1981 - 1982
1981 - 1982
Best Female Singer:
Toyah is not one to let the mould gather. During the last couple of weeks she's been hopping from one European capital to another in a kind of promotional mini-tour. It's also a warm up for a mammoth world tour that starts next May and should last until Christmas '82.
But this is just scratching the surface. After her British tour and Christmas Eve Old Grey Whistle Test Special, she's only going to make a movie, take part in a new BBC2 comedy series called "Dear Heart" (says Toyah: "It's a teenage version of Not The Nine O'Clock News") and record a new album come April. But what about the movie?
"It's a horror film about a singer who goes mad and starts living in her hallucinations. It's very black comedy.
"But we're going to take the horror clichés out of it. We're not aiming at the musical angle but what's going on in the woman's brain. I think it'll be quite a psychedelic movie. I'm also the consultant on the occult side."
Famous fashion designer Zandra Rhodes is in charge of the sets.
"Zandra and I get on because we have something in common. We both believe in fairies. We're aiming at creating something that's very beautiful and also very macabre.
"It's not going to be part of any trend in the music world so that people can watch it in five years' time and not associate it with New Romantics or punks or whatever."
Hold on a tick, Toyah, have you heard the news? You've been voted by a veritable landslide Best Female Singer of '81.
"That's great! Fantastic! I'm delighted."
And the Christmas present of your dreams?
"Oh I don't know... What can I say? I think I'd like to go somewhere that's hot... maybe a desert island. Everywhere's so cold at the moment... I know... I'd like to be given a holiday in Bermuda!"
And the big day itself?
"On Christmas Day I'm going with my mum and dad somewhere that I'm keeping a secret, but it's somewhere that people know."
Solve the riddle and you might see her there.
Most Fanciable Female:
There was a unnerving three second delay when Toyah was informed that she had won Most Fanciable Female award. Are you still upright, Toyah?
"Oh God. I never expected that. It's amazing. I thought Kim Wilde would have got it. A kiss from Toyah to everyone who voted for me!"
1. Toyah, 2. Kim Wilde, 3. Clare Grogan, 4. Sheena Easton, 5. Debbie Harry, 6. Kate Bush, 7. Bo Derek, 8. Pamela Stephenson, 9. Joanne Catherall, 10. Olivia Newton John.
1. Dare - The Human League, 2. Duran Duran - Duran Duran, 3. Ghost In The Machine - The Police, 4. Dance - Gary Numan, 5. 7 - Madness, 6. Rage In Eden - Ultravox, 7. Anthem - Toyah, 8. Prince Charming - Adam & The Ants, 9. Present Arms - UB40, 10. Architecture And Morality - OMD.
'Thunder In The Mountains' was voted 12th Best Single of 1981.
How Toyah Voted:
Best Group - Fad Gadget : Best Female Singer - Joan Armatrading : Best Male Singer - Peter Gabriel : Best Album - nothing : Best Single - 'Tainted Love' Soft Cell : Best TV Programme - 'The Shogun Inheritance' : Best Radio Show - John Peel : Most Appalling Record - 'The Birdie Song' The Tweets : Most Promising New Act For 1982 - Bow Wow Wow, Altered Images : Most Fanciable Human Being - David Bowie.
Toyah Willcox answers your questions. Mike Stand sorts through the thousands of postcards and sets the scene. Paul Slattery clicks away.
Toyah: flaming cockatoo crest of yellow and red hair retouched that morning, the product of four different shades of dye subtly mixed and applied by her own ingenious hand. Eyes to match. Well, not in colour, but in their blazing liveliness. Make-up aflame. Gaudy Samurai tunic (courtesy Melissa Caplan). You couldn't mistake Toyah for the cleaning lady - nor for the girl next door.
She sits in her publicist's office overlooking sombre Southwark Cathedral and the dead skeleton of an impending office block. She's plainly impressed by the mighty pile of questions Smash Hits readers sent in and my feeling is that if she doesn't answer them all she'll eat them - they make her feel so good.
Q: How, what, where, etc.. did your parents manage to give you such an incredible, fantastic, tailor-made star's name?
(Sally Bodi, Carshalton)
A: My parents totally deny any memory of where they got the name from, but there is a town in Texas called Toyah. In Red Indian language it means 'water'. Also the neighbouring town is called Wilcox, so that must be where my mum got it from - it was definitely her who named me.
Q: What was your school nickname?
(Sarah Fosdike, Ipswich)
A: I had a lot. When I was ten it was 'Barrel' because I was very fat. Then it became 'Toilet' when I was about 14, not only because it sounds like Toyah but I was always hiding in the toilets during lesson times, having a smoke or something. And then I had a best friend called Trisha and she was very thin and I was very fat and we were known as 'Stick 'N The Mud' - I was The Mud.
Q: What do your parents think of what you're doing now?
(Peter Campbell, Wishaw)
A: My parents are my greatest fans, but when I first said I was going to move to London and become an actress and a singer they tried to discourage it because it's such an insecure profession. Although my dad gave up on telling me what to do when I was about 12 and just said "Let her get on with it". My mother still nags me about the way I look - only now it's because my hair's yellow and she preferred the red I used to have.Whereas when I was younger she nagged me about "destroying" my hair. So the viewpoint's changed completely. Well, bleaching your hair isn't good for it. You have to put the life back in so I overcondition it. It's not something I'd advise kids to try themselves.
Q: What was your favourite TV programme when you were younger?
(Nichola McKenna, London)
A: The Munsters (an American comic-horror series)
Q: Is it true you had alcohol poisoning at the age of eight?
(Margaret Wotton, Plymouth)
A: Yeah. I blame that on my brother and sister who have a very warped sense of humour. We were in Majorca at a barbecue where there was this very nice red liquid to drink - which was sangria, quite a deadly thing - and they kept filling my glass up. I was slowly sinking under the table. I remember desperately wanting to go to the toilet, but I couldn't move. I was ill for about a week after that. They reckoned I'd had six bottles of sangria. The pain in my stomach I'll never forget.
Q: Is it true you trained with John Currie and you wanted to be a skater like him?
(William Scott, Morpeth)
A: I didn't actually train with John Currie. We had the same trainer at Solihull ice rink. I started when I was nine and I became very serious about it. I'd go in the mornings before school and then again in the evenings - up to six hours a day. Then when I saw Currie winning the Olympics I thought "God, I know that man". I'd had a mad crush on him when he was younger, he was so beautiful.
When I was 12 I had an operation to straighten my toes and it meant I couldn't skate again because I couldn't put my foot in a tight boot. I wasn't professionally-minded though and I didn't mind giving it up.
Q: Did you ever predict to your schoolmates that you would be a star at such a young age? If so what was their reaction? (Alan Sharkey, Huyton)
A: I didn't so much predict as tell them the most abominable lies. I remember once I had the whole school thinking I'd be leaving at the end of the week because I'd just been cast in a new musical with Julie Andrews. I'd get bored and invent these stories and believe them myself sometimes! End of the week I got a load of presents off my friends and then on the Monday there I was again saying I'd decided not to do it after all.
