A Law Unto Themselves: World Of Twist In Their Own Words
, December 11th, 2013 08:32
Following the release of a re-mastered version of their first and only album, Quality Street, Jim Fry and Gordon King tell Julian Marszalek about a band out of step with the world
The history of rock and pop is littered with the debris and detritus of bands, dreamers and chancers who have eagerly reached for the glittering prizes of fame, fortune and adulation only to have their hopes and dreams crushed like a bug under the heel of a boot. Of course, much like the tragi-comic Les McQueen character in the League of Gentlemen, the vast majority deserve to languish there and the memory of their existence is kept alive only by the participants whose bitterness is fuelled by the ever gnawing truth that, through a combination of a lack of talent and unhappy circumstance, destiny was never going to be on their side.
Yet there are those whose trajectory is curtailed all too soon. Hurtling at near impossible speed with the goal tantalisingly close to their grasp, the wheels come off at the crucial moment to wreak havoc, chaos and injuries to those on board whilst leaving fans desperate. These are the bands whose promise was never fully realised; these are the ones that should’ve left a far greater imprint. Yet for those who were there at the time, its a different story - for a brief moment of time these are the bands that burn with the intensity of a thousand suns before being cruelly snuffed out.
It’s in the latter category that you’ll find World Of Twist. Emerging from the Madchester melange at the beginning of the 90s, the band’s brand of psychedelic bubblegum pop and immersive installation-based live shows seemed to come from another time and place that marked them a breed apart from the groups that emerged from the post-industrial North-West. More in tune with the surreal comedy of the time than with their Manchester counterparts, it’s little surprise that Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer were roped in to introduce one of their early shows.
More than any band at the time World of Twist held a deep-rooted love and understanding of pop music. More than any band at the time World of Twist knew the value of glamour and style. More than any band at the time World of Twist made an effort. With a stage set that resembled a lagoon designed by Gerry Anderson, the World of Twist live experience was a less a gig and more a happening, a joyful celebration of music, art and concepts.
Initially formed in Sheffield by Gordon King and Jim Fry, World of Twist’s line-ups mutated until finally settling on the collection of individuals who brought the idea to life: singer Tony Ogden, Gordon King on guitar, Andy Hobson on synths, Julia McGreechin aka MC Shells providing sound effects and Alan Frost aka Adge and Angela Reilly working on visual effects. Later augmented by Nick Sanderson on drums, Fry became the band’s photographer and sometime lighting technician. Not for nothing had artist Jeremy Deller, a huge fan of the band, referred to them as "…the Roxy Music of their time".
But there was so much more. World of Twist were one of the first bands to harness the possibilities of retro-futurism and it was a move that clearly inspired much of what was to follow in the years after their demise, most notably with Pulp, a band who’d supported World of Twist.
With so much promise and so much good will behind them, what went wrong? Despite well-received Radio 1 sessions for Mark Goodier and John Peel, World of Twist failed to crack the Top 40 with the critically lauded singles ‘The Storm'/'She’s a Rainbow’ and ‘Sons of the Stage’ while the highly anticipated debut album, Quality Street, released on October 1991, was met with a near universal sigh of disappointment from fans and critics alike. Consensus has it that the blame lies with the production duo The Grid who failed to comprehend the art and concepts that where at the very heart of the band while the weak mastering led Tony Ogden to later tell The Guardian that, "We’d spent £250,000 making an album with the smallest bollocks in history." Factor in internecine problems and record company pressure and World of Twist imploded to become a footnote of an almost impossibly exciting time. Tony Ogden retreated to his Manchester home to become something of a reclusive figure while Gordon King, Jim Fry and Nick Sanderson re-emerged with the conceptual hooligan glam of Earl Brutus. Sadly, Tony Ogden died in 2006 and Nick Sanderson passed away in 2008.
Yet for good or ill they made their mark. The Gallagher brothers almost named their band Sons of the Stage and much of the stylistic posturing of Britpop owed a massive debt to World of Twist. For those who were there, World of Twist occupy a special place it the heart as much as the memory but now, 22 years after the release of their ill-fated debut, it seems that World of Twist are ready to atone for the failings of Quality Street to those whose disappointment was felt at the time whist gaining a new generation admirers. Newly re-mastered and re-released, the fresh edition breathes life into an album let down by the technical process behind it. This is something altogether more muscular, and rather than pouring over what could have been, it instead allows a new enjoyment and perspective that sits comfortably within the 21st-Century and their own ideas of retro-futurism.
