still loud and proud!
By Emma Clayton
As a young
teenager I prided myself on being a bit of a
Toyah Willcox fan.
While her first commercial
success, the Its A Mystery EP, was climbing
up the charts, I was hunting out early records
like Danced, Ieya and The Blue Meaning. I
listened to them endlessly. The Toyah! live album
got me through exam revision. My fan worship was
short-lived, but Ive still got my Toyah
records theyre part of my youth, and
those early songs remain somewhere in my
So when I recently came to
interview Toyah, I had mixed feelings; when
someone has had an impact on your formative
years, maybe its best not to break the
spell by talking to them.
As it turned out, Toyah
was a pleasure to talk to; friendly, open and
thoughtful. This month she has two album
releases, and from September she stars in a tour
of gothic rock musical Vampire Rocks. Next week
shes headlining the last-night celebrations
at Grassington Festival, and this summer she
joins other Eighties artists on the Here And Now
I have respect for
nostalgia, says Toyah. Theres a
great atmosphere at these shows. People enjoy
going back to a pivotal time in their lives
in the case of my records they remember
getting expelled to them! I like the idea
of bands devoting a concert to a particular album
Id love to see Lou Reed do
Transformer but theres also a lot to
be said for artists celebrating songs that played
a big part in peoples lives.
show is a career retrospective, covering the hits
and rock covers by acts like Blue Oyster Cult and
Guns N? Roses.
This month sees the release of Good Morning
Universe, a compilation album spanning 1979 to
2003, including singles, key album tracks, live
favourites, rare B-sides, collaborations and
previously unreleased material.
Toyah is also releasing an album called In The
Court Of The Crimson Queen, a reference to her
husband, legendary guitarist Robert Fripp?s
iconic album with his band King Crimson, In The
Court Of The Crimson King.
?We decided not to re-create the cover, that may
have been going too far. We?ve gone for an image
of me dressed as the Devil. It?s suitably
tongue-in-cheek,? smiles Toyah.
Is album artwork lost on the download generation?
Gone are the days when kids like me saved up for
albums and treated them like treasured
possessions. In the iPod age, music is as
disposable as it is accessible.
?The download generation has been great for me
because I?ve now created a global network,? says
Toyah. ?Thanks to MySpace I?ve reached people I'd
never normally have reached; it would?ve taken
years of touring to build up that kind of
fanbase. Last year my single Latex Messiah
reached No 6 in the iTunes rock charts.
?But I know what you mean about the love of
albums, that lost vinyl age. The writer Michel
Faber works with his favourite album covers
arranged all over the room. I like that.
In a career spanning more than 30 years, Toyah
has had 13 hit singles, 20 albums, written two
books, and presented countless TV programmes,
from The Good Sex Guide to Songs Of Praise. Her
acting career spans TV, theatre and film. More
recently she starred in children?s TV series
Barmy Aunt Boomerang and ITV?s Secret Diary Of A
Her first notable film roles were in Derek
Jarman?s 1977 punk epic Jubilee, then
Quadrophenia. She and her band had been recording
for several years before her music career took
off in 1981 with It?s A Mystery and I Want To Be
With her orange crimped hair and striking stage
outfits, Toyah wasn?t embraced by punks, nor was
she toe-the-line mainstream, and she says it was
a struggle to retain her individuality. ?Artists
are always pigeon-holed, and when I started out
that was incredibly frustrating,? she says. ?I
had tons of energy and thought the world was
mine, I didn?t want to be told what to do.
?The internet gives today?s new artists more
freedom from corporate record companies. And I
get excited by major artists like Coldplay and
Radiohead breaking away to deliver their music on
the internet. Every generation brings its own
Last month Toyah turned 50 and is embracing the
future with the boundless energy of the girl
bursting on to Top Of The Pops 25 years ago.
?Tomorrow, I?m going for a role in a film called
The Power Of Three. All three lead roles are for
women my age,? she says. ?The demographic is
changing; the women with real power and money are
aged 50 upwards. They call the shots and that
reflects the kind of roles out there for older
?Life doesn?t turn off at a certain age. But the
changes haven?t happened overnight, it?s taken
people like me who have been very vocal about it
to help break down stereotypes.?
Twenty-five years ago she sang: ?Be proud, be
loud, be heard.? As she enters the next phase of
her life, that mantra has lost none of its