2010 - 2019



The lady in the thigh-high boots and flaming basque-cum-breastplate is unmistakably Toyah Willcox – the stack-heeled wench with her back to camera requires a tad more explanation.

“Ah yes,” says Toyah, “that’s John Wayne! “He’s actually a transvestite who owns a nightclub in Stoke-on-Trent – I met him because he’s a Toyah impersonator and now he’s my PA. “He was there when we were making our video and the director said ‘right John, get your gear on, we’re filming you’.”

Toyah (the surname has been superfluous since It’s A Mystery provided her breakthrough hit in 1981) supplies the information in a matter-of-fact tone which confirms that the bizarre is perfectly normal in her world. But she becomes far more animated, genuinely excited, when she gets down to details about the ‘we’ in question – The Humans, latest project in her long, multifaceted and highly successful career.

The band, who kick off a three-date UK tour at Leamington’s Assembly on Monday, features Bill Rieflin – better known as REM’s drummer – Chris Wong and, temporarily, Robert Fripp, founder of King Crimson and, since 1986, Mr Willcox. And, naturally enough, they were formed as a treat for the president of Estonia.

To précis a long story: “The Estonian embassy was trying to get hold of my husband but I got in touch with them and said ‘look I could be out there with two international musicians in a couple of weeks – we can write all the material in Estonia and play exclusively for the president. And that’s exactly what happened – it went down a storm and we ended up selling out their biggest rock venues. “I totally blagged my way in, but then a lot of my life is about blagging. If you’re a woman you have to have that ability.”

Despite its improbably impromptu genesis, the band fulfils a longstanding ambition for Toyah. “I wanted to put together a band that could travel very easily and very spontaneously,” she says. “That’s difficult these days because the equipment is so bulky – you need lots of personnel, loads of rehearsals. In the past 10 years I’ve been playing arenas on the ’80s tours with audiences up to 60,000 but I wanted something that was portable and immediate.

“And this is so exciting because it involves three people that I really admire and enjoy working with.” Fripp’s involvement in the current phase of The Humans’ development is a major bonus for a couple whose career commitments mean that they spend long periods apart, but Toyah stresses that he is a ‘guest star’.

“The idea is that we’ll have a different one for every tour,” she says. “Somebody doing something that they’re not known for. “For instance we’re hoping to get Steve Vai – everybody knows that he’s a great guitarist but he also plays the harp. His wife is a harpist and he does all her arrangements so that would be fascinating.”

Artists can sometimes get decidedly sniffy if interviewers attempt to pin down their sound, but Toyah, fortunately, warms to the suggestion that there is a Brechtian feel to The Humans’ music. “That’s a nice comparison,” she says. “It’s not 100 per cent because there’s a lot of energy and we’ll be playing some new stuff which is very Seattle grunge, but it is a listening experience rather than the ‘come on everybody sing along’ when I’m out there as Toyah. And, yes, it is a bit dark and bleak – the Humans’ world is permanently in winter!”

That being the case, long-term fans expecting a quick chorus of Thunder In The Mountains or Brave New World will be disappointed. “We will be doing some hits, but they’re not Toyah hits,” she says. “That’s not a possibility because we are so peculiar – it’s not a band set-up – it’s two bass players and a guitar and vocals.”

At a time when every week seems to produce a new feisty female chart-topper, one wonders if Toyah sees herself as a pioneer of rock emancipation. “Not really,” she says. “Take Florence & The Machine – we’ve got the same performance genes, perhaps, and I can totally identify with the whole thing where the emotion leads the vocal, but I don’t think I’ve influenced her.

“I think if I’ve influenced anyone you’ve got to look at artists who are deliberately 80s retro like La Roux. There might be a little influence there but I really think that these kids have just discovered themselves at a time when 80s is suddenly so hip. “When I started, women weren’t running the industry like they are now. It was a real breakthrough time, exciting but really challenging because every woman – myself, Hazel O’Connor, Kim Wilde – were always being compared with each other because of the novelty value of being a woman.

“I was strident and bombastic at a time when England was very conservative, especially about women, so I definitely feel that I helped push the boundaries. But there are so many women out there today that we don’t need to compare them with each other. “They’re being taken seriously now, not just as performers but as women. And that’s massively important because women were once treated as objects. The prime example is Madonna – if she had been overweight with a hairy face, she wouldn’t have been as successful as she was.

“There are exceptions. If you’ve got a truly unique voice I don’t think it matters what you look like, whichever sex you are, but most of the time it really does help if you look good. “It is about sexuality, but to be taken seriously on top of that is a remarkable step forward.”

Now 51, Toyah has been completely open about the surgical help she has employed to maintain her glamorous image. “Sexual attraction is part of the act – I went into showbusiness knowing that was the case so it’s never been any other way. That’s my choice because I know the powerful effect it has on my income.

“I’ve had some surgery because it’s a well-developed science now, regulated and relatively safe in this country, and I think I would have had it done even if I hadn’t gone into showbusiness. “What’s interesting is that I work very hard to stay in shape and those around me who don’t are quite threatened by it – particularly men. “My fellow band members are quite perplexed by my willpower which is a very interesting situation – it seems to eat at their confidence.

“My husband is very open and honest and sometimes he says to me ‘I can’t compete with what you do. Which is great, because I can’t play guitar!”

Coventry Telegraph


Former pop punk star Toyah Willcox has chosen a Bishop’s Cleeve church to kick off her new tour.

St Michael’s and All Angels Church will be filled with fans of the singer, who shot to fame 30 years ago with hits such as It’s a Mystery. Her new band The Humans will play a free, intimate gig at the church, which has a capacity of 200 people, on Saturday.

Joining the one-time princess of punk on stage will be REM drummer Bill Rieflin. Toyah, who has had 13 top 40 singles, recorded 20 albums and toured the world, said: “We have a strong association with Bishop’s Cleeve artist PJ Crook. “And a long-standing relationship with Cheltenham.”

Toyah and her husband, guitarist Robert Fripp, are patrons of Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum and she said her mother, who was a touring dancer, worked in a theatre in Cheltenham before she was born. This will be her first gig in Cleeve, but Robert has already played at the church twice.

“I am so excited about it,” said Toyah. “The gig will be a public rehearsal. Rather than do a rehearsal privately we thought it would be really good to do it in front of an audience.” The Rev Mike Holloway, team vicar at Bishop’s Cleeve, said: “It’s a great opportunity to see them before the tour. “There is a collection for the church, but the audience is being given the chance to see a great band for nowt.”

The Humans, which was started by Toyah in 2007, is made up of Bill Rieflin, who turns his hand to the bass guitar, bassist Chris Wong and occasional special guest Robert. She describes the experimental music as “deconstructed pop songs” where the rhythm and vocals take the lead. “It is like story telling. I wanted it to sound like European film noir,” she said. “It is emotional and dark.”

The band’s debut album, We Are The Humans, includes a 21st Century version of Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made for Walkin’. Toyah said: “We also have Purple Haze on the set list, but these songs will sound very different to their originals.” She said she would rather perform in unusual venues such as churches, instead of traditional gig venues.

“Churches have naturally powerful acoustics so you don’t need very much PA. Any Norman Foster building would be my ideal venue,” she added.

Gloucestershire Echo



The auditorium of Darlington Civic Theatre was packed to the rafters for the first of two sellout performances of Steve Steinman’s cult classic, Vampires Rock.

Set in New York in 2030, the undead are among us and livelier than ever.

A young girl named Pandora (Emily Clark) has skipped school to attend an audition to be the resident rock singer at the Live and Let Die Club. There she encounters Baron Von Rockula (Steinman), who instantly falls in love with her and is determined that she should become his new bride Shame he didn’t bother to consult his current Devil Queen (Toyah Willcox, pictured), who is none too impressed with the idea.

Ostensibly, Vampires Rock is The Rocky Horror Show for hot-blooded heterosexual hairy bikers and heavy metal heads. More vamp than camp, more gothy than frothy, the show uses its storyline – which is as translucent as a vampire’s skin in the midday sun – to string together some of the greatest rock anthems of all time.

They’re all there, from Killer Queen to Total Eclipse of the Heart, The Final Countdown to Bat out of Hell. Steinman, Willcox and Clark, who delivered stunning vocal performances, were backed by a five-piece band, whose acoustics almost lifted the roof right off the grand old theatre, they really whipped the crowd up into a frenzy.

The shortcomings of the storyline are compensated by the energy and enthusiasm that the cast put into the show which, ultimately, is what makes Vampires Rock a great night out.

The Northern Echo


The flame-haired priestess of punk looks back on 30 years of fame.

Few artistes have moved so effortlessly between mediums as Toyah Willcox. As an actor she appeared in some of the most important pop-culture films of the 1970s, playing 'Mad' in Derek Jarman's controversial Jubilee and 'Monkey' in the seminal mod-revivalist Quadrophenia, but also performing in works as diverse as Jarman's adaption of The Tempest and the final instalment of the Quatermass saga for ITV.

At the same time, she released a slew of records that moved from the ferocity of her early post-punk albums, Sheep Farming In Barnet and The Blue Meaning, through the peak of her commercial appeal, with the It's A Mystery led Four From Toyah EP, and her image-defining LP Anthem, hitting numbers four and two in their respective charts ...

Let’s go back. You were already making a name for yourself as an actress when you released your first single, Victims Of The Riddle All the early stuff was slighly dictated by my lack of being an actual musician. I’m always very instinctive; I know what I want to hear. With Victims Of The Riddle, I sang the vocals before any instrumentation was put down, and then (Blood Donor keyboardist) Keith Hale created the tune and the sequences around the vocal. I love the whole accident of working that way; it creates the emotional intentions before you get the musical honing.

You were being labelled ‘High Priestess of Punk’ in ‘79, ‘80. Did you feel connected to that scene? I remember it as being very exciting but also incredibly frustrating, because I didn’t fit the mould. It’s hard to say that I felt a part of punk, or new wave, because I never did. When Victims Of The Riddle was number one in the indie charts I was making Jubilee, I was making The Tempest, I was in Quadrophenia, I was appearing at the ICA with Anthony Sher. I was doing incredible things. So I think people found me either fake, or couldn’t put me in a compartment.

But listening to things like Sheep Farming In Barnet, you transcended punk. Tracks like Neon Womb were almost ‘Cyberpunk’! Oh yeah! All those songs were well-practiced in front of large audiences. They started in Sunday rehearsals and sound checks and then we’d play them asencores, so they were created in a heightened experience. Songs like Neon Womb, Waiting, Ieya, Victims Of The Riddle, even if I say so myself, are absolute classics because they were created with the audience. They were very shamanistic and our concerts used to just accelerate out there to the point where I used to look out and think, ‘God, we’re like Masai warriors dancing until we’re no longer aware of who we are.’

Anthem was huge, and very commercial, but its follow-up, Changeling, is dark. Changeling was a reaction because I wasn’t ready to write. I wanted to work with Steve Lillywhite but the relationship just didn’t work because I should have had another six or twelve months to address the album. It was all written in the studio. I think it’s a good album, it says something very powerful. But it was a painful album and a very painful period in my life where I just had to move back into acting, which was Trafford Tanzi.

Ian Ambrahams
Record Collector


If Toyah Willcox made a new year resolution in 2009 to be a queen she got her wish granted – twice

And she begins next year as she finishes this one, beneath a brash crown as the Wicked Queen in Sheffield's biggest panto, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. "I love it. I haven't stopped laughing. My voice is tired from laughing," says the '80s pop-star- turned-actress of her regal role.

"Playing the Queen means that no matter what mood I'm in, whether I decide to play her sweetly, play her nastily, or predictably, it works because the audience knows she's bad which means no matter what I give them they will see me as a bad person." While being in panto right up until Christmas Eve meant a mad dash back to her home in Worcestershire to be with family, Toyah is enjoying working in one of the country's most "remarkable, versatile, quickly- changing cities."

Her character is in stark contrast to some of her previous roles in the likes of British comedy film The Power Of Three and Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, in which she played Billie Piper's mother. When Snow White concludes at The Lyceum Theatre on January 10 she will return to her Devil Queen spot in the touring theatre musical Vampires Rock.

Toyah is still making and performing music of her own, under her name and with her band The Humans, which features Bill Rieflin from REM and her husband Robert Fripp, formerly of the iconic band King Crimson. They released an album late summer while Toyah's put out In The Court Of The Crimson Queen, a tongue-in-cheek reference to Fripp's album In The Court Of The Crimson King. In Snow White the singer, who made her name with 15 top 40 singles and gold and platinum albums led by iconic hits such as It's A Mystery, joins a cast that includes Sheffield comedian / radio presenter Toby Foster and top dame Damian Williams.

"I really believe people who do panto should only do it because they respect the genre, otherwise you're watching something very cynical," she says. "Panto is about family, it's about the fight between good and evil, it's about representing to children not only the power of theatre and the magic of live performance but also what family and Christmas is about.

"Christmas should be about encompassing every culture but the values are in the family unit. Not everyone has children but we have parents, grandparents and all of that. When I look out there and see the audience I see groups of elderly people who are coming to watch something that makes them remember their childhood; I see three generations of a family. Panto is about embracing this wonderful season of positiveness that celebrates birth, so for me it's something I take incredibly seriously."

Not to mention the responsibility of lifting audiences after the Boxing Day lull. "Luckily I have never been in a cynical panto which is 'grab the money and run'. I really respect theatres who don't just do it as some horrible commercial thing to promote another product.

It is a genre that is utterly special and only in this country." Of course, it is a far cry from Toyah's pop music heyday, although she is still in demand in that guise. "I never thought when I did Top Of The Pops that when I was 51 I would be doing panto. Then I never expected I'd be opening a festival to 30,000 people or be an award-nominated Shakespearean actress.

"When I was doing TOTP that's all that existed for me. I never thought beyond the age of 30, so everything I have done since has been a total surprise. My life is very colourful and very diverse. "You have other dreams but you learn to let go of them, but if you let go of your childhood dreams they come back to you eventually but also other unique things can come in. If you live with these youthful ambitions they eat you alive. They're right to get you started but then you need to let go of it to let other extraordinary things happen.

"When I was 20 I wanted world domination, I wanted only to play arenas, to win an Oscar. That will only happen by some happy accident or because I'm willing enough to try new things. If all you think about is winning the Oscar you're not going to get there because you've got to find different paths to your destination all the time. So I'm one of these people that will take a tangent at a drop of a pin. Very little of what I do is planned."

As well as touring her music alongside other '80s artists around the nation's castles, arenas and stately homes, she has presented a Tonight programme about insomnia, appeared on Mastermind, penned two books and appeared in 10 feature films and 30 stage plays. One thing Toyah is clear about is where her acting ambitions lie. "I have no intention to play a goody unless they pay me a lot of money," she laughs. "They really are dull and I don't do it convincingly."

The Star



In the early 80s, Toyah reigned supreme as the British queen of punk and new wave.

Roll on 30 years and she's about to add a new string to her bow - that of dance princess! Yesterday saw the release of her first ever dance single, Fallen, and it's predicted to make the top ten. No one is more surprised than Toyah herself.

She says she was contacted by DJ Paul Masterson, aka Yomanda, who said he had a backing track and asked if she would be interested in writing a vocal to it. 'It was very casual with no plans,' she adds.

'About six weeks later he set up a studio with The Prodigy's engineer. We went in and did the vocal in one take. Within two hours we had done it all. Within a week he got back to me and said he'd played it to big industry people who had just gone, "Yes, we'll take it".

'It has grown in a really organic way. The chemistry was there and everything just worked. This is a song going to an audience who have no idea who I am and they are liking the song and I think that is incredibly important, that the music is speaking above everything else, and I think it gives it a lease of life.

'It's so exciting and it's lovely that this is happening, especially around this time. It's very special. 'I know nothing about dance. I'm a rock singer and I write classical rock lyrics. I'm very good at the weird and wonderful and anthemic bravado.'

Now 53, Toyah is as busy as she was in her 80s heyday. In fact, it is 30 years since the release of her greatest success, the album Anthem, which spawned the hits It's A Mystery and I Want To Be Free. She's hitting the road in celebration of that milestone with a succession of gigs around the country, and she will be wearing the original costumes.

There are no northern dates at present but the likelihood is some could be added in the new year. She will, though, be in the North on October 1, headlining at Cumbria Pride. 'I've got a really great gay following.' she tells me, 'You are playing to an audience who have experienced sometimes being outside of society and having to fight for their rights.

'I wouldn't say they are hugely political, but they are people who want to be together and share something together. There is a huge feeling of camaraderie and they tend to love their divas, as it were. 'I don't really think I'm a diva! But you are embraced totally on the day. I'll be doing Fallen and all the hits.

Toyah will appear on the main stage at about 9pm, then will perform at Outrageous in English Street, Carlisle at about 12.30am.

Gordon Barr


Paul Masterson talks Toyah and 'Fallen' on The Phil Marriott Show.

Phil Marriott: It's a very exciting time for you, because you're about to unleash this big beast called 'Fallen', which of course is your collaboration with Toyah.

Paul Masterson: Yeah, indeed, absolutely. Well I've been an absolutely massive fan. I remember buying Toyah's records when I was still living in Belfast, like '81, '82, '83, and it was one of those artists I've always had my eye on to write a song with, and a few months ago I sent her an instrumental piece and she absolutely loved it, and then we got together in the studio about a month or so ago and we recorded the vocals. I've just spent a few weeks mixing it, and it's all finished and ready to go, pretty much.

