TOYAH WILLCOX

Major commercial success has finally come to Toyah, after several years of being widely dismissed as the dumpy little singer with a pushy attitude, bright orange hair and a very pronounced lisp. Two major factors have contributed to her acceptance throughout the music world - her recent sell-out tour and her latest album 'Anthem' which is being hailed as a triumph. Toyah has always had the courage of her convictions, and the quality shines through in this collection of powerful and moody songs. The single 'I Want To Be Free' is certainly an anthem for her generation.

"I was very bored and frustrated as a child," she says, "so I can understand a lot of the difficulties kids face today. That's why I don't preach to them. They don't want to be reminded of their problems when they come to see me. They want to escape and enjoy themselves."

Seas of hands reach out to touch Toyah Willcox as she leaps and bobs around the stage, her sunshine yellow and ornage hair splashing the stage with colour. Her clothes are white, her jewellery dramatic and heavy about her tiny form. Toyah has recently completed a sell-out tour of the country - after collapsing from exhaustion in Sheffield on her twenty-third birthday. She says that in the last year she feels as if she has aged ten. A world tour is scheduled for later in the year, so it's a pace that she will now have to get used to. But there are other ways in which Toyah is determined not to change.

"I don't like having to act like a star," she says. "I hate having to ignore fans in case I get trapped by dozens of others. I try to stay as much in contact with them as possible, but I realise now that in my private life I have to be top secret. The thing I care about most is my audience. Kids get such a raw deal these days and are treated so badly by many rock stars that I find myself feeling guilty. We are not 'Gods' or 'Superstars'. We must remain accessible and not ignore them just because we're popular."

Toyah will remain one of the people because her own origins were humble - and often extremely painful. But she was determined to be a non-conformist, whatever the cost. At 16, she admits she was the laughing stock of Birmingham. "Bus drivers wouldn't even stop for me because I looked so weird. I based my appearance on Mr Spock of 'Star Trek'. The back of my head was shaved, and the front grew down over my face. I wanted to look different and interesting, but all I succeeded in doing was frightening people. And when they laughed at me I felt really hurt."

Toyah joined Birmingham Old Repertory Drama School before moving to london at 18 for a part in the National Theatre production of 'Vienna Woods'. She went on to appear in two films, 'The Tempest' and 'Quadrophenia', several television roles in programmes like 'Shoestring', 'Quatermass' and 'Minder', and a starring role in the West End production of 'Sugar And Spice'. But it was on a career as a singer that Toyah had her heart set on.

"Acting came easily to me. Although I was nervous going on stage, it was nothing compared to singing. I even went to auditions, yet I would get so wound up that I would have to run out. I suppose singing meant so much to me that I was terrified of failing. The turning point came when I landed a part that meant I had to sing. There was no going back then."

Toyah finds acting relaxing because she can hide behind the personality of the role, the music very stimulating because she can be herself. Her songs are joyous rebellions against conformity.

"People see me and think I'm thick - some silly tart who dyes her hair different colours," she says.

"But it takes guts, because I can't walk down the street without being laughed at or thought cheap. I want other kids to have the courage to do what they want to do."

The Futurists 2
Summer 1981