The Quietus meets with Gordon King and Jim Fry in a South London boozer on a drizzly Monday night and over the course of four hours and much cask-conditioned ale and stout, the pair tells the story of one of Manchester’s great, lost bands.
"It feels a bit wrong talking about this posthumously and Tony not sticking his oar in," says Gordon. "I'd love to know what he thinks about this re-master. I think he'd love it, to be honest."
It’s clear that he’s pleased with the results.
"It sounds so much better now than when it first came out," he continues. "I often thought that if I ever came back to Quality Street then I'd like to remix it but that would be wrong because I'd be coming at it knowing what I now know about guitar music and it would no longer be in the spirit in which it was recorded. I don't know what's been done with the re-mastering but you put this on and you go, 'Wow!' It does sound remarkably different."
It does indeed. But what can’t be changed is the band’s history. All human life is here: highs, lows and all points in between. Here, then, is the story of World of Twist by those who were there…
In the beginning there were Sheffield…
Gordon King: Jim and I moved to Sheffield in about 1982 because we were massively into what was happening there. It was an obvious place to go; it was the best fucking place on earth for music if you liked that kind of thing, which we did. Stuff like Cabaret Voltaire, Clock DVA and the Human League, obviously. It just kind of drew you there and we had a brilliant time. It was funny because we got there and ABC were just starting out and that was really exciting but we’d been there for about a couple of years – maybe less than that – and as a city it was pretty dour. But after Human League and ABC and what was in the charts, what was happening below that was fucking boring as shit. It was just fucking bands doing industrial funk and all that shit and it was really dreary. I’m not naming any names but if that was the next wave that was coming along… it was really, really dull.
I don’t know if we had any motivation to get a band together but when we did get together we had a borrowed Casio keyboard from Jim’s brother [ABC frontman Martin Fry]. We didn’t have any instruments; they were all borrowed. It was just me and Jim writing these songs and the first one we wrote was called ‘Space Rocket’ and it was all very Gerry Anderson and just stupid. It was very 60s influenced. It was almost the antithesis of what Sheffield was all about; it was the most un-Sheffieldy thing. I’d love to go back there and revisit it because at the time I’m sure we thought we were really fucking clever.
Jim Fry: The poster said, "The North’s Number 1 Vocal Group" with a picture of Gordon on it.
GK: So it was just Jim and me and then we got this mate of ours from Northampton called Rory to join us on sax but the turning point was when Tony Ogden joined. Tony was just this absolute loon from Manchester who Jim knew a lot better than I did.
JF: A lot of people of our age went to uni and if you lived in Bramall and didn’t go to uni then you married the estate agent’s daughter and became an estate agent. And Manchester was a bit of hike. You’d go at the weekend and see The Clash or something like that. But Tony was the only bloke who ever had a drum kit and he’d played for a mate’s band and we took the music thing very, very seriously. Tony was a music obsessive as well but a lot of his mates weren’t. He wanted to explore the world of Jimi Hendrix in his head. He was a really smart guy and he was really intrigued by how seriously we took it all and that we’d moved to Sheffield just because we liked Human League and when we did start showing signs that we were really doing something, he was over like a shot. But Tony didn’t really like Sheffield, he didn’t like living there. He had some really good mates there so he had this idea that he’d live in Chapel-en-le-Frith and he’d commute in and he was really determined.
GF: At the time he was running a freight company called Alligator Express with our future manager, Dave Hardy.
JF: Logistics were never going to be a problem!
GF: He’d load all his drums three times a week into his mum’s car.
JF: There was a side to Tony where you didn’t piss around. And when he got involved everything went up a gear. It was a bit like the real deal.
GK: I hate to say the word 'mad' because Tony wasn’t mad but his personality was just kind of fucking strange but he was now kind of driving it.
JF: Tony was a proper free spirit and there was a kind of 20% hippy-ness about Tony. He went to the Stonehenge Festival and came back with bruises because he’d been fighting in pitched battles with a load of grebos. He liked the idea of being a free spirit but not in a pretentious way; he was the real deal. That was part of the magnetic side of Tony for me. But he also did what the fuck he wanted so when he could see that something wasn’t right you felt it. We did this little gig in and I’d forgotten some words and he was shouting at me from behind the kit, "Jim! What the fucking hell are you doing?" That kind of stuff is priceless now and I wish there were more people like that around. There’s a kind of Kevin Rowland-ness about it all.
