|Noddy Holder: Our first
female star in the ROCK LEGENDS - Hall Of
Fame. We're talking about a middle-class
girl from Brum who gained a cult
following as a punk in the early '80s.
She was a professional rebel who went
onto huge chart success, and a big hit of
stage and screen too. You've guessed it,
I'm talking about the original Queen of
Girl Power, my old mate, Toyah Willcox.
Mike Davies: (Former 'Melody
Maker' journalist) She's important
in giving a sense of identity to people
who didn't have a voice, in that
generation who found what she was saying,
and the way she was able to say it, was
Robert Fripp: My little wife
is, wonderfully shining bright person.
Jaraij: (School Friend) She just knew
that she was going to be famous. She
always said that she was going to be
famous. It just felt right, just like
Goddard: (Friend & Hairdresser) She was
wonderful. Very, very, very vivacious.
Always has been. And very extrovert!
Noddy Holder: Toyah's image
has never been tame. She was the original
wild child of punk. But she was so much
more than just the girl with the big pink
hair. She had ruthless ambition, a huge
ego and a violent temper, a lethal
cocktail for the teenage Brummie. She
came from an affluent family but she was
determined to be a rebel.
Toyah: I think
rebellion came easy. When most of my
life, up until I was a teenager, I had to
play a gender role. I didn't like being
female, and I didn't want to be a boy
either. I just wanted to be a person, and
I was acutely aware of this from very
early on in life. From about the age of
four. I loathed dolls, loathed dresses,
loathed little shoes, loathed little
handbags. Everything to do with
femininity I couldn't bear.
forced on me with such a passion and,
well... force, that I thought 'If I don't
fight this I'm gonna be stuck with it for
the rest of my life'. I went to an
all-girls school, which didn't suit me. I
was always a tomboy, I was always very
aggressive and very physical. Always in
rough and tumble fights.
Goddard: Toyah was a completely wayward
teenager. From the first moment of
meeting we just knew she was going to be
a rebel. She was pretty outrageous. She
got expelled from school for a start,
which we all thought was wonderful. We
hadn't heard of a public-school girl
getting thrown out before. It was
something quite new!
Toyah: My friends in
Birmingham were very, very limited
because my parents never let me
socialise. So I had three friends; Bina
and Gita, who were sisters who lived
within a wonderful Indian family, who I
adored. And Derek Goddard, who
subsequently went out with both of them.
Never went out with me, which broke my
heart, but I was the ugly one. And those
were my three friends. My whole life
revolved around them. They educated me in
music, in dress, in everything, because
they were the taste and style king and
queens of Birmingham.
Bina: What brought us
together was that we liked the same
bands. We liked Bowie, we liked T-Rex,
Roxy Music, Alice Cooper.
Derek: Toyah, Bina and
Gita used to be really inseperable. Very,
very beautiful Asian girls, and Toyah
always wanted to look like them.
Bina: She was
different and I suppose we were different
because we were the only Asians. She was
different because, you know, she was just
(School Friend) She was mad.
Bina: She looked like
a little..., she probably hates us for
saying this, ...a little cave woman.
Really straight, amazing, thick dark
hair. When she would walk, it used to
Holder: Toyah always wanted to project
how she felt through her image, and she
was determined to stand out.
Toyah: I always
believed that as a young person, even as
a teenager, and a young woman in my 20s,
that you had to look different to be
noticed. My name was different. My name
would always open doors because people
would go 'Toyah?, Toyah? What does that
mean?' No one had heard of a Toyah in
Birmingham. I just realised that I wasn't
pretty enough, or special enough
intellectually, to be noticed, unless I
was different. And I used it as a
Derek: Toyah was my
hair model, basically because he had the
most fantastic head of hair. And she
would let you do anything!
start off with the pointed fringe, which
literally went from the top of the
forehead to the end of her nose. It went
up in two triangles at either side. The
back was shaved, and we stencilled a face
onto the back of Toyah's head. She used
to actually put her clothes on
back-to-front and walk around backwards!