Q: Is it a disadvantage being so small?
(Helen Langford, Telford)
A: The only time I dislike being small is when I see lovely women with great long legs and I think "Oh wow, I wish I was like that". And when your fans meet you and go "Oooh aren't you little!" as if it's something dreadful. Otherwise I don't think about it, though it's true I am verging on the very small - four foot eleven.
Q: If people say unkind things about your appearance what are your true feelings?
(Alan Taylor, Wolverhampton)
A: If the Press say it I won't read it because it'll put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. But when people in the street laugh at the way I look I just stick my nose up in the air and walk on as though I'm better than them - which annoys them. It's much better than turning round and swearing and looking hurt.
Q: If you were offered money to pose nude in a men's magazine what would you do?
(I. Glasgow, Chesterfield)
A: Laugh (laughs). Get a stand-in to do it with my wig on. I just haven't got the physique to pull it off. Not only that, it's just not me. I'm too modest.
Q: No offence meant, but how did you come to have your lisp? Were you born with it or did you have an accident, because I think it's brilliant like your voice.
(Nick Dudley, Stockport)
A: (Cackles) I was born with it. I think I've got a very long tongue and big front teeth and they keep clashing when I say the letter 's'. I have actually had elocution lessons to try to get rid of it because when I was at school my parents were very worried about it. It was very bad then and I stuttered too - no-one could understand a word I was saying. Then it wasn't until two years ago when a reporter said I had a lisp that anyone ales bothered to mention it. I thought I'd got rid of it... but it doesn't bother me.
Q: How much do you earn a month and do you spend it mostly on clothes?
(Julia Williams, Brassington)
A: I don't get money the way most people do. I get a basic wage, which is fifty quid cash per week, then if I need clothes for costumes or photo sessions I ring up the record company and say "Please can I have some money" - but that has to be paid back through record sales.
Q: On average how much does one of Melissa Caplan's outfits cost you?
(P. Johnson, Herts)
A: The same as anything else in the shop. They're always under a hundred quid which for nowadays is very good.
Q: Your records make my goldfish, Quasimodo, blow bubbles. Do you think this is good or bad. I think he's trying to sing along. (Louanne Martin, Co. Down)
A: It's good because it proves he's alive. If he can sing along I think she's going to make a fortune.
Q: Is it true that most of your early lyrics were inspired by dreams and nightmares?
(David Brown, Barking)
A: Yes, but also horror films and books of horror stories and science fiction. That's the main thing: the fear of death.
Q: In some of your songs why do you choose to write about the Egyptians?
(Darren Hill, Stoke)
A: I don't think I've ever have written about them. I do love the costumes they used to wear. I think they were one of the first races to develop and really grand style - and technically they were a super-race. Their strength, their beliefs, building the pyramids - it's a great mystery. I just think they were a very beautiful race of people.
Q: You've said that when you were younger and you got in a state about something things in your room would move around of their own accord. Is it still happening and how do you account for it? (Alison Cornell, Sutton)
A: It isn't still happening. It was when I was in my early teens and I was very distressed about a death, the first time I'd ever experienced that loss. I was very unhappy and confused and I do believe that people can channel their energies of anger into something more positive - such as moving objects. It's just like... turning me into a photograph.
Q: Does your belly-button stick out?
(Nicky Salmon, Hereford)
Q: I read that you were going to get married to your bodyguard Tom Taylor. Is this true?
(L & R Gane, Swindon)
A: I don't believe marriage is important. Tom and I are very close, but marriage is like slipping handcuffs on each other and I don't think that's necessary. It's the feelings between you that count. If I get married it will be in my own time and the Press will never know about it.
Q: If you had any children what would you call them?
(Stephanie Burke, Barnsley)
Q: Is it true there is friction between you and Adam Ant?
(Diane Magee, Sale)
A: Um, there was. In "Jubilee" we fell out over a band we'd formed, an all-girl group, with me and Adam's wife Eve. He wrote some tunes with me doing the words and we just fell out. But I think Adam is the sort of person who if he has an argument with someone doesn't forget about it easily. I don't feel anything bad towards Adam whatsoever. I think it's just a clash of egos. That does happen.
Q: Is it true that you really hate Hazel O'Connor? If so, why?
(Donna Eales, Hants)
A: It's not true. I was probably quite jealous of her when she got the part in "Breaking Glass" (Toyah auditioned for it too). I think in a way we are similar - if I hear me talking on the radio I often think it's her - but that's in our personalities, not in our work. I've met her a few times and she's a very charming person.
Q: What would you do if your chip pan caught fire?
(Raymond Sears, Nottingham)
A: My answer to that is I'm not allowed to eat fried food so I don't have a chip pan.
Q: Why on January 26 this year didn't you turn up to do a gig at Leeds University?
(Tracy Pullen, Tadcaster)
A: We were never booked. I know that no dates of that tour were cancelled so some promoter must have got it wrong.
Q: I've been a devoted Toyah fan for over two years. We. the original fans, have stuck by you but have you forgotten us and are you instead trying to appeal to the people who will forget you next week? (Joanne Lee, Royston)
A: No, not at all. When you make singles they've got to appeal to a larger market to be important. I want to survive. I have to make a living. I save what I call true Toyah for the albums when you can be more adventurous. I think it's not a matter of forgetting anyone. It's remembering that there are more people in Britain than the original Toyah fans. And I say that with all due respect because I keep in touch with them by writing to them personally.
Q: Who looks after your rabbit while you're on tour?
(Darren Raven, Cumbria)
A: My mother looks after him the whole time because even when I'm not on tour I'm never at home. I love him dearly. Sometimes I only visit my parents to see my rabbit!
Q: Is he called Fatso?
(Brian Bennett, Liverpool)
A: I call him Fatso. My mother calls him Samuel. But his original name is Iggy because he was given to me for my birthday when I was 20 by one of Iggy Pop's roadies.
Q: Have you got any habits which tend to annoy people or disgust them, apart from eating baby food off a knife? (Andrew Fletcher, Stoke)
A: I haven't eaten baby food off a knife for ages. Habits... I can't keep still. When I'm in meetings with my management or record company I always pace up and down the room and that makes people feel uneasy. Sometimes I won't shut up. And I'm the sort of person who squirts soda syphons at people.
Q: Is it true that you suffered from a disease called dyslexia and were unable to learn how to read and write until you left school? (Joe Wood, Bedworth)
A: I don't think dyslexia is a disease . With me I called it social dyslexia - I just didn't want to learn. I wasn't interested and therefore my way of rebellion against the school was not to learn a thing. I could read and write when I left school, but not really that well.
Q: Does growing old frighten you?
(David Dennis, Tunbridge Wells)
A: Not growing old, growing senile worries me a bit. Losing control of my mind.
Q: Where do you get all your energy from?
(James McGhee, Leeds)
A: It doesn't come from taking lots of pills I can assure you. I'm a very nervous person believe it or not. I'm very concerned about my audiences and I always feel guilty if I ever think I've given a bad show. So I build myself up so much before performing that all my nerves turn into energy.
