World Of Twist

TrackSingle / Album
The StormCirca YR 55
She's A RainbowCirca YR 55
Blackpool Tower SuiteCirca YRTX 55
Sons Of The StageCirca YR 62
Life And DeathCirca YR 62
SweetsQuality Street
Lose My WayQuality Street
The SpringQuality Street
The SausageCaff Corporation CAFF 16
New Electric Pop And SoulWe Are Icerink

spotify-logo-primary-horizontal-dark-background-rgb-sm

 

World Of Twist photo 1

World Of Twist (l to r): MC Shells, Andy Hobson, Angela Reilly, Alan “Adge” Frost, Gordon King, Tony Ogden – photo by James Fry

 

Contributor: Stuart Huggett

With an unfashionable fondness for cabaret and glam rock and an ambitious stage show realised on a shoestring budget, World Of Twist were one of the oddest bands of the Madchester scene. They released only a handful of singles and one flawed album but their brief spell in the spotlight sparked an enduring love among their fans, blossoming into musical and artistic tributes long after the band had split.

World Of Twist’s vinyl debut came in the spring of 1990 when their song The Storm was picked for Home, a diverse compilation of north west bands on the Sheer Joy label. The band’s roots went back to mid-80s Sheffield, however, with a six-piece line-up fronted by James Fry. In retrospect, the Sheffield influence on World Of Twist is huge, with the yearning glamour of ABC (fronted by Fry’s brother Martin), the visual sensibilities of The Human League and the make-do electronics of Cabaret Voltaire all elements of the group’s approach.

By the time they recorded The Storm, the band had moved back to their native Manchester and Fry had left to pursue photography. Drummer Tony Ogden stepped up as singer and co-songwriter with the only other member of the Sheffield line-up to remain, guitarist Gordon King. The group was rebuilt with synth players Andy Hobson, Adge and MC Shells (aka Julia Vesuvius) and visual artist Angela Reilly on board. Signing to Virgin subsidiary Circa, a new version of The Storm was finally released as single in November and promoted with a memorable TV performance on The Word, the lithe, leather-shirted Ogden’s pleas for shelter and understanding swept away in waves of swirling, crashing synths.

On the B-side came the first of World Of Twist’s dives into pop’s forgotten past with a tight cover of the Rolling Stones’ plastic-psych confection She’s A Rainbow. Thanks to the Soup Dragons’ success with their version of I’m Free, adding a baggy twist to the Stones was very much in vogue at the time (Creation Records veteran The Jazz Butcher also got in on the act with a cover of We Love You, credited to the J.B.C., the same year). The song would be one of legendary Manchester producer Martin Hannett’s last recordings before his death, although the band were planning to work with him further, with the chopped up 12″ version still displaying flashes of his playfulness and invention.

In place of a standard remix 12″, World Of Twist released the bold Blackpool Tower Suite. The record’s A-side is a thrilling 10-minute medley, rushing through an untitled opening instrumental, a deliciously daft mid-section hymn to Blackpool Tower itself (“Two miles high, she’s made of steel / And you can see her from the wheel”) and a final crash through The Storm. Even with this epic display of the band’s imagination, the single still couldn’t creep higher than number 42, a position they’d never beat.

With former Clock DVA drummer Nick Sanderson on board, World Of Twist started 1991 as one of the year’s most hotly tipped bands, Record Mirror leading the way with the band’s only music press cover feature. March’s second single Sons Of The Stage was another piece of bonkers genius, a salute to the unifying power of the live experience that worked equally well as a hymn to clubbing (“The floor’s an ocean and this wave is breaking / Your head is gone, your body’s shaking”). More so than the silver foil labyrinth of The Storm, the Sons Of The Stage video highlighted the inventiveness of World Of Twist’s visual ideas, the band performing in caverns of white fur while a wheel emblazoned with the words Rock And Roll spun endlessly behind them.

Sons Of The Stage was coupled with an infectious cover of the Sly Stone-penned Life And Death, recorded variously by Abaco Dream, Joe Hicks and the Chairmen Of The Board. For my money, the remix on the vinyl formats, which included an amusing ‘nude’ picture disc, is the definitive one, although it’s the longer 12″ version (that came out, ironically, only on CD) that’s available today. Plugged with a feature on Snub TV, Sons Of The Stage should have been a big single but again fell short of the top 40.

Nevertheless, for many fans, this was the World Of Twist’s finest moment. Keen followers Noel and Liam Gallagher were among those besotted: Noel considered naming the brothers’ band Sons Of The Stage before settling on Oasis, while for a time they would use it as their intro music at gigs. Liam would eventually cover the song with his group Beady Eye, both live and on the B-side of their debut single Bring The Light.

