knew things.

1. http://www.invisiblegirl.co.uk/archive/1977.html

2. The Storm & Sons Of The Stage actually sold more than enough to comfortably enter the Top 40. However, due to a quirk in which high local sales were 'levelled' out across the country, it was positioned lower.

3. "So he was trying to get me to sing and I was ‘no fucking way, who do you think we are – Genesis?’ From behind the drum, if I wanted to do that I’d do it in my own band, because he is a great singer." Source.

4. In 1999 I originally spoke of an unreleased second album, that I described as Manchester's own 'Smile' - the infamous unreleased Beach Boys that never followed Pet Sounds. This was a cassette I gained access to, belonging to Ian Rainford, who had been given it by Tony's friend John West. As it was entitled World Of Twist and containing 10 poor sound quality tracks, everyone thought it was an unreleased second album.

I subsequently learnt from Tony and his then co-songwriter John West, that this was really a random collection of post 1992-1995 recorded Tony demos. While it's quite possible that some of these might have become a second album - and boy are some of them as strong as anything on Quality Street - to actually describe them as the unreleased second album stretches the fact of their existence a little too far. At it core, World Of Twist was Tony AND Gordon.

Nevertheless, ideas have legs, and this one has spent 14 years running around the internet adding to the myth. But that's not a bad thing.

Text. Copyright © 1999-2013. Gary Andrew Clarke.
It's not gone unnoticed that my original 1999 'story' has been plagiarised without crediting the source!

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