Q: Do you still practice the limbo?
(Robert Stuart, Doncaster)
A: No, that's something I used to do when my brother and sister got me drunk.
Q: Are you as tough as you say you are?
(Bernard O'Brien, Waterford)
A: I don't think I've ever said I'm tough. I'm physically stronger than most women of my age and size, but that's because I've worked on it. Emotionally I'm hurt by things people say. I just stick up for myself.
Q: Can I have my plastic spoons back please?
(Peter Allen, Pete's Cafe, Leicester)
A: Who? ... where does he come from? Leicester? I'm sorry, I don't remember nicking your plastic spoons but I bet it was a guy called Charlie Francis who did it, not me. He was our old bass player and he was very fond of plastic spoons.
Q: Will you marry me?
(Stephen McKenna, Blackburn)
A: No, I want to marry someone I know.
Smash Hits Magazine
SPOTLIGHT ON TOYAH
We've all admired actress/singer TOYAH WILLCOX on screen and stage, so now's your chance to see her in a different light - as a model for our fashion pages! Toyah picked out all the clothes herself, using her own individual style to put them all together. Which, for Toyah, is just doing what comes naturally!
"Being small, I always look for clothes which make me look a bit taller," Toyah told us.
"For instance, I'd never choose anything with horizontal stripes which would make me look fatter than I am!
Smaller people do have a problem when it comes to buying clothes and I have to be very careful to make sure I go for darker colours, which tend to be more flattering."
Toyah likes to shop for her clothes in unusual, back-street shops.
"I prefer the not so well-known shops because I don't want to go somewhere and find someone else in exactly the same outfit," she told us.
Toyah is very interested in fashion and feels that it's very, very important.
"What you wear should reflect your own personal taste. I don't always believe in being told what to wear!
Clothes are a very big part of your individuality. You should feel good in what you wear. Above all, though, your clothes should be comfortable."
Toyah spends a lot of money on clothes now, particularly on her stage clothes, but she wasn't always in this position.
"When I was a drama student I couldn't afford many clothes, but I still really cared about what I dressed in.
I got all my clothes from places like jumble sales and the wardrobe department of the theatre!
If you don't have much money to spend on clothes, I think it's important to buy one outfit you really like, and wear it all the time - rather than buying lots of accessories and things.
When I was a drama student I used to go around in this long black coat and a pair of heavy black platform shoes - I loved the outfit and wore it all the time!"
Toyah feels that her clothes are a very important part of her image. She's well known for appearing in some stunning stage outfits, but would hate to be predictable, which is why she likes using young, new designers.
Whereas before, she didn't feel that accessories were important if you haven't got a lot of money to spend on clothes, Toyah feels that the jewellery she wears on stage is an essential part of her look.
"On stage, the accessories are just as important as the outfit."
Judging by the selection that Toyah brought along to our photographic session, her own accessories are as individual and dramatic as the girl herself!
Finally, we asked her if there was anyone she admired for their clothes sense.
"James Dean and David Bowie. Bowie always looks so fantastic. Whereas so many of his generation have let their style slip or become dated, he's managed to stay up there.
Grace Jones is amazing - her style's really individual and unique.
Marilyn Monroe is someone who I think always looked good in clothes, too - although in her case, her fantastic figure made the clothes look good."
Which is something Toyah feels is important - but looking at the shots here, it just goes to show that personality counts for quite a lot too!
THE LISPING FERRET
Call her the lisping ferret, because that's what she looks and sounds like to some people, or call her the most stylish female on the scene at the moment. Either way you can't ignore her. And she wouldn't want you to anyway. She's worked hard to get everyone's attention.
"OBVIOUSLY I have an ego that needs a lot to satisfy it," she says of her never ending schedule of events. One minute she's in the theatre, the next it's Top Of The Pops.
"Being 18 was the most exciting time of my life," she says looking back nearly five years. "That was the year for firsts - first band, first TV appearance, first film 'Jubilee'.
Since then it's Toyah everywhere. She's been in films like 'Quadrophenia', 'The Tempest' and 'The Corn Is Green'.
For a long time Toyah's recording career lagged behind her acting ventures and more importantly behind rival Hazel O'Connor's activities. (They even seem to change hair colours at the same time). But Toyah is dramatically different. And of course, there's the now famous lisp.
'Once a school I was at attempted to 'cure' my lisp," she recalls sadly. "What they do is put you in a room full of recording equipment. They made you listen to your own voice. But that didn't help me. I hate the sound of my voice. I didn't lose my lisp. I just ended up in tears. In the end I just wrote a song about it."
Toyah looks like being a good example for everyone who is less than perfect - like namely all of us. She was held back at school because of reading problems. The result was that she was too mature for the kids in her class and the kids her age treated her like a fool. Her unhappy home life and drink problems are not so unique anymore. Maybe Toyah will be the spokesman for a lot of troubled kids everywhere.
"I couldn't write a song about normal everyday things. They always come out doomy. But then as you say, maybe I'm not the only one feeling doomy these days."
Talented actress, successful singer, forthright woman all rolled into one. Maggie Monks traces the rise and rise of Toyah Willcox.
Toyah Willcox has done what most of us dream about - and could do if we had the courage.
She kicked away the traces of a well-off upbringing at a private school and left with only one "O" level - in music. She left her school in the Midlands "by mutual agreement" after failing the other nine "O" levels.
She had a lisp and a stammer and had special speech therapy lessons to correct them, though the lisp is still faintly audible. She weighed in at around eleven stone, even though she's barely five foot tall.
Now she runs two successful careers - in acting and singing - and has slimmed down to under eight stone. All that, and she's only twenty three.
She discovered, after she left school, she suffered from a form of dyslexia, but has now got over that problem and has blossomed into one of the most talked about young actresses on stage, film and TV.
She lives with her boyfriend in North London. As she has bad eyesight, she is nervous about using public transport - she gets lost because she can't see the tube or bus signs - he drives her around everywhere, and acts as her bodyguard.
Her hair has been many colours, but she seems to favour an eye-catching flame and orange mix, set off by the flamboyant clothes which she spends a fortune on. She buys some of them from Swanky Modes and others are designed by a friend.
It's not hard to imagine why she draws stares from passers by, and it was in just that way she got her first break. A BBC producer saw her in the street and asked her if she could act.
At first she thought he was spinning her a line, but he convinced her he really was a TV producer - and she ended up in a play which led to more parts.
It was just what she wanted. She'd been studying drama in Birmingham, financing herself by working in a theatre and in clubs at night.
She hit the punk scene when she appeared in the film Jubilee - and the headlines when it was discovered that she kept a coffin in her previous Southampton home, which was an old warehouse. The papers said she slept in it, but it wasn't really true.
She was to regret all that publicity, because her home was broken into several times afterwards and many of her personal possessions were stolen.
Although she's small, Toyah's a fighter. And her careers - both of them - are all important to her.
"I've always believed women are superior," she says. "I've never felt it necessary to prove it."