GK: He knew some really rough people in town; not the kind of people me or Jim would hang out with. He knew some real nutters, do you know what I mean? He was kind of hard, in a sense. He was absolutely fearless. I remember we went for a meal once in Sheffield and there were a bunch of students laughing at him so he laid them all out in the street. He went straight across the road fucking fighting them.
The first time I met him was through his brother Tim who was a fully-fledged hippy which is exactly what I was; I had the whole fucking hair and patched jeans and everything and I was always trying to get in with them lot. They had quite a big house in Cheadle Hulme and he had this drum kit and guitars and everything set up upstairs – it was like a flat of his own within this house – and we were all lying about listening to Tangerine Dream and he comes and he starts knocking the fuck out of this drum kit. He couldn’t have been older than about 16 and I was like, "Fucking hell! I never want to meet him again!"
JF: There was no caution with Tony and I think that’s a really nice thing.
Anyway, in Sheffield we set up this club called The Wigwam. We hired the club which we got for about 40 quid or something and we could charge a quid on the door and suddenly me and Gordon were like making something like a hundred quid each and we’d come in and feel like a king. Tony said that he wanted to do the door and Sheffield could be a bit rough on a Saturday night and on top of that there was the whole thing about the miners and nobody's got any work or any money and there were local gangs hanging around. But Tony has this suit made, this black really slick suit and he put lipstick on and he was standing there speeding out of his mind on the door and he was like, "Yeah! Yeah! There’s some really nice lads in there, ladies! Why don’t you fucking come in?" He had the loudest voice anybody ever heard and it'd resonate in any building and he had this Tom Jones-with-lipstick thing going on. And there was a lot of Northern Soul involved. It was like Andy Warhol’s Factory but a Sheffield version and we had all the students and townies down.
GK: I had all this satin that I’d got in Northampton and I put all these arrows on it and had The Wigwam on it and it looked really brilliant. But it was like one of those really depressing clubs from the 70s and we covered up all the pictures of the naked ladies they had on the wall. And the bar staff had to wear these bikini dresses. It was really sleazy.
JF: I would argue now, in retrospect, that what went on in The Wigwam informed a lot of what happened with World of Twist before they got signed; the oil wheel, the heads, the soul music, the Hendrixiness of it all. We all then kind of gave up on Sheffield. I moved to London to be a photographer and Gordon moved back to Manchester and as he started to get the band together I got into photographing bands and everybody just kind of shifted roles.
GK: The pivotal thing that happened while we were in Sheffield – we’d expanded by this point and Andy Hobson had joined on bass as a 21-year-old student – was that Tony had this flat there and he’d bought this Portastudio. I remember he’d got his head around it really quickly and we were recording quite decent demos and then one evening we went round to his house and he said, "I’ve done a few tracks." He played them to us and he was singing on them and we were like, "Fucking hell! This is so much better than anything we’ve done!" We saw he was a composer. He’d written a song called 'Ice Rink' and it was so far ahead of anything we would have written.
JF: One record that really inspired us at the time was 'World Shut Your Mouth' by Julian Cope. He was a proper free spirit too with a real respect for drug taking and comparisons could be made to what Tony was like. Tony was like that and had a similar background: drugs, music, well read… he once put masking tape over the cover of the book he was reading and I said, "Why have you done that?" and he said, "Because the guy on the front of the book was annoying me and stopping my enjoyment of the book." And he knew then that if you have a shit album cover then no one's going to buy your record. He was really good at getting into his own mind.
GK: We had this ethos quite early on that what we all wanted to do was to create this perfect band and then just fuck it up and really ruin it. At the time, Top of the Pops would have been the apex of everything that we wanted to do so the plan would’ve been to go into a shitty East End pub and round up a load of blokes from there and send them in as World of Twist. It was supposed to be a really violent clash of something that was complex and sophisticated with something that was knob-headed and stupid. There was a really destructive element there in that if someone thought they had the measure of you then you’d tell them to fuck off. I don’t think Tony ever lost that.
