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The Mind-Bending World of Twist

Manchester’s World of Twist should have been huge. Co-founder Gordon King tries to explain why it didn’t happen in his biography When Does the Mind-Bending Start? Simon Dickinson, whose band toured with World of Twist, guest reviews for Even Butterflies Make A Sound.

Simon Dickinson
Simon Dickinson

Simon Dickinson was singer and lead guitarist of indie hopefuls, The Clouds, who operated out of Manchester in the early nineties. He reviews When Does the Mind-Bending Start?: The Life and Times of World of Twist by Gordon King. Simon recalls his band’s support shows with World of Twist and ponders on the nature of success. Simon still writes and records as Hamfist.

World of Twist: the best band the world never saw…

Of course, World of Twist (WoT) were not the first ‘next big thing’ that didn’t crack it. However, in the early 1990s, it genuinely seemed as though WoT were on the cusp of greatness. Brilliant players, great image, tunes to die for, perfectly menacing frontman. Maybe Barney Sumner of New Order didn’t help when he described them as “we are weird” on national television. I bet World of Twist were (rightly) annoyed by that at the time. Especially as he was a fellow Manchester band member.

Years later though, fellow Mancunians the Gallagher brothers took up the cudgels. Liam said: ‘Most underrated group? World of Twist’ and his brother Noel: ‘They’re a top band. No one could do what World of Twist do, except World of Twist.’ Indeed, Oasis originally were called ‘Sons of the Stage’ after a WoT single.

See below for my first introduction to The Clouds. Little did I know just a few months later I’d be on the same college course as Simon Dickinson.

– Andy McCulloch

I think Aristotle said memories are stamped on running water. I also marvel at anyone with the capacity to piece together their past in any detail. While not everyone has a tale worth telling, the World of Twist (WoT) story should be told. When I learnt this book might be published, I thought ‘about time’ rather than ‘Oh, I’d forgotten about them’.

World of Twist: the last great Manchester band?

For those who don’t remember, WoT were the best band to come out of Manchester in the 1990s. (And yes, I have heard of Oasis and, um, M People). John Robb described them as a “smart, witty band who were tripping out but also made great pop”. I don’t disagree but there was something otherworldly and cool about them too. Mainly, they had great songs that didn’t sound like anything else coming out of Manchester at that time.

The music-buying public at that time largely misunderstood or ignored their genius. This book sheds some light on why. The group had a plan and enormous talent. That this didn’t translate to a debut LP that takes your head off is surprising bearing in mind the ferocity and brilliance of their live performances. I was lucky enough to be in a band, The Clouds, that supported WoT on some of their 1991 UK tour dates and I say this from having witnessed it first-hand. They put on a show that too many people missed.

However, the urgency and intensity of their shows and first singles seemed to disappear during the recording of WoT’s debut LP, Quality Street. Gordon King wrote: “Gordon Mackay, a guitarist I used to work with in Affleck’s Palace and whose opinion I respect, describes it thus: ‘An album that doesn’t get any louder no matter how much you turn it up.'”

Quality Street by World of Twist

On the road with World of Twist

I think most aspiring bands would admit there’s a competitive element when gigging. At a minimum, you want to give the headline act a run for their money. We had no such aspirations when it came to WoT. (At other times we supported Flowered Up and Intastella.) Whether we just knew this wasn’t possible, were grateful for the opportunity, or were in awe of a band on the cusp of the big time, I’m not sure. More likely, I suspect it was because they were (a) thoroughly decent human beings and (b) were possibly the first band we supported who were friendly and encouraging. This further elevates them to greatness as far as I’m concerned.

World of Twist’s story told with humour and humility

Gordon King (sadly the only surviving songwriting element of WoT) tells his story with great humour and humility. He seemed to be magnetically drawn to the right people and places at the right time. His story is not unfamiliar, but he details a musical tutelage I suspect kids in bands don’t get these days. This tale’s tragedy is that WoT seemed to fizzle out rather than go out with the massive bang they deserved.

Sadder still is the realisation that Tony Ogden continued to write beyond the end of WOT. That he or Gordon never worked on these songs up into music we could all enjoy makes me sad. It’s hard to tell how much of their demise is down to bad luck, failing relationships, stuttering creativity, or secretly willing their own self-destruction.

How to measure success?

Gordon is too kind in his assessment of our band. He mentions a lack of bitterness on our part when it comes to a musical career that didn’t amount to anything beyond a couple of EPs. I thought about this and concluded that, actually, we did make it, we were successful: we once supported WoT!

Jeremy Deller is spot on. Photo from the ‘We Miss The World of Twist’ Parade, 5 July 2009, Manchester City Centre. Part of Jeremy Deller’s Procession for the Manchester International Festival.

When Does the Mind-Bending Start?: The Life and Times of World of Twist by Gordon King is out now, published by Nine Eight Books.

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