Her stage act with the band has been described as outrageous, but Toyah feels it's the men who stand at the front of the stage that look silly. In the music business many people have put down her singing, but Toyah shrugs that off. She's not the type to get trapped into anything she doesn't want to do. During a production at the National Theatre, she was practically the only actress who didn't have to take her clothes off.
"I hate showing my body," she said. Now she's finding people are only too happy to see her face in a production.
Having the courage to ask for what she wanted has been Toyah's hallmark - viz her part of Monkey in Quadrophenia.
She was already well known in the London punk/rock circuit when she and her band appeared in the BBC TV's Shoestring, but after that her music really took off with her album Toyah Toyah Toyah and her singles.
Now she fits her life around her two main commitments, touring with her band for one half of the year and acting during the other.
Her performance in The Tempest received critical acclaim from all sides. She played Miranda, which she got through Derek Jarman, the man who made Jubilee.
"I had read The Tempest once and it was the only Shakespeare play I could read," Toyah says. "Shakespeare doesn't half gabble on sometimes."
But her success in films and on stage doesn't mean we'll lose Toyah to America. She has no desire to go there.
"I would only go to America for a good reason," she says. "People are just there because they can lead a life of luxury and I don't want that. I like being on the move."
Veteran film actress Katherine Hepburn got on famously with Toyah when they played together in the TV production The Corn Is Green.
It's been parts like those that helped her avoid being cast as a punk.
"I've moved on from all that," she said. "I suppose I just believe in being an individualist."
She is certainly that - there aren't many people who enjoy working so hard they don't believe in having holidays.
"I go insane when I'm not working. I like to be everywhere at once, in the right place at the right time. I don't enjoy socialising very much and feel lost at parties." Running one career can be difficult enough, but Toyah's boundless energy copes with both - though she does find the music side harder.
"You never know what's going to happen next, it's totally unpredictable. So more mental and physical energy has to go into it."
Like the time she tripped onstage and hurt her ankle. She carried on with the show but the ankle was later found to be fractured. Doctors told her she'd have to rest up for a couple of weeks - not Toyah.
She tried sitting on a stool for a couple of concerts, but it wasn't long before the stool was abandoned and she was bouncing around again.
It's hardly the kind of lifestyle a woman with a family could pursue, but then Toyah doesn't see herself as the traditional type of woman atall.
"I'm part of the future," she claims. "A modern woman who doesn't think like a woman. I'm a female chauvinist pig because you have to be tough to survive."
She might not be like the usual type of woman in some ways, but she does have some things in common with girls in the street - like make-up and clothes.
"It takes me between half an hour to an hour to put my make-up on." she says. "But I always know what I'm going to wear. I work it out the night before."
And she has been known to go on spending binges, sometimes paying as much as £500 a month on clothes - and she takes hours over her hair.
"I used to have long hair but it all fell out because it was bleached so often." Now her hairdresser only lets her have it bleached once a month.
It's taken a special kind of determination to get this far. For Toyah to transform herself from an awkward chubby child, who didn't do well at school, into a successful actress and singer couldn't be achieved without courage and a single-minded ambition to do well.
Now Toyah would like to do something for other young people. She wants to buy an old disused cinema and turn it into a kind of recreation centre where people could go to meet each other and watch films, and do whatever they like to do.
So far she hasn't had much luck. But knowing Toyah, it won't be long before she gets her scheme off the ground.
Rock Times Magazine
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
Mick Mercer experiences masochistic delights, peanuts and octopus with Toyah Willcox
Black leather to the left and right of me. Knees investigating my buttocks and hands all over my lapels. A horde of sweaty punks competing for the elusive frontal position.
Some of them aspired to temporary greatness only to be removed by bouncers. Some climbed physically onto neighbours shoulders only to disappear when the dancing started. Many were never seen again. The more enterprising souls spent the evening actually bouncing chaotically over the heads of the crowd.
It's Toyah time again.
Of course in 1977 your humble scribe felt severely disappointed to emerge from a gig anything less than saturated; sweat in your clothing, sweat in your hair, claustrophobia. Magic!
Experiencing masochistic delights in the confines of Leicester University along with a thousand others I couldn't help but notice the peaceful atmosphere, something as rare in London town as an Elvis Costello interview.
With a sell out tour and a new EP all set to wreak havoc in our loveable charts Toyah has attained this state of glory with little help from the music press, relying instead on massive television exposure and it certainly hasn't done her any harm.
Throughout this performance I couldn't help but notice the overall improvement since I last saw them tread the boards. Veritable sparks fly, giving the sound an added dynamism that energizes Toyah into spontaneous enthusiasm rather than the more rehearsed madness of old.
Apres gig, the autograph retinue forms, including an addled hippy with a home-made raygun (and half a beard), local punk luminaries Wayne and Shaun who thrashed me mercilessly at pool and 20 Russian students with 4 KGB overseers. What more could you ask?
Funnier still were the local security men who still hadn't recovered from having their duties relinquished in favour of Toyah's own team who did a superb, unobtrusive job.
When we finally arrived back at the hotel I grabbed a quick chat with Toyah who now looked like a bewildered squirrel.
What about the new band then Toyah?
A fistful of peanuts disappears down her throat as she speaks.
"Well, apart from the fact that they're older and they've all had god previous experience I'm just glad they've all developed their own identities as people. If I did a major film they could all go off and do something rather than sit at home moaning 'cos I'm doing a film, which is wonderful. They're all so into what me and Joel are doing, they'll be prepared to drop anything and come and work with us again. I think it's important at this stage to find musicians with real egos rather than trying to be street level and all that old hat."
Is this tour like a realisation of all you've wanted then?
"I'm not that easily contented. We're capturing an audience. What I want to do is take it a
step further and fascinate them. I want to bring in the visuals I've promised for the last two years, even though as band we can sufficiently create enough atmosphere, I just wanna build into something even more special. The kids pay a lot of money to see us and I think we should give them everything we got to offer."
Has the national coverage you've received acted as a creative stimulus?
"All I can say about the national coverage is, a lot of people say it does me damage. My comment to that is that by doing it reminds me of a lot of things ~I forget about. You know my mind, it goes off in so many different directions. One day I say one thing, the next I'm contradicting it. If it wasn't for journalists I'd probably be totally na-na by now."
Not quite what I meant. Does the tv coverage actually give you a boost?
"Kids can still afford to watch tv, not all of 'em can afford to go to the cinema. Cinema in Britain, from what I've seen, is dying slowly. Really dying. It's overpriced and it's not that exciting. (Okay, television can be pretty dull at times but if you get the right viewing and you're in with the right people you can show so much. My idea with tv is to get a pirate station together, but that takes a few million to do successfully. That in a way is an ultimate ambition."
How do you reckon you came off in the documentary on you then?
"It worked better than I thought. I thought it would be wet, total self and no guts whatsoever. My only complaint is it had too much guts. I was going, "I want this, slam, slam, slam'. There was humour too, but they kept that out. I thought it was god for ITV."
What did they leave out then?