Phil: It's amazing. I heard it for the first time yesterday and I was very excited about it. So much so that I wanted to play it last night but I knew that you were coming on tonight. This must be quite a surreal thing for you, obviously I'm a massive fan of hers as well and you have been working with her. Was that quite daunting for you, because it's a big thing isn't it?

Paul: Absolutely yeah. As I say we hadn't actually met until the day of recording the vocals. We spoke on email and we recorded the vocals down at Dave Pemberton's studio in Essex. It was a great day. Very, very relaxed. It was a bit nervous at first, obviously meeting Toyah but it was a very good day. It took about three hours and all done, pretty much, in one take. Great day all round really.

Phil: She's one of the loveliest women as well. I've been lucky enough to meet her quite a few times and she's been on this show a few times. She's such a good laugh too.

Paul: So, so down to earth. You maybe think you know how are people going to be. Are they going to be a little reserved? But she was so, so reserved, so down to earth. I was very pleased about that.

Phil: I have to say this new track. It seems like the perfect combination as well. It’s not the first time she's experimented with dance, obviously she had the album 'Dreamchild' which came out in the 90's. Also she worked with Tim from Utah Saints. Did this seem like a natural thing to you, to get Toyah's vocal on it? I think it really suits the music.

Paul: Sure. It started out as an instrumental piece, slightly more poppy, trancey sound. I thought that was a really good benchmark for her to write a vocal, and when we recorded the vocals it just gelled really, really well. It was just a very natural progression in total.

Phil: It sounds like you both had similar views on how the track should sound?

Paul: Exactly, yeah. We wanted to make it slightly different, and maybe not like your average dance track. So what we've put into the track, it still stands out in clubland today but, hopefully, has got a little bit of an edge that'll make it stand out amongst other tracks.

Phil: The first time I heard it, I love the fact that it sounds slightly different. It's not kind of verse, chorus, verse, it's very unusual for a dance track.

Paul: Yeah, well, that's the thing. I think it's always good to maybe try and do something that isn't your normal, average way of working, because then I think you don't really get bunched in with everybody else. It's always just good to try something a little bit different but still within the realms of club music, which hopefully everyone will still be able to play.

Phil: Yeah. Definitely! Before you introduce it, thank you very much for coming on the show. Hopefully it won't be the last time. Maybe you could come in to Gaydar Towers?

Paul: I'd love to come in. Absolutely. Any time Phil.

Phil: So the best bit, Paul. Where I ask you to introduce your track with Toyah, if you could do the honours.

Paul: Here is the first, and exclusive play, of the new single from Yomanda, and it's featuring Toyah Willcox, and the track's called 'Fallen'.

Phil: Brilliant, thanks a lot Paul.

Paul: Thanks very much Phil. All the best now.

The Phil Marriott Show
Gaydar Radio



It’s that time of year already! Pantomime returns to The Marlowe Theatre this winter with a new production of Sleeping Beauty. Alongside former Pop Idol Gareth Gates, pop stalwart Toyah Willcox stars as the Wicked Fairy. Toyah has had a long-running musical career; her first album was released back in 1979 and she still tours with her band today. Having performed in numerous theatre, television and film productions she is also a panto veteran. Toyah tells Emma Featherstone why she is looking forward to hitting the Canterbury stage.

You’ve worked in panto since 1993. What makes you return to it?

I’ve learnt to love pantomime as a form of theatre, which is more successful than any other. In the last 20 years it has been completely reinvented, mainly by one man, Kevin Wood  (one of Britain’s top pantomime producers). His daughter Emily produces Sleeping Beauty.

Do you enjoy playing the baddie?

Pantomime is about audience participation and the baddie is the one they retaliate against. Even if you’re really nice to the audience, they’re going to boo you!

What do you think of Canterbury?

I really love it. I have an apartment there. I do all my Christmas shopping in Canterbury and I like the buzzy high street. You can walk down it and hear Dutch, French, and Belgian. My husband (the guitarist Robert Fripp) and I are into the history of the church. So, for me, Canterbury is a leading city in Great Britain.

Does performing in pantomime get you into the Christmas spirit?

It does, especially when you’re in a town that still celebrates the true meaning of Christmas. You always hear carols being sung in Canterbury.

The Weekender 

Toyah promises Stortford audience new twists on her classic tracks

For original 80s wild child Toyah Willcox, growing old gracefully was never on the cards. At the age of 53, the gloriously extravagant and punk-inspired New Wave singer remains every bit as keen to strap on an outrageous outfit and strut into the spotlight.

Best known for 1981 hit single It’s A Mystery, Toyah – who is the star attraction at Bishop’s Stortford’s week-long Stortfest Crawl – has also enjoyed a career as an actress and voiceover artist.

But it’s her musical ventures that give her the most satisfaction – and when she comes to Rhodes on May 5, fans can expect plenty of surprises and fresh twists on classic tracks. Asked if she still felt comfortable hitting the stage in her trademark costumes, she told the Observer: “It’s what I do and what I’ve always done, so it’s absolutely second nature to me.  

“I started out in an age of video, so everything in those early days was about being visual – it had to be. You couldn’t release a single without a video to go with it. “I’m enjoy [the costumes] immensely, and the reaction it gets – well, the audience just love it because you can always surprise people.
“This particular show is about an album called The Changeling, which is quite a dark one and quite adult for me, so we’ve created a particular look for those songs.
  “But I also have looks for other songs – I always have pink hair for It’s A Mystery, for example. It’s all incredibly well thought-out and addressed.”  

As many an artist has discovered, there’s a fine line between keeping your old fans happy while appealing to a new generation – and an ever-present risk of trying and failing to relive former glories. However, Toyah said: “I’m not just reviving [the songs] but reinventing them as well - I don’t go out on stage pretending to be 22!  “My audience is surprisingly young and I think a lot of the ‘freshness’ comes from them – mostly thanks to bands like Florence and the Machine naming me as influences.” Much like fellow female icons Kate Bush, Debbie Harry and Siouxsie Sioux, Toyah’s success was built on firm musical foundations and a strong-willed, independent stance rather than her willingness to show flesh.

But while she agrees women artists are becoming more sexualised, she said responsibility lay far beyond just the music industry. With a laugh, Toyah said: “From my point of view, there’s no way I’m going to do anything like that. At my age, I’m so past my sell-by date that I won’t even wear a swimming costume in public! “You can’t blame the music industry here – the way the internet has gone and the way everything has gone… I mean, children are sexualised in their teens now and that’s not just come from music, but across the board.

“Only legislation could stop that happening, and that’s not going to happen in our society; we don’t tend to censor things and have a very open culture. “I just think if young people decide to be as sexualised as they are, it’s their decision. The education is the most important thing, to make sure they don’t come to any harm. You’re not going to stop children behaving like adults unless you’re incredibly stern and strict, and we just don’t live in that kind of society.

“I do think music is quite shockingly sexualised in a way that it’s never been before, but people are accepting it. As long as people keep accepting it, it isn’t going to change.” Despite the growing popularity of reality TV, and with it an alarming hunger for instant fame among today’s youngsters, Toyah believes there’ll always be a place in the spotlight for those who deserve it.

She said: “We have a very different industry now, but I think it’s still possible to have a fantastic career in music. The memorable stuff is done by people with genuine talent. “When you look at people like Coldplay or Florence and the Machine, there’s some really great talent out there and I think they’ll always survive, although not on the level The Beatles or the Rolling Stones did.

“[But] you only survive in this business if you put in the hours and work really hard; it’s not just about being treated like a five-star human being. People like Jennifer Lopez or Madonna work harder than you can possibly imagine and are totally on top of what they do. “The survivors are the toughest ones and I don’t think young people realise that. A lot of them are taken in by all that surface glamour.

“I often say to kids that if you don’t want to be famous, you’ll have a long career in showbusiness. You can work in the industry for your whole life if you narrow down your expectations – being famous is just the tip of the iceberg!”

Herts & Essex Observer 

It's A Mystery - How did Toyah Willcox transform herself from the original Punk Princess to Proud Resident of Pershore? Deirdre Shields finds out.

There is something very endearing about Toyah Willcox. She is one in a long tradition of creative – sometimes downright cussed – free spirits, who mellow into a kind of national treasure with the passing years. Say what you like about Toyah, you could never pigeon-hole her. She is the original wild child Punk Princess, credited with starting the Goth movement, who voiced Teletubbies, champions the National Trust, and is a staunch supporter of her local community in Pershore.

Being Toyah, she challenges the word ‘mellow’. ‘I don’t think I’m mellowing,’ she says, ‘though I do find things that freaked me out in the past don’t bother me anymore. I’m working harder than ever.’ She certainly is. She is about to embark on a spring tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of her albums The Changeling, and Warrior Rock. The tour is billed as a treat for ‘Toyah diehards, 1980’s fans, and Goth’rock lovers.’

‘It’s incredibly hectic at the moment,’ says Toyah. ‘We’ve been doing the costumes, the sound, and everyone wants my time. I love the buzz of it all, though.’ Toyah’s audience has evolved over the years, as a new wave of youngsters discover her music. Quite aside from the satisfaction this gives her, Toyah is a clear-eyed businesswoman who keeps a close eye on her property portfolio, runs her own website and Tweets, and does ‘all the quality control’, and she recognises the importance of this. ‘Students are just so valuable,’ she says, ’because they keep the word of mouth going about the albums.’

‘I have a new audience every year,’ she says. ‘It’s very interesting, because 80smusic is brand newto these people. They don’t know the politics; they don’t know Margaret Thatcher; they don’t know mobile phones were the size of shoe boxes – they just like the music, and they’re hearing it with new ears. Their opinions are so refreshing, because they’re hearing it without a history. I find it very intriguing.’

Worcestershire Living

INTERVIEW: Toyah Willcox @ Cherry Reds Café, Kings Heath, July 16th

Punk pop teen terror, Toyah Willcox, exploded into the limelight as ‘Mad’ – the anarchic redhead in Derek Jaman’s 1978 “film about Punk”, ‘Jubilee’.

She went on to release over 20 studio albums, 13 Top 40 singles, appear in over 40 stage plays and 10 feature films – in a career spanning over three decades. Oh yeah, she’s written two books as well.

Now also the first luminary to be honored on Kings Heath’s ‘Walk of Fame’, Cesilia Oriana Trecaquista went to see what else (if there’s any room left) does Toyah have in her head.

BReview: “Congratulations on your star in the Kings Heath ‘Walk of Fame’.  How does it feel to be awarded this accolade?”

Toyah: “It’s wonderful.  It’s such an honour, and so good for people to remember me in this way. I lived in Birmingham for 18 years, until I left for London and got my career going. I was born and conceived here. I used to shop on the high street everyday with my mother. It’s very kind of the business people of Kings Heath, to include me in the names of those associated with the suburb. Amazing people have played here, like Led Zeppelin and Jerry lee Lewis (at the Ritz Ballroom, now Cash Convertors, on York Rd).  I think I am the only other woman apart from Helen Shapiro; it’s an absolute honour.”

BReview: “You’ve had such a significant career, and hold a prolific music back catalogue. Is it difficult to decide what you will and won’t include, song wise, when organising a set or a tour?” 

Toyah: “We are kind of lucky, because starting last year we had 3 major 30th Anniversaries. Last year was ‘Anthem’, this year is ‘The Changeling’ and next year is ‘Love is the Law”. These were all platinum albums, so we can tour them. What we do after is a different matter, but for the next year we’re kind of covered.”

BReview: “So what can we expect at tonight’s gig?”

Toyah: “Today, at the Hare and Hounds, we’re going to do a 32 year retrospective; covering 18 – 22 albums. That has been hard, as we can only fit 22 songs into the length of time we have. It’s going to be a real ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ night.”

BReview: “Do you ever feel the need to put a modern twist on some of your earlier works when performing live?”

Toyah: “Interestingly, people don’t seem to want that. They want the original 1980’s take on things. But to contemporise is never a problem; with technology, the way you arrange things, when and where drum fills and guitar solos in etc.

The designs for the costumes do have quite a contemporary take on what I was wearing 30 years ago. But funnily enough, people want the songs exactly as they were back then, they want the nostalgia.”

BReview: “The 2nd part of your ‘Changeling Resurrection’ tour starts in September, with you returning to play at the Birmingham Ballroom on October 31st. Will you have any Halloween surprises for us?”

Toyah: “It’s going to be a fancy dress theme. ‘The Changeling’ was a gothic album so it will be a Goth themed night.  There will be all sorts of events happening; competitions, DJs and a club night after the gig.

BReview: “Moving on to ‘The Humans’ (a 3 piece ensemble Toyah formed in 2007) can you explain how this collaboration came about, and how it is to work with Chris Wong and Bill Reiflin?”

Toyah: “Well, Chris Wong was working as my Musical Director and also played guitar for my solo project, ‘Toyah’. In 2007 my husband was asked to play for the President of Estonia. However, he wasn’t available, so I contacted the embassy and asked if they would like myself and my band to do it instead.

At the time Bill Rieflin was drumming for R.E.M, but he had a window; so together with Chris we wrote 45 minutes of music which became the first ‘Humans’ album. We went to Estonia and played for the president and it went down incredibly well. It was fantastic. We are now on out 3rd album, which we record in September.”

BReview: “So a significant career, one that’s still evolving into new projects. What advice, if any, do you have for people pursuing a career in the industry today?”

Toyah: “It isn’t about the ‘X-Factor’. It takes genuine hard work, not instant gratification.  My advice would be to learn an instrument, learn how to write, learn about the law and get clued up about what publishing is about and what a record company is about.
Try and launch yourself on the Internet; on things such as Facebook, Twitter etc, as today that is where it is at.”

BReview: “And as a strong female in the music industry, how do you feel the role of women in the industry has changed?”

Toyah: “When I started out, there were people like Kim Wilde, Kate Bush and Patti Smith leading the way for females; but doing so in a strong way and in control, even back then.
Today there are some really great female songwriters who not only look great but are headlining stadiums; which back when I started didn’t happen.

I began at a time when your career would be mainly playing the pub circuits, so now it’s clear there is a lot of control by women in the industry.”

BReview: “So who would you consider strong and influential female figures in the industry today?”

Toyah: “Songwriters and acts such as P.J Harvey, Florence & the Machine, Marina & the Diamonds and Pink – who has reinvented herself over a diverse career. It hasn’t all been about Madonna.”

Birmingham Review 




Every morning I pull just one card from my deck of tarot cards to help shape my day. I am rather impetuous so I use my daily card to curb my natural impulses.
Some people believe tarot cards are a form of black magic or senseless new age mysticism but for me they are a practical way of talking directly to the universe.
I am currently using a beautiful deck of cards called Kat Black’s Golden Tarot which Robert bought me. It depicts female saints using Renaissance art work. The cards don’t just guide me they are beautiful too.


For 10 years I was completely absorbed with looking after my ailing parents and losing them both left a huge void in my life.
My dad Beric died in 2009 and my mum Barbara passed away two years later. Since then I have been busily reconnecting with my best friends. Robert and I don’t have children so our closest friends are very important to us.


I love the US and experience an amazing sense of freedom whenever I visit. My favourite city of all has to be Seattle as it seems to
encapsulate everything that is great about both Britain and America.

It is densely wooded like the UK and the people are very liberal and forward thinking and there is this sense that anything is possible. I have written three albums in Seattle and for some reason it seems to inspire my deepest creativity, which is why I am now looking to buy an apartment there.

I am a very spiritual person and I can really connect with certain places.
My other favourite getaway is the French town of Menton on the Italian border where I have a small flat. Like most of the French Riviera the sun always seems to be shining and the scenery is quite magical. My balcony overlooks a wonderful market square where you can watch elegant French and Italian pensioners relaxing.


When I was 11 I had a beautiful white rabbit called Snowy whom I loved with a slavish devotion. Ever since then I have had a strange obsession with white rabbits and we now have one called Willy Fred. He is named after our friend, the drummer in rock band REM Bill Berry, whose real name is William.

Willy Fred is a really beautiful little soul and Robert and I adore him. He loves to play and he is very affectionate and we both find his joyfulness uplifting.


My birthstone is emerald but because my mother was superstitious about the colour green I was never allowed to wear it. Instead I developed a love of aquamarine, which in my opinion is a far prettier and more soothing gem.

In May this year we celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary and Robert presented me with a 22-carat gold and aquamarine ring. He’d had it specially made for me and I wear it every day.

It is a stunning piece of jewellery and every time I look at its liquid blue intricacies I am reminded of my lovely husband and all the happiness we have shared.

The Daily Express


Toyah Willcox, the singer and actress, has fond memories of Estonia and the remotest regions of Belize, but hates to travel with Ryanair

Your earliest memory of travelling?

As a young child, my family holidays were always in Rock, Cornwall, with my parents, older brother Kim and sister Nicola. We hired a bungalow on the grounds of a hotel, but there were only two bedrooms. Mum and Dad stayed in one while Kim and Nicola shared the other. They used to put me to sleep in the living room by pushing two armchairs together. We lived in Birmingham at the time, so it took what seemed like 10 hours to get there, pootling along the single-track roads and country lanes.