After his success with The Storm, Sons Of The Stage and Life And Death, it would have made sense for World Of Twist to work with producer Clif Brigden again on their debut album. Instead, the lion’s share of the sessions were handled by The Grid’s Dave Ball and Richard Norris, and October’s eventual album Quality Street found much of the group’s quirkiness watered down, with inferior new mixes of The Storm and Sons Of The Stage not helping.

Even so, lead single Sweets (“An attempt to write the most horrible love song of all time”, Gordon King claims in the album’s reissue notes) proved that The Grid’s more gentle approach to World Of Twist’s songs did sometimes hit the bullseye. With a flourish of trumpet, album opener Lose My Way found Tony Ogden passionately and convincingly proclaiming his love, and should have been a single in its own right, instead of buried on the B-side of an unnecessary, last-ditch reissue of She’s A Rainbow the following year.

At the time, The Spring revealed one failing of the album, its wide-eyed, trees and rainbows lyrics totally out of step with a music scene that had gone beyond its Summer Of Love ecstasy honeymoon as harder sounds took hold in club and rock music. Now its holding on to innocence is its charm, especially its final emergence into blue morning skies, milk bottles and church bells. Incidentally, digging back through my collection of tapes turned up Ogden and MC Shells’ genial March ’91 appearance on Mark Radcliffe’s Radio 5 show Hit The North, popping into the studio for an interview on the eve of their London Astoria gig with a demo of The Spring, as well as a later live session on the programme from 27th November, whose thundering versions of Lose My Way, Sons Of The Stage, On The Scene and Life And Death outstrip the Quality Street ones.

Dropped by Circa Records, that was almost it for World Of Twist. Creation offered a deal but the band couldn’t agree terms and, worse, Ogden no longer wished to be the frontman. Following his cameo in the Sweets video, avowed fan Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne helped keep their name alive a little longer, first issuing three songs recorded in 1986 by the James Fry line-up of the band as a 7″ on his Caff Corporation label. A-side The Sausage is a saxophone and synthesiser led cabaret instrumental that shows how ahead of the game World Of Twist were, exploring the lurid musical moods that Sheffield contemporaries Pulp would hone to a winning formula soon after. With Fry on vocals, the B-sides are tongue in cheek plunges through rock‘n’roll abandon (Skidding Into Love) and Barry Gray Orchestra sci-fi madness (Space Rockit), great fun but, like all Caff releases, a bugger to track down.

Saint Etienne’s second lifeline came with the release of We Are Icerink, a sampler album of their Icerink label that included the anthemic New Electric Pop And Soul, the last new song released under the World Of Twist name. By this point, though, the band had split, with King and Sanderson joining Fry to form Earl Brutus (also on Icerink) while World Of Twist was now just a temporary name of convenience for Ogden and his new collaborator John West.

Sadly, Tony Ogden and Nick Sanderson are both no longer with us. An expanded reissue of Quality Street was released by 3 Loop Music, who also reissued both Earl Brutus albums and signed Fry’s current band The Pre New. Tony Ogden’s numerous recordings with John West (two albums, two EPs and a retrospective compilation, Man, Myth & Music, that includes New Electric Pop And Soul and other songs intended for a second World Of Twist album) can be found on Bandcamp, with all monies donated to Ogden’s family.

Falling just past the Madchester peak, but prefiguring and influencing the Britpop scene to follow, World Of Twist were perhaps just too bizarre to capitalise on their cult appeal in time. For those who were there, however, whether they caught their extravagant live shows or just their mind-boggling, seize the moment television appearances, this unique bunch of individuals burned their way into their memories. Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller sums up music’s loss in a statement he’s returned to on banners and posters throughout his career, We Miss The World Of Twist.

 

World Of Twist photo 2

 

Tony Ogden (1962–2006)

Nick Sanderson (1961–2008)

 

World Of Twist fan site

Quality Street 2CD package (3 Loop Music)

Tony Ogden archive at Bandcamp

World Of Twist/Tony Ogden unreleased tracks (on Soundcloud)

World Of Twist – complete Peel Session – 25th June 1991

World Of Twist biography (iTunes)

Stuart Huggett cut his teeth writing fanzines and blogs and running tiny indie labels in Hastings, before moving to Brighton and fluking his way into an on-off career contributing to NME, The Quietus and more. His blog is here.

TopperPost #742

1 Comment

  1. Rob Morgan
    Oct 1, 2018

    Fantastic post on an great overlooked band. “Sons of the stage” should have been number one for three months.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

↓