It was conceptual but I think KLF did it better and there were certainly better conceptual artists working in the field of pop but I think we had a definite strangeness about it. But it wasn’t about chucking a load of influences together and saying, "Aren’t we fucking clever?" It wasn't about that. It was about making something that clashes really unpleasantly. But we didn't want to make shit music. I did think that we wanted to be successful. I think we did. But by the time we got back to Manchester that was certainly on the agenda. But we did think we were unbelievably clever.
Manchester: Hard blokes smiling
GK: Moving back to Manchester was kind of inevitable. Sheffield had run its course and once you’d taken the sparkle out of it – which for us was ABC and Human League – you were left with a shit Northern city where no one had a job.
But we didn't move back for a specific reason. I moved back in with my mum for six months and I got a job on the community programme building dry stone walls. I never went to the Hacienda at the time but I distinctly remember we were all sharing this house with Andy Hobson and Martin Wright from Intastella and I didn’t go out much at the time because I was in my staying-in mode. Andy came in one Saturday night from the Hacienda and he was just beaming going, "Fucking hell! You’ve got to come down! Everyone there is doing these really weird dances!" He said it was really funny; there was nothing cool about it – just all these really hard blokes smiling everywhere doing these silly dances.
We were never into the dance side of things; I mean, we collided with it. The Hacienda was a laugh but the music was a pile of shit. Honestly, it was rubbish. I’m certainly not going to be making friends with anyone who eulogises about that acid house thing.
We just brought back that spirit from Sheffield. Tony would lock himself in his room for hours and hours. He was living at his mum's and I'd cycle there three times a week but we'd never compose together. He'd do his bit and then go downstairs to watch a bit of TV and leave me for a few hours and I'd kick around and do my little bit. It was quite strange; we never sat there discussing it. He’d come in and go, "That sounds good" and then he'd bugger off again. I remember when he got this gear and it was really cutting edge. His dad had died and he spent all his inheritance by investing it in the band.
I was the singer for a while and writing all the lyrics. We still had all this piss-poor equipment and I remember saying to Andy and Tony, "If you think I can't cut it the just say so." We’d had this rehearsal and they said, "We’ve been having these discussions and we don’t want you to sing any more." Which is a bit like being told that you smell except you can't do anything about it. But it made such perfect sense for Tony to become the singer. That was the next stage.
Tony then started producing these immaculate demos which just blew us away. He'd be up all night producing this stuff which was just fantastic. I remember taking this train trip to London and playing this demo and thinking, "If I know someone who does stuff as good as this then I’m going to be world famous." That was our first major disappointment: Tony was so good at producing these home demos that we thought that when we get to Strawberry Studios in Stockport we were going to sound unbelievable and it kind of went the other way really. Tony couldn’t spend all night in there getting the sound perfect.
But those demos created a buzz and rightly so; they were quite unique pieces of music. We did a few gigs as a trio and then we got Adge in who we knew from years back and got him to work on the art side of things. As for the show, we wanted to do something like The Residents; I’d seen some film of them performing and I thought that we needed to do something unusual. We wanted to create a really strange experience. The first gig we did was packed. It was for Andrew Berry who was kind of like the hairdresser to the stars but it would’ve been packed anyway. It was a bit like The Stone Roses. When they played Manchester it was always packed but if they played St Helens there’d be no one there. So if you walked into these gigs in Manchester you’d think, "Fucking hell, what am I missing out on?" It was a bit like that for us. We kind of carried on like that for a while and it was kind of on a plate for us. We got press fairly quickly and we got signed fairly quickly.
JF: The big gig, I think looking at it as an observer, was the Manchester International. It was a Saturday night and Vic Reeves introduced it. We asked Vic and Bob to do it and they just turned up and did it. And Mick Hucknall of all people was in the audience!
GK: Tony didn't want Vic and Bob to do it.
JF: But fucking hell – they sold out the International on a Saturday night. We'd spent all afternoon trying to put the curtains up and they didn't work! But that was a massive gig; it was a real rite of passage. It was great. It was a really good night.
GK: The Manchester Ritz was the one. We booked that and then said, "Fucking hell, this is going to be embarrassing!" It was a few days before Christmas and we really thought we were going to fall flat on our faces. You could get by at the International but this was the one. But selling out the Ritz was a shock as well. It's funny listening to some blokes now, especially since Beady Eye covered 'Sons Of The Stage', listening to their version on YouTube and then ours and saying, "This is shit! Beady Eye rock!" and then you get someone from Manchester going, "Fuck off! Tony Odgen was brilliant! Beady Eye are wankers!"