How often do you travel now?
I travel every week within Britain – one day I can be in Scotland and Plymouth the next. But I travel abroad once a month, usually to my holiday home in Menton on the Côte d’Azur.

Why Menton?

I bought my first place there in 2009, which had an incredible 67 steps to climb to reach the front door. I sold it along with my home in Nice to buy this seafront apartment facing the Jean Cocteau museum where you can get everything you need – food, British newspapers – within two minutes. And our favourite hotel for evenings out, the Royal Westminster, is just a short walk away.

Place that inspires your songwriting?
Menton’s a top choice, but also Seattle. I go there twice a year. My best friend Bill Rieflin, who was the drummer for R.E.M, lives there and I have a band there. It’s where I feel most creative and where I’ve written my most successful songs. The people are great. They have a very relaxed work-play balance and are very unpretentious, unlike Los Angeles which I’ve always fancied but in reality I wouldn’t be able to deal with all of the schmoozing and fakeness there. 

Most memorable recording location?
Estonia in 1992. I also toured there and fell in love with its capital, Tallinn. It’s remained very unchanged and there is an interesting mix of people. I returned in 2007 after forming another band the Humans (which included my husband, Robert Fripp, and Bill) to play for the president’s birthday. We performed in a tiny wooden theatre in the middle of the forest – it was a modern-day Hansel and Gretel. 

Best travel experience?
Watching Madame Butterfly at the Tallinn Opera House in 1992. Money was pretty scarce then and all of the costumes were borrowed. So when Madame Butterfly was committing suicide, her costume fell off. But the performance was so beautiful and she delivered it with such technical brilliance while holding up her costume. I’ll never forget it – it was both moving and representative of Estonia at the time. 

Most adventurous travel experience?
In 1993, when my band and I were guests of the RAF in Belize before their base was shut. They took us on a helicopter ride and we were taken to the most remote Mayan ruins. It was mind-blowing because the butterflies there were nearly the size of our heads. Our hotel was on a tiny 30ft by 30ft island an hour and a half away. There was nothing on the island but four palm trees, a pelican, the band, myself and a hamper – very Robinson Crusoe. 

What do you need for a perfect holiday?
A digital detox. If I need a bit of R & R, I’d go to the Maldives because technology can’t reach you. I live a pretty healthy lifestyle – I don’t drink or smoke – but my stress levels are what’s going to kill me. I’m always thinking about what I’m going to do next, so I like to have a proper relaxing holiday.

Favourite hotel?
The Inn at the Market in Seattle is exceptional. It’s next to the big Pike Place Market with great coffee shops on Pine Street. It doesn’t have a restaurant, but I recommend the nearby Indonesian place, the Tamarind Tree. 

Worst hotel?
I don’t like putting places down but Travelodges have been the worst. I did 67 dates this year, up and down the country, and only two were decent, including the one at Hatfield. The staff was fantastic – they were pulling their hair out, trying to provide good service in terrible conditions. But broken things weren’t fixed or replaced, and it was tatty. 

Favourite airline?
I always fly British Airways. I find them to be the most dependable and I need to be on time when I’m travelling for gigs. 

Worst airline?
Ryanair. I flew with them to Ireland for a television appearance and was on crutches at the time, eating a sandwich while checking in. But I was told I had to either leave my sandwich or my crutch behind as they’d be counted as hand luggage. 

Best piece of travel advice?
Travel light, but be sure to always carry a travel adaptor, phone charger, great book and some nibbles. 

What do you hate about holidays? 
Drunk people. On a trip once to the Maldives, we stayed on a beautiful island in a fantastic hotel. But every time we left our hut, the drunk couple next door wanted us to do a song. We ended up leaving our hut through the bathroom window and climbing over the wall just to avoid them. 

Where next?
I love being in the United States because I feel so energised there. I’d love to visit the deserts of Utah but it might take wild horses to get Robert there, as he doesn’t like remote places or anywhere incredibly hot. 

The Daily Telegraph 

Love is still the Law for 80s singer Toyah: We chat to Toyah ahead of her gig at Legends

Entertainment Editor Gordon Barr chats to Toyah, who is at Legends in Newcastle on Friday

Three decades on, 80s pop princess Toyah still recalls 1983 as one of her favourite years. Little wonder then she is bringing her album release of that year back out on the road. Love Is The Law was critically acclaimed at the time and Toyah will be performing about six tracks from it, as well as a host of her numerous other hits, when she takes to the stage of Legends in Newcastle on Friday.

“This is my favourite album, it has very happy memories for me,” she tells me. “It was released in 1983 and I made it at a time when I was also appearing as Trafford Tanzi in the West End and it had to be written and recorded at the same time. “But it was just glorious. I don’t have one bad memory of that year at all.”

I always wanted to be a singer and an actress and I always wanted to do both separately. I never wanted to do them under the same production, under the same umbrella. I wanted to be totally free to explore both mediums. This was the most perfect year for that.

“I got Trafford Tanzi, which was just a joy from beginning to end – imagine a role where you are a woman playing a female wrestler who beats up her husband. It was just the most empoweering role and it was a massive critical success, and it kept the Mermaid theatre open another year, as it just sold out. It was a real buzz. “On top of that we needed the follow-up album to The Changeling, which was critically successful. The only way we could do that was for the band and recording studio to move into my house.

“When I got up in the morning we would go straight into the studio and write, and we would do that until about 4pm and then I would go and sleep and then a car would take me to the theatre at 6pm. I just found the whole rollercoaster of it completely exhilarating rather than a pressure and I had so much to write about as the stage play was so inspiring.

“Outside the theatre was a camp of about 300 fans, they called themselves The Angels and Demons, and they were there for about three months and as soon as I arrived, I’d stop and speak with them, have pictures taken, get their daily stories, do the show, in the interval go back out to the camp and speak to the fans again and after the show I’d go back to the studio and record what we had written that morning. I had about a month of 24-hour living. It was a total adrenalin rush.”

Hearing Toyah talk it’s easy to see why she’s looking forward to performing Love is the Law live again. I was just so happy. Sometimes you get periods in your life where you just never want something to end and that probably was the most perfect example of that feeling.
“Out of that I got a lead role in the film The Ebony Tower with Laurence Olivier. The whole year for me was the most perfect year.”

Of Friday’s gig, she adds: “We are very aware of the songs that bring the house down and I want the whole evening to do that. We are doing six songs from Love Is The Law, enough to represent an album.”

Newcastle Chronicle Live


Toyah Willcox flaunts her fabulous figure in pink swimwear as she joins Splash!

She may be turning 56 this year, but Toyah Willcox will have women half her age envious of her body following her stint on Splash!

In official pictures taken for the actress’ appearance on the ITV1 reality show, she shows off her incredible figure in a hot pink low-cut swimming costume whilst posing by the pool.
However, despite looking so good it seems that the thought of wearing swimwear in public is scaring Toyah more than the fact that she has to dive off of a three metre board this Saturday. Describing her thoughts on her figure, the actress and singer, who has admitted to having a facelift, admitted that she doesn’t “do beach holidays”.

"I’m very short, naturally muscular and I’m 55," she said. "The only thing that’s going to make me look like Cher is the amount of surgery she’s had and I’m not going to do that.  "I’m far happier diving off a high board than I am doing that run in front of the audience in my swimming costume. That’s what I’m having nightmares about."
She continued: "I’m feeling, ‘Oh my God!’ I’ve got a large hurdle because I’ve never been seen in public in a bikini before and I feel rather disturbed about the prospect. I don’t do beach holidays and I’m not confident in a bikini.

"It’s cruel that Linda Barker set the bar so high last year in the way she looked! Even as a teenager, I never looked as good as Linda! But I just have to get on with it. After all, this isn’t a bikini competition." Joining Toyah on the diving board is 57-year-old TV and radio presenter Paul Ross, Boyzone singer Keith Duffy, 39, and 47-year-old former rugby player Martin Offiah.

The Daily Express 

Interviews With Heat 2 Celebrities: Toyah Willcox

Q: What inspired you to participate in this year’s Splash!?

A: Since I was a teenager, I have fantasised about high diving. It’s always been a dream of mine. I was very lucky that at school I learned how to dive, but I haven’t done it since. The only problem is that I have probably left it about 40 years too late! Diving at the age of 55 is a radically different experience. But I will be hurling myself off a three metre board on live television because I want to prove that just because you hit 50, it doesn’t mean you should slow down. All in all, working on this show has been exhilarating.

Q: How have you found it working with Tom Daley?

A: He is a consummate gentleman. He is a wonderful teacher. He’s amazingly patient – he sees nobody’s age or gender or ability. He’s very easy on the eye, and he has none of that usual teenage angst. He’s very calm, and I think that may come from the inherent danger of what he does. You can’t do it if you’ve just had a night on the tiles. If you are feeling distracted when you dive, you’ll simply hurt yourself. Tom is a fantastic role model and a superb asset for the show.

Q: Which board have you dived off already?

A: I’ve gone off the three metre board twice. It was an incredible experience. Beforehand, you don’t realise just how fast you travel into the water. Afterwards I was elated. It felt like a massive step forward and a huge achievement.

Q: Did Tom help you prepare for it?

A: Yes, he was brilliant. He told us to take it slowly. You have to prepare yourself mentally and physically – you don’t just climb the ladder and dive in. You need to take a moment beforehand to get your mind and body exactly right. Diving is the art of falling forward and entering the water correctly. So preparation is vital. It’s very easy to be off the mark. That’s why we’re doing so much training, so we won’t be distracted by the cameras and the huge audience when it comes to the live shows.

Q: What do you think about doing the live shows?

A: I’m feeling, “Oh my God!” I’ve got a large hurdle because I’ve never been seen in public in a bikini before, and I feel rather disturbed about the prospect. I don’t do beach holidays , and I’m not confident in a bikini. It’s cruel that Linda Barker set the bar so high last year in the way she looked! Even as a teenager, I never looked as good as Linda! But I just have to get on with it. After all, this isn’t a bikini competition.

Q: Does your background as a performer help?

A: Yes. With my band I’m on stage three times a week – I do more than 100 shows a year. When you’re on stage, you learn to get on with it; you just work through any distractions or worries. If you have a costume malfunction, you don’t stop the show. So in a strange way, I’m looking forward to the live shows in Splash!

ITV Press Centre: 
Splash! Heat 2 Interviews

How Toyah can make a style Splash! Proof you CAN find a swimsuit to flatter every figure

As a 55-year-old woman with short legs, scars across my stomach from childhood surgery and a bosom so generous it can make me look dumpy, I never drea
med that one day I’d be parading around in a swimming costume on national television. Yet as a contestant on ITV’s reality diving show Splash!, I’m doing just that – and couldn’t be more terrified. Ever since I agreed to be in the show, I’ve been petrified at the thought of exposing my physique in a swimming costume.

Yes, I try to keep fit and I’m a size ten, but I’m only 5ft 1in, and my body confidence is so low that I never go on beach holidays. The thought of walking down the sands showing off so much skin makes me feel ill with nerves. I haven’t worn a bikini since I was a teen – and even the swimming costume I wear to the local pool has a skirt attached to cover my legs up.

Despite this, I’m a devoted swimmer, and have always wanted to improve my diving, so I couldn’t turn down the chance to appear on the show. But how to cope with revealing my body to five million viewers? Well, a flattering swimming costume to replace my usual baggy old pink-skirted one was a good start.

With this in mind, I enlisted swimwear designer Melissa Odabash — whose beachwear is worn by stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Moss — to help me find the figure-fixing swimsuits that could make even a flawed fifty-something like me look utterly fabulous.  If you’re thinking of escaping for some winter sun, there could be a costume for you — and, best of all, there’s not an itsy-bitsy bikini in sight!

The Daily Mail 



Toyah Willcox is one of the best-known and most versatile entertainers Birmingham has produced. Actor, TV presenter, businesswoman but most of all a singer, she is about to begin a tour which will feature her best-known work played acoustically. She told us about her upcoming Robin show

 “It’s acoustic, which is a lot of fun. I’ve been doing this show for a year now. It’s Colin Hinds from China Crisis and Chris Wong from my band, two acoustic guitars and myself. We do all the hits but I also do favourite tracks from my albums and I use film and visuals to tell behind the scenes stories, how certain images were created and how videos were made. It’s really irreverent, the whole point of the evening is fun, laughter and dance. The evening is very uplifting and what I find surprising is that the songs are more danceable in this format. It just works, the songs really shine and it’s been incredibly successful.”

You certainly seem very enthusiastic about it. Will this be something you do more of?

“It’s a regular thing because it’s very much in demand. A lot of people don’t want to go to rock clubs to hear an electric band so this show can go to other venues such as arts centres where the clientele are happy to sit and listen to someone talking about their life. But we’ve found that the show still maintains the energy and if anything it’s more intense because it goes from story to song and back again and it sounds very melodic, with a lot of light and shade. It takes me by surprise because when we started I honestly thought we’d do two shows and never do it again but I’m getting a standing ovation every ten minutes. People really get it.

“It’s very different to the band shows. It’s very personal, there’s a lot about me and also it’s not all action. I think a good show can prove itself acoustically. My really punky stuff sounds incredible, it’s because of the visuals in the lyrics and the changing formats and keys, they allow the songs to breathe. I’ve been on stage now for 35 years, it allows me to be a real showwoman. You’re up there for 2 ½ hours, you’ve really got to carry it off.” 

You’ve reinvented yourself regularly over the years. 

“That’s inevitable. I’m 35 years older than when I started. I don’t think it’s just about reinvention, I’ve grown. We all become better musicians and singers, I think its a question of growing into your skin. Being on stage for me now is second nature.”

It’s strange that you always seem to be overlooked in the lists of great Birmingham musicians. Does that annoy you?

“No. I have noticed it but I’m successful and I’ve never been busier so if they want to overlook me it’s their loss not mine. I agree that I’m not thought of as a Brummie musician but it’s not my problem. I was born three miles from the city centre, my father was an incredibly influential architect in the city. It’s surprising that I’m never included in those sort of lists although I was included in the 100 Famous Brummies in about 1988 and I’ve an honorary doctorate from the university, but while it’s true it never affects me.

“I love Birmingham, my husband and I visit the city at least once a week. The centre has been got absolutely right and that Fox story saying Birmingham was unsafe because it’s full of Muslims, we used to take my mother to Birmingham on her mobility scooter and the only people who helped her most were young Asian males. That’s a representation of how brilliant the cultures work together in the city.”

Although your music was never really Brummie unlike, say, Sabbath or UB40 who couldn’t have come from anywhere else.

“When I was breaking big round about 1980 I used to say I couldn’t wait to get out of Birmingham. Did the city influence me? Not in a positive way because I was a woman growing up in a tough environment but now it’s an absolutely world-class city.
I feel I’m a Birmingham girl and like everything, if a city works hard and looks after its people then that rectifies everything else and I think Birmingham is a city of great opportunities. When Pebble Mill was closing and the BBC was moving to Manchester I was one of the first people to vocalise that they were denying the largest body of licence payers their fair share. I am actually quite passionate about Birmingham, the people are phenomenal. A city is not a bunch of buildings and a bunch of councillors, a city is the people so I will defend it.”

You seem to have a very loyal fanbase.

“I’ve had people following me for so long they have children and grandchildren who are Toyah fans as well. I’m not the sort of artist who keeps in touch with their fans every day, I’m not made that way but I try to stay loyal to the music that means so much to them. Their dedication is more to the music than it is to me, they know what they like from my career.”

You play the Rewind and Here & Now eighties shows. Are you, like the rest of us, terrified at how quickly the years have passed?
 I’ve only noticed it recently. I had this conversation with my husband ten minutes ago – suddenly you’re looking at people you’ve known all your life or someone on TV who are so much older and you think ‘How did that happen?’. It’s as if a switch has gone. I’m not afraid of it but it’s made me change radically because I don’t like wasting my time. It’s so precious and I have so much I want to do, especially as a writer and singer. The concept of retirement to me is like volunteering to be ill; I just don’t get it. This thing about time moving fast is making me value the time I have and to make sure I live it.”

Those shows must be like being in the dressing room of Top of the Pops from 1981.

“Yes, because we’re with all our friends. Out of the 60,000 people at a festival 40,000 are under 25 so they bring a completely different element to the show but you’re right, we all know each other and we’ve all supported each other over the years. We know each other’s families, it’s a very close-knit community and we have a lot of fun. I’ll play them and things like the Butlins weekends, with about 8,000 people watching and it’s a riot.”

When you look back at the hair and the clothes from those days, do you smile or shudder?

“I never shudder. I changed the face of fashion for women, I’m very proud of it.”. 



Toyah Wilcox, singer, songwriter from the 1980’s and actor, formed The Humans in 2007 after her husband, Robert Fripp was too busy to perform at the birthday party of the President of Estonia. Having written a forty minute set, and toured Estonia with it in 2007, The Humans have since released three albums.

We Are The Humans was released in 2009, with the follow-up Sugar Rush being released in 2009. The latest album, Strange Tales was released in March 2014. As they prepare for a six date tour of the UK to promote The Humans, Toyah is also busy with her own acoustic tour, she is heavily involved with The Flashback and Rewind Festivals, as well as working on a new Toyah Wilcox album together with her successful acting career.