Toyah: By this time I
had blue and black hair, pink and black
hair. I just looked like something off
another planet, and I was very, very
lonely. No one would come near me. Buses
wouldn't pick me up, taxis wouldn't take
me home, boys wouldn't come near me.
Derek: If you walked
into her in a dark passageway you'd have
the fright of your life.
Toyah: I had an
obsession at the time with aliens, and
especially the term 'Stranger In A
Strange Land', because I just felt so
alienated. I couldn't fit in with
anything. I didn't like being a female. I
didn't like gender roles. I loathed
suburbia, I loathed the idea of getting
married and having kids. I just thought
'Where the hell do I belong?'
Bowie's 'Starman' came along, and Ziggy
Stardust, it was like, 'ah, okay, you
don't have to fit in, this is
brainwashing'. So I really identified
Holder: It was the late '70s in
Birmingham and the punk movement was
really taking off.
Toyah: When punk
started I think it was very much about
socialism. It was very much about the
Labour Party, the rights of the workers,
the rights to be heard. I saw it on as
lightly different level, and that was
that absolutely everyone, no matter who
you are, if you had an idea, then you
could be part of the punk movement. If
you knew your three chords you could
write a song, you could write an album. I
was slightly more simplistic in how I
viewed it. It was kind of an emotional
rebellion rather than a cultural
saying I was a "fashion" punk
because I was a punk 24 hours a day, and
I paid the price that many punks paid.
And that was you were a social outcast as
far as anyone else was concerned, other
than a punk. But I didn't fully
understand the politics, I was slow to
learn on that level. My friend Derek
suggested that I should see a band called
the Sex Pistols because everyone was
talking about them, they're the new
thing, etc., etc.
wasn't that I saw the Sex Pistols and
thought 'oooh, you've changed my life!'.
I saw them and thought 'I could do
better'. I mean it's such arrogance. It
was still historically brilliant because
from then on I knew I didn't have to
behave in a social norm, because I wasn't
alone. I just thought 'Great, I'm going
to London. Fuck this, I ain't coming
back', and it was just a huge turning
point for me.
Noddy Holder: But it wasn't
long before her wild looks were getting
her noticed by film directors.
Toyah: I got the part
in Jubilee because I was working
at the National Theatre and I was the
only punk there, and a wonderful actor,
Ian Charleston, who was in Chariots Of
Fire, took me to meet Derek Jarman,
the director. Derek just threw me the
script across the room and said 'Pick a
part', so I leafed through it and I
picked the part with most lines. It later
emerged that Derek had to cut that part
because there wasn't enough money for
this character. I absolutely flipped and
was broken hearted, so Derek gave up his
fee so that I could play Mad.
Noddy Holder: It was the
chance to work alongside another rising
star, Prince Charming himself, Adam Ant.
But there was to be no fairy tale ending
to this partnership.
Toyah: I had a massive
fight with Adam on that film. We'd
created a band called The Maneaters,
which was myself, Adam's secret wife Eve,
a girl called Stephanie, and a girl
called Ann Marie. We were going to carry
on writing after the film was finished
and do gigs and concerts. Adam just
couldn't bear my ego. It was like, 'I'm
gonna do this, I'm gonna do that, we're
gonna do that!'. It was like world
domination, that was all I could think
about, so he had me thrown out of the
band. He happened to do it on the last
day of filming of Jubilee, which
meant we had to be in the same room as
each other. I just flew at him all fists
Noddy Holder: Toyah decided
that it was time to get back together
with her friend, and music partner, Joel
Bogen, and to carry on writing music. But
Toyah heard about a movie being made by
the then cult mod band The Who. Quadrophenia
was to become one of the biggest rock
movies of the decade, starring some of
the biggest names around. And Toyah
wasn't going to be left out.
Toyah: When I was
doing Quadrophenia I was getting
an awful lot of press because the band
were doing so well. We were having 2000
people turn up to every venue to see us,
and we hadn't been signed at a time when
everyone was being signed by the big
We did a
showcase for a company called Safari
Records and they just signed us on the
spot, which amazed me as I'm a live
performer, I need my audience, I need
that interaction. We were performing in a
tiny little rehearsal studio that smelt
of beer and piss! It just worked, they
signed us and it felt great. It meant I
could go back to Quadrophenia the
next day and go, to Sting, 'I've just
Holder: Toyah's new band consisted of
Joel Bogen, Pete Bush on keyboards, Windy
Miller on bass and Steve Bray on drums.