But it’s funny the way it was adopted. Anything that was kind of Madchester was adopted and we had the same sort of fans as The Stone Roses but we were nothing to do with that. We didn’t feel any kinship with any of them. Personally, I liked Happy Mondays; conceptually they were fucking unbelievable. I remember the first we went to see them. The Fall were on at The Ritz and Happy Mondays were supporting. We got in there and our jaws just hit the floor because it was like looking at all these blokes who’d mug you in Belle Vue but not only were they there on stage but they were in the fucking coolest band on Earth. So not only can these fucking scallies get what they want just by taking it, they were also this amazing band. I was really shocked but I never got that from The Stone Roses.
JF: I remember [music journalist and man-about-town] John Robb saying at the time that no one could really tell where World of Twist came from. Or what music they were listening to. You just couldn’t nail it. You could hear a bit of Bowie, a bit of Hendrix, a bit of The MC5 and The Stooges. But to an untrained eye it seemed as if this band had just landed and didn’t make any sense at all.
GK: With that conceptual thing, World of Twist wasn’t informed by anything going on in Manchester. We learned it all from Dexys and ABC and people like that. World of Twist were a law unto themselves. You know, Tony had his leather shirt and it was part of a jigsaw that didn’t fit.
JF: From a punter’s point of view it was a great spectacle.
This is the The Big Time now!
GF: Which labels were chasing us at the time? Nobody. There’s no sort of Beatles story. We were being chased by Circa but that was pretty much it. I think I’m right in saying that we were pretty much the last band to be signed as part of the Madchester stampede. We were definitely in the last wave. They were regarded as quite a cool label at the time but if we hadn’t have signed to them I don’t think anybody would’ve signed us. We certainly didn’t have anyone squabbling over us. They were just the first one that came along.
JF: When World of Twist signed, they said to me, "Could you organise a little signing party?" so I hired this bar in Covent Garden. Things had significantly changed in that you’d been scrabbling around for beer to suddenly there was money behind the bar and we got some proper DJ gear in and some proper lights and we had this party. The next day we were all sat in a hotel somewhere near Queensway and I remember Tony going, "This is the big time, now, Gordon. This means the next time I'm pissed I won’t have to get done for drink driving; I'll just get the chauffeur to crash!" It was all for the taking. There was a real fucking optimism about it all. It was a brilliant time and everyone was raging for this thing to happen. Everyone was up for it.
GK: We’d recorded with Martin Hannett and he was lovely. We got the tail-end of Martin Hannett. The version you see in 24 Hour Paty People…, well, he couldn’t have been more different. We saw the massively overweight Martin. I can remember we met him in this pub in Chorlton but I didn’t know what he looked like. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d bought hundreds of his records in my youth and then this guy turns up and he was like Giant Haystacks with a pair of pince-nez glasses perched on the end of his nose. And was just absolutely charming. He had this notebook with him and he kept writing down these little phrases that you’d come out with and he’d have a little chuckle to himself. He was a really lovely bloke.
I think we were the last band he ever worked with when we did ‘She’s A Rainbow’. We were in Strawberry Studios and working with this lad called Liam and he was their superstar tea-maker who was obviously destined for better things. He was only about 18 and a real whizz-kid and he was paired up with Martin. He was sat there with Martin and I was at the back because I wasn’t very vociferous in the control room. We were listening to the playback and I said, "That sounds really good, that, Martin." The guitar was coming through and I said, "Yeah! That sounds great Martin" but he had his back to me and he said nothing. So I said a bit louder, "Martin! That sounds really good! Leave it like that!" There was still no answer from him so I got up and he was fast asleep! And Liam then said that Martin had been asleep for about an hour-an-a-half. Liam then said that Martin had patched in all these effects on the desk and Liam had been listening to it on the headphones and it sounded absolutely terrible so Liam was just unplugging them all on the desk. So there was Martin thinking he was producing it…
But he was such a nice bloke. We went to his funeral and it was the biggest coffin you’ve ever seen. It was enormous. It was like a skip. But we were massive fans. He may have been difficult to work with during his time but we loved him.