Taking time out from her busy life, she had a chat with Kevin Cooper, and this is what she had to say.

Hi Toyah how are you this morning?

Hi Kevin I’m fine thanks how are you?

I’m good thank you. Let me just say that I have been a huge fan since I queued up for over five hours outside Rock City here in Nottingham so that I could see you perform in the early 80’s.

My god Kevin that really must have been the early 80’s (laughter). I can’t even remember playing in Nottingham.

I have got some photographs of the gig as I smuggled my camera in with me. I will send copies over to you.

I would love that Kevin that would be fantastic.

Not a problem. So how is life treating you?

I always find a new year quite fabulous and an incredibly positive event. I always feel recharged and it is like moving on to a new horizon. We have on average ten shows coming in every day so it is going to be a very busy year.

I see from your diary that you have already got six shows confirmed this year with The Humans.

Now I have to tell you Kevin that The Humans don’t work that often. What is really busy all year round, and has been for the last twenty years is The Toyah Band. And on top of that I have recently been touring with my acoustic show. With The Humans we really need people to sit up and take notice because we only tour in the UK every three years, so it is very much a project of my heart. I absolutely love working with these guys. But to be honest, it is at the moment a cottage industry that we run ourselves, so we really do need as much support as possible.

Should that support materialise, will there be any more dates than the six already announced?

First of all we will need to create the demand Kevin. We already have a good fan base who have started their own website, and for me the music is my new music. There will be new Toyah albums but with The Humans I make sure that we make a new album every two years. So we are building and building and building and I think with The Humans once we get the audience established, then we will probably get the record label support that we really need. I am a firm believer in this project but we need an army of fans.

Going back a step, just how did you all get together?

Well Kevin it originally started with my frustration with my husband continually turning down work that I wanted to get (laughter). As you will probably know I am married to Robert Fripp of King Crimson and to say that Robert is exclusive is actually an understatement. I have heard him on the phone to (David) Bowie and (Peter) Gabriel telling them that he is far too busy to take on a project. However I knew otherwise and it drove me absolutely crazy. So one day back in 2007 he got a call from one of the aides to the President of Estonia asking Robert to go to Estonia and play exclusively for the Presidents birthday, and Robert said no because he was too busy.

When I heard him I just thought for fucks sake, life is too short (laughter). So I called up the Embassy here in London and I told them that whilst I was married to Robert, I was an established musician here in the UK and that I would put a band together and we would go over to Estonia, perform 40 minutes of music written exclusively for the President for his birthday. And to my surprise they said yes. At this point I had a very limited budget but I had a yes. So I phoned up someone who I had always wanted to work with and that was Bill Rieflin, who is now a drummer in King Crimson, but Bill is also a multi-instrumentalist. He was a guitarist in Ministry; he has worked with Nine Inch Nails, and he was the drummer in R.E.M. and he said yes, so we got together.

I wrote the initial 40 minutes of music and then we all got together and we refined it, arraigned it and turned it into something completely different. And so we went over to Estonia; the Arts Ministry in Estonia put a tour together for us and it completely sold out and the last show was a private show for the President. It was just glorious Kevin and I loved every minute. Being in Estonia was simply fantastic.

How would you describe The Humans music?

The Humans have recorded three albums now, and the first album, We Are The Humans which we recorded back in 2009, was deliberately stripped down Kevin. I wanted it to be pop songs where you took away the formulaic nature of the song and just exposed the skeleton. It is a very, very European film noir; it is moody, there is something wrong with it, and it disturbs you which is very deliberate. Then when we recorded the second album, Sugar Rush in 2009, it is an album of grief, and that is deliberate, but there is more anger in it; there is more bass and more bass end. And then we come right up to date with Strange Tales which we recorded in 2014, and how can I put it, it is an album of rebirth.   It is a very joyous album and it has drums in for the first time.

I am currently writing album four and I have to tell you Kevin, it is going to be an explosion. So each album was written deliberately as a step forward in building a creative process.

I have been listening to Strange Tales and I have to say that I think it is fantastic.

Thank you Kevin, that’s kind of you to say that.

I love Slow Descent and I adore Get In Your Car. I think that they are both phenomenal tracks.

Both of those tracks are lovely and they are so good to perform live. Get In Your Car is a hit waiting to happen Kevin.

As you have touched upon, the three previous albums have been a progression. With album four will you loosen the boundaries and let more instruments in?

The simple answer Kevin is yes, absolutely. The idea is that it will grow and grow into a cacophony of joy, so yes there will be more instruments on album four.

You are extremely busy so when are you looking at releasing the fourth album?

Well the thing is Kevin, because I see The Humans as existing within a pod state with our audience, the album will be available on iTunes but the hard copy will only be available at the shows. That way we manage to keep an air of exclusiveness, and the people that bother to come and see the shows can get hold of the hard copy. After that we will probably release it on all of the internet genres but at the moment there is that exclusivity.

Me being a lover of old school vinyl, will the album ever be released in that format?

I have to say that eventually all three albums will probably be available on vinyl. I think that with our audience and what The Humans represent, vinyl is probably the best medium for it. So yes, we are getting there on that.

Are you pleased with the album?

I love it (laughter). I am so pleased with the writing which is why The Humans mean so much to me Kevin. I actually think as a writer and as a singer I have developed; I have formed and I keep forming. People are totally forgiven for still thinking of me as being in the 1980’s and I have made a very good living from that. But what people don’t necessarily hold an interest in is how a singer develops, and with The Humans that carries my development. It is what I am today and I am very, very proud of it.

So who is the boss?

(Laughter) that is such a very good question Kevin. I am the bank of Toyah and I pay for everything, and I remind people of this when they start ignoring me. But the ultimate boss is Bill (Rieflin) because I allow him to edit me. Bill will take my ideas and if he doesn’t like them he will tell me that I can do better so he is the editor general Kevin (laughter).

I have just had a look at your diary and it would appear that I will be photographing you on four separate occasions this year so it is plain to see that you still get a buzz out of touring.

It is what I do Kevin, it is my day job (laughter). I would never think that I want to go and work in IT or go and work in a foundry; I am a singer and a writer, and I like to think that I am creative above all else. It is simply what I do and I love it. I think that if I didn’t love it then I couldn’t do it Kevin and I think that the audience would be aware of this, so I have a huge amount of respect for my audiences as well as the art of performing. So yes Kevin, I do love it and I do still get a buzz out of touring. I am incredibly grateful that here I am at 56, about to turn 57 and I am still doing it.

I asked a well-known artist if they had ever thought about retiring and they asked me from what, performing or playing golf (laughter).

But that is a problem with me Kevin, I don’t have an interest outside of the music business and I really wish that I did. All of my interests are all in the business. I love to walk and walking for me is a privilege because I have a history of losing the ability to walk because of a condition that I was born with. Only two years ago I couldn’t walk; I had to learn to walk again and at the moment my mobility is fabulous and I am right back to being a 26 year old. So walking to me is an indication that I am well and it is also an indication of complete freedom and that is the only interest that I have because I am so passionate about being able to move. The way that I express my joy is that I go off and I walk for two hours.

If I was to have an interest outside of music I have been invited to create a jewellery range and I am working on that at the moment. It is high-end Kevin, and so it is not hugely accessible just yet. If buyers take it, and if people want it, then we are going to create a high street section of it. So everything that I do is actually to do with work. I simply don’t have a passion that takes me away from work other than walking and perhaps going to the cinema.

You take part in the Flashback / Rewind Festivals and you also tour on your own with your acoustic show. Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, which one gives you the greater pleasure?

That’s an impossible question for me to answer Kevin because I enjoy everything that I do and if I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t do it (laughter). The Flashback Festivals are just great because they are just a hundred percent fun. I am not a boss; I just turn up and sing (laughter). It’s absolutely great. With the acoustic show, you are talking about me standing in front of an audience for two and a half hours singing, telling the stories and running the show. It is incredibly satisfying, together with being very demanding in a totally different way to anything else that I do. So Kevin there is simply no comparison. The Flashback Festivals pay for me to put The Humans on stage because that is the only time of the year that I really earn any money (laughter). On the other hand the acoustic show is an incredible experience for self-expression, so they are not comparable.

Is it easy for you to open up your soul to the public for two and a half hours?

Well Kevin, if you were to ask me that same question ten minutes before I go out onto the stage, I would tell you that I don’t know where it is going to come from. I just sit there thinking what the fuck am I going to do. But then I step out onto the stage and the whole event has a life of its own and they are great. I have got thirty five years of experience to tap into having worked with legends, and have been with great people and difficult people sometimes; I have got all of that to tap into and it presents itself. I have to say that I find these evenings incredibly magical.

There is no way that my evenings can ever be classed as boring Kevin as they always turn into a riot. The first act is a lot of stories and film clips with music, and I am singing all the way through. And then the second act we do it as a concert. People just push their chairs aside and start dancing.

Do you feel drained when you finally leave the stage?

No Kevin not at all. I think that something is only draining if you are having to push the energy forward. I find that most times, you are playing to an audience who knows who you are; therefore they are completely clued in and aware of what you are talking about. I think that if I was to take this show to a country that doesn’t know me then it would be a very different experience. I don’t find it draining at all in fact it is over in five minutes Kevin (laughter). I come off the stage and think where has that two and a half hours gone (laughter). So I think that in itself shows that it works.

Do you have any musical ambitions still left to achieve?

There are many Kevin, in fact there are so many and they are ambitions for obvious reasons. For The Humans to move forward we have got to get that kind of audience grounded and to get a major label interested. How can I explain, I am a one person cottage industry; I run everything. I run the live shows; I’m the boss, I am the accountant, the payroll master, and for The Humans to move onto the next stage we have just got to get the industry involved. So that’s an ambition but I am incredibly choosey about how it all moves forward. I am so very ambitious about The Humans and it is something that I want to be doing well into my seventies.

Then as an actress there is always ambition; you are always thinking I want to do this and I want to do that. But a lot of my career and decisions with my career are in the hands of others, for example when it comes to a script-writer thinking that I would be perfect for a role or a casting agent thinking I would be suited to a specific role. I can’t call up the producers of The Missing and tell them that I would be great for that role; they have to make that choice but I am still very ambitious.

On the subject of acting, what was it like to be part of the cast of what was, in my opinion, the best film ever made, and I am talking about Quadrophenia. Was it as much fun making it as it looked?

What I will say Kevin is that it was very challenging. It was challenging purely because there were so many of us. When we were shooting the outdoor scenes there was a cast of thousands. Once we were on camera and actually doing the work it was great but in-between sequences, you were trying to get on set, you were trying to get fed, you were trying to get to makeup, and it was very challenging because of the number of people that were involved. But having said that Kevin, what a great cast; it was a staggering cast.

And of course you had huge success when you starred as Trafford Tanzi.

The great thing about Trafford Tanzi was that it was such a huge success and it was sold out for about four months. To this day I am still bumping into people who were in the audience and it really does make the world a lot smaller. I have to be honest with you and say that I am always the actress who is second on the list Kevin, but a lot of the time that has actually worked in my favour. The top actresses have so many offers that they are turning them down and then I get them (laughter). I always got the jobs of an actress called Kathryn Hunter because she was never available and that gave me some fabulous roles; some absolutely wonderful roles.

But there is another side to the industry. I am always having creative meetings with TV companies who say that they don’t want my ideas and then six months later that idea is on screen. It’s a business full of plagiarism and a lot of people out there are more than willing to steal someone else’s ideas. It is constantly frustrating but you simply have to get on with it and accept it. There is no point in taking anything personally, there is no point being bitter. The industry is tough Kevin; it is a vicious industry to be part of. Anyone who is creative will tell you that trying to protect the egg of the idea is so very hard.

But is there any harder industry than the music industry?

Oh god, it’s everywhere Kevin. I could go onto YouTube today, find an unreleased band, copy their song, and simply release it as my own. If you don’t have scruples that is how it works. It is just tough.

So what next for Toyah?

What do you mean what next you cheeky sod (laughter). I’ve got a whole year of touring isn’t that enough?

But you have to keep looking forward (laughter).

I am looking forward; I am looking forward to the next twelve months (laughter).

Ok let me put it another way, when will we see a new album from Toyah the solo artist?

Well my co-writer Simon Darlow, who I wrote In The Court Of The Crimson Queen with, is just desperate to get into the studio with me. He is very busy at the moment and so we both keep trying to block out some time to enable us to write and record. So hopefully the writing and recording may happen sometime this year which would mean a release next year, which would be perfect timing. That release would then bridge me while we record The Humans Four. So let me just say Kevin that I am on to it (laughter).

On that note let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me.

No problem Kevin, thank you very much. I hope to see you sometime this year.



Eighties pop icon Toyah Willcox will play Stonehaven Town Hall this Friday and Saturday night with the singer eager to look around the town.

The former punk princess - whose biggest hit was ‘It’s A Mystery’ spoke to the Mearns Leader this week about playing Stonehaven, looking forward to fish and chips and what fans can expect.

The stage will be set for Toyah this Friday September 18 and Saturday Septmeber 19. Toyah said: “I’m really looking forward to the show as we’ve never been to Stonehaven and it is great to have the chance to go there. As it is on the coast I’m looking forward to getting to know the town and I love history so I’d love to walk around the museum.”

The event is being organised by music shop owner Chris Stirk with tickets still available for both shows. Toyah’s two gigs follows her successful appearance recently at the Rewind festival in Perth with the singer adding that she’ll have all the hits and maybe a few surprises for those attending.

She said: “I think fans are going to really enjoy the show as it is fun and it is really about them. I’ll have all the hits, the singles from the 80s and singles that have charted on iTunes in the last couple of years. It will be a fun and able show, where we’ll look to put in a few other songs.”

Toyah also told us about her love for fish and chips and haggis. She added: “I’m looking forward to the fish and chips, last time I was in Aberdeen I had these amazing fish and chips so I’m looking forward to that as well as haggis. I hope they have haggis as I adore haggis. My father used to make it when I was younger”.

Finally we asked how the music industry has changed over 30 years. She said: “The music industry is unrecognizable from when I started. The record shop on the high street used to have huge power, same with radio play.

“Now everything is available on so many different platforms. I’m lucky being a live musician having a live career. I think if you are creative you can have a fantastic career in the industry.”



Dundee Evening Telegraph 7.4.2016

With her dramatic hairstyles and funky clothes, Toyah was the ultimate punk princess of the 1980s. Her unique style and incredible musical talent made her one of the leading rock legends of the era.

And now for the second year in a row, she is returning to Tayside to perform at this year’s Rewind Scotland 80s festival at Scone Palace. Speaking to the Tele, Toyah revealed just how much she is looking forward to coming back to the area. “Rewind is a joyous occasion and I am really looking forward to coming to Scone once more,” she said. “However, I’m hoping to have a slightly easier time than last year.”

Toyah presented last year’s festival over the entire weekend — announcing the acts and leading the audience over the two days of entertainment. However, that was a task that was only foisted on her at the last minute. She said: “Someone had pulled out and it was only six hours before I arrived that I got a phone call telling me to get to Scone because I was needed. “I regularly present on television so it was no big deal to me to carry out that role at Rewind.”

Not only that but she did a set as well, delighting the audience with her classic hits, including It’s a Mystery and I Want to be Free. After a career that has spanned more than 38 years, Toyah is still regularly performing. She said: “I still do around four shows a week and over this summer I will be performing at 50 music festivals.” Meanwhile, her latest movie Aaaaaaaah! has been nominated for awards around the world.

In 2014 she topped the iTunes rock chart with her American band The Humans and this year will see more releases and touring. She said: “I am busy all the time but love doing the festivals in the summer and really enjoy performing in the open in front of a live audience, when everyone really feels part of what’s going on.

“Rewind at Scone is fun and we all have a great time together backstage. “Although I’m currently involved in all sorts of projects and am still releasing music, Rewind is all about the music of the 80s and that’s what the audience is there for. “Mind you, the weather was pretty wild at one point last year, so I’m hoping for good weather all the way through this year.”

Toyah revealed that she is no stranger to Tayside and regularly travels to Dundee as part of a musical project that she is working on. The singer has always been well-known for her unique on-stage style and she said that’s something she still enjoys creating.

She said: “I spend a lot of time researching my outfits and creating a unique look. “I do it all myself, including the make-up, and one of the great things about doing festivals is looking out at the audience and seeing people copying outfits I have worn over the years.

“When I was performing in the 80s, pop videos were really coming into their own and the look and appearance of stars became very important. “I really embraced all that and loved the fashions, and it’s great to see people copying my style and image.”


writewyattuk Getting up close and personal with Toyah 17.6.2016

Regular readers of this blog won’t be surprised that this scribe is an avid viewer of BBC 4’s Top of the Pops re-runs, a point I soon confess to my latest interviewee, Toyah Willcox.

“Oh, God bless those!”

The more recently re-aired shows take me back to my early teens, at a time when this highly-recognisable West Midlands raised actress and singer was enjoying a string of hits, not least the distinctive It’s a Mystery, Thunder in the Mountains and I Want To Be Free.

