It’s been ten years since the death of Tony Ogden (30 May 1962 – 26 July 2006).
Anthony William Ogden was born in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport (Greater Manchester) in 1962. He studied art and design at Stockport College in Greater Manchester. From 1977-1979, Ogden played drums in a punk band, The Blackout, which also included Dave Conner (vocals), Gordon King (bass), James Fry (guitar), and Julia Adamson (guitar) — all fellow art and design students.
In 1982, James Fry and Gordon King were drawn by music to the city of Sheffield (see the documentary: Made in Sheffield). With a Casio MT32 borrowed from Jim’s older brother, ABC‘s Martin Fry, the two began making music together as World of Twist with a friend from Northampton, Rory Connolly, on saxophone. The band’s name was a reference to Decca‘s budget-priced “The World Of…” compilations, launched in 1968 with The World of Mantovani.
Around 1983 they were joined by Ogden (again on drums) and Andy Robins (synthesizer). At the time of his joining World of Twist, Ogen was living in Manchester. Apparently he disliked the idea of living in Sheffield and compromised by commuting from Chapel-en-le-Frith, located midway between the two cities. Ogden was then co-operating a freight company, Alligator Express, with future World of Twist manager, Dave Hardy.
After Robins quit, Andrew Hobson (bass) and Nick Philips (organ) came on board. A collection of demos recorded on a TDK C90 cassette in 1984 or ’85 were released as Wigwam. The tracks included were a cover of “Thunderball,” “44,” “America,” “Casio Soul 5ive,” “The Big Theme,” “Ice Rink,” “Tonight,” “She,” “NSEW,” and “Skidding into Love.” They reflect that from the beginning World of Twist were influenced by synthpop, spy film score, Northern Soul, and Roxy Music. Of the tracks, “America,” “The Big Theme,” and “NSEW” show the most promise and suggest that fellow struggling Sheffielders Pulp were likely taking notes.
Soon after recording the demos, likely in 1985 (although some sources claim 1988), the band cut “The Sausage,” “Skidding Into Love,” and “Space Rockit“at The Music Factory, in Rotherham. “The Sausage” is almost completely at odds with the then-prevailing sensibility of mid-’80s Sheffield, and predating Denim‘s mid-’90s mash-up of ’70s sitcom themes and chintzy electronics by more than a decade. Those recordings wouldn’t see an official release until 1992, after the band’s dissolution, when Caff Records released the songs as a CD single.
In 1986, the band members organized a club night, World of Music, but the members grew increasingly disillusioned with Sheffield and soon after went their separate ways. Fry moved to London to pursue photography. In 1988, Hobson, King, and Ogden moved to Manchester where they shared a house with Martin Wright of the band, Laugh (which later evolved into Intastella). The remaining members of World of Twist added Alan “Adge” Frost on synthesizers and visual effects, Julia “MC Shells” McGreechin on “swirls and sea noises,” and Angela Reilly on visual effects. Ogden agreed to take over vocals, but not as drummer and thus Nick Sanderson (formerly of Clock DVA and The Gun Club) was brought into the fold. Fry returned as the band’s photographer and occasionally, lighting technician.
In August 1990, a sold-out gig at the Manchester International where they were supported by Intastella, one of the few bands with whom they shared an aesthetic. Both bands were introduced by comedy duo Vic and Bob. Early in the year they released a four-track demo featuring “The Storm,” “Blackpool Tower Suite,” “The Spring,” and a cover of The Rolling Stones‘ “She’s a Rainbow.” Although only the latter could fairly be characterized as “baggy,” World of Twist were perhaps inevitably lumped into the Madchester scene, sharing a geography and danceability with their Madchester peers, if little else — more apparently inspired as they were by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Detroit proto-punk, the creations of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, glitter rock, Joe Meek, and Krautrock than acid house and psychedelic rock.
Surprisingly, they ended up signing with Virgin subsidiary Circa — then known for sort of adult alternative and sophisti-pop bands like Hue & Cry, Neneh Cherry, Julia Fordham, and Millions Like Us. Virgin, like all the London majors, were apparently eager to sign a Madchester band. On 22 September, the newly-signed band recorded a Mark Goodier Session at Studio 5 in London.
The band’s first official release was “The Storm” b/w “She’s a Rainbow,” the final production of Martin Hannett, and released on 15 November 1990.
The band made their national television debut on Channel 4’s The World, where Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood likened them to “The Velvet Underground on acid.”
On BBC’s Juke Box Jury, norm-authority Bernard Sumner incredulously described them as “a bit ‘we are weird’.” In the end it topped out at #42 on the national pop charts. If there’d been regional charts, it might’ve topped them in the North and on 23 December they played a sold out gig at the Manchester Ritz, again supported by Intastella. On 29 December 1990, World of Twist returned to Sheffield to play The Leadmill. The support band was Pulp, for whom the gig was also a homecoming, as they’d relocated to London in 1988.