Toyah: Once I was
signed I really loved every moment of
what happened. We were made to demo
virtually once a month. We had to
continually produce music, and that was
great because it gave the band focus, it
made us feel really good. We were put on
a retainer of 30 quid a week, so we felt
as though we were employed. It was fab
because at last we had the back-up to
break us. We were given press. We could
say 'I want this press, I want this
press, I want this clothes designer', and
suddenly the snowball started to grow. It
was a very good time. It felt brilliant.
Toyah: When I first
heard 'It's A Mystery' I just felt it
wasn't for me. It was written by a
friend, Keith Hale, for a band called
Blood Donor. The record company wanted me
to cover it, so I did a demo of it in the
studio and I just hated it. I just sat
there singing it thinking, 'This is the
end of my career, it's the end of four
brilliant years work as a credible rock
artist out the window'. I'd worked from
'77 up to 1980, and I had an army of
followers. I just knew this song wasn't
Holder: Little did she know but the
single would storm the charts, making
Toyah an international name and a pop
superstar. The song she hated so much
opened the door to pop fame and fortune.
'It's A Mystery' was the first of two
massive, back-to-back, hits for Toyah,
and it lead to her first appearance on Top
Of The Pops.
Toyah: Doing Top Of
The Pops was just everything I ever
dreamed of. Those nights I used to get up
at three in the morning and watch the
sunrise, that was the prayer answered. It
was fantastic when it was released as a
single, it just was massive. My record
company admits that in 1981 I alone sold
more units than the whole of the Warner
Bros. roster that year. It was massive,
absolutely massive. You can't knock that!
Davies: The girls liked her because she
embodied a rebellious spirit. She was an
outsider. Girls who felt they didn't fit
in could identify with Toyah. She got the
boys because of that elfin sexuality she
projected. Certainly worked for me.
Toyah: In 1981 I
released 'It's A Mystery' around
February, and that was just a massive
hit. In May I released 'I Want To Be
Free', and it resonated how I felt about
school years, which was still very
strongly with me, even when I was 22!
enjoyed making videos, full stop. We knew
they were so powerful and that they were
gonna be the crux of how you sold the
Toyah: With 'Thunder
In The Mountains' I wanted to be
Boadicea, but set in the future. As a
woman breaking free, which I think
everything I did that year was on the
concept of breaking free, breaking out.
was my closest to number one that I got,
again number four. It sold hundreds of
thousands. It really was a big seller.
Derek Goddard: That video was
absolutely incredible. Definitely ahead
of its time really. It was bit like Thunderdome,
which was a movie way after that video. I
think it is one of her best.
Davies: I thought the image was great.
It was coming off the back of punk, so
she had that rebellious look to her, in
terms of the way she dressed, the
make-up. But it was edging into the New
Romantic movement as well, so there was
that element of flamboyance. She had the
colour of Adam And The Ants but I think
she also had the seriousness of Siouxsie
And The Banshees, but unlike Siouxsie,
she also projected a sense of fun.
Noddy Holder: On Christmas Eve
Toyah and the band performed a special
concert for the cult rock show, Old
Grey Whistle Test.
Toyah: Drury Lane was
the icing on the cake. We were knackered
because we'd been on a European tour. We
played to 12 million.
Holder: Four hit singles had given
Toyah the fame and success that she had
always dreamed of.
Toyah: '81 was the
kind of year where your feet never
touched the ground. Your whole artistic
integrity ran away with you because you
were doing 14 interviews a day. A photo
session a day. And you were always in the
wrong country. You'd fly out to a
different country a day. It was mad!
Holder: The following year came the
ultimate accolade. The industry finally
crowned their "Punk Princess",
when she won 'Best Female Singer' at the Rock
& Pop Awards. Toyah polled more
votes than Kim Wilde and Sheena Easton
Toyah: My life changed.