Admittedly, you’ve always had to wade through a lot of rubbish on Top of the Pops, recent examples ranging from Captain Beaky and Joe Dolce to The Snowmen and Starsound. But it also makes me realise how many great characters there were in music at the time. ‘Old bloke with rose-tinted nostalgic specs’ alert, but the charts today just don’t seem to have that same level of OTT theatricality. This was after all an era when the disparate likes of Adam Ant, Buster Bloodvessel, Clare Grogan, Hazel O’Connor, John Lydon, Lee John, Siouxsie Sioux and Ms Willcox herself were beamed into our front rooms on Thursday nights. Just where are the characters now?

“It was phenomenal back then. There were big characters out there. We all had to perform live and came up performing live. There were very few contrived acts. A very different time. We also all wrote, and I think it’s really important to write your own material. It was almost a dirty word to do somebody else’s song.

“I had to be coerced into doing Echo Beach (1987)That was a hit for me, but I felt a sense of shame at the time. Now I absolutely love performing it. Back then it was really important that the songs were your voice.”

With all those top-40 singles (eight) and albums (seven) Toyah had between 1980 and 1985, does she see those years as just one chapter of the career? For while the big hits dried up, she continued to record, and the crowds are still coming out for her.

“How can I explain it? I found it incredibly stressful having to produce four hit singles a year. That dampens your enthusiasm. The only artist I know who’s never lost that enthusiasm is Madonna. By about 1987-88 I had to step away. I wasn’t in love with the business anymore.

“I started acting more, touring Shakespeare and Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus. That just gave me my will to go back into music. Making albums for me has always been much more rewarding. You can be more true to yourself, and more off the wall. Also, being very much anchored in new wave, when dance came in I just didn’t fit that space, at all.”

Toyah has always traversed the acting and music industries. That must keep it all fresh. “Yeah. And absolutely every artist has found over the last 20 years that audiences slightly shrink. But because of the internet you’re playing to the same people and living off the same income. You’ve created your own world bubble, and that’s kind of relevant to what I’m doing.

“My audiences are there and I can play anywhere in the UK and do very well. But I don’t hire PR companies and don’t really worry about being signed to a record company anymore. Of those people you see in the papers every day, about 40 per cent of their income is going on a press person. And that’s not for me.”

Charismatic, outspoken and nigh on impossible to categorise, Toyah is a somewhat iconic talent, and she’s as busy as ever 37 years after her head-turning, full-on debut LP Sheep Farming in Barnet enjoyed indie chart success. In fact, there have been 14 more studio albums since, plus a couple of live LPs and several compilations. But it’s never been just about the music, and from the start she was involved in the thespian sphere, working her way up from a dresser to the stars, over the years making many memorable theatre, TV and film appearances.

As well as her hit singles and albums, she’s written two books, appeared in more than 40 stage plays, and acted in 15 feature films. It’s a unique CV too, having presented The Good Sex Guide, Holiday and Songs of Praise, supplied voice-overs for iconic children’s show Teletubbies on TV, toured Shakespeare, and starred in cult films Jubilee and Quadrophenia.

But it’s the music taking centre-stage again right now, as will be the case when she visits Preston’s Charter Theatre next weekend (my excuse for calling her), as her Acoustic, Up Close & Personal show offers a chance to experience Toyah in an intimate setting, playing her best-known songs, unplugged, and telling plenty of stories from her colourful career.

She’s joined on those dates by guitarists Chris Wong, from her band The Humans, and Colin Hinds, from China Crisis, the pair combining with the headline act on meticulous, stripped-back acoustic versions of her best-known songs. And as this Birmingham born and bred icon put it, ‘The music has real space to breathe and is lively and energetic but still stripped back in these clever unplugged arrangements’.

“We’ve been touring the show for two years, converting rock music into the acoustic set. But every year we revamp the show a bit, and we’re very familiar with this format now. All three of us sing. It’s really beautiful. People might think, ‘Oh gosh, only two guitars?’ But it sounds incredible. They really put a lot of energy into it.”

You can often tell how good a song is, I add, when it’s stripped down to the basics. “Absolutely, and I think the success of this show proves that. And it does tend to sell out wherever we go. People like to hear songs stripped down, hearing nuances you can’t always hear if you’ve got the volume of the drums. It also reveals how the song is written. Everyone’s taken by surprise. Even my late ’70s punk songs work extraordinarily well.”

She’s certainly proved herself to be an eloquent talker. Does Toyah tend to go off-topic on these dates? “Most nights I have a PowerPoint behind me. I have a visual memory so need visual cues. But if the audience is really up for it you can tell them stories you wouldn’t normally tell. It’s very much how we feel on the evening. It’s music-driven, but I like the audience to go away thinking they know something more about me and have experienced something no one else has because of the uniqueness of this.”

Do Chris and Colin sometimes have to nudge her back in the right direction? “They don’t, actually. I think they’re probably scared of me … or laughing their heads off behind me. I can be quite irreverent, with some things I say. I don’t go and boast about achievements so much as costume failures, or when you’re on stage and a set falls apart – stuff like that, very light-hearted, lots of fun.”

She saw a fair few malfunctions, I’m guessing, while helping dress the touring stars in your early days in regional theatre. “Yes, I think the worse was for Peter Pan at Wimbledon Theatre, when my fly-wire got stuck on the scenery as it was being taken off stage. We had to stop the show. Ridiculous. I’ve seen many, many things go wrong.”

Time flies on, and a month ago Toyah celebrated her 58th birthday, which means she was born the same month as two of my musical heroes, fellow May 1958 arrivals Neil Finn and Paul Weller. Was there something special in the air around then?  “Well, the winter months were coming, and perhaps there was a power cut. Prince was also born that year, and Madonna, and Kate Bush. It was a very productive year.”

She’s right, and several other notables included Michael Jackson. That said though, I note that Toyah’s beloved – Soft Machine guitar legend Robert Fripp – was 12 when his wife-to-be was born, learning guitar back in Dorset. “Yes, he started learning at the age of 11, and was playing pro by the age of 14.”

Toyah’s now been singing and acting for getting on for 40 years, more than two-thirds of the lifespan. “Wow, I hadn’t thought of it that way. That’s great!”

Is that hard to comprehend sometimes? “No, I feel as if I’ve lived it! Now I’m here, it doesn’t feel long at all, but when I was starting at 23 I couldn’t see beyond the age of 30. Now at the age of 58 I still feel there’s so much I want to learn and achieve and get right. And I find I start panicking, thinking, ‘Don’t waste time!’ I’m not interested in retirement.

“There are so many things I still want to do, mainly in what I want to do. I’d love to be able to play guitar on stage, but I’ve never been good enough. Yes, there are many things within my working sphere which I feel I’ve still got to get right.” When it comes to that, surely she has a perfect teacher at home in Robert. “Actually, he’s the last person I want to learn from! He’s so …. You have to play his way, and it’s not for me.” Is it a bit like having driving lessons with a loved one? “Absolutely, but he did buy me the most beautiful acoustic guitar for my birthday, creating special tuning for me, based around the strong key of my voice – D, as opposed to E. It’s fabulous. I’m enjoying it so much, and it’s made it so much easier to play.”

Alongside the performing, Toyah wrote her autobiography, Living Out Loud, in 2000, following that with Diary of a Facelift in 2005. Thinking of the former, I put it to her that her parents’ tale was a strong story in itself, not least a romance kindled in Weston-Super–Mare while her Mum, a professional dancer, was supporting Flanagan and Allen. Has she ever considered devising their story for a play or film?

“I think that will happen one day. I won’t be writing it though. It’s out of my ability, but I have been approached by renowned writers who want to do a story about my relationship with my mother. “It’s not on my priority list at the moment. The priority is performing live and breaking fantastic ground in the British movie industry. I’ve got four films this year and I’m more interested in performing.

“I love acting and want to get that solid again. I also have a musical opening in London on August 30, with my songs put into Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, mainly from In the Court of the Crimson Queen (2008). I’ve a lot of really good things going on. I’m a performer, so just keep to acting in films and playing live at the moment.”

With a name like Toyah, she was never likely to be cut out for a clerical 9-5 job. It’s been a mighty life story too, overcoming bullying, dyslexia, and so on, as we learn in Living Out Loud. And she knew she wanted to sing and act from around the age of nine, quoted as saying, ‘I was an incredible dreamer when I was at school. I just felt trapped. I wanted to escape, really’. Surely, I put to her, that dreaming wouldn’t go down well with the Nicky Morgans and Michael Goves of this world in our current results-driven UK education system. She doesn’t take my bait though, instead insisting society’s changed for the better since her school days.

“We live in a different world. There’s a fantastic new generation out there. They haven’t been brought up with any form of expectation, thinking the world owes them everything. They know they’ve got to go out there and create it. When I was growing up everything was dictated to women. You were going to do this, would have that, would have children, and will wear that.

“It was socially totally conservative and for me to be the dreamer was because I didn’t like the confines of my gender. I knew I couldn’t meet any of that which was expected of me. But today there’s huge social freedom, especially in Western culture. That’s made for a very different society. When I was a dreamer and really didn’t participate in my education at all, that was very reflective of the world I lived in at the time.”

This ‘Bird of Paradise’ was certainly soon marked out as different in the outside world, her hair wild long before the second half of the 1970s, with plenty of punk spirit way before the term was re-coined. “That was what was so powerful about punk. We were all punks before we knew what it was. In Birmingham I was dyeing my hair, making my own clothes and rebelling very strongly about three years before I saw the Sex Pistols. So was everyone around me. That was what was so unique about that generation and that movement.”

Was there a bit of David Bowie influence in your attitude and fashion sense? “We all loved Bowie. Where I grew up he was considered glam rock, but where he really stepped into the punk ethos was with albums like Station to Station and Low, which really said to the punk rockers he was one of us, writing a whole album about depression. He was so chameleon-like that he could fit in with everything and every one during that incredibly creative period in his life.”

Did you see what was going on and think, ‘I can do that’, or you could be part of that? “Be part of that, yeah.”

Aged 17, she went to the Old Rep Drama School in Birmingham, her distinctive look marking her out as she worked in theatres in her home city, dressing the touring stars of the day by night. Soon she got her film break, alongside future fellow Quadrophenia star Phil Daniels in 1976 BBC play Glitter, leading to a further National Theatre break. Is that right that the footage for Glitter was lost, but you weren’t too bothered?

“It’s not lost. I’ve got a copy. The Pebble Mill archive was destroyed, and why the BBC would have done that, I don’t know. But it was fine. It was what it was. It was my first professional acting and it’s alongside Phil Daniels, who I continue to work with. So I’m cool about that.” And now there’s talk of a follow-up to Quadrophenia, with Toyah involved again. Is that really happening?

“Yes.” Including yourself? “Yes. It’s not actually Quadrophenia II, but based on a book called To Be Someone.” She’s not letting on a lot more yet, but – talking of Phil – I tell her I interviewed a certain lady from Coventry around 18 months ago who also starred with him back in the day, a good friend of hers – Hazel O’Connor. We also got on to their respective stints in Hugh Cornwell’s place in The Stranglers during his short spell in HMP Pentonville in 1979, playing two nights at London’s Rainbow Theatre.

“Yes, that was fantastic.” Hazel said she did (Get a) Grip (On Yourself) and Hanging Around, and you did Duchess and something else. Can you remember what? “I did Duchess, and Hazel and I did a song with Ian Dury too, but I can’t remember what.”

She also mentioned how when she did a hospice fundraiser a couple of years ago you were quick to say ‘yes!’ when she asked you to help out, adding ‘that woman is mighty!” “Yeah, that was for her mother. Hazel and I go back a long way, and Coventry is virtually connected to Birmingham anyway.”

Thinking of those early film roles, who did you learn most from with the two big film roles that helped break you – Derek Jarman in Jubilee or Franc Roddam in Quadrophenia?

“Every film for me is a learning curve. Directors are so radically different. Derek just let you do anything, very rarely reining you in. Franc was more like a documentary-maker. It had to be very defined as there were so many characters. You had to place yourself within a scene to be seen. In Quadrophenia the main character is Phil’s, the rest of us building his history around him. That was a totally different experience.”

Yet I understand Phil’s role as Jimmy was offered first to recent writewyattuk interviewee John Lydon, the former Sex Pistols frontman, currently touring again with his band PiL.

“Franc asked me to put John through the screen-test, me testing for Leslie Ash’s role while John tested for Jimmy. John was absolutely brilliant. He was a natural actor, but I think there were insurance problems. What a great guy though.”

Do you keep in touch? “No, I don’t really mix much on the music scene. I keep myself very much to myself. I don’t like my thoughts to be distracted. I’m quite insular really.” Has there been a favourite role over the years, or at least one you felt deserved more recognition?

“I just don’t care about that! I do my job, put 150 per cent in and that’s it. If I feel I should have done something different I’ll make sure I do next time. If anything, when I look back, I wish I wasn’t quite so bouncy. But that’s the only thing that’s ever crossed my mind.” And surely you must be the only person who’s presented Songs of Praise, Holiday and The Good Sex Guide. “Yeah, and I took that as a compliment.” Do you still get people (like me) asking about Teletubbies, saying ‘I thought I knew that voice!’

“I very rarely get people saying they thought they recognised my voice – they say they know that voice! It won’t last much longer though. They’ve remade Teletubbies, and I’m not sure who they’ve got in place … at least not yet.”

Back in her early band days, making demos while living in a converted British Rail warehouse turned studio in London, I understand she slept in a coffin on site, reportedly previously used by the French Red Cross to transport victims of fatal accidents. Has she still got that coffin? “That disappeared about 37 years ago, and I’ve got no idea what became of that!”

Musical fame followed, after her initial indie breakthrough, and by 1981 there were those three aforementioned top-10 singles and her Anthem album reaching No.2 – kept off the top by that dreadful Stars on 45 album by Starsound. We also find Toyah was voted Smash Hits’ Best Female Singer and Most Fanciable Female that year, while the next year there was an early Brit award for Best Female Singer. Furthermore, as recently as 2001, readers of Q magazine voted her the 48th greatest woman in music, while in 2009 she was came seventh in a BBC Queens of British Pop poll.

Did recognition like that inspire her to head back to the Old Rep and shove those accolades back at the fella on the grant committee who apparently once wrote ‘she has a lisp and isn’t attractive’? “I’ve often felt really angry towards that man, but all through my life I’ve seen that if a man has power in a job you want he’ll employ the woman he wants to sleep with. If he doesn’t fancy you or you don’t meet his physical idea of attraction, you don’t get the job. So often I get pissed off and angry, and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

“It does drive me on though. I often wonder if I’d got that grant if I’d have been as hungry as I was. I worked really hard to get my break. That was the greatest thing that ever happened. That got me in everywhere, because I knew the right people. So yeah, I was angry. He was shallow and probably just a dirty old man that didn’t fancy me, but that’s never changed. You see it happening all around you in this business.” Away from her career, we find Worcestershire-based Toyah has now enjoyed 30 years of marriage. So remind us how you and your ‘soul-mate’ Robert got together.

“We were managed by the same team – Robert for 20 years, me for 10 – but only met when we were at a charity lunch. Princess Michael of Kent wanted a photo with both of us. Then Robert asked if I’d narrate a children’s story for a charity album he was making. Two years later we were married.”

Were his band, King Crimson, who formed in London in 1968, ever on Toyah’s radar? “Only Discipline. I like that album a lot. Before then, no.” That album also charted in 1981, incidentally. But was Toyah aware of Robert’s involvement with David Bowie’s Heroes during her punk era? “Not at the time, because Bowie was Bowie for me. It was only really when I met him.”

You collaborated quite early with the hubbie on the Sunday All Over the World project. Is that something that continues to this day (at least over the washing up at your place)? “Well, that album’s being re-released this year, with a live album coming out as well.”

As well as her on-going Acoustic, Up Close & Personal, there are also a string of Proud, Loud and Electric dates this year, featuring a full band – Toyah and guitarist Chris Wong joined by Andy Doble on keyboards, Tim Rose on bass and John Humphreys on drums.

There are also a number of festival dates, including further appearances on the Rewind gig circuit (July 24th and August 20th), sharing bills with everyone from Marc Almond, Rick Astley, Adam Ant and Big Country through to Midge Ure, Jimmy Somerville, Leo Sayer and Paul Young. So does she find there’s a good bit of camaraderie for those shows, considering a few of those acts were chart rivals all those years ago?

“It’s 100 per cent camaraderie. Last year at Perth with Rewind, Hugh Cornwell was on and you’re starting to get names you think, ‘I never thought he’d do that!’ Some artists won’t do it, but an awful lot will, and it’s an absolute joy. You’re on for 15 minutes – it’s a holiday! The rest of the day you’re with these fantastic people, catching up, reminiscing. It’s really lovely, and I have no regrets about doing that at all.”



10 Questions for rebellious Toyah Willcox 6.7.2016

Why do the Rewind Festival?

The audience there is from thee to 83 and I seem to get rediscovered by every new generation. It’s very rewarding. It becomes a party for all of us and every song is a hit.

What do audiences say to you?

Usually they say their mothers hate me because I’m the reason they dyed their hair as a teenager, or because I got them expelled from school.

Are you still a rebel?

I prefer to think that I’m just not a conformist. If that makes me a rebel, then I guess that’s what I am.

Is image still important when performing?

Yes, but I’m 58 now and I don’t want to look stuck in the past, so when I dress for stage I try to be age appropriate and reinterpret the songs for today.

What do you remember most about ’80s pop?

Lots of rock-hard, big hair which had to stand on end 24 hours a day. Plenty of backcombing and many, many cans of Elnette hairspray.

