I’ve probably been in love with WOT for about 30 years now – it’s an unrequented love but its a love nonetheless.
It all started back in 1990 – Madchester was at its peak and us indie kids latched onto anything from Manchester looking for the next big thing.
Gary Crowley I think first played The Storm on his radio show – an important listen back in the day, for us London lot – he introduced so many bands, to so many and maybe doesn’t get enough credit he deserves.
“I’m a storm baby,” “keep me warm from the storm” – the songs starts – I was hooked. What was this I was hearing – year it was Madchester/Baggy type music but there was other stuff going on here – music I kinda thought I had heard before but wasn’t really familiar with. I bought this 12 inch right away and waited for it to go to number 1 in the pop parade. They were even on The Word.
It didn’t! I checked my record mirror and somehow not everyone in the land had bought it and made it the chart smash I thought it was. It stalled at number 42! Just outside the hallowed turf. 2 More places and what could of been?. This kind of sums up WOT in a nutshell.
It didn’t matter as they had loads of songs right – songs that would tear up the pop charts for the next ten years – they would headline Glastonbury in 1995 for sure, they would cover Oasis. They would be the big rock/disco/dance/funk/soul band that we all wanted. Tony Ogden would be on the front of Smash Hits and NME and Select all at the same time. He would be interviewed on Wogan, he would be on the Big Breakfast, he would be held as a national treasure. But no none of this happened well not in this universe.
The Storm – despite being one of the greatest debut singles of all times was indeed just the start of a short flirtation with a major label and pop stardumb (sic).
Despite being around for at least 5 years prior and actually mostly being from Sheffield- they were adopted by Manchester and following some outstanding live shows, A&R men desperate to part with big cash, signed them up.
The next single release is in this humble writers opinion, one of the greatest songs of the last 30 years. You can say I’m biased because I am – but its true. Sons of the Stage is as good a song as your ever hear – don’t believe me? – go and ask Liam and Noel – they may not agree on many things but they agree on this. So much so that Liam covered it with his Beady Eye band – decent attempt to be fair.
It starts slowly, keyboards swirling, guitars twinkling, then the drums kick in. Boom. It builds and builds and then Tony sings “The beat breaks down so we pick it up” Its as ambitious as it is impressive. “You gotta get down to the noise and confusion”. Guitars squeal, everything is going on – its an amazing pop song for its time – I play it all the time. Tony Screams mid way through and off we go again – I’m playing it now as I type – “Out of my mind on the stage” Majestic. If Mcalmont and Butler had done this after Yes – you’d be singing it even now.
It got to number 47 in the charts – not 4 or 7 – 47 – I was heartbroken at the time.
The songs are just one part of the WOT story – the visuals were something else, the band looked different to anything I’d seen at that point – Tony looked like a cross between Bryan Ferry and Vic Reeves, they had a mermaid on keys, they had a Rock N Roll revolving sign. Gordon King on guitar was straight out of some Prog rock band of the 70’s but met Nile Rogers on the way. His guitar underpins all their great songs. The single releases used every pound of the record companies advance – why not. Who else has released a single in a denim pocket with a W stitched in the back. Anything was up for grabs – it made me look at music and pop in a different way – it still does. I must mention the T-Shirts – pure genius – ripping fag packets design and putting them on the front – there were different designs, I had a green one and wish I still did – it’s a collectors item now.
The album Quality Street is Pulp Different Class before it was. It was slaughtered in the press. Critics had moved onto grunge – Madchester was over – there was no place for this music right now. This is a complete diservice to the album which even now still holds up. I agree that the production is a bit hit and miss at times and doesn’t really capture WOT at their live best. However its full of amazing songs.
Lose My Way, Jelly Baby, The Lights (with an amazing guitar solo), Sweets, The Spring and the end track of Life and Death – and this is without mentioning She’s a Rainbow – I hate this song – its clearly record label pressure making them put a cover on the album to sell – it was released and remixed by Fluke to try and break them big – it failed – it wasn’t the WOT I know. I still get frustrated when Indie DJ’s play it and people dance like its a great song – its not! Play SOTS or The Storm I scream in my head.
After the album was overlooked – WOT disappeared out of sight – rumours circulated about Tony giving up singing, being dropped by the major (like many of the early 90s bands), wanting to release McArthur Park (a brave move) – at the time, the last I heard was New Electric Pop and Soul on a Bob Stanley (St Etienne) compilation album. Its a great track.
In the early 00’s stuff started to emerge – lost songs/sessions, new stuff from Tony and so on. However it wasn’t to be. Tony passed away in 2006 so any chances of reforming were done. Other member Nick Sanderson also followed – he fronted Earl Brutus as well and should be checked out.
But the music lives on. I’m not the only one in love with the band – those that know, know as they say. There’s been a listening party on Facebook recently which included past members and the likes of John Robb sharing stories. It was great and I think was a fitting end to the story.
I won’t forget WOT in a hurry even if Tony sung This Too Shall Pass Away. Love can last forever and at 30 years mine is going strong and maybe growing.