The world if full of great lost bands but perhaps the greatest lost band from Manchester was World Of Twist. Frontman Tony Ogden died in July 2006 but their legacy still lives on. Liam Gallagher’s new band Beady Eye have covered World of Twist single ”Sons Of The Stage’ and there’s a new generation about to discover this wonderful band explains John Robb.
World Of Twist are the great lost band from Manchester’s music history. The people that know, know and they get talked about with great excitement by anyone who can remember them including Liam Gallagher, who as a 18 year old youth saw the band play their classic sold out gig at Manchester’s Ritz- a night so legendary that everyone who was there feels blessed. Liam loved the band so much that his new project has covered the World Of Twist song Sons Of The Stage, hoping to put the spotlight back on this key band. Ask Liam about them and he still recalls their genius.
”World of Twist were a top band. I remember going to see them at the Ritz.
I was buzzing, what was girl called? Shells or something, the Edge or Adge on the piano, top band man I remembered him Tony when we used to rehearse at the Boardwalk in Oasis. He used to come in to our room, I think he used to rehearse there and he would glide along the wall as if in a spy movie, close the door and slide around the wall like we wouldn’t noticed him and I would carry on singing and he would go along the wall, bend down and pick up something and then glide back along wall and out the door- and I would think, why don’t you walk past us and get what you wanted (laughs) . Top band . Top band. What a dude.’
I can still remember about 20 years ago when I was living in West Didsbury in South Manchester, it was the tail end of Madchester or whatever you want to call it and everything was in meltdown. The scene was dying and the drugs were doing no-one any good. There seemed to be nowhere left for the scene to go and then this cassette was handed to me.
On it was a demo version of World Of Twist’s ”The Storm’. I was blown away. I could pick out the melodic reference to the Stooges ”Penetration’ and I loved the way they twisted that with psychedelia and northern soul, it was the perfect escape route for Manchester- a smart, witty band who were tripping out but also made great pop.
A week later I interviewed them in what is now called The Onion pub in Withington, an old man’s boozer that no-one ever went in at the time. It was a few paragraphs for Sounds music paper. The band were a collection of off the wall individuals- a suave, cool, long haired guitar player Gordon King, the fairly manic and highly intelligent Tony Ogden, the demure MC Shells grouped around the pub table. They had a concept and an idea of what they were trying to do that was far ahead of any band at this stage of the game and had been around for some time in various guises. When they talked they had that bedsit encyclopedic knowledge of pop music and were immersed in the bric n’ brac of its culture.
”The Storm’ came out on a compilation of local bands and was the stand out track and they started to pick up radio play.
The band were signed to Circa and the industry machine started trying to make them a pop band. The thing was they already were a pop band, the best pop band on the scene, they didn’t need any advice but at least Circa had the money for them to realise their dreams.
The elaborate stage sets and the pure vision of Tony Ogden and Gordon King was realised and the band took the opposite route of the dressed down Mancunian bands of the time. This was like Roxy Music for the space age with the music to match and Tony Ogden was a brilliant front man as he flexed his mic cable and did all the right moves.
They played some key gigs like at the afformentioned night at the Ritz in Manchester where Tony came on stage all wrapped in tin foil which was unraveled-as a reference to the video for ”ËThe Storm’.
It was a brilliant gig and one that many people still talk about in awe years later.
They covered the Rolling Stones ”She’s A Rainbow’ for the follow up to ”The Storm’ and their debut album coame out twith the band dressed in 19th century costumes on the cover. The album didn’t get break out of cult status and was living proof that being the best band in the world at any given time doesn’t mean you get the breakthrough.
They didn’t get massive, their singles just missed the top 40 and Circa dropped them- there was an offer on the table from Creation Records but somehow that never happened- if only it had happened, Mcgee and Creation would have been perfect for the band and they fell apart and drifted away.