Who do you have to thank most for your career?

First of all me, because I developed the idea of Toyah, but also artists like Bowie, Debbie Harry, Bjork, Patti Smith and others. So many great artists make me want to write.

Always felt in control of your career?

No, because being famous felt out of control. I didn’t enjoy that level of fame as losing your privacy is a terrifying thing. I had become a persona, and I couldn’t go home and be me anymore.

Was it dangerous?

Yes, and it still is. People can get hysterical when they see you. A fan once fell off a roof at my gig. Many times I’d look to the stage wings and see ambulances tending to members of the audience. It was like walking a tightrope.

Ever feel underrated?

No. I have a new musical opening in August – Dostoyevsky’s Crime And Punishment set to my music, so I keep moving on.

You have 24 hours to live. How do you spend the time?

I’d go to the nearest mountain and just stare. Look out on at the scenery all day. Whenever I see nature at its best it’s living proof for me that God exists. 

THE HEARLD Worship the 80s with high priestess Toyah 15.7.2016

TOYAH Willcox is never less than effusive about her involvement in projects. On this particular day, her voice is typically bouncy at the end of the telephone – a retro way to interview nowadays, but then again it’s time to talk about the landline-tastic 1980s.

The 58-year-old is almost evangelical about Rewind, the 80s Festival, that will bathe Scone Castle and its grounds in a sea of Day-Glo clothing and lace accessories from July 22 to 24.

She is performing at Rewind Scotland and the event in Henley-on-Thames. It’s not a first appearance at either for her – last year her presentation skills were also called on to MC the Scone event. “That was a great opportunity to see everyone that performed , and I was impressed,” she says. “I don’t know why I was so surprised. All the acts come from the era when you had to be able to perform live before a record company would even look at you.”

The concept of Rewind works – as many acts as possible across two days and sets that can only include chart hits. So even if you liked the second track on the B-side of ABC’s Beauty Stab, this isn’t the place to hear it. Every track is a hit, keeping the energy as charged as the end of the night at a secondary school disco.

“Rewind is about fun,” adds Toyah. “No-one is trying to sell anything here; it’s not about plugging records of breaking new acts. It’s like a big ensemble, all feeding into the same musical experience.” Apart from Toyah, Rewind at Scone offers for your nostalgic delectation, Holly Johnson, Adam Ant, Rick Astley, ABC, Go West, China Crisis, Midge Ure, Average White Band, The Bluebells, Tony Hadley and more.

“Most of the acts do a 30-minute set with an hour for the headliners. The material is there. When I look back to the 1980s, I was expected to deliver two albums a year and four singles – minimum.” With 60 approaching in the not too distant future, the work rate put in over the past decades doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and Toyah she puts that down to the apprenticeship.

“We had to do that, make videos, promote, tour and do endless photo sessions – the newspapers at the time were always asking for something new. “I still do several shows a week most of the year round. It’s no bother to me. It’s just what I do. So doing a half-hour set at Rewind feels like a holiday.”

There’s a fair choice for her half hour, with 15 top 40 singles to choose from – they all charted so they count, but you can be sure it’ll be top 10 hits all the way. The popularity of Rewind is reflected in the rise of magazines like Classic Pop and healthy viewing figures of Vintage TV, which not only shows videos but makes original programming with acts, including Toyah, doing acoustic sessions. “It seems that Vintage is getting bigger viewing figures than MTV now, but that’s certainly lost its way a bit.

“Why should music disappear though? You have opera lovers and classical music lovers, so why should good songs be allowed to disappear just because they’re from a relatively recent decade.”

Toyah’s career has split over the years. In the aftermath of the 80s, there was no love lost with the decade of shoulder pads, Thatcher, and the Brat Pack. It was only the passage of time that allowed an unbiased revaluation and the ability for something like Rewind to flourish.

So she returned to acting, took up presenting, and added musical theatre to making albums under her own name and with The Humans. But now, after past four decades, but she can still get out the make-up to recreate the “high priestess of punk”. “It’s meant to be colourful, it’s meant to be fun. One thing I can say is that the women coming through at the time that I did – people like Siouxsie – were trying to break the glass ceiling by having our own look rather than being as highly sexualised as the young women of today. Things have become rather homogenised. We just tended to shout more loudly to be heard.”

Of course Rewind is rooted in nostalgia, but it is a reminder that there was some excellent pure pop in the 1980s. Students are embracing it, as are the offspring of those who bought the 12-inch singles and the hair gel. “I love how the audience expresses themselves by dressing up. It’s as much an event in the crowd as on the stage.

“Of course it’s not for everyone, but being honest, I’m past bothering myself about what people like and don’t like anymore. I live in the moment. If someone doesn’t like Rewind there are many more festivals they can go to, but this offers something special – for the audience and the artists.”

Backstage, the nostalgia can be pretty palpable too. These are people who will remember shared Top of the Pops appearances in the 1980s but probably didn’t keep in touch. “There are slightly different line-ups at each Rewind, so if you do more than one you can catch up with so many old friends. It almost feels like a touring company and we all genuinely love the music.”

NORTHERN SOUL Mysterious Girl 3.12.2016

By Drew Tosh

“There is a mindset when it comes to competitive combat and I think I might have that.”

Toyah Willcox will always be associated with early 80s pop, punk and new romanticism – and that’s no bad thing. With her flaming sunset hair, rebellious lyrics and tribal synths, she is unforgettable. But what isn’t always remembered is that this versatile all-rounder has acted opposite greats like Sir Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn, worked for directors like George Cukor and Derek Jarman, and had success in children’s TV as Barmy Aunt Boomerang and as a narrator of Teletubbies.

Nevertheless, the call of the 80s is hard to resist and so, next Spring, Toyah will join Paul Young, Martika and China Crisis for the 80s Invasion tour. It’s a tempting proposition. But I wonder if Toyah’s boundless energy is still in good supply.

“That enthusiasm is just a natural part of who I am,” she says. “I don’t believe in working on anything half-heartedly. If people are good enough to work with you, you have to give them 150 per cent in return. You can’t become an actress and have limitations or boundaries, that just feels contradictory to me. Diversity is a very rewarding thing because you see different aspects of human life and come into contact with things that you would never have otherwise discovered. As a writer, that’s vital for me because we all tendto live in a bit of a bubble. With Teletubbies I was doing a favour for a friend who never thought it would ever see the light of day. Of course she couldn’t have been more wrong as it became one of the BBC‘s most successful programmes.”

Musically, the legacy of the 80s is as popular as ever. Toyah’s biggest hits, including It’s a Mystery, Thunder in the Mountains and I Want To Be Free, charted in 1981 but she has continued to write, record and perform ever since. Does she still enjoy singing those songs 35 years on or is there a part of her that wants audiences to focus on newer material?

“What makes the 80s Invasion tour such fun and a completely different experience for me is that there’s four acts involved who all enjoy performing. I do four shows a week throughout the year and normally I’m on stage alone but this time there’s other artists doing their own hits and we all bring something to the table. It’s like a dinner party, each person contributes one of the courses but we all enjoy the whole meal. I don’t see the point of updating my hits because people want to hear them the way they remember them, but it’s not like singing something on repeat play. Each show is different because every audience gives us their own unique energy so the crowd in Manchester will be radically different to the audiences in Rhyl. It’s going to be very loud and have that whole scope of what 80s music was with keyboards, lead guitars and tribal drums. Performing is such an integral part of what I do and I never get bored of it.”

BBC4‘s popular Top Of The Pops re-runs have reached 1981/82 and recently featured Toyah on a number of occasions, alongside contemporaries like Duran Duran, Kim Wilde and Spandau Ballet. Was it fun to tune in and look back?

“I don’t feel I look back because it’s all still very much part of my life,” she says. “I haven’t had time to watch the repeats but people have been writing to me about them. I’m absolutely over the moon that it’s still being aired because that programme was so powerful. Top Of The Pops created all the artists of the day and there’s nothing like it around now that brings in every generation of music fan. The charts have become fractured and dedicated to certain age groups but back then TOTP united everyone. The whole family watched together and I’m really pleased people can still see this extraordinary piece of history that brought together very eclectic performers.”

I think it’s fair to say that, in Britain at least, women writing and performing their own music only began to thrive on a wider scale during the 1980s. The pop girls of the 60s never wrote their own songs and in the 70s very few women were successfully writing and producing their own music. The females artists that Toyah recalls growing up come as a surprise. Toyah

“I was brought up with musical film so was very much aware of the likes of Barbra Streisand and Julie Andrews. Then, it was women in bands like Sonja Kristina in Curved Air and Cass Elliot from The Mamas & the Papas. But I didn’t really discover rock and roll until Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water album followed by Marc Bolan and T. Rex, then Bowie.

“Lynsey de Paul was a really good writer but I didn’t become one because women had written before me, I did it because I had something to say, felt unique and wanted to explore that. I never felt any different to the boys around me and I didn’t want someone else being my voice. I still write today and it’s a learning curve that lasts the whole of your life.

“I’m still trying to hone and control my writing. Whenever I have a deadline my house is never cleaner so I’m continually battling my own demons when it comes to creativity. I also study music theory, keyboards, guitar and literature. I believe education goes on and on so when I get any downtime I’m always taking a lesson in something.”

As a young actress, Toyah (and, if you’re wondering, that is her real name) worked with some of the giants of the acting world. As previously mentioned, early in her career she appeared on TV with Sir Laurence Olivier in The Ebony Tower and on film with Katharine Hepburn in The Corn Is Green. There were also roles in movies such as Derek Jarman’s The Tempest and Franc Roddam’s Quadrophenia. So, years later, what is Toyah’s perspective on all this?

“I didn’t process it the way I would now,” she admits. “I appreciate it all the more in retrospect than I probably did at the time. Back then I just thought I was the bee’s knees, that I could match these people and that I deserved what was happening to me. That’s very much the nature of youth. I am so grateful that I’ve worked with a generation of actors that have made the industry what it is today. They’re not around anymore and they worked so hard while contracted to the film studios. With that system they had no choice in what they did yet they still managed to evolve and develop the industry so it became a freer art movement.”

The entertainment world is obssessed with youth and appearance. Unlike many performers, Toyah has been refreshingly open in the past about having cosmetic surgery. In 2004 she published a book about having a face-lift. Does she wish that more public figures were honest about having nips and tucks?

“I think people are becoming more honest about it now. Robbie Williams recently admitted to having some stuff done and this makes the hysteria around getting cosmetic work done less prevalent. I just think everyone’s doing it and it’s a factor of the industry that will never go away.”

Back in the 80s, Smash Hits magazine brought many pop stars to our attention with a quirky irreverence. So it seems apposite to end the interview with a nod to that publication and to ask Toyah a cerebral question of epic importance: who would win in an arm wrestling competition? Toyah or Kim Wilde?

“Ha! I’m going to say me because Kim is very feminine whereas I’m quite butch and competitive so I think I’d win. I also think I’m the type of person who would enter an arm wrestling competition and Kim isn’t. There is a mindset when it comes to competitive combat and I think I might have that. Her gardening is superb though.” 


CLASSIC POP Forever Free: Toyah interview, September 2018

Bringing the punk aesthetic into 80s pop music with her radical sense of style and kinetic personality, Toyah chalked up a succession of memorable hit singles. Four decades on, she’s determined to look back with satisfaction on a job well done. Written by David Burke.

When Toyah Willcox celebrates 40 years of making music with a short series of UK dates over the coming months, she’ll not only be asserting her longevity, but also her artistic evolution. “There are some people who think marking time is a waste of time, but when you get to somewhere after 40 years of dedicating your life to it, it’s a really good thing to let people know what that 40 years means and how you’ve developed in 40 years,” she tells us. “I think that is beneficial, not only to your fans, but to younger generations who are always made aware that life is an ongoing journey. It doesn’t finish when you hit 25. So, I think it’s really important to wave your banners.”

Quite right, too, especially since the Birmingham native has several significant banners to wave, including eight Top 40 singles and 17 albums, a number of collaborations and three albums as part of The Humans with ex-R.E.M. drummer Bill Rieflin and Chris Wong.

“When I started as a singer, I didn’t know how to listen. About 60% of being a musician is how you listen and how you perceive. So my relationship with basic 4/4 timing was quite strange at the beginning. One thing I couldn’t do really, until about 16 years ago, was sing and count at the same time. I was an instinctive singer, who knew when changes were coming because the drummer did a drum fill. Technically, that alone has been a major change.

“My acoustic show, which I started four or five years ago now, has actually taught me more about singing than anything in my career. Because of that, we try to put as many of those in a week as possible, – it really connects you to the music. You are not surrounded by huge amounts of volume. You’re in an intimate space where your relationship is purely with tonality and timing.”

Bitsa History

Before she secured a deal with Safari Records in 1979, Willcox was already a rising star in theatre and on both the big and small screens. After attending the Old Rep Drama School in Brum, she bagged roles at the National Theatre, and featured in the BBC play, Glitter, as well as Derek Jarman’s seminal British punk movie, Jubilee. “I think the acting was an escape. I love acting and I’m not trivialising it, because I actually can’t live without, either. What I love about acting is no one is interested in me. The whole thing is about being anything other than the person you were born. I find that helps to refresh my soul and to see through someone else’s eyes. Psychologically, acting is incredibly important to me. Does it inform me as a singer? Well, yes, purely because I can step away from the kind of expectation of predictability within the music industry. It just allows me to reboot the computer, I suppose.”

Creative Creature

This compulsion to create, whatever the medium, is what impels Willcox – even if she admits craving stardom in her formative years. “When you’re young, ambition is stronger than quality. So, for me, it’s taken me a long time to realise why I do what I do. And it’s the process of living. I want a creative life.

“When my career started, I was having to write to order, because you had to have so many projects a year to have visibility. I don’t think that’s what matters so much, having reached 60 and knowing I can’t sustain that kind of thing for a commercial market. But you can live a creative life.

“I hate being seen through a clichéd eye. I think we are naturally, all of us, individuals, creative creatures and we live in a controlled environment of advertising and hard sell. It really narrows down our potential to live by what we’re given through the media. I just want a creative life, living for my own growth and my own opinion. It might be a selfish attitude, but I don’t care. I disagree with so much that I see, I just can’t be part of it. We’re all treated as automatons. We have a monetary value and I think that’s wrong.

“I was seven when I knew I didn’t want that ordinary life, but I wanted fame. I wish I’d had Twitter and Facebook then. Now I’m not interested in that, because I’m not interested in promoting the person. I just want the work to be seen. But at seven, I would have loved it!”

Born with a twisted spine, clawed feet, a clubbed right foot, one leg shorter than the other and no hip sockets, Willcox endured bullying at school. A pocket-book psychologist could, of course, identify a correlation between the experience of being bullied and Willcox processing that experience through her art. But it’s a correlation she dismisses, if only because she wasn’t conscious of what was happening to her at the time. “As a child, I didn’t know I was being bullied. Even though I was unhappy and I felt under pressure, I didn’t understand the aggression that I was always up against. What I did learn was to use that energy.

“Even today, if I’m in a situation where someone’s harassing me, it does nothing but double my energy. I don’t know if that’s a strategy I developed over time, or if that’s a strategy that started at school. But I did realise if I didn’t stand up for myself and show myself to be stronger than those accusing me, then I would have no hope. So, I’ve always believed with any kind of bullying, you just go back to it tenfold. Just turn the power up.

“I find that when I’m faced with any kind of negativity from another human being, the power switch goes up to a hundred. If someone’s a shit to me, I’m just going to say: ‘I’m a hundred times better than you’. It just turns my power on. That might just simply be my survival tactic, but it’s a very effective one. When I was a child, bullying didn’t exist as it does today. You didn’t have social media to justify and help bring others’ voices to help you. You were out there alone. Bullying was something that parents never talked about, so there was no one I could ever turn to and say: ‘I think I’m being bullied’. This just happened in the classroom and on the street, so you’re on your own. I realised I didn’t like the people that were treating me that way, so I just thumped them to survive. I also realised I wasn’t interested in the people who were treating me like that. They just had nothing that interested me. So, I think it makes you a very independent individual.”

Bard as Nails

Such singularity was what kept the predators at bay when she entered the music industry. “When I was young, it was very sexist and very driven by sexual attraction. I was never available as a sexual being to anyone. I was deliberately asexual, which was probably a massive problem to my career. I think I entered the business at a time where, if you had relationship with men, you would have got more done – certainly in the film world. There’s absolutely nothing new about that. But I think my choice to be asexual was a problem for many people. Also, being a punk rocker made people instantly aggressive towards you, because they thought you were the aggressor.”

Willcox was very much in the vanguard of the punk revolution, fronting her own band and, as already mentioned, appearing in Jubilee. It was Derek Jarman who enhanced her knowledge of the man who would become Willcox’s punk hero: a certain William Shakespeare. “Shakespeare is a glorious rebel. The fact he lived to an old age is a miracle. He broke every rule in the book, he exposed every Illuminati secret, he exposed every Freemason’s secret. He was just absolutely amazing, and if more people knew about his life and his attitude, I think more people would be interested in his work. When I was at school, I certainly wasn’t interested. Then Derek Jarman taught me about his life and I thought, ‘my God, this man was great!’ And how he did what he did in a world without technology is just absolutely extraordinary… He was a travelling minstrel and yet he managed to put this body of work together. That man was a punk.”