On 16 March 1991, World of Twist again played The Leadmill with Pulp opening (footage available here). Music writer Simon Reynolds described World of Twist as “camp sublime” and “kitsch-adelia” but by then both descriptions could’ve as properly been applied to both bands. In 1991 they played the Manchester Academy and The Hacienda. On 27 March, they played a sold out show at the London Astoria, supported by Saint Etienne (whose new singer Sarah Cracknell made her debut that night) and Sensurround. Five songs from the performance were shown on Granada and on 25 June they recorded a Peel Session.
On 28 October, World of Twist released their only album, Quality Street. The photos for the band sleeve were taken in the historic Pantiles area of the Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent and were designed to echo the 1970s designs for tins of Quality Street sweets. The music within, however, sounded a bit thin to many ears, apparently due to unsympathetic production and mixing from The Grid. Ogden later famously told a writer for The Guardian that, “We’d spent £250,000 making an album with the smallest bollocks in history.” Two weeks before the release, the New Musical Express reported that MC Shells had left the band. In an era ruled by the likes of Amy Grant, Bryan Adams, Roxette, and Seal, it nonetheless managed to climb to #50.
On 30 September 1991, World of Twist released “Sweets” b/w a cover of The Honeycombs‘ “This Too Shall Pass Away.” The single was promoted, ironically, with packs of cigarettes and a promotional video starring Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley as a World of Twist fan (not much of a stretch as Saint Etienne sang about World of Twist on at least two occasions: “London Belongs to Me” and “Over the Border“). The music press tried to lump like-minded bands Saint Etienne, Denim, and Pulp into something they labeled “The Crimplene Scene” which would’ve been great, perhaps, had it been a real thing and not merely the wishful thinking of music journalists at Select. Had it been a real thing, surely “Sweets” would’ve had a better showing than just reaching #47.
The penultimate single, the bubblegum MC5-ish “Sons of the Stage” b/w “Life And Death (Remix).” “Sons of the Stage” was so beloved by the brothers Gallagher of Dadchester band, Oasis, that they nearly chose to call themselves Sons of the Stage. They also used World of Twist’s James Fry as their album photographer on Definitely Maybe. In later years, Liam Gallagher‘s Beady Eye recorded a by-the-numbers cover. The World of Twist version only reached #58.
Hoping to recoup a bit of their costs, Circa released one last single, the band-dismissed “She’s A Rainbow (Fluke remixes)” b/w a different recording of “Lose My Way” in early 1992. The band mimed along to B-side on the children’s television show, Hanger 16, after which Ogden announced his wish to retire from both singing. Ogden encouraged Saunderson to take the lead, but the latter refused. Richard Branson sold Virgin in June 1992 to Thorn EMI and much of the label’s bands were cut loose as a result, including World of Twist. Fruitless auditions for a new singer followed and the remaining members met with Alan McGee in 1993. It’s hard to imagine a label where World of Twist would’ve been a more natural fit than Creation… at least before they became purveyors of the boring, massively popular, dad rock for Neoliberal politicians and the untucked army.
World of Twist disbanded, although in 1993 Fry, King, and Sanderson joined Rob Marche and Stuart Boreman in the shambolic and glitter revival cult act Earl Brutus. They went on to release two albums, (somewhat ironically, with Sanderson as the more-than-capable vocalist) both worth tracking down: Your Majesty… We Are Here (1996, Deceptive Records) and Tonight You Are The Special One (1998, Fruition). After that band’s dissolution, Sanderson played drums on The Jesus and Mary Chain‘s album Munki and in Jim Reid‘s Freeheat. Sadly, he died on 9 June 2008 of lung and lymphoid cancer at the age of 47. According to his obituary, his idea of heaven was driving a train whilst listening to Steve Hackett’s Spectral Morning. Fry and King next joined Laurence Bray, Stuart Boreman, Stuart Wheldon, and Vincent Gibson as The Pre New.
After the World of Twist, Ogden moved back to his parents’ home in Stockport. He didn’t stop making music either. Between 1992 and ’95, he and co-writer JohnWest recorded demos on an eight-track which came to be known, amongst the band’s hardcore fans as The Lost World of Twist album. The recordings were, however, neither lost nor truly World of Twist and Ogden and West hoped to professionally record and release them as Man, Myth, and Music. The tracks include the instrumental “Roll the Dice,” the wonderful “Coral Sea,” the equally wonderful “Love Affair,” “Hot Young Blue Star,” “The Red Sea of Emotion,” the instrumental “The B-Link,” “New Electric Pop and Soul,” “Chewing Gum,” and a cover of “MacArthur Park.”
