06 March 2010

1981: Toyah!

Sometimes, when I think about the 1980s, I get all misty eyed...

Picture 1981, for instance. The big new pop culture crazes were Rubik's Cube and CB radio. The World Wide Web would not even be invented until 1989, so the vast majority of us had never even heard of the Internet.

We watched new telly treats Dangermouse and Willo The Wisp.

Hardly anybody had a video recorder.

We played Space Invaders and that new arrival, Frogger, (not sure if Pac-Man had arrived in the UK by this point), we listened to Madness and Soft Cell and Kim Carnes. We ate deep fried sausages and burgers.

Many of us still cooked in lard.

And we loved Toyah.

Well, some of us did. I was pretty fond of her myself.

The fantastic-haired popstrel bestrode the pop scene, thrilling all before her.

So, if you get misty eyed, perhaps even downright snivelly, remembering Toyah in 1981, snivel no more because she's back, back, BACK!!

From the Sunday Mirror,

June 7, 1981:

TOYAH! TOYAH! A roar from more than 2,000 throats demands the return of pop's hottest property to the stage.

And Toyah Willcox - already dubbed The Face Of The Eighties - bounces back for yet another encore on her sell-out nationwide tour.

Teenage boys lined six deep around the stage of Newcastle City Hall reach up, a sea of hands clamouring to touch the impish Birmingham girl who is taking the music world by storm.

Toyah, with her ever-changing, vividly coloured hair styles and startling make-up, has emerged from a cult following to mass popularity in just a few months.

Her searing, soaring voice backed by a four-man band has taken her latest single, I Want To Be Free, to number six in the charts and their current LP high into the album charts.

But off stage, the girl who divides her time between acting and singing careers is counting the personal price of success.

Toyah collapsed after a concert at Sheffield on her twenty-third birthday on May 18 and had to cancel the next evening's performance at Hanley in Staffordshire (now re-scheduled for tomorrow night).

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Mirror at her hotel after the Newcastle concert, Toyah said:

"I had had appendicitis and was told to take a holiday before the tour started, but it just wasn't possible.

"After I collapsed my doctor told me to cancel all my remaining engagements.

"But I couldn't, because they are sell-outs, so I took the one day off.

"I was locked in my bedroom and told to rest.

"Now the doctor has ordered me to take two weeks' holiday after this tour finishes.

"I will probably go to a villa somewhere.

"I feel I have aged ten years this year, but that is part of success."

The break will be short. Among other things, a world tour is set for later this year.

Life on the road is demanding for 4ft. 11in. tall Toyah.

She has lost a stone in weight since this eighteen-venue tour began and can shed five pounds in one performance.

She eats just one meal a day - a big steak at lunch time.

"I couldn't keep food down with all the jumping around I do on stage," she said.

"I never drink anything beforehand for the same reason.

"I can never relax. The nearest I get to it before a performance is by chatting to the band."

Her twenty-strong tour crew, travelling in two coaches with tons of equipment in two articulated trucks, includes three bodyguards.

One is her 25-year-old boy friend Tom.

But even all that tight security can be breached. In Glasgow, six youths were found breaking into Toyah's bedroom.

"I don't like having to act like a star," she said.

"I hate having to be ushered in and out of buildings and ignoring fans in case I get trapped by dozens of others.

"I was very upset about it all at the start of the tour, but we have had bomb scares at hotels and weirdos ringing up.

"You cannot remain the nice person that you want to be - you have to change.

"I try to stay as much in contact with fans as possible, but I realise now that in my private life I have to be top secret.

Toyah, who left school with one O level - in music - was an actress before she was a singer.

She has acted in films like Quadrophenia and The Tempest as well as television series including Shoestring and Minder.

Toyah has also presented BBC-2's Friday Night, Saturday Morning chat show and even performed with the National Theatre.

Her hair and clothes have stamped Toyah unmistakably as a fashion leader.

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

"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."

Her hair is currently Sunshine Gold - a colour fans can copy using Toyah's Crazy Colour hair colouring at £3 a bottle.

"I use the stuff myself," Toyah said.

"I'm naturally black-haired, but I have a very pale complexion and my own colour makes me look awful, like a witch."

Her clothes, too, are unmistakably Toyah.

She designs many costumes herself and loves handmade clothes with hand-painted designs.

"Morally, I'm very strict," she said. "The promiscuous side of the music business disgusts me.

"I have seen a lot of women get emotionally mixed up because of sleeping around. They cheapen themselves."

Toyah's views often earn her a "Little Miss Prim" tag in the music press.

She also believes in capital punishment and castration for rapists.

"That sounds very Fascist, but these are people who believe in hurting others.

"I have no compassion for anyone like that... people who beat up pensioners, rapists who destroy victims and their families for a long long time.

"People like Peter Sutcliffe, who should be put to sleep by an injection.

"I'm too bitter to write songs about it all.

"I'm a singer, not a politician, and I want people to escape from things like that through my songs."

Being a female star on tour has presented no problems for Toyah.

"If any bloke tries the big pull I just tell him to give up," she said.

"I don't consider myself a sexy person. Blokes must be a bit daft to fancy me."

Of her boy friend, Tom, she says: "He is my hero. He must go through hell sometimes, but he is a very patient bloke."

Gonna turn this world UPSIDE DOWN...

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