It went on another level from that
moment. The paparazzi were down on me. It
was like, 'Oi you, look at this camera.
Oi you, look at this camera!'.
From what had been a really lovely day of
celebration and the awards, suddenly
became a day about me being something
someone had to have. It was the first
time I'd come across how aggressive
people were when you were that
successful. I'd been protected up to that
point. I had security, I had the band. I
was never the victim of it, and that was
the first night. So, really bittersweet
in many ways.
Bina: For a lot of
people who didn't believe she was going
to be famous it was really good, because
she proved a point.
Gita: She proved
Toyah: The 1980s music
scene evolved into New Age Rock. I was
very commercially successful in 1981, and
I had to escape the image. People
expected a new image every time you did
something, so I just moved into this New
Wave Rock thing in 1982. I just moved on,
it was starting to leave punk behind.
Holder: Toyah then met a man who would
change her life forever. King Crimson
guitarist, Robert Fripp.
Toyah: I met Robert at
a time where I needed to change radically
in order to survive. On every level,
personally and work wise. He's a sage of
a man, he is a wise man, and I had had a
particularly difficult five years,
personally. He was very much a saviour I
have to say. I just knew that this was
the man for me.
was married my musical direction had to
change because I just wasn't surviving
the fact that I was so hugely successful
in 1981. No one could forgive me that
huge commercial success. It was almost
like I was the "teen idol" of
the time. I just thought the only way to
deal with this, because people are always
going to harp back to the success of
1981, is to just trash it and start
again, and change completely. So I
started to do solo albums that were
radically different. The first one I did
was called 'Prostitute'. It was about my
anger at how I was perceived at being a
married woman, ironically.
'Ophelia's Shadow' and 'Prostitute',
probably some of the best stuff she's
ever done. She was exploring the idea of
identity, and masks within that. A lot of
it was coming out from herself that she'd
never really explored, her inner self.
She'd projected a lot of rage, a lot of
issues that I don't think she'd ever
really examined herself, as a woman, as a
spiritual person, and the place of women
within society. I think a lot of those
later albums, 'Prostitute' especially, in
terms of the music biz and what she'd
experienced in that, were very deep
albums. Probably the most moving stuff
she's ever written.
Noddy Holder: Toyah and
Robert decided to form their own band,
called Sunday All Over The World.
Robert: We were married
on my 40th birthday, May 16th 1986, and
Sunday All Over The World was a bopping
little rock group!
Toyah: I'm a
performer. I'm at my best when I'm
onstage. I do very little rock music,
even though I'm gigging and I am
releasing material, but I'm not earning a
living from that. I earn my living from
acting, and being onstage.
Noddy Holder: Today Toyah is
in the middle of a 10 month stage tour of
Calamity Jane. But she still gets
time to write and perform her own music,
including 'Little Tears Of Love'.
Robert: My wife is a
wonderful, bright, little spark!
Goddard: I think Toyah will be
remembered as the Punk Princess. She was
Bina: A great British
institution, dare I say it? Not that
she's old, but...!
Robert: It's constantly
a surprise for me to look at her and see
that she is so tiny, because her presence
is so large.
Toyah: I just think
that we've all got to look at our lives
from beginning to end. You can't just
look at it from the teens. You've got to
look at it from birth to when you die,
hopefully in your late hundreds! It's a
journey, it's an adventure. It's not
about buying the house, settling down,
retiring, it's just NOT about that. It's
a spiritual journey. It's about evolving,
and I think if I've got anything right,
it's my attitude.
Holder: What a performer. And what a
lady. There's still no stopping her, is
there? Well done Toyah!
'Rock Legends' Soundtrack:
To Be Free - Toyah
Are (Live at Drury Lane) -Toyah
Proud Be Loud (Be Heard) - Toyah
- David Bowie
New World - Toyah
Save The Queen - Sex Pistols
Of The Wild Frontier - Adam & The
A Mystery - Toyah
Want To Be Free - Toyah
In The Mountains - Toyah
Are (Live at Drury Lane) - Toyah
Morning Universe - Toyah
Fall In Love (I Said) - Toyah
Tears Of Love - Toyah