Right Now, Right Now, It’s Time To…

The MC5, possibly somewhat refreshed, with a jam kicking motherfucker session live on TV for a full eight minutes and thirty eight seconds.

The MC5’s debut album gained mythical status when I was younger, much mentioned but never heard. No re-issues back then, no Youtube. Just hunting for a second hand copy. Eventually I found one. It was all very rockist- maybe that’s stating the obvious- but over time it’s power and energy became clear and never less so than on the title track which comes across like a call to arms for an entire generation. The lyrics to the title track are pretty loose, not really about anything political other than the power of electric guitars and loud drums and the feeling that they provoke, but they feel revolutionary. More than enough in 1969.

Two decades later, in 1991, Manchester’s World Of Twist recorded a version for a John Peel session which shows what a ferocious live band they could be too.

Kick Out The Jams (Peel Session)

 

Colours In The Air

While looking for something else I found a CD I’d forgotten I owned- Zero: A Martin Hannett Story 1977- 1991. It’s a compilation of songs recorded and produced by Hannett, from Boredom by Buzzcocks onward. Zero is a really good compilation, even with U2’s presence, showing the range and depth of Hannett’s talents and the importance of the man to the sound of some key bands. The final song on the CD is World Of Twist’s 1991 cover of She’s A Rainbow and it struck me that this week’s posts were developing a cover versions theme and that I should go with the flow.

World Of Twist are much missed in some corners not least round here- they got pulled along in the early 90s Manchester slipstream but didn’t really fit in with the sound or the look. Their cover of She’s A Rainbow was originally a B-side to their debut single The Storm and then re-appeared in 1992 in various guises and with remixes as the record label attempted to get a hit and some sales. The version here was one of the last songs Hannett worked on before his death in April 1991 aged just 41. In a way She’s A Rainbow was one of World Of Twist’s less interesting songs, a pretty straight cover version and it doesn’t really show Hannett’s peculiar production genius especially either. But it’s fun and fits in with the group’s aesthetic.

She’s A Rainbow

Hannett lost five years in the 80 to heroin addiction and the groundbreaking productions he did in the late 70s and early 80s especially with the Factory bands- Joy Division, New Order, Durutti Column, Section 25, ACR- was well behind him and unlikely to be equalled (although he really pulled it out of the bag with Bummed).

The original of She’s A Rainbow was on The Rolling Stones 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request, a lightweight, pretty tune, sing-song psychedelia with la la la backing vocals, Nicky Hopkins on piano and some Brian Jones Mellotron. A most un-Stonesy single and song, coming at a mid-point between Paint It Black and Jumping Jack Flash.

She’s A Rainbow

 

This Too Shall Pass Away

I found myself humming this song to myself while at work earlier this week- not sure what that tells you. This Too Shall Pass Away was on World Of Twist’s 1991 album Quality Street, the 3rd track in after the magnificent opening one-two punch of Lose My Way and Sons Of The Stage. Fading in on some studio chatter and tons of echo and a bubbling bassline, it is a gently sung, swirly piece of psychedelic pop, FX and atmospherics courtesy of producers The Grid. This Too Shall Pass Away is a cover, one of two covers on the album along with their terrific cover of The Stones’ She’s A Rainbow (and also Sly Stone’s Life And Death on the cd version). It was originally by 60s pop combo The Honeycombs, who had a million selling number one with the Joe Meek produced Have I The Right?

This Too Shall Pass Away

Quality Street is often seen as a ‘lost’ album, a record that slightly missed the boat. The band lost momentum and broke up. Part of this was down to the failure of the album (and not having a massive hit single) which led to the band being dropped. The Manchester wave crested and broke. But it was partly down to the album itself (not that there is anything wrong with the songs or the production). It’s the mastering of the volume. It’s too quiet. Tony Ogden, who died in 2006, was interviewed about the record and said¬†‘We wanted to make the greatest psychedelic dance rock album ever and there was a lot of coke and E in the studio. But the album came out at half normal volume. We’d spent ¬£250,000 making an album with the smallest bollocks in pop history! The band just fell apart. We were smoking marijuana for breakfast and that led to communication problems. I didn’t wanna sing, the guitarist didn’t wanna play. When the company didn’t get a hit they threw us in the bin. I was devastated – I spent four years on smack watching Third Reich movies because the good guys always win. I’m really sorry for letting our fans down. But I’d ask anyone to play that World of Twist album 20 times with every dial on full. If it doesn’t rock, come and smash it over my head.’

