"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> TOYAH!
30 Years and Counting
By: Jimi LaLumia
At the dawn of the 80's as new wave began to take the front seat from punk in the U.K., there was a female who rose to prominence,first in the underground, and then as a full blown pop star, and her name is Toyah Willcox.She is primarily known as Toyah,which also served as the name of her band through the early 80's. Visually,many of today's fashion styles and accents come from the rainbow that was early 80's Toyah,and she remains an active popular star in England and Europe three decades later. My problem? I've been a Toyah fan since 1980, here in New York,and for whatever reasons, her records were never released here.The UK label that she recorded for,Safari Records, never secured a deal in America, rather strange since her album"Anthem" dominated the charts in England for most of 1981,during which time she enjoyed several Top ten Pop singles (which is especially hard to do on an indie label,which Safari was.) I went so far as to get two of her videos sent to me by Safari, and,as a fan, paid out of my own pocket to have them converted to a U.S. viewing format.I then presented them to the then "Acquistions Manager " at MTV, Roberta Kruger,and as it was early days there, before MTV went all corporate and super successful, they actually added "Thunder In The Mountains" into light rotation for about a month,and a short time later they did the same with "Rebel Run', which is quite amazing since there was no affilation with A U.S. label, no promotion tie ins, nothing except me, my enthusiasm, and Kruger recognizing Toyah to be a strikingly brilliant video star. While there were no resulting record sales since there were only imports in a handful of small U.S. shops, the MTV exposure nonetheless exposed thousands of U.S. kids to Toyah, and a sub cult following was born. She eventually spilt from Safari in 1984,recorded a totally different style album called "Minx" for CBS U.K.(which didn't get a U.S. release since her earlier work hadn't been released here.) She married Robert Fripp of King Crimson fame in 1985(they're still married) and has a strange, beautiful career right up to the present moment.
These days, being a recording artist and an actress is almost a given, but in the 80's, Toyah got nasty arrows from the Brit press for being both an actress and record star.You may have seen her as Mad in the punk rock film "Jubilee" from 1978,or as Monkey in the film version of "Quadrophenia".She starred opposite Katherine Hepburn in the 80's remake of "The Corn Is Green",and she acted opposite Sir Lawrence Olivier in "The Ebony Tower". She headlined the revival, on stage of "Caberet",which came to America without her,and she starred on stage as a female wrestler in "Trafford Tanzi"(which came to America in 1984 as "Teaneck Tanzi",with Debbie Harry taking over Toyah's original role.) Through it all, we long suffering U.S. Toyah fans have had to watch from a distance,but all of that ends as her new band, The Humans, finally come to America,as she has aligned herself with Bill Rieflin(who has been the drummer for R.E.M.'s most recent projects in the last few years)and Chris Wong. Their new album,'Sugar Rush"has been released on a label called The End Records,but hopefully this is just the beginning for Toyah's '30 years later' presence in America. After a short U.S. Humans tour, she has told me that she'd like to come back to do "Toyah" material.I made her aware of my many U.S. based Toyah efforts through the years,and she was surprised to find out about the MTV exposure back in 1983.
If you're not familiar with Toyah, you should visit her official website at www.toyahwillcox.com as well as the excellent fan site www.toyah.net so you can catch up on all you've been missing,and the first order of business is bathing in the excellence of "Sugar Rush" by The Humans,which features guest guitar work on all the album's tracks by the previously mentioned Robert Fripp; you will be amazed.Welcome,Toyah, finally, to America!