PUTTING THE AMOUR INTO GLAMOUR
At a time when every other band looks and sounds the same, WORLD OF TWIST stand head and shoulders above the masses of braying baggies. PAUL MARDLES heralds the rebirth of the glamorous pop star. Heads in the clouds by IAN T TILTON
THERE WAS a time, not long ago, when pop stars and real people had little or nothing in common.
And then, one day, it all went horribly wrong. Bored with their humdrum lives, a legion of Ordinary Blokes took to the streets in their crusty sweat-stained T-shirts and battered baseball boots, demanding an end to glamour as a prerequisite for stardom.
Armed with Stanley knives, they swiftly infiltrated record companies and took over Top Of The Pops.
Then, as a final precaution, they rounded up every potential superstar, bundled them into a dark, damp cellar and calmly threw away the key.
Against all the odds, however, World Of Twist managed to survive. Now, at a time when similarity breeds contempt, they stand head and shoulders above a mass of braying baggies.
Everything about them, from their love of all things loud to their marvellous sense of mystique, spells glamour.
That's right - glamour. If WOT 'represent' anything, it is the rebirth of the star. While others long to be respected or perhaps even admired, World Of Twist wanna be adored.
"We'd like to be put in that place in London," says singer Tony ("Can you say I used to be an archaeologist?") Ogden, a man who's been compared to everyone from Elvis Presley to Leonard Rossiter. "You know, that big place."
"Oh, you mean ... um ... uh ... The Rock Circus (horrible collection of waxwork rock stars)," offers Adge, who's responsible for the band's visual effects.
Tony: "Yeah, that's the one. We'd like to be placed in there. In fact, if we don't make it I'm gonna go and stand there anyway. I'm gonna have to practice standing really still, aren't I?
"Oh, and I'd like to have my name etched on a war memorial... And I'm gonna have a bar fitted in my flat. We're all gonna have one soon, whether we're pop stars or not."
EARLY ROXY Music aside, there've been few pop stars quite like WOT.
Like their said spiritual mentors, they combine glossy, innovative songs - which draw on everything from '60s bubblegum music to warped psychedelia - with a brilliantly bizarre live show that's designed to leave you by turns baffled, bewildered and bemused, but never, ever bored.
Flanked by a series of suitably surreal slides, which depict the world through the eyes of Vic Reeves, a revolving windmill with four inflatable heads and a tacky tinfoil backdrop, Tony rocks on the spot like a cross between Bryan Ferry, Frank Sinatra and an escaped mental patient, while the rest of the band - Adge, Julia MC Shells (synths), Gordon King (guitars), Andy Hobson (synths) and Sandy (drums) - float aimlessly around like evacuees from the planet Jupiter.
It hasn't always been this way, though. Formed approximately five years ago in Stockport ("We were pretty ropey then really"), WOT started out with a conventional guitar/bass/drum line-up before deciding that anything guitars can do computers can do far better.
The switch proved to be a smart one. After a handful of demos and gigs, they found themselves on Sheer Joy's 'Home'- a 'baggy' compilation LP - alongside such other notables as New FADS, Paris, Angels and The Milltown Brothers.
'The Storm', World Of Twist's stunning contribution to said album, attracted the attention of Circa, who subsequently released it as their debut single. A colourful hybrid of soul, house, techno and kinky futuristic riffs, it captured the imagination of many, suggesting that pop had finally found itself a brand new set of saviours.
And if their follow-up is anything to go by, it has. 'Sons Of The Stage' is everything that pop should be but very rarely is.
'Sons' carefully hijacks the most kitsch elements of the '70s, laughs in the face of the '80s and launches an attack on the'90s - proving that WOT are far larger than life.
Or are they? Sitting in the bar of a Manchester hotel on a cold Saturday evening, Tony, Julia and Adge - the others are all AWOL - appear more than a little subdued. Warm and amiable, they may be; garrulous, however, they're not.