"They left out me having a fight with a tramp. I go round filming characters of London. The only way we could do this was to plonk me in a soup kitchen full of winos. I wasn't happy at all, but I was prepared to do it. Went in there and got beaten up!"
They should have shown it.
"I think it was the language that did it."
What about 'Friday Night, Saturday Morning'. You looked, er, nervous.
"Well, Chris Biggins was great, a natural person, but when Steve Strange came on...I asked really simple questions purely 'cos I was trying to make people understand what he was about, but I couldn't achieve much in eight minutes. I didn't want them to laugh at him. Not only that but he was wetting himself, panicking, shaking like a leaf, and was being very aggressive through his own nerves. And that happened with Viv Stanshall and Derek Jarman."
Stanshall seemed quite stroppy.
"Oh, he was a real bastard. I mean, whatever question I gave him he wouldn't give an answer, so I filled the eight minutes with him being stroppy. I can't day I didn't enjoy it though."
hat was the audience reaction to this like because very little came over?
"For Chris the reaction was great, but as soon as Steve Strange came on the audience was stunned because 10 other Blitz kids came on with him. The audience didn't understand from then on, and they hated Viv Stanshall, There was a part at the end that they didn't show when they all came on and played Space Invaders, and the audience was booing him. They didn't like him at all. Whatever happened it was still a compliment to be offered the show And it was still a laugh to watch even if I did fail."
Okay, back to the new band. You seemed happier onstage.
"Feel-wise and playing-wise it's 100 per cent better. I'm also pleased with them as individuals. They put up more of a show. Phil the bass player tries to upstage me which is great. It's an incentive. With the old band I was quite content to sit back because I knew they couldn't upstage me. Now I've been given that extra punch that had died away in the last year. Things like the old band splitting up kills you a bit inside and now I've got that drive back. I've got so much to give. I feel as if I've been born again.
The new EP sounds great. Can we have a rundown on the new material?
"Well, 'Warboys' is about boredom. It's about kids waiting for action. I call 'em warboys 'cos they're so aggressive, cos they're angry and they're proud."
I like 'Mystery' best.
"Oh, I'm really pleased. It was written by the guy who wrote 'Victims Of The Riddle', Keith Hale. It's commercial. I find it embarrassing to sing cos you can't quite dance to it, it's too slaw top dance to and too fast to sway to. We did it cos the DJs said they'd play it. We've got to the stage where we need something to happen. 'Warboys' is more true to our fans' tastes than anything. 'Angels And Demons' is a ballad. We thought we'd try a slow number. 'Blue Meaning'; worked on the documentary cos it was put with the images I saw when I wrote it. 'Revelations' is a sort of funky number about my sense of humour. I relate all nursery rhymes tom things yet to come. Like Jack & Jill and ring a ring of roses are about the plague in 1066, whenever it was."
That was the Norman invasion.
"Sorry! Well, that's what 'revelations'; is about. It relates to 1999 as well, when I think there'll be a different plague brought by Haley's Comet. Totally incurable but the survivors will become animalistic like the cover of 'Diamond Dogs', yet a saviour will come down and take these mutations back with him as survivors of planet Earth."
You're really putting yourself up for knocking.
"Oh the whole thing will be knocked, even 'It's A Mystery', but the papers are SO predictable. So I expect it anyway. I don't give a damn anymore. There was time when they really hurt me with their words but now I think they're a load of crap."
You're lucky though, you're in a position like Adam Ant.
"Yeah, that's why I don't give a damn anymore cos we're selling out the whole time. We're strong, we're an army, we're a family. I don't like using that word as it's Adam's but it's what's happening. I mean, the biggest contradiction in the music papers where one minute they're calling Adam a load of shit, the next minute he's a genius. I've known him since 'Jubilee'. I'm really pleased he's made it because he's worked harder than anyone...even though I'm not his best friend, and I don't want to be."
Just think. You might soon have Peter Powell praising you.
"Yeah, just makes me wanna laugh. One moment they're saying, 'she'll never survive she's an actress not a singer', and they don't believe you. The next minute they're going, 'you're the next big thing' and you're supposed to take them seriously."
What's the next acting extravaganza?
"It's me introducing 'Tales Of The Unexpected' to America. While I'm doing this we'll do the next album. By May the album will be out and we'll be on tour again. At the end of May I do Derek Jarman's next movie, then we got off on a world tour."
I hear you like eating octopus?
"Oh I love eating octopus. tastes like muscles and cockles. I love squid too. You can chew on it for hours. It's like chewing an old tyre."
You make it sound tremendous.
"It's great fun"
Well, what a damn convenient ending, because so are Toyah and there's a good deal of tread left on them. Definitely a major contribution to road safety. Keeps you off the street.
Now I know you'll find this hard to believe but once upon a time, well a couple of years ago actually, Toyah Willcox - yes Toyah the actress, movie queen and pop singer who's just had a whole range of makeup named after her - was so fat and grim that she bore more resemblance to the back end of a 49 bus than a number one star.
"Oh God, I was unbelievably big," she now laughs at the memory, "people used to go urgh! What's that that blob? I think the worst time to become fat is when you first become conscious of boys and you suddenly realise how grotesque you are. I was enormous at the time of the making of the film Jubilee and that's really when it hit home. I felt like a nice intelligent 18 year old and looked like a 30 year old fatso."
Toyah's answer to that problem, undertaken in her characteristically determined way was a strict diet which, apart from occasional festive lapses, she still sticks to. And although she put on half a stone over the christmas holidays (she reckons she'll soon jog that off), you can see how it's worked. From her flame coloured barnet to her black leather boots, 23 year old Toyah is looking every inch the star. But it's not only her career fortunes that have changed. OK, now there's the constant chatting up and the on stage gropers to contend with, but there's a pretty good chance that she'll marry Tom, her former body guard, before the end of the year.
"But if I do," she confides, "I'm going to keep it completely secret for the sake of my other half and his family. It can be very hard to cope with all that publicity."
Not that publicity seems to worry Toyah herself. The girl who first came into the public eye in the punk film Jubilee and the Who's mod romp, Quadrophenia has plans for 1982 which she hopes means the light of fame will be shining on her for a good while yet. She's about to start work on the follow up to the Anthem LP which is scheduled for a release in May (a single should be out sometime in April), there's also weekly Kenny Everett type appearances in Dear Heart, BBC2's forthcoming teenage version of Not The Nine O'Clock News and, just as soon as they get the local council to agree, an open air Toyah spectacular booked for the summer.
On top of all this, the five foot bundle of energy has agreed to star in three full length films - a rock horror musical, a spoof on her own life and a detective story.
"The most definite ones are the horror story and the spoof on my life," she tells me with a toss of her magnificent mane, "the detective story is more pie in the sky. We've got the finance for the spoof movie and we know the people who want to shoot it. I'll be writing it myself with some others. The reason it's going to be a spoof is I really think I've got a lot of life left in me yet so I don't want to do a book or a film on my life. I won't even be called Toyah in it, I'll be called Vulcan. It's really about aliens planting something on this earth to rip record companies off. It's just total comedy and has some really obscure humour."