 

Sweets

World Of Twist were the outliers of the Manchester scene and made some cracking records between 1990 and 1992. Sweets was a stab at a hit on the proper charts with a lyric written by Tony Ogden in a deliberate attempt to write an awful lyric- ‘sweets are sweet but you are sweeter baby’. Actually it isn’t that bad. I’ve heard worse. It wasn’t a hit reaching number 58 in 1991. This version is from the 12″ single, produced by The Grid, and is really rather sweet.

Sweets (Barrett 200 Mix)

Life And Death

World Of Twist, Manchester’s long lost turn of the 90s band, made at least three outstanding singles- The Storm, Sons Of the Stage (one of my favourite records ever) and She’s A Rainbow- and an album which was badly mixed (at a cost of a quarter of a million pounds). Quality Street had some good songs on it but no matter how loud you played it, it lacked oomph. A shame since they had real potential, magnetic stage presence and a sound combining 60s pop, Northern Soul and psych with an early 90s sensibility- a definite sidestep from the Madchester sound, more like a sharper, rawer Pulp. I saw them at Manchester Academy and they were a blast, MC Shells keyboards housed in a giant shell, and spinning round newsagents signs and stage props. Front man Tony Ogden died a few years ago, one of the era’s lost souls. He was devastated after the band were dropped and spent several years doing little but taking smack and watching World War II documentaries. Drummer Nick Sanderson followed the band by forming Earl Brutus but died of lung cancer in 2008. The lp has recently been remixed/remastered and is due for release next Monday, hopefully giving the record and the band the sound it needed twenty odd years ago. A second disc has radio sessions for John Peel and Mark Goodier and b-sides. This is the extended 12″ version of their cover of a Sly Stone song.

Life And Death (12″ Mix)

In this interview clip for Snub TV they are interviewed in Withington baths, just up the road from where I grew up and where I once nearly drowned as a kid (I stuck my finger in a grid at the bottom of the deep end. To see what would happen). Proper swimming baths they were- cubicles around the edge, freezing cold, fag ends and plasters floating in the chlorine.

A Little Bit We Are Weird

We were talking about this the other night in the pub, can’t remember how it came up- Bernard Sumner’s appearance on the BBC’s resurrected 1990 version of Jukebox Jury. Hosted by Jools Holland the panel- Bernard, Pat Cash, someone from Neighbours and Bootsy Collins- pass judgement on various singles, while mystery guest Chris Isaak pops into the studio. The bit we were remembering was when World Of Twist’s new song The Storm was played. Bernard sums the World Of Twist up as ‘a little bit we are weird’ (but wishes them well as they’re from Manchester). The bit you’re looking for is in part 4 from around 1.10 onwards just below. So, Mr B, here it is…

Part 4

‘A little bit we are weird’.

That’s it really.

If you can be arsed…

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Out Of Our Minds On The Stage

World Of Twist came as part of the second wave of Madchester bands but didn’t really share much with the rest of them except geography. A riot of northern soul, mod, psyche, homemade stage props (a giant shell, rotating newsagents signs) with a post-acid house groove, this was their finest moment- Sons of The Stage.

The song’s a celebration of losing yourself dancing, being on stage and the euphoria of the crowd-

‘The beat breaks so we pick it up
The floor shakes down but it’s not enough
The beam is up and the kids are high
I’ve seen them move and it blows my mind
The floor’s an ocean and this wave is breaking
Your head is gone but your body’s shaking
There’s nothing you can do ‘cos there is no solution
You’ve got to get down to the noise and confusion’

The picture at the top is from Jeremy Deller’s march through Manchester earlier this year, with a variety of unusual interest groups, We Miss The World Of Twist being one of them. Apparently King of the Dullards Liam Gallagher and his new band have recently covered Sons Of The Stage. Best to remember them this way.

02 Sons of the Stage.wma