In 1994, Saint Etienne’s Icerink released the compilation We Are Icerink, which included tracks by Earl Brutus, Sensuround, Supermarket, Shampoo, and others. A recording of “New Electric Pop and Soul” was attributed to World of Twist, according to John West, because they couldn’t think of another name.
In 2000, Ogden briefly emerged from self-imposed seclusion to collaborate with a band called Mum & Dad on the song, “Dawn Rider.” In 2002, a collection of home recordings made between 1993 to 2001 were compiled as The Lost Parade. The uniformly excellent tracks include “Honey,” “Primaeval Crime,” “Schoolgirl Boogie,” a re-recording of “Love Affair,” “Hoochycoochy Girl,” the genuinely affecting “Can I Come Over?,” “Pop Wheels,” “Electric Dress,” “Puddletown Flirt,” “Miss Adventure,” and “The Lost Parade.” Three tracks recorded at Ogden’s home around 2003 were compiled as the Girls in Colours EP and credited to Bubblegum.
In January 2005 Ogden was interviewed by The Guardian about what he’d been up to and where he was headed and he revealed “I spent four years on smack watching Third Reich movies because the good guys always win.” He also told revealed that his new project was called Bubblegum (or sometimes, Bubblegum Secret Pop Explosion), and he released a digital EP titled Escape in the Love Machines. The tracks included were “Honey,” “Steal Your Love,” “Veronica Always,” “Sadness Is My Name,” “Escape in the Love Machines,” and “Planet Fades Away.”
Another collection of home recordings made between 2002 and 2005 was named The Angry Brigade. Its tracks included “What’s Your Game?,” “Red Sky (Dance on the Beach),” “Shake It Baby,” “Rusty Dreams,” “Random Events in a Dying Universe,” “Dollybird,” “The Angry Brigade,” “Drucilla,” a re-recording of “Coral Sea,” and the title track from the Escape in the Love Machines EP. Although Ogden’s voice in spots sounds strained, the results were again mostly excellent, both reminiscent of the arch pop of Luke Haines and the reduced-to-its-essentials rock T. Rex after they’d been abandoned by fans and critics alike.
On 26 July, 2006, Tony Ogden died at the age of 44. As far as I know, no cause of death was made public. The only rumors I’ve heard is that his body was found in a lake or that he suffered from a heart attack and collapsed into a stream. Neither provided any source for their slightly conflicting information.
Predictably, perhaps, there’s been something of a reassessment and renewal of interest in Tony Ogden’s work with and without the World of Twist since his untimely demise, including interviews with surviving members and other journalistic pieces. In 2009, artist Jeremy Deller created a piece called Procession which included a procession carrying a banner proclaiming “We Miss the World of Twist” through Manchester’s streets. In 2013, a remixed version of Quality Street was released with a disc of extras, removing the cataract to reveal with clarity what a fillerless classic it always was. Also in 2013, Brian Sweeney’s Glasgow art gallery, Repositioned gallery re-opened in a new space with a photographic exhibition by James Fry titled Sons of the Stage: Now We Are Young Again.
On 21 July 2022, Gordon King’s memoir about his years in World of Twist, titled When Does the Mind-Bending Start?, is scheduled for release through Night Eight Books. I have already inquired with my trusted and valued bookstore contact/good friend, Jae, at Skylight Books in Los Feliz and she has informed me, sadly, that it’s not available to order in the US. I fear that it never will be. It is available, however, in the UK, where presumably 99.7% of World of Twist’s fans live, and they can order it from the Rough Trade site. There is a customer limit of three. Perhaps a fellow fan can send me a copy and I can pay them. Or, I could send said fan something exclusively available in the US or Los Angeles. Let’s talk.
- World of Twist — Wigwam (Demos 1984/1985) (1984-1985)
- World of Twist — Quality Street (1991)
- Tony Ogden & John West — Man, Myth, & Music (1992-1995)
- Bubblegum Secret Pop Explosion — The Lost Parade (1999-2001)
- Bubblegum Secret Pop Explosion — Girls in Colours EP (2003)
- Bubblegum Secret Pop Explosion — The Angry Brigade (2002-2005)
- Bubblegum — Escape in the Love Machines EP (2002-2005)
FURTHER READING & THANKS
Julian Marszalek‘s “A Law Unto Themselves: World Of Twist In Their Own Words“
…and special thanks to John West for the music and images and Gary Andrew Clarke for all of his work with organizing, documenting, and keeping Tony Ogden’s legacy alive!
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LA, Amoeblog, Boom: A Journal of California, diaCRITICS, Hidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft Contemporary, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, the book Sidewalking, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, CurbedLA, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Ameba, Duolingo, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Mubi, and Twitter.