"The reason that the movie came up," she continues, "is because the horror movie is going to be X rated and the majority of Toyah fans are very young. The horror movie is about a singer who goes round murdering journalists and management, just the type of people you want to murder in this business. Originally we were going to do it in the East End of London, but then we realised the market for the movie would be Japan and America, so we thought we'd better shoot it in New York."
This lady's a sharp operator. And that's the key to her success really. No matter what detractors - and there are plenty of them - say about Toyah's artistic merits she's got faith in her capacity and sound business principles to back it up. "I plan to take the money I'm making from the make-up side of my career and channel it into video," she says very definitely in her cockney brum manner, "I intend buying a cinema one day to make into a video station."
This seemingly naked ambition puts a lot of people off the obviously hard headed lady, but for Toyah these dreams are not part of any world domination scheme but a bid for control over her own life. "These are just little ideas really," she explains, "but I've got to be financially well off to do it. I want to be independent when it comes to money. I really hate having to crawl up someone's backside to make something. I'm one of those people who has to create ideas on the spur of the moment or it goes stale. I'm only business minded in that I don't trust a soul, not even my manager. I won't sign for something unless I approve of it. The reason I'm like this is to survive, having been ripped off early in my career. So rather than lean on anybody with my trust I just do everything myself. If a mistake is made I've only got myself to blame."
In a tough business in an even tougher world, Toyah knows what she's doing and has got a pretty clear idea of where she's going. Fiercely defensive of her musical and artistic integrity while accepting that the band are better live than on record, she still finds it hard to pinpoint the exact reasons for her success, and certainly doesn't see herself as some special gift from the Gods.
"When I'm performing live I see myself more as the Roman Gladiator who is very strong and very powerful but can't walk out of the arena. He's got to fight his way out," she asserts, "I'm there not only to entertain 3000 people, but to prove to 3000 people who I am. I start off on tours which are only a month long at the moment, and I stop eating and sleeping for a month, I slowly grow old and run down within the space of those four weeks. So it's very important for me to go out and prove myself, especially being female, and I do think my band area very good live band, but I still dread touring because you cannot go out and fail, when you go on you've got to be good."
"My energy comes from anger and before I go out on stage I wind myself up so much that not even the band will come near me...I just make myself feel really insignificant...I feel a total, feeble old bag but I just go on stage and go Bleah," she waves her arms dramatically round the room, fingers scratching like witches claws, " and explode...I perform because I'm desperate just like those kids out there. A lot of kids come to see me because they think I can answer some of their teenage problems 'cause I sometimes show that desperation that we all go through in our teens. I try to get the kids to exhaust themselves so they'll go home and feel all the tension's gone."
"The only time I lose my cool on stage is when you get the occasional teenage boy who really doesn't know why he's there, whether he's come to watch a sex object or hear a singer, and he tries to grope you in the rudest places. I just bash him over the head with the microphone stand," she concludes calmly.
"I'm one of those people who likes to go ghost hunting," she says and I suddenly notice the eyeball ring she's wearing on her finger and recall her earlier spooky themes, "I like to be frightened by myself. My favourite haunt used to be Highgate Cemetery. I used to go there just after the last satanist attack when they dug up the old part of the cemetery and hung skeletons everywhere and they were spearing squirrels to the trees."
Toyah's music is less chilling now but the taunts that her singing is an unfeeling squeal continue; taunts that she maybe able to act but she's a lousy singer and always will be. Naturally she defends herself to the hilt, but confides that she wishes she had more time to devote to the acting side of her career, playing everything from TV's Shoestring to Stratford's immortal Bard. "I'd really like to be acting in lots of little plays everywhere," she says, "especially on television, rather tan having to do one big movie and make a spectacular event."
Critics apart, Toyah creates a tremendous rapport with her audience and commands tremendous loyalty and affection from her fans who see her more as a friend than just another pop star. "On Christmas Eve we drove up to Birmingham and I had this enormous box of fan mail," she recalls, "I couldn't sleep that night so I went through it all. It's incredible what they buy you. I don't know where they get the money from. Someone had made a bronze statue of me. And a lot of kids buy me crosses like the one I wear on stage or they make themselves. I keep all the things and nail them to the wall in case I ever meet them after the show."
Toyah Willcox puts two time limits on her career, one when she's feeling down which says that the good times are already over, and the confident estimate which sees her carrying on to about 40. All the same, she says the familiarly fiery waif Toyah the red haired terror will last another five years before a new incarnation takes over."
"I'm becoming more robust in everything I do," she declares. Today is obviously a good day. "It's not confidence through success, It's learning to grow up."
And there you have it my friends. The secrets to the Toyah success story. Times have changed from when the dumpy Midland's girl used to frighten the wildlife for miles around. Toyah not only no longer looks like a 49 bus anymore, she's got the satisfaction of knowing she doesn't have to ride the bloody thing either!"
Star Shots Magazine
MY OLD SCHOOL
'She was a real rebel..and very frightening'
What are the big stars really like? There is no better way to find out than to ask those who knew them before they became famous. In this occasional series, Mirror writers take a revealing look at well known people's early years, as seen through the eyes of their former school friends. Today: Toyah Willcox, the tiny terror with a giant temper.
Punk actress Toyah Willcox was never much good when it came to taking exams. But she did make her mark at school - on both the pupils and the furniture.
She had an easy answer to arguments. She simply settled them with her fists. Once she kicked in a classroom door and another time she smashed a chair.
No wonder even some teachers at the all-girl Church of England College in Edgbaston, Birmingham were scared of tiny Toyah, the 4ft 11in terror no one could stop.
She has never been to sort of girl you could ignore, even in the school group photograph taken with her classmates in 1972 when she was only 14.
That's Toyah, right i nthe middle, with her pert, almost angelic, face shrouded by a dramatic mane of jet black hair, shortly to become a psychedelic mixture of tomato red, emerald green and sunshine yellow.
Even on that chilly autumn afternoon, rebel Toyah stood out. She alone was tough enough to brave the cold without a sweater.
Yet she had a sweet side, too. She always stuck up for her friends when they were in trouble. So when classmates teased Indian girl Bina Jairaj, Toyah was in there fighting for her.
"She always took on anyone who was a bully," says Bina, who is now a London secretary for a design packaging company.
"Normally she was fairly quiet, but when she lost her temper she was vicious.
"She never paid attention in class. She mucked about instead, pretending to pick her nose, or doing impersonations of Frank Spencer."
Bina, 26, came to England with her parents when she was five and was one of Toyah's closest friends. When the budding actress ran away from home for two weeks, it was Bina's family who took her in.
Bina says: "She was always a real rebel. In the last term of school she had a triangle of hair on the nape of her neck dyed red. None of the teachers dared say anything to her."
The school was fee-paying and the pupils came from some of the wealthiest families in the Birningham area. Toyah, who has an older brother and sister, was the daughter of a prosperous businessman.
Rosemary Frame (now Swainson) was in the same form as Toyah from the age of four until they both left the school at 16. She often spent holidays and weekends with the Willcox family.