To some people, WOT are simply too bizarre, too mysterious, too weird.
"I don't understand it when people say that," groans Adge. "That's way, way wide of the mark. What's wrong with being interesting anyway?"
Tony: "We knew we'd get some stick. In fact, we thought we'd get loads more. We've always had a lot of hassle for supposedly being weird and contrived."
Adge: "And for being really enthusiastic. We just like to give value for money. So we have loads of things going on."
Julia: "There're probably too many things going on for some people."
She's right. If nothing else, WOT make an effort. Whereas the rest of the Manchester fraternity painstakingly sift through the '60s for any discarded riffs, WOT derive their inspiration from everything from badly-made B-movies to the more camp aspects of cabaret.
Their videos encapsulate their approach. While 'The Storm' features Adge as a painter, Gordon as a footballer and MC Shells as a mermaid enclosed in a tinfoil cave, 'Sons Of The Stage' sees the band engaged in performance aboard The Starship Enterprise.
Confused? You will be. Or rather, WOT hope you will be...
"Oh yeah, I can't deny it," admits Tony, quietly smiling to himself. "Not that anyone's ever come up to me and said, Oh, I feel all weird and confused - perhaps I'm a bit concussed."
Julia: "We're always surprised at how many people actually just stand and stare at us when we're playing live. We're not like any other bands that they've seen.
"We thought they were just bored at first. It was like, y'know, What're you doing?"
Tony: "Why can't people just enjoy themselves? Although, having said that, there are some that do now. People who used to play it a bit cool with us are finally starting to let go a little bit. We just want to make people happy by entertaining them."
Adge: "We certainly entertained Pat Cash (the tennis star gave their video the thumbs-up on Juke Box Jury). I'm a big fan of his. I'd like a Pat Cash racquet."
Tony: "Yeah, I'd like some Pat Cash trainers."
UNLIKE PAT Cash, WOT dress to thrill. Whereas others deck themselves out in gear custom-built for the pub, WOT opt for gold lame tops and sapphire sequinned shorts.
Why? Simple. WOT despise ordinariness. Pop stars, according to them, are strange, sexual creatures - not (wo)men of the people.
"Pop music's become quite faceless," says Julia. "It's like on Top Of The Pops, you'll have a band on with two daft dancers...
She notices the tape recorder and breaks into a bout of giggles.
"People like to be scruffy nowadays," she continues. "Image isn't... well, it's all right, but there should be more shouldn't there?"
Tony: "I just think there should be loads of variety. That's what I feel. I'd like to be able to wear one pair of trousers one day and a completely different pair the next."
Julia:"You've got a trouser obsession."
Tony: "That's cos I've only got one pair."
Should bands pay more attention to their image then?
"I think you should do what you wanna do," argues Julia.
Tony: "Bands try to put themselves in certain categories, don't they? Having said
that, who does that?"
Julia: "A lot of people do. Course they do. It's obvious if you see how people have been in the past and suddenly they'll look something else."
Tony: "But you should be allowed to change everyday. If your image is, We haven't got an image, then that's your image innit?"
It's a funny old world. Others bleed The Doors to death without arousing suspicion, while WOT - by far the most enticing, exciting and imaginative outfit to grace planet pop for a long time - are forced to live down comparisons with Morrison and his mob.
"We've been compared to practically everyone," sighs Adge. "I was going to compile a list of all the people we've been compared to. There's been quite a few, especially in the beginning. The Teardrop Explodes..."
Tony:"Oh dear, I don't like that one."
Adge:"The Foundations, Hawkwind."
Pat Cash and Hawkwind. Vic Reeves and The Foundations. World Of Twist are truly something special.
But what exactly are they - an all-out assault on blandness?
Tony: "Yeah, we are actually. There's no doubt about it. Which is pretty weird, cos we're quite boring a lot of the time."
Julia: "I'll second that."
Tony' "That's the twist...