The year after Jubilee wrapped, while filming Quadrophenia with the likes of Phil Daniels, Phil Davis, Ray Winstone and Gordon Sumner, alias Sting, she signed her Safari deal. “I was playing to massive audiences right from 1977 through to when we were signed. You could tour the pub circuit then. That was a healthy career. We had 2,000 people turning up trying to get into a pub and I still wasn’t signed.

“When I started Quadrophenia, Sting was ascending like a rocket. He’s also a really great person – a people person. We used to sit in his room and he’d teach us harmonies to Roxanne and the songs. He was very generous as a teacher, and obviously he was a teacher. We used to discuss how amazing it was that I wasn’t signed, when literally every punk who announced they were a punk band were signed. I always put it down to the fact that I was just too musical. Also, I was a public schoolgirl.

“I got called to do a showcase for Safari while making Quadrophenia and Quatermass. It was a really, really busy time. I had 24-hour shifts sometimes. We went and did the showcase and Safari said: ‘Yes, we’ll sign you on the spot’. I was just elated. I went back and said to Sting: ‘I got the contract’ and he was genuinely happy for me. He’s a good man.”

Easy as ABC Willcox made chartland in 1981, with the Four From Toyah EP, including her most successful single, It’s A Mystery – a track she was initially wary of recording. “It’s a vulnerable song and that’s not what I was presenting about myself. I worked very, very hard to present myself as a person, as asexual, not as a woman. I felt the song was about a vulnerability I wasn’t showing in my work. It wasn’t a conscious kind of thing I wanted to show. I showed everything but vulnerability. So, I had my doubts about it.

“The original was about a 12-minute vocal intro and a 12-minute instrumental at the end. So, we had to format it into what’s called an ‘ABC’ format. It had to be under four minutes for radio play. So, I had my doubts, but because I didn’t want to piss the label off, I agreed that we would go in the studio and demo it. I wrote the second-verse lyrics. We put it down and I still felt, ‘oh, God, it’s just vulnerable – it’s not my kind of thing’.

“But it just took off. The radio agreed to play it, the pluggers agreed to take it. It actually sold out so quickly that we had a very tense time when we were told the factory had run out of vinyl, so we couldn’t keep the demand up for the Saturday. You needed the Saturday sales for your chart placement on the Sunday, which means you’d get Top Of The Pops. We had a terrifying 48 hours of thinking, ‘are we going to lose Top Of The Pops because we’d run out of vinyl?’ But we managed to do it.”

Debuting on Top Of The Pops, corny as it sounds, was the realisation of a childhood dream. “It was everything I’d ever wanted. I’d watched it all my life. The family would time their meals so that we would be ready and all in front of the telly for Top Of The Pops. It was just extraordinary. I think my first time, Adam Ant was on, which made me feel that perhaps the music industry has accepted me. It was very, very exciting, although I found the discipline surprising.

“You’re in at 10:30 in the morning. You rehearse on-camera at least five times and then you go out live in the evening. Because I’d already made costume dramas for the BBC at that point and been at many theatres, I knew that discipline. But I think for a musician, it drove them bloody mad!”

This heralded the beginning of her halcyon period, during which Willcox reached the Top 10 with I Want To Be Free and Thunder In The Mountains, and enjoyed five other Top 30 entries. The hits may have dried up since 1985’s Don’t Fall In Love (I Said), but you won’t find her indulging in wistful nostalgia for those days.

“I’m living it now and it’s fantastic. I’ve played to more than 100,000 people in the past four days and the majority were under 25. This is what’s so extraordinary, because to them, it’s not nostalgia. Why is this happening to the 80s at this particular period in time? Someone said: ‘Is this the last time when artists were seen as individual?’ Something is going on that is actually beyond what we’re even intending today. There’s a momentum happening on its own. I look out at the audience, they’re under 25, and they know every word of every song. They’ve got the albums, they found the vinyl. I’m playing to more people now than what I did in my ‘purple’ period. I’m doing more concerts now than I did in that period. And I’m doing it without having to release an album.

“What messed up the perception of the 80s, musically, was the politics of the time,” she concludes. “The politics were so bad and there was so much injustice going on, so for a time, the music was a memory of that. I think now that that’s gone, the music is seen as the music.”


Toyah Willcox lives in a perpetual state of confusion, imagining that she ought to be doing something else or working on something new.

She’s a little bit OCD – her words, not ours – and is never happier than when playing one thing off against the other.  And perhaps that’s no surprise. After all, the one-time High Priestess of Punk has carved out a remarkable career as musician, singer, songwriter, actress, producer and author. In a career spanning 40 years, she’s had eight Top 40 singles, released more than 20 albums, written two books and appeared in more than 40 stage plays and ten feature films.

She’s voiced and presented numerous TV shows and enjoyed such hits as It’s A Mystery, Thunder In The Mountains and I Want To Be Free. Now in her 60th year, it’s time to reflect. The entertainer who was born in King’s Heath, refused to move to London and now lives just up the road in Worcestershire, is back on the road with shows that double as a career retrospective. She’ll headline Wolverhampton’s Slade Rooms on Friday as part of a whistlestop tour that celebrates both her 60th year and her 40th year in music.

“I’ve been in the business for 40 years so there’s a lot of music to cover. We cherry pick what we think will be a good fun high-energy night for the fans. "Obviously we’ll do all the hits and I also have two singles scheduled for release next year, so they’re in the set.

"We’re also celebrating love is the law from 1983, which is my favourite. It’s pure singles, album tracks and b-sides. It’s a set for the die-hard Toyah fans who like a lot of energy.” Toyah had an unconventional start to life. She was born with a twisted spine, clawed feet, a clubbed right foot, one leg two inches shorter than the other and no hip sockets. Because of that she endured years of painful operations and physiotherapy. Her physical condition was a cause of difficult times at school. She was a weak child with a speech impediment, the perfect bait for bullying. So her father took her to one side and taught her how to punch the hell out of someone.

She was never bullied again. She rebelled against her parents and against the private girls’ school at which she was educated. Her rebellion found a perfect outlet in punk and soon she was acting at the BBC Pebble Mill TV studio while also working in bands. She moved to London in the mid-1970s and released a debut album, Sheep Farming In Barnet, in 1979. Her sophomore record, The Blue Meaning, grazed the top 40 but it was her 1981 record, Anthem, which provided the breakthrough.

A number two hit, it earned her a gold disc and featured the hits I Want To Be Free and It’s A Mystery. “For a while, I was the biggest singer this side of the planet. I was going from country to country and promotion to promotion.

"When I was writing the first two albums, I was left alone to get on with it. But when you are famous, you almost become a split personality because people see this famous person without knowing who they are. I found it a very intense experience. "I’m glad I had it. But now when I look at people who’ve had that experience and it doesn’t drop off, I wonder how they cope.

“Fame is so intense and unrelenting. I wasn’t sure I could cope with it forever. It was a wonderful time but incredibly challenging. "It affected me as a writer a lot and my writing became very dark and very black and angry. That’s why for the rest of the 80s, I went into theatre, which was a really big healing process for me.”

In the days before social media, fans behaved differently. And in Toyah’s case, they would gather outside her front door or telephone her at home. “I couldn’t leave the house. The phone was constantly ringing with people I didn’t know on it. The wonderful bubble of punk, which allowed me to be completely off the wall, was no longer there.

"I was in such huge demand. I didn’t resent or hate it, it was a wonderful experience. But it wasn’t creative. I became a corporate product. “I needed to not feel cornered by it all so I went back to the National Theatre and did a show called Whale then toured The Taming of the Shrew.

"What really worried me about what my life was in the early 1980s was that it was just one long photoshoot and one long interview.” Toyah continued to release records. Her late 1980s-early 1990s work, including Prostitute and Ophelia’s Shadow is ranked as her best. But the hits dried up and she settled into a different life where she’d bounce between theatre and music.

“I was happier then. At the start of the 1980s, I needed 20 of me to deal with what was being asked. I was touring constantly and doing 14-20 interviews per day and then fitting TV in around that. "When I look at the big A-Listers who have to sit in a room for a week talking about what they’ve just done, I wonder how they don’t go mad.”

The Midlands continues to feature prominently in her story, having been born in Birmingham. She’s a fan of the city’s hard working people, it’s diversity, it’s inclusivity and it’s healthy outlook and history. “It’s a community of all nations. I think it deserves its status as the Second City in England. Like many, I secretly hope that Parliament has to move out of London and will chooses Birmingham for a while. I also hope Channel 4 comes to Birmingham, rather than Leeds or Manchester. Birmingham is such a friendly place. It’s a fantastic city to be in. I’m honoured to be part of it.”

Her gig in Wolverhampton will give her the chance to both look forward and look back. “I’m always in a state of confusion, I never understand what I’m supposed to do next but I’ve learned that confusion and being a bit OCD are part of life. I’m not your normal type of star.”

She sure as hell isn’t. But that’s just one more reason to love her for what she’s achieved. 



Toyah Willcox: The things that have remained constant are originality and energy

Almost 40 years after Toyah Willcox first appeared on Top Of The Pops, the ever-busy Birmingham-born performer is set to join other stars of the 80s at the Forever Young festival in Co Kildare this summer. Lorraine Wylie caught up with her TOYAH Willcox is a woman of many talents, proving her skill as an actress, producer, author, singer and songwriter in the past four decades. But for diehard music fans, she is best known as the 'princess of punk'.

Between 1979 and 1981 her band Toyah released their first three studio albums, Sheep Farming in Barnet, The Blue Meaning and Anthem; it was the latter that truly launched Willcox into the spotlight and, as well as spawning hits such as I Want To Be Free and It’s A Mystery, earned her a gold disc.

This summer, fans will have an opportunity to hear material from Willcox's most recent album, In The Court Of The Crimson Queen, when she joins a host of other stars of her era at the Forever Young Festival in Co Kildare. With that Irish visit in the pipeline and a British tour about to kick off, I caught up with the star who told me why, at 60, she still loves performing and what inspires her music today.

“I love doing live festivals,” she said. "The summer has arrived, the weather is great and you’re performing outside. It’s a fabulous way to communicate your music. I’m very much looking forward to coming to Ireland. There’s such a strong cultural identity there and I get such a warm welcome. My music is very much for my audiences who have travelled with me for the past 42 years.

"Although, I say that but when I look out at my audiences, they’re all under the age of 25. Today, I’m writing from the perspective of my age. I’m not interested in a historic perspective. My lyrics are a nod to things I experience at this age.”

I asked her how the music industry now compared to when she started out. “It’s a very different world now," she replied. "I mean, 40 years ago, it was hard to be quite broad as a performer. People really only wanted you to do one thing. Now I just don’t think it matters anymore. If you’ve got something original to say and do, then it won’t matter if it’s through YouTube, a record label or a television company. The things that have remained constant are originality and energy. It’s really as simple as that.”

In four decades, Willcox has released more than 20 albums, written two books and appeared in 10 feature films and more than 40 stage plays. She has also presented a number of TV shows. With such a varied career, I wondered whether she has a favourite medium.

“No, there’s no such thing as favourites," she insisted. “What I do is a very deliberate thing. I am quite fluid in what I do. So, for example, this year I will be performing all over the world but if a movie came along, well you have to make time for it. It’s not a question of having favourites – this is who and what I am. It’s me, it’s my style.”

Looking back, who were the artists that helped influence her ‘style’? “The one who inspired me right throughout my life is David Bowie. Then again, another artist who made me think, and think especially about women in the music industry, is Patti Smith.

"Throughout the 80s and 90s, we had fantastic artists like Anne Clark, who was a poet working in orchestral music. She did incredible things. "The whole thing about music and art is the incredible people all over the place who don’t necessarily have profile. So, you’re constantly discovering these incredible people if you make the effort to search. I think the wonderful thing about what I do is that it lets you step away from the mainstream to get to the really interesting stuff. That’s the area I always look in.”

Whatever the genre, the one thing successful and popular artists share is fame. How had she dealt with the downside of being in the public eye? “I can't say I ever found anything that intrusive,” she told me. “I think it's quite easy to maintain your privacy. You just don’t give too much away. I was too busy working and doing what I love. There’s something extraordinarily exposing about what I do anyway. To go on stage every night is not exactly a private experience!”

With everyone today seemingly tweeting or caught up in Facebook, I asked Willcox whether she was a fan of social media. “I would have loved social media when I was starting out. Back then, I’m sure I’d have been really interested in it. But now, because time is so precious, I’m only interested in creative things like performing, writing and all of that. I tend to steer away from anything that doesn’t involve my work now.”

As a child she suffered severe medical problems that required a series of painful surgeries and physiotherapy. She also underwent speech therapy to learn to communicate. In past interviews she talked about being bullied and how, it eventually stopped when her dad taught her how to throw a punch. Educated in a school for girls, she developed a rebellious attitude toward authority. I mentioned one of more memorable pranks – setting off alarm clocks during a speech from the then British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

“Yes I did do that,” she chuckled. “I was very naughty at school. But compared to today’s standards it doesn’t seem such a big deal. At 16, I was dyslexic and found anything to do with a rigid system confining. I was very defiant and would sit in class, arms crossed, staring out the window, refusing to learn.

"Part of the problem is that, if you don’t have teachers who understand the individual, you’re in trouble. Teachers can’t give that individual attention. There’s your catch 22. I just didn’t work in that system. Now I’m 60 I love to learn. I’m always learning.”

She had some advice for today’s youth. “I’d say this to young people – you must learn. You may go out into the world thinking you’re great for giving a tweet. But you actually do have to know things. You know, there is no such thing as success if you don’t have knowledge.” 

CLASSIC POP August 2019

Toyah Interview: ‘I’m not boasting, but I’m an athlete on stage’

After more than 40 years in the music business, Toyah Willcox is as creatively hungry as she was in her teens. Classic Pop chats to the high priestess of punk and her long-time collaborator, Simon Darlow, about their bold reimagining of 2008 album In The Court Of The Crimson Queen, and why the material deserves a second outing…

On the cover of new double album In The Court Of The Crimson Queen, Toyah Willcox is shown seated on an elaborate velvet throne, her head surrounded by a crown of silver thorns. While the title is a not-so-subtle nod to her marriage to King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, you might assume that the choice of royal imagery is also proof that Toyah – once punk rock’s princess – is now acknowledging her status as a musical monarch. However, turn the sleeve over and you’ll see that the throne has been kicked away.

“I wanted a suggestion of rebelliousness, so I introduced the idea that falling off the Crimson Queen’s throne is liberating and the only way to gain true personal power,” Toyah explained on her website earlier this year. “Pedestals are always troubled by expectation. It’s not about a fallen queen – it’s about a liberated queen.”

Taking a popular concept and flipping it on its head is what we should have come to expect from the multi-talented star, who has spent her career experimenting and undergoing regular musical makeovers. In fact, the album is itself a work of reinvention, having initially been released in 2008 and now reimagined and expanded with new material.

But as Toyah reiterates throughout her interview with Classic Pop, the record is not quite a solo effort. Both the original version of Crimson Queen and its 2019 successor are the fruits of a creative partnership with Simon Darlow – a songwriter and instrumentalist with a string of 80s hits to his name, including the Grace Jones classic Slave To The Rhythm. It’s a friendship that goes back more than 40 years.

“When I was 17,” says Simon. “I had a manager who also happened to manage the embryonic Toyah, and one day he just said, ‘You have to come and meet this artist I’ve got – she’s going to be massive. So eventually she came down to my flat in Putney and we started writing songs.”

Toyah has fond memories of those early days. “The first song we ever wrote was called Sky Lullaby, and I think Simon would agree it was truly awful!” she laughs. “However, it was the beginning of the most wonderful relationship.”

Back Together

As Toyah ascended to stardom, the pair drifted apart, only to meet by chance during the recording of fourth LP The Changeling, when Simon was drafted in for keyboard duties by producer Steve Lillywhite. He then played on Love Is The Law and Minx, as well as penning singlesRebel Run and Don’t Fall In Love (I Said).

The collaborations slowed until the mid-noughties, when Simon happened to move a short drive from Toyah’s Worcestershire home. Keen to rekindle their partnership, the duo soon found themselves writing and recording in Simon’s studio. It was as though they had never been apart.

“I always say it was a garden hut, but it was a very sophisticated one!” says Toyah. “We ended up writing our first song in years – Latex Messiah – and it just felt so right. I remember taking it back home to my husband, who said it was the best pop song he had ever heard. So we kept at it.”

Soon, the pair had recorded the 10 songs that would make up the original incarnation of Crimson Queen: a sophisticated mixture of glam rock and pop wizardry that was unveiled in September 2008. But despite winning praise from Toyah’s loyal fanbase, the LP struggled to find the mainstream traction they had hoped.

“In the end, we decided to put it out ourselves because we simply couldn’t get a record deal,” explains Simon. “We were both around 50 at the time, which was considered very unhip! It was a great shame, because the songs sounded so timeless. We used to look at each other over the years and think, ‘This is a good record, it’s mad that nothing’s happened to it.’”

Another Chance

The pair continued working together whenever their schedules allowed. But it wasn’t until last May that the present chain of events kicked off with the release of air guitar anthem Telepathic Lover, which soared straight to the top of the Amazon rock chart on Toyah’s 60th birthday. Written in much the same vein as the Crimson Queen material, the single’s success proved that the original album deserved a proper outing.