Tony Ogden was quite brilliant. He was one of those handful of people who have THE IDEA but it didn’t do him any good and he disappeared from the scene and was unwell. I will always remember him as the charismatic frontman of World of Twist and sharing a rehearsal room with him where he kindly let is mess around for free in his railway arch next door to where the Stone Roses had once done those legendary Warehouse parties.
If World Of Twist never became as big as many of their contemporaries on the Manchester music scene, their influence has been massive. Noel Gallagher was one of many who were enamored with the band – he nearly called Oasis Sons of the Stage after a World of Twist song and was always at their gigs around the city along with all the other heads in town- they ere deeply respected in Manchester and loved for taking the esoteric and pop genius ideas and making them understandable.
They were also supported by Pulp a couple of times and it’s often been wondered if there was a crossover of ideas at this point in time. Pulp’s deserved huge mid nineties success was great but you just couldn’t help wondering if World Of Twist could have had the same- the two bands were similar in many senses- seasoned dole musicians, lost in a world of pop culture with the smarts to twist it around and great off the wall frontmen. Pulp got the pay day and World Of Twist didn’t-it has to be down to record labels.
World of Twist’s bubblegum pop was the perfect bookend to the Manchester baggy scene which was drawing to a close in the early Nineties.
Born in Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire, in 1962, Ogden had moved to Sheffield and formed the band in 1985 with Jamie Fry (brother of the ABC frontman Martin Fry) on vocals and himself on drums. Pulp were also struggling in Sheffield at the time and the two bands shared a kitchen-sink glamour and an esoteric love for great pop and Northern Soul atmospherics.
With the explosion of interest in Manchester’s music in the late 1980s, Ogden moved back from Sheffield. Changing the band’s line-up, he switched to vocals, with his long-term creative partner Gordon King (they had met at Stockport College) remaining on guitar. World of Twist emerged from the city’s southern bedsit land in 1989 with a sound all their own, a sleek combination of the sass of Roxy Music, the speed-driven dance-floor stomp of Northern Soul, the bubbling trips of early acid house, the English eccentricity and soundscapes of Joe Meek and even a dash of the Stooges with a touch of prime-time English psychedelia. In short, they were magnificent.
That first demo, featuring the classic song ”ËThe Storm’ was the best demo I had heard for a long time and it was quickly passed round town. World of Twist were swiftly signed by a record industry still picking over the crumbs of the Manchester scene and there was a big press buzz around the band.
”The Storm’ stalled at 42 in the charts and their brilliant updating of the Rolling Stones’ ”She’s a Rainbow’ (incidentally one of Martin Hannett’s last ever productions before his death in 1991) also just missed the Top Forty. World of Twist’s dÃÂ©but album, Quality Street (1991) is the great lost classic from the period.
The band were full of ideas, that outrageous stage set, with the elaborate layers of tin foil and Shells’ keyboards in a shell and the spinning rock n roll sign were pure genius. This sort of fantastic art-school japery was the mark of the man – Ogden had the innate cool and nervous charm to pull it off.
With expectations still high, World of Twist started work on a follow-up album but it all ground to a halt when Ogden decided he didn’t want to be the singer any more. Although auditions were held for a new singer, the band imploded and the second album was never released. The demos for it are brilliant and point to their potential.
Pulp, St Etienne, Intastella and a whole raft of shiny new pop bands were influenced by them, whilst bands like Air and more recently Goldfrapp have proved how successful World of Twist might have been.
Tony Ogden disappeared. Burnt out, he retreated back home to live with his parents in Stockport. There was talk of occasional projects, but also long silences. There were occasional sightings of him in Manchester, almost unrecognisable, with a beard, driving through town – and he still had that spark about him, that twitchy charisma and fiery enthusiasm.
At the time of his death in 2006, he had been working on demos for a new band, the Bubblegum Secret Pop Explosion. They were great songs, and proof that Ogden’s unique pop vision still remained intact.
World Of Twist deserve to be more than just a footnote in Manchester music history. This was a lost opportunity and a brilliant band, hopefully the Beady Eye cover and Liam’s enthusiasm for the band will mean they get rediscovered.