Remembering 1981

She was the pouting flame-haired punk princess who stormed the charts in 1981 with her trademark lisp. An older, calmer Toyah Willcox reminisces with Nick Fiaca. 

"1981 was the greatest year of my life! I had my first hit single with It's A Mystery and two other top tens later that year." laughs Toyah. 

"It was a fabulous, let's party! year - but very innocent by today's standards. I had a lovely time just touring the world getting VIP treatment." 

Among Toyah's hits that year I Want To Be Free and Thunder In The Mountains. Ironically, though, Toyah hated the song that made her name. 

"I didn't like It's A Mystery. It was a compromise with the record company, but it just took off within hours, taking everyone by surprise!" confesses Toyah, 41, who has been 
married to musician Robert Fripp since 1986. 

With her wild, flame-coloured hair, Toyah had a unique, pouting style. And she's still proud of her controversial early eighties image. "When I look back I see a startlingly 
young vibrant person, which I defy anyone to try and be 20 years on. I'm furiously proud of that time. It wasn't an overnight success, it took five years of solid touring to get there. When I see pictures of myself then I think 'Yeah that's cool'.

"But if you'd asked me how I felt about my hair at the end of the eighties I'd have cringed. Now it's  kind of come around again and it still works. 

Although she still does around 150 gigs a year, and is recording a new album for release next year, Toyah's branched into other areas of showbiz. She has clocked up dozens of stage 
and screen roles, including BBC comedy My Barmy Aunt Boomerang this month, as well as presenting shows like Holiday on BBC1. 

I wanted to do more with my imagination and work in areas where I don't have to go to the gym three hours a day and exist on a diet of lettuce leaves," she says. 

"If you live in a bubble you don't evolve, and the greatest fearI had was staying fixed in the eighties. 

"I'm much more private now. Everyone knows who I am, but I can still walk down the street, which I couldn't then."

Sunday Magazine, 1999