GK: I wish we’d recorded the whole album with Martin, really. To cut a long story short, when we got signed we thought we could choose who want to produce the album. We had a shortlist of candidates we wanted to work with and the main one was Keith Mansfield who’d made 'Everlasting Love' with Love Affair. He was absolutely top of the list and when they called him he was very flattered but he’d been retired for some time and didn’t want to leave his garden. I don’t know if anyone tried to contact Bob Ezrin because he was high on the list as well. The tragedy is that Bob Ezrin would’ve been about 45 at the time and we were thinking that he might have been a pensioner but he wouldn’t have done it. We were also thinking of Todd Rundgren and we ended up with – oh fucking hell, I can’t even say his name – but we ended up with Thomas Dolby’s fucking sound engineer.
It was a funny time; somebody came in to produce your record and you didn't really know them but Tony Ogden should've produced it. He should've produced everything and he should've been given two years to do it in a top studio. Although, obviously, that was never going to happen. And back then everything was formatted so you had to make a dance record. Which was difficult. It was almost like we'd have to do a disco mix to do our record so we’d have people like Youth coming along doing something completely irrelevant to World of Twist. It was all a bit wanky.
When we got together with The Grid we'd kind of explored all avenues. We’d done a few tracks with A Certain Ratio's Martin Moscrop which were really good and he’d been our live sound engineer. It was Nick Sanderson who suggested using Dave Ball and it made perfect sense because we were all massive fans of Soft Cell and that was definitely a reference point for all of us. But we should have been produced by Dave Ball 1982 version because by then The Grid were all about making dance records and I think that's where Dave's head was at so it was a case of him grafting his 1990s head on to what we were doing. But what we needed was a Todd Rundgren. We didn’t need a dance engineer. Fucking hell, Trevor Horn would’ve been perfect.
We had no input into it because I was hardly there. Maybe by then we’d spent too much time in each other's company. We did some recording in Liverpool and we did a stint in Fulham and then we went to Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios and none of us were going to miss out on that one! We all enjoyed that but that was at the mixing stage.
JF: Do you remember the night Peter Gabriel came in?
GK: That was just weird. Me and Nick were just fucking besotted by Genesis. Nick broke into Peter Gabriel's house when he was at boarding school in Bristol.
JF: The opening of 'Over The Border' by Saint Etienne is about Nick breaking into Peter Gabriel's house. That's a tribute to Nick. But I turned up with the photos from the Quality Street shoot at Real World and I decided to stay for dinner and we were told by the maid that 'Mr Peter' was back from WOMAD or wherever. So we all sat down and were told there was an extra place at the table so Gordon said, "Who’s that for?" and we were told it was for Peter Gabriel who was coming in to eat. And suddenly Peter Gabriel turned up and he went round the table introducing himself saying, "Hello, I’m Peter Gabriel." He was a really nice, nice bloke. Back then, we used to have these World Of Twist lighters and Tony goes to him, "I’m Tony Ogden. Have a World Of Twist lighter." And then Nick beat Peter Gabriel at table tennis which is like taking out one of your heroes.
GK: It was good meeting him but he was pretty dull. I remember getting a taxi from Bristol to Real World and the taxi driver was going, "What’s Peter Gabriel like? I believe he’s a very boring man."
GK: The thing with the album was that if you played it in a nightclub then it just didn’t leap out. It did get played and I know it was popular but it just didn’t have the X factor. It wasn't just me; we all thought it. But this new version is great. The guy who did it has a talent for making shit things sound great.
GK: It was a funny time when it came out because we were on our second tour and that was quite ambitious.
JF: We had a big live show. And we had some great support bands like The Clouds and Dr Phibes and the House of Wax Equations and then we went to Rotterdam and played with Sonic Youth and Nirvana and we met them all. Then there was a trip round France with Ride and Ocean Colour Scene when they were a bit Teardrop Explodes. There was always talk of a trip to LA which never happened but the live gigs were fantastic. And we always closed the set with 'Kick Out The Jams'.
Of course, the other big gig was the one we did at the Astoria. It was Sarah Cracknell's first gig with Saint Etienne who were in support. That was a killer show – totally sold-out. And there was this volcano which Adge had built which had come down in a Luton van on its own. It got there and everything had to be fire tested and we were having a massive argument with the riggers who were going, "You’re not bringing that fucking shit in here!" And Adge was completely losing it and in the end it just got dumped outside. And the idea was that MC Shells was going to be Julia Vesuvius and she’d be playing this Roland SH-101 on the volcano. This is the great thing about World Of Twist: they were always stupidly ambitious.