"Even at home Toyah was very naughty and was always getting into trouble with her parents," says Rosemary, who is married and an advertising sales executive for a newspaper in Redditch.
"She used to sit in lessons drawing weird pictures.
"If girls didn't do something she wanted, then she would threaten them or beat them up with her fists. She was very frightening.
"She kicked a door down once to get at me, threatening to beat me up, too, even though I was supposed to be her friend.
"She used to wear lots of black eye make-up. No one else could have got away with that. She always said she was going to be famous. We used to laugh at her. But she really believed it. And now she's done it."
Alyson Allen, another of Toyah's close friends who now runs her own design studio in Leicester, remembers: "She was a real tearaway.
"One morning she came into class in a flaming mood. She began venting her anger on the classroom door, shouting really obscene language, and kicking at it until there was a great hole in the bottom.
"She really loved the attention she got when she was rude to a teacher and all the other girls laughed."
Vicky Richardson, now married with an eight month old daughter, left school to train as a nurse.
"Toyah loved outrageous fashions," she says. "All she ever wanted to do was get into drama."
On Saturday mornings Toyah took the only lessons she liked - at the Birmingham Old Rep acting school, which she attended full time when she was 16.
Teacher Shirley Williams, one of the few members of staff who got on with their extraordinary pupil, says: "I taught her English, or tried to. She was a very odd sort of girl, quite intelligent, but not switched on to school work.
"I remember once she hid an alarm clock under the school stage which she set to go off during morning prayers.
"She had a very bad and nasty temper. A lot of the children were quite afraid of her.
"People who are gifted in some way are often like this at school, and her success doesn't really surprise me.
"We are hoping she will come back, and she has said she will, to help with a fund-raising project we are planning."
SPOTLIGHT ON TOYAH
Q. What was your favourite TV show when you were younger?
A. The Munsters (An American comic-horror series).
Q. Is it true you had alcoholic poisoning at the age of eight?
A. I blame that on my brother and sister who have a very warped sense of humour. We were in Majorca at a barbecue where there was this very nice red liquid to drink - which was sangria, quite a deadly thing - and they kept filling my glass up. I was slowly sinking under the table. I remember desperately wanting to go to the toilet, but I couldn't move. I was ill for about a week after that. They reckoned I'd had six bottles of sangria. the pain in my stomach I'll never forget.
Q. Did you train with John Currie and want to be a skater like him?
A. I didn't train with John Currie. We had the same trainer at Solihull ice rink. I started when I was nine and I became very serious about it. I'd go in the mornings before school and then again in the evenings - up to six hours a day. Then when I saw Currie winning the Olympics I thought 'God, I know that man'. I had a mad crush on him when he was younger, he was so beautiful.
When I was 12 I had an operation to straighten my toes and it meant I couldn't skate again because I couldn't put my foot in a tight boot. I wasn't professionally minded though and I didn't mind giving it up.
Q. Did you ever predict to your schoolmates that you would be a star at such a young age? If so what was their reaction?
A. I didn't so much predict as tell them the most abominable lies. I remember once I had the whole school thinking I'd be leaving at the end of the week because I'd just been cast in a new musical with Julie Andrews. I'd get bored and invent these stories and believe them myself sometimes.! End of the week I got a load of presents off my friends and then on Monday there I was again saying I'd decided not to do it after all.
Q. What's it like being small and a star?
A. The only time I dislike being small is when I see lovely women with great long legs and I think 'Oh wow I wish I was like that'. And when your fans meet you and go ' Oooh, aren't you little!' as if it's something dreadful. otherwise I don't think about it, though it's true I am verging on the very small - four foot eleven.
Q. If people say unkind things about your appearance what are your reactions?
A. If the press say it I won't read it because it'll put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. But when people in the street laugh at the way I look I just stick my nose up in the air and walk on as though I'm better than them - which annoys them. It's much better than turning round and swearing and looking hurt.
Q. If you were offered money to pose nude in a man's magazine what would you do?
A. No. I'd get a stand-in to do it with my wig on. I just haven't got the physique to pull it off. Not only that, it's just not me. I'm too modest.
Q. How much do you earn a month and do you spend it mostly on clothes?
A. I don't get money the way most people do. I get a basic wage, which is fifty quid cash per week, then if I need clothes for costumes or photo sessions I ring up the record company and say 'Please can I have some money' - but that has to be paid back through record sales.
Q. On average how much does one of Melissa Caplan's outfits cost you?
A. The same as anything else in the shop. They're always under a hundred quid which for nowadays is very good.
Q. Is it true that most of your lyrics were inspired by dreams and nightmares?
A. Yes, but also horror films and books of horror stories and science fiction. That's the main thing, the fear of death.
Q. Are you business minded?
A. To survive you've got to be business minded. I'm business minded only in the fact that I don't trust a soul, not even my manager and he knows it. Before I do anything I check it out myself and I won't sign for something unless I approve of it. But the reason I'm like that is to survive, having been ripped off early in my career. Rather than lean on anyone with my trust I just do everything myself.
Q. Do you have a strong personal life?
A. I've never had a personal life. I'm just discovering what the word 'boyfriend' means because I spent 20 years of my life totally alone, totally tomboyish, going to wild parties and being known for being totally aggressive. I've always been too weird for people to associate with.
Then success comes and everyone understands you. But I'm happiest when I'm alone because then I can be as extreme as I like without frightening anybody.
Q. Where does your name come from?
A. My parents deny any knowledge of where they got the name from, but there is a town in Texas called Toyah. In Red Indian language it means 'water'. Also the neighbouring town there is called Wilcox, so that must be where my mum got it from - it was definitely her who named me.
Q. What was your school nickname?
A. I had a lot. When I was ten it was 'Barrel' because I was very fat. Then it became 'Toilet' when I was about 14, not only because it sounds like Toyah but I was always hiding in the toilets during lesson times, having a smoke or something. And then I had a best friend called Trisha and she was very thin and I was very fat and we were known as 'Stick 'N' The Mud' - I was The Mud.
Q. What do your parents think of what you're doing now?
A. My parents are my greatest fans, but when I first said I was going to move to London and become an actress and a singer they tried to discourage it because it's such an insecure profession. Although my dad gave up on telling me what to do when I was about 12 and just said 'Let her get on with it' my mother still nags me about the way I look - only now it's because my hair's yellow and she preferred the red I used to have.
Whereas when I was younger she nagged me about 'destroying' my hair. So the viewpoint's changed completely. Well, bleaching your hair isn't good for it. You have to put the life back in so I overcondition it. It's not something I'd advise kids to try themselves.
"I'd like to have Bo Derek's body and someone else's brain..."
It wasn't until my third interview in nine weeks with Toyah that I felt confident enough to broach the subject of sex. As casually as I possibly could, I suggested to her that compared to other female artists ranging from Kim Wilde to Kate Bush to Souxsie, her image contains virtually no sex appeal, despite being a young, vivacious, attractive girl.