Thankfully, the bosses at Demon Music Group not only believed in the pair’s vision, but agreed to put out a fully remixed and remastered version of Crimson Queen. Already a gutsy production upon its first release, Toyah and Simon went back into the studio and turned things up to 11.

“It was very exciting, because we pulled things out that got lost in the original mix,” says Toyah. “We’d be able to say, ‘OK, we’ve got to strengthen that backing vocal’ and make edits to the arrangements.”

The key difference between the 2019 release and its predecessor is the addition of live drums. The rifftastic Lesser God now boasts beats to rival John Bonham, while Latex Messiah and its equally filthy cousin, Come, both benefit from an additional thrust to complement their raunchy lyrics. As well as Telepathic Lover, Crimson Queen 2.0 features four further tracks that weren’t present on the 2008 release, each of which have their own unique backstory. For example, punk-pop stomp 21st Century Supersister – which now opens ‘Act II’ of the album – dates back to the earlier sessions. The song subsequently appeared on a 2011 film entitled The Power Of Three, in which Toyah played a leading role.

By contrast, Who Let The Beast Out has its roots in a stage adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime And Punishment, which premiered at London’s Scoop Festival back in 2016. Dreamed up by theatre impresario Phil Willmott, the so-called ‘jukebox’ musical incorporated an array of songs from the Willcox/Darlow back catalogue, including Toyah classics such as I Want To Be Free. “A week before it opened, we were told that they needed another song, so we went straight into the studio and wrote Who Let The Beast Out on the spot,” says Toyah. “But what is amazing is that all the older tracks slotted into the story so neatly.”

In fact, some songs worked better than the pair could have ever anticipated. Even when transplanted to 19th century St Petersburg, Crimson Queen ballads Bad Man and Legacy left theatregoers weeping in their seats. “I had men coming up to me afterwards in floods of tears saying that I had given a voice to their feelings.”

But it is the opening and closing tracks that have the most emotional resonance for Toyah and Simon. Beginning with a monologue read by Robert Fripp, lead single Dance In The Hurricane deals with the need to be defiant and “a queen of your domain”, even when suffering the pain of losing loved ones.

“The song was very much written from the perspective of both of us – me being in my 60s and Simon approaching 60 – and staying in contact with the people that put us on the planet in the first place,” explains Toyah. “My mother was not a kind woman and neither of my parents were encouraging. But now they are in the ether, they are free from restraint and can encourage. I don’t believe the bond is ever broken.”

Completed in January, the track went through a number of guises before the duo agreed on a formula that worked. However, laying down the vocals proved to be the biggest hurdle. “The first time Toyah sang the opening line, she burst into tears,” reveals Simon. “We ended up doing the song in lots of little bits, but in the end, I actually kept that first take because it just hits you straight away as being totally real.”

Likewise, haunting album closer Our Hearts Still Beat is also rooted in the experience of bereavement. Written for the closing credits of indie horror flick In Extremis (in which Toyah has a small role), it was recorded shortly after Simon’s father passed away. “We both stood in front of the microphone for four days, crying,” says Toyah. “There were times where we just could not physically do it.”

Back On The Road

With the second incarnation of Crimson Queen now on the shelves, Toyah is keen to showcase the material to as many people as possible. Despite her hectic itinerary, she doesn’t sound phased by what is set to be one of the busiest years of her career. “I’m not boasting, but I’m an athlete on stage,” she laughs. “I do over 150 shows a year, so I’ve got the stamina for touring!”

Simon is also being coaxed out of the studio and will join Toyah’s band for several shows. Following a cameo appearance at the O2 Academy Islington last November, he is looking forward to being back on the live circuit after more than 30 years: “I’d forgotten what it was like. I used to play keyboards with Toyah back in the day, but I’m doing guitars this time. It’s much more fun!”

But with such busy diaries, will there be any time to record more material? “I’m not going to do any other releases this year, as that would be to the detriment of Crimson Queen,” explains Toyah. “I think this album has an international audience, and we want to push that with singles and radio play. However, I love working with Simon and will keep writing with him. When you find those kind of relationships, you should treat them like gold.”

Simon heartily agrees: “We have our own sense of the ridiculousness and always try to keep it as fun as possible – because you know, we’re getting on a bit! We love dancing around the studio and having a giggle, and we will never dwell too much on something if it’s not working. It’s always been the way.”

If the results of the partnership to date are anything to go by, we can only hope it continues for many years to come.

Jon Bauckham


Toyah Willcox: The secret to 30 year marriage is separate HOUSES - and naughty sex

Toyah Willcox is a four time Brit Award nominated singer who has had eight Top 40 singles and released more than 20 albums. The 61-year-old musician from Birimingham is also an author and actress, having written two books and appeared in more than 40 stage plays and 10 films - and now she will compete on BBC’s Pointless Celebrities. She married guitarist Robert Fripp, known for position in progressive rock band King Crimson, in 1986 - but why has Toyah said the secret to marital bliss is separate houses, and ‘very naughty’ sex?

Toyah Willcox, 61, has had a very lengthy career, since fronting band Toyah in 1983, before embarking on a solo career. As a singer, songwriter, and actor, she has achieved many accolades, but one of her happiest achievements was meeting her husband Robert Fripp. The couple met at a charity lunch, first in 1983 and then in 1985.

Speaking to the Independent, he said: “My life really began when I met this little creature and she became my wife. “It was like an arranged marriage. “We didn’t know each other, but it was perfectly clear to me within a week of knowing Toyah that she was the woman I wanted to be my wife - just as I knew within a fairly short time of having a guitar in my hands at the age of 11 that this was going to be my life. “We got to know each other within the commitments and vows of marriage.”

In a 2008 Belfast Telegraph interview she said of Mr Fripp: “I got married because I had found my soulmate, not because I wanted to be married.” She married Robert Fripp, now 73, in 1986 in Poole, Dorset and the couple has been happy ever since. According to Toyah, the unorthodox recipe to their happiness is having separate houses. Speaking on Loose Women in 2016, she said: “The secret is - please don’t quote me - I hardly see him!” She revealed that she and Mr Fripp have a house each, so although they spend a great deal of their time together, they also have somewhere to escape to. She said: “We live in the same house now, but we used to have two separate houses. He still has his 200 yards away, but he doesn’t go there so much anymore.”

Toyah added: “However - this is the real secret - we have a snore room! “He snores, so after decades of sleepless nights, I said ‘please, please can we have somewhere for you to go when you sound like a foghorn!" However, the other women on the show queried the impact this could have on the couple’s intimacy. Martine Mccutcheon asked: “So you’ve got your bedroom for the time to be lovely and gorgeous together and you’ve got the snore room when you just want a good night’s sleep?” But Toyah stressed that despite the separate houses, she and her husband are “still very naughty in the bedroom.”


Punk or dinosaur? Toyah Willcox is still a rebel

Toyah Willcox, the high priestess of punk, is looking forward to returning to the “hot steamy” gigs of her youth.

She is playing a gig at Brighton’s Chalk Live – formerly The Haunt – on November 2 and thinks it will be a blast. “I’m very fond of Brighton,” she said. “When I came here in the Sixties it was a quiet sleepy seaside town, slightly invaded by hippy culture.

“What I like about the venue we’re playing is it goes right back to the punk days, it’s a hot, steamy, stand-up venue, it goes back to the punk ethos.” Toyah, actress, author and rebel, was a key part of the Seventies/Eighties’ punk scene and starred in cult films Quadrophenia and seminal punk epic Jubilee.

Now 61, she was born in Birmingham to a family she describes as remarkable and recalls the potential privilege of her childhood – her grandfather built many of the city’s landmarks. Despite that, she calls herself the “child from hell” and says she had a violent relationship with her mother.

She attended an all-girls school where she felt like a loner, restricted by the gender conformity of a single sex school and what was expected of her. She said: “I was never attracted to female oriented clothes, I made my own clothes. I spent my time working in the art rooms, I was left alone to explore my creativity.”

She was a disruptive student and fond of the odd protest prank. When Margaret Thatcher, then minister of education, visited her school in the 1970s, Toyah set the alarms to go off in assembly. “I got up very early in the morning and got into school at 8am,” she said. “Everyone knew it was me.”

When she wasn’t creating her own disruption, the outside world provided its own terrifying dramas. She remembers the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974. A bomb scare in a newsagent across the road from her school brought the bomb squad out. The pupils weren’t evacuated but watched in horror as the bomb exploded while the squad were trying to dismantle it.

She said: “I remember the windows of the Edwardian school buckling in.” In a surreal turn of events, she found herself chosen to head a group of pupils who were given bomb dismantling training.

“I was educated by the bomb squad. I was in the town with Semtex in front of us and about five of us were taught how to recognise bombs. “I think they chose me because I was already rebelling against the system. “What my school realised is I wasn’t part of the system but I wasn’t dumb.”

By the time she got to London and started working for the National Theatre she was ready to take on the world. It was an enormous stepping stone she said. Her assimilation into the UK punk scene was easy she said, and very much a fast-track into the glitterati of the music world. She was introduced to influential film director Derek Jarman and he was very protective of her, like a father figure. “Which is ironic, as he’s badly behaved,” she said.

She met The Clash, Adam And The Ants, and, through the filming of Jubilee, Malcolm McLaren and Viv Albertine. By 1977 she was frontwoman of a band, Toyah. “It was very purist, people who didn’t honour that punk scene weren’t invited back,” she said. “For me it wasn’t made grubby by drugs at that time, people weren’t broken by it. “Also that terror of HIV hadn’t come into their lives yet, it was a high energy. “I think by 1982-83 people started to realise something was going on – something was hitting the scene.

“By 1983 they started to realise something dangerous had happened.” By then she had moved into different circles, she had started acting. It was through meeting Jarman that she was cast as Monkey in Quadrophenia, the cult film on the clash of cultures between the mods and rockers in the Sixties and filmed largely in Brighton. She also went on to star in plays and on children’s TV programme Tiswas. Lesser known, she was the voiceover of Teletubbies.

She describes herself as gender neutral and always has, saying: “It’s nothing to do with sexuality, I can’t stand femininity, it doesn’t suit me at all. “I don’t feel female, I obviously am but it’s not something I’ve worn on my sleeve. “I always talked back then about the third gender. “These days we are in the beginning of a dialogue, I think it’s very good the discussion is in the open.”

She talks about the expectations of her as a young woman, she was told to get married and have children and be a secretary. “It just wasn’t linked to creativity and career,” she says, exasperated. “It’s the reason I felt so isolated in Birmingham, it repels me, people thought I was self-sabotaging. I found it terrifying to only be looked at as a female – I think now people only see the person not a female.”

She said we will only escape the gender issue when we get round the need for reproduction – “but then you’ll have the Handmaid’s Tale situation, we’ll ping pong back and forth”. She speaks fondly of her younger friends who are always correcting her on her use of pronouns, which she welcomes. “To them I’m a generational dinosaur,” she laughs.


DAILY STAR 30.11.2019 

80s punk icons Toyah Willcox and Hazel O'Connor team up for Electric Ladies tour

The punk pair have been friends for 40 years and share a fan base - yet they've never found the time to link up ... until now!

Two Eighties icons have finally teamed up to tour together for the first time. Toyah Willcox and Hazel O’Connor have been friends for 40 years and share a fan base. Yet they have never had time to link up … until now.

The punk pair will take their Electric Ladies Of The 80s tour on the road in April. Toyah, 61, said: “I think it’s about 40 years in the making. “Our schedules have never allowed it before now, and finally it has been made possible.

“We have always spoken to each other about doing it over the 40 years of knowing each other, and now it’s happening.” Toyah hit the big time in 1976 with a role in the BBC play Glitter. Since then she has forged parallel careers as an actress and a singer.

As two of the leading ladies of the punk and new wave movements, Toyah and Hazel’s paths were intertwined right from the very start. And music lovers were often fans of both artists’ material. The women will celebrate that by finishing the show with a joint set, as well as playing their own biggest hits. Hazel, 64, said: “The fans are all really excited about the tour. “I know that a lot are Hazel and Toyah fans, so it’ll be fantastic for them.”

Toyah, who stars in soon to be released film Invasion Planet Earth, added: “We just posted the first picture of Hazel and I rehearsing together, and they’re all so excited.” The women will take an hour each and then perform together. Toyah said: “It’s going to be a very ‘up on your feet’ evening. Our hits bridge from Punk into New Wave so it’s going to be high-energy, which is just what our audience want.

“It’s a lot of fun. We’re good friends, so we’re enjoying it immensely.” Hazel, who is best known for her role in Breaking Glass, said: “We’ll have four covers of people who shaped us or shaped our audience. “One is a David Bowie song, one Bob Marley, one Iggy Pop and one a Marc Almond song. “It’s such a pleasure to do what I do and when I meet my audience afterwards I love it. It feels like I’m not just messing around or being some plastic icon.”


Leicester Mercury: ‘My Voice is Fantastic’ (Late 2019)

Let’s Rock: The Winter Retro Tour is heading to Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham and among the line-up are 80s headliners Toyah and Dr and the Medics. Helen Barnes caught up with both of them

With a career spanning more than 40 years, 61-year-old Toyah Willcox is making the most of her voice being in “fantastic” form.

What’s so great about Let’s Rock? It’s one of those fantastic events where it’s a real party atmosphere – because every song you get, everyone knows. The audience can dance and sing along – it’s about them and their memories too. I think 80s music has a real narrative to it, a story to it, and people identify their lives with it. I think all of that brings an audience together – and let’s not forget it’s Christmas!

Will you be singing any Christmas songs yourself? Absolutely! We are all doing our hits and then doing Christmas songs, so the finale will be a big Christmas finale where we will all be on stage together. It’s really very exciting, as the line-up is stunning – which is why I love doing them. You’re always working with people you admire and have followed for 40 years.

Who are your favourite 80s artists then? Well, I love Talk Talk and Depeche Mode too – I absolutely adore their music still and find it very uplifting. It has transcended the decade. I’ve also just been travelling around the world with Marc Almond and he is so much fun. Every song in his set is groundbreaking because at the time his music came out, the world was changing but hadn’t yet changed. Marc is one of the people that changed the world and music is just fabulous – I always stay behind to watch his sets when we are working together!

What’s the best thing you’ve discovered since turning 60? I think there’s an independence that comes with your 60s. I’m starting to just clear my life of of everything that’s niggly and doesn’t work – and that’s usually to do with bureaucracy. I am clearing my desk of the unnecessary, without any form of guilt and just looking for things that are fulfilling. I think when you hit your 60s and realise that you’ve done your best, that’s all that matters.

Which has been your favourite hair colour over the years? The only colour available back then was a vegetable dye called Crazy Colour – today the colours are much more sophisticated. I think I just loved the orange and cerise pink together; It was so vibrant that no matter how you felt, as soon as you looked in the mirror, it was like a cup of coffee!

Have you had any hair disasters? Early on, in the punk days, my hair was crimson red, and I remember standing at a bus stop; There was a deluge and I was without an umbrella. People were just staring at me with concern on their faces. It really didn’t look good – it looked like I’d been attacked.

You’ve done tons of TV presenting, what are you more confortable doing these days – presenting, acting or singing? At the moment my voice is fantastic, so I’m honouring that and this year I’ve done a hell of a lot of concerts and next year is fully booked, but I will only do that whilst I feel I can be 100 percent. I feel grateful that here I am at 61 and I can do it. Work for me is 99 percent of who I am. I’ve never felt like a home bird or a family orientated person, so it’s all incredibly important to me.

What have you got planned for next year? Well, eight re-releases of my albums – I have a very good relationship with my record company, and I have a box set coming out. I’m touring with Hazel O’Connor and then doing all the Let’s Rocks, so it’s a very busy year.

As a mummy of young children, I heard you daily on Teletubbies! How did that come about? I am friends with the creator and she just asked me to come in and read the start and end, ast the narrator. It literally took me about 30 seconds to do, but “Over the hills and far away, Teletubbies some out to play” and “The sun is setting in the sky, the Teletubbies say goodbye” are probably the most famous two lines I have ever said, in the history of entertainment!

My eldest shares the same birthday as you, May 18th. On that day, this year he was blowing out eight candles and eating a football themed cake. What were you doing? Well, I have a home in France, and I was there with my husband. We’re right by the sea so we were probably eating sea bass, caught that morning, with some wonderful French vegetables. I’m a bit of a sensible eater. To completely contradict what I’ve just said, we would have gone and had ice cream after – and lots of it!

Your name is unusual – I have never come across another Toyah. Did you come across any others when growing up? No, not at all. I think you will find that the Toyahs that exist are all younger than me, so named after me. It has now become quite popular.

You’ve spoken before about your childhood and being bullied. Were you ever tempted to get back in touch with them once you became famous? A lot have been in touch with me. I did have one quite serious connection from someone who abused me at school and wrote to me – she was so distressed by what she did to me that she had been in therapy all her life. She asked if I could forgive her and I said I never even think about it. It may have formed who I am, but I don’t give it any thought. I live in the present. I’m a pretty tough cookie and even though I hated every minute of school, I’m a survivor.



TOYAH in SMASH HITS 1979 - 1985