Hitmaker Toyah’s in fine form
By Caroline Dutton 

Toyah Willcox is up there with puffball skirts and neon leg-warmers when it comes to embodying the Eighties. And on October 12 she's taking a trip down memory lane alongside fellow '80s icons Martin Fry of ABC, and Howard Jones on the Hitmakers Tour. 

Toyah Willcox is positively champing at the bit to climb into her outrageous stage costume and belt out the hits in the up-coming Hitmakers Tour. 

"I can't wait!" She shouts excitedly down the phone. 

"I worked with Martin Fry and Howard Jones about three years ago and it'll be really good to be back with them. We all love each other's music and we all have very upbeat hits." 

Squeezing three of the Eighties biggest electro-pop stars onto one stage seems a recipe for disaster, but Toyah insists there's no diva-behaviour. 

"There's no room for egos in this kind of work," she said. "But we all have that Eighties' bigness about us. We're certainly not wallflowers by any means!" 

Toyah exploded onto the scene in the late 1970s with a mean streak of punk-influenced attitude shown in songs like It's A Mystery' and I Want to Be Free'. 

1982 saw her winning Best Female Singer in the Rock & Pop Awards and more recently she has graced theatre stages and television productions in a varied acting career and even had a stint in the Australian jungle as a contestant on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!' She says musicians nowadays have it much harder. 

"The music industry was very different when I started out," she said. "We had independent labels the whole point of punk was that if you made 500 singles you could sell them yourself. That whole ethic kept it going. 

"Now record companies are very big and very corporate. If you don't sell a million you're out. I think that's really harsh but I'm optimistic because My Space and You Tube are allowing bands the kind of platform we got. The whole world is tuning in to see what people are up to. 

"It would just be so wrong if the only intention of the music business was to sell a million albums. We'd lose all that wonderful diversity." 

The Hitmakers tour comes hard on the heels of a resurgence in the popularity of 80s music and fashion - something Toyah is revelling in. 

"I'm loving the 1980s coming back in fashion," she said. 

"You've got to remember that in the 1990s the 80s was considered the pits. It reminded people of Thatcherism and consumerism. But the one thing that's positively survived is the music because it's so optimistic. 

"Our audiences range from 15 to 60 year olds. The young kids don't remember the bad days of politics around the 80s, they just remember the music." 

Toyah said she was lucky to "side-step" negative associations with the eighties throughout the 1990s because she focused on her acting and presenting career. 

"All through the 1990s I was presenting on TV and wasn't involved in music much at all, " she said. "It allowed me to almost step away from the barrage of insults. 

"Now in 2000s I'm playing Wembley, Manchester Arena. I certainly wouldn't have expected that in my 40s." 

And she admitted keeping herself looking much younger than her 48 years takes effort. 

"I have to battle with my weight the whole time," she said. 

"I eat a good organic veggie diet, I go to bed early, I don't drink. You've got to and that's not just to stay looking attractive either, that's to have the energy to perform. We're all the same. On this tour all our partying will be done at tea time - we'll all be in bed by 11pm." 

So what can audiences expect from the Hitmakers Tour? 

"A completely uplifting evening," said Toyah. 

"All of us are totally in love with our music and in love with our audience. You'll get the hits, it's up tempo, it's up beat and we want to send everyone away with a big smile on their faces." 

You can't say fairer than that. 

See Toyah Willcox, Martin Fry and ABC, and Howard Jones in the Hitmakers Tour, at Manchester Opera House, on October 12. For tickets call 0161 242 2524. 

26th September 2006