GK: There was one gig we played where they thought The Stone Roses were going to turn up. They had a night at Liverpool Poly and they’d always have a mystery band on and they’d lift this wooden curtain to reveal the mystery band so you’d never really know who’d be on. Anyway, this one particular night the place was absolutely mobbed and the fella who put the night on was going, "This is absolutely brilliant!" But there was this rumour going round that it was The Stone Roses so when the curtain went up and the crowd saw it was us, there was this huge collective heave of disappointment!
JF: A tsunami of disappointment!
GK: We did this live show for ITV called The Late Sessions. Tony went really funny about it because they brought loads of lights in. The gig was at the Sheffield Leadmill and Pulp were supporting and they were really quite bitter about it for some reason. I think it's because we'd both come form Sheffield but they were really quite nasty that night; they wouldn't talk to us or anything.
JF: Yeah, but that's Sheffield all over because no one ever spoke to anyone. World of Twist were as guilty of that as anyone.
GK: But Tony didn't want to play with the lights on. In struck me as being a bit like that footage from the Wigan Casino in 1977. You know - the one where they said all the proper dancers had fucked off so you only had these people who'd only been going for like two weeks and the only way they could film it was with the lights on because normally it was so dark. The ITV producer was saying we'd have to have the lights in and Tony got really angry so he went on just wearing a t-shirt. Watching it now I think, what's your fucking problem? Why don't you wear your shiny black shirt?
JF: I think the 'Sons of the Stage' video is their best performance. When you played live you were on fire and that video captured what was possible. It's funny; you talk about live and you talk about the album, the songs that didn't cut through in the album like 'The Lights' were always a real high point live. Everyone really got into the groove and got completely lost in the music and it was really fucking good head music. It was the definition of a great band but it didn't really shine on the album. They were like two different bands in a sense. The album is very conceptual but there were things that happened live that were amazing. Maybe they should've recorded a live album and then heavily remixed it. That would've been a good idea for the second album.
GK: The gigs were always an event and that was what we always wanted. We'd come on to Small Faces' 'Ogden's Nut Gone Flake' and the lights would go down and you'd get a real fucking buzz. It was amazing. We were good live band and we put on some really fantastic shows.
JF: There was something really free-spirited about it all.
Lose My Way
GK: There were several reasons why Tony stopped singing. I think he was really sick of carrying it. And he really was to quite a large extent. The thing was, we’d all go out as band to a nightclub and we’d all go dancing and whenever I’d get pissed up I’d always be this high-kicking, flamboyant flamenco type – and that was something that I could only be when I was drunk because I was quite an introverted guitarist; I should’ve been in Chapterhouse – but Tony wanted me to be Wayne Kramer to his Rob Tyner. We’d go out together and he’d see me put all these moves together whereas on stage I’d just stand there with my guitar and stare at the floor so he was at the front carrying it and I don’t think that was ever the plan from his point of view. He had this idea that we should all be the focal point. It should’ve been a band and not, as he thought, The Tony Ogden Orchestra and I think it had become that to an extent. But because of his personality we’d all kind of shrunk behind him.
JF: But he really was a brilliant frontman. He really stepped up to it. He didn’t just stand there like a monument. But Tony, like all of us, wanted to be liked but I don’t think he was quite as thick-skinned as he’d have you believe. It’s horrible being the singer. Julia had left us and they’d made a good team. I didn’t find it that much of a surprise when he turned round and said, “Someone else can do the singing.”
GK: But I don’t think he thought that was the end. We all did but he genuinely believed we were all entering a new phase where he’d take a back seat. It became an utter farce. We went away and tried to write a second album and we had this weird two weeks in Wales where we tried to get him to sing so we then suggested Nick became the frontman.
JF: The other thing, there was this knobhead from the label parked outside in his company BMW and he was sat there going, "By 9 o'clock you will have the first side of the album written." And if you look at how Tony or Nick or anyone worked then you know that no one takes on a project like that. It was never, ever a job for World of Twist. It’s that classic thing where you've got this wonderful maverick band who are a law unto themselves and suddenly they're not a law unto themselves. If Tony had been allowed to produce an album over a two-year period then it would've been a devastatingly brilliant album. The story's old, isn't it?
GK: The thing that really saddens me is that Tony became something of a recluse after the band broke up and the world didn't see much more of him. We were his friends and we didn't see much more of him. The sad fact is that we went on and formed Earl Brutus and that was probably Tony's spiritual home. He would've loved the spirit behind Earl Brutus, almost more than World of Twist, I think. He would've got it.
Tony had become reclusive and he’d written all these brilliant songs but his voice was gone. He wasn’t the same and it was a bit like Syd Barrett. But the Tony we remember was really vibrant and a force of nature. If the Tony Odgen who helped form World of Twist had helped form Earl Brutus then I think it would’ve been just unbelievable. We always said, "Come and do something" but he never did.
JF: I think Earl Brutus learned everything about holding it together from World of Twist.
GK: Towards the end he didn't like it. He didn’t like being "Mad" Tony Ogden and he would've liked a year off. Or maybe being like Bowie playing keyboards for Iggy Pop. He just wanted to shrink into the background for a bit and someone else could take over. Where we had three frontmen with Earl Brutus, he could've done that with ease.
We met with Alan McGee and went for a meal with him in Camden. Apparently he was a really big fan of 'Sons of the Stage' and I think he was really into doing something with us. It was like a done deal and the next phase of World of Twist was going to be with Creation and it would've been perfect. We were all entering our 30s so we weren’t wide-eyed but we got back to Manchester and thought, let's get £250,000 out of it. But that was never how Creation worked. So McGee made the very wise decision to side-step us and he decided to go for this other Manchester band called Oasis.
Regrets? I’ve had a few…
GK: I do have some regrets and they’re all mainly tied up with Tony. Sometimes, when I listen to the stuff we didn't put out I think that it sounds better than any of the stuff we did put out. And that’s the regret – that none of it was ever finished.
It's funny; I don't even know if there was a second album. We were lazy as fuck, to be honest. Other bands really do work at it but I don't think we ever rehearsed once. We had this fantastic rehearsal room – we had the best of everything. We had a railway arch just outside of Piccadilly station in Manchester and it was this fucking colossal white elephant which cost us a lot of money per month. I think Nick was the only person who practised which made sense because he was the real musician in the band; he'd been in The Gun Club and Clock DVA and he was like, "Come on! Let’s fucking play!" I don’t think we ever rehearsed for a tour! I mean, how do you waste so much money?
GK: I’m insanely proud of Quality Street. I actually play it for pleasure in the same way I play Earl Brutus for pleasure. I do like 'On The Scene' because that’s such a knob-headed name for a song. That's the other thing about it; it was very tongue-in-cheek. Someone once said that if you try to project humour, especially in-humour in your music then it’s a dangerous route to go down because nobody ever gets it. A year down the line and everybody's going to take it at face value so a song like 'Sweets' was a case of, "Let's write the most horrible set of lyrics that anybody's ever written" but at the end of the day, that's what becomes you.
And it's the same with 'Sons of the Stage'. Simon Reynolds got it spot on in this interview we did with him. We covered 'Kick Out The Jams' and he said that, "World of Twist reduced the song to this incendiary blast of hot air that it so obviously is". We used to listen to The MC5 in particular and not in a clever-clever way and we used to piss ourselves laughing to it. It was this revolutionary pop music but it was so funny. You know, it was like, "Let's have a bit of revolution out there!" and you'd be like, "Fuck off!" It was a scream but we’d love it. I do genuinely love The MC5 and I love them as much as Bobby Gillespie does. Maybe more so. But I don’t think I like it on the same level. I think he gets something out of it that I don't. They were a glam rock band and they were brilliant. But when we did 'Sons of the Stage' it was sort of a pastiche of 'Kick Out The Jams'. It was sort of like, "Let's write a revolutionary rock song." You listen to it 20 years later and you've got "You've gotta get down to the noise and confusion" and it's a joke. And I'm putting my hand up and I'm saying the joke's on us.
This bloke once came up to me and said he'd proposed to his wife with the lyrics of 'Sweets' and I was like, "What the fuck are you on about?" It was just a vile piece of poetry but the joke's on me. Because once the song is out there then it's no longer mine and there’s no point trying to make some kind of in-joke because in the end, all it is, is a set of lyrics and a piece of music.
But yeah, I do stand by it.