"I think, supposedly onstage, there's much more sex appeal than in the photos" she counters. " But I couldn't do an Annabella (Lwin of Bow Wow Wow), I couldn't show parts of my body..."
WHAAAT!! There's that infamous pic of you with one breast bared and daubed with painted circles which has appeared almost everywhere from Sounds and Punk's Not Dead to The Sun!
"Oh the 'boob photo' that's the only one that exists, and no one knows why that was done" she offers matter of factly.
Do you want to tell?
"It was a complete joke, an absolute joke! It's not what Gary Bushell thinks atall!" she laughs. "It was done because Playboy asked me to do a spread and I said, 'Look, I'm not physically up to the standard of your girls so I just painted huge spots all over myself. This was in the days when I was quite outrageous and didn't feel any sort of commitment to someone - if I did something like that now it would hurt feelings.
"So I did a picture that was not to look glamorous atall, it was kinky and quite outrageously disgusting in a way and I sent it to them saying 'piss off, this is not what you want!' It was taken during a promotional session and I asked the photographer to do a favour by taking this one shot, but he kept the negatives and sold them to everybody as soon as I got well known. What annoys me is not the photo itself, but that people think it was part of a seedy session. And yet the whole point of the photo was to fight against the image!
"It's like the whole thing has back fired on me, my own diversity has been turned around and used as a weapon against me, whereas I was trying to use it as a weapon against pornography by being sort of decadent. It just didn't work, simple as that!"
Do you regret that now?
"I don't regret it - I want to kill the f***king photographer though! Because he's selling this picture making out he's done a dirty session with me and he certainly hasn't. But I don't regret it, no.
"I regret it for my younger fans, because they don't understand it, they see it as what the papers have been saying about me and I regret that, because it's sad for them, it's like they've been betrayed. But they haven't been betrayed, so I don't regret the picture - I want to kill the people who have exploited it."
So getting back to what we were originally talking about, is it a deliberate policy for Toyah not to have a sexual image, maybe because you've got young fans?
"No, I mean...I just haven't got any sex appeal! What's the point of trying to put across something you just haven't got? All those other wild images are part of what's in my head, so I don't feel I'm wearing a mask, I'm just portraying another side of me.
"But lounging around in sex kitten poses or young poses - because I'm not young anymore by a lot of standards - would be telling a blatant lie. I've got to be me."
Have you seen the latest photo of Annabella?
"Yes - someone has got to tell her that she's got enough talent and she's going to be enormous without having to do that. She doesn't have to do it through paedophilia or taking her clothes off - she's gorgeous, but she's got enough talent to avoid all that."
This was a rare flash of Toyah's anger - contrasting sharply with her patient, witty, anecdote spilling interview manner - revealing the high esteem in which she holds Annabella of Bow Wow Wow. In a previous meeting she'd confided she admires her almost to the point of jealousy, "and so young!" she adds laughing.
By the time I travelled up to Liverpool to see the Toyah band in action, the new LP 'The Changeling' had been released and I felt sorely disappointed. From the bubbling, almost evangelical enthusiasm with which Toyah had described the songs on it, I'd been expecting a vital, awesome masterpiece, but it's not. It's just another Toyah album. Quite good overall, brilliant in isolated songs, but also embarrassingly coy in parts too.
The Liverpool show was also something of a disappointment as Toyah and guitarist/songwriter Joel are quick to point out.
"The show's different every night," exclaims Toyah, "and you saw a more theatrical show tonight, because there was no way I was going anywhere near the bloody pit!" she laughs, referring to a huge orchestra pit at the front of the stage which all too effectively created a gaping chasm between the band and audience.
"So the only way I could convey anything was through those mime-like movements, but you should have been at Newcastle, that was brilliant!"
"The show changes from venue to venue," adds Joel, "It has to, otherwise everyone would get bored - we want to keep it fresh", he concludes eyeing me with suspicion, trying to work out what my angle is. It's only afterwards that I discover that he'd looked in my note book in which I'd scrawled observations like "her band aren't good enough for Toyah" and "audience's blind adoration".
So Joel and I spar for a while, sizing each other up, certainly wary, possibly distrustful, but both preferring to let Toyah dominate the conversation.
You don't normally do interviews, Joel, why not?
"Who me? Don't like doing them."
"Journalists frighten me!"
"No one frightens you." laughs Toyah.
"No, I don't like doing interviews...normally. I've always wanted to keep in the background - what I enjoy doing is playing, recording and writing songs."
Isn't there any ego clash?
What, you're not jealous of Toyah?
"No, never ever - If I was jealous of Toyah, we wouldn't have stayed together for so long, for five years now. That's not in my nature atall. As far as I'm concerned we're both part of the same thing."
"And anyway," interrupts Toyah, "I've noticed on this tour that we when we introduce the individual members of the band, they've all got their own fans, which is great! In Manchester, Joel seems to get all the girls screaming at him."
But at the same time, it's only you on the record sleeves!
"Ah, there's a conscious change about to happen there! We've just gone through a year with a management which exploited that, they wanted me to be the front person - and that's why the individual face shots started appearing on covers - but we're forming a solid band."
"And because we've not had a solid line up" adds Joel, "It's very difficult to get band photographs."
"And with just my photo on the cover, I take the blame the whole time from the critics. I'd rather the whole band got the blame!" she says screaming with laughter at both Joel and I, despite her hoarse voice caused by a recent bout of laryngitis, which had prevented me from being allowed to observe the band "on the road", thus making me wonder if they had something to hide.
For all her irresistible personality - I really do like her - Toyah certainly has something to hide. For instance, there are no love songs!
"'Brave New World'", hisses Toyah incredulously.
But that's only a love song in an abstract sense, I protest.
"Yeah, but I'm a pervert! I don't know, you cute little thing!" she teases. "But I look on 'Danced' as being a love song."
"If you want out and out love songs, go and see Roxy Music," advises Joel sarcastically.
"But to me, a love song would be really raunchy, raw and really filthy" Toyah clarifies.
But you don't do any!
"I'd be too embarrassed, but 'Brave New World', to me, is a sad love song, because I wrote most of it in Bristol last year after a tremendous row with my boyfriend. But I could never do a love song true to myself, because that's being selfish. I prefer what I call open lyrics, so that the kids can fit their own feelings to them.
"And so 'Brave New World' is a love song, because I think everyone goes through the phase when they think no one in the world knows how hurt they are - experiencing a loneliness that no one knows, but everyone knows it!"
Before I can follow this up, Joel advises me that Toyah "really should rest her voice", so we agree to adjourn until a few weeks later, after I've seen the band play a much more exciting, exacting show at Hammersmith Odeon... I'm getting to like Toyah's music too!
So we all meet up again at the office of Toyah's publicist, Judy Totton, who stresses that her star can spare only half an hour, causing said star to react in amazement, locking the door so we can't be interrupted and telling me to take as long as I want.
So let's talk about love songs again...
"But I don't understand what a love song is." she wails "A song I love singing is a love song to me!"
But isn't a love song a song about love?
"Well, I'd say that I think all our songs have passion in them, and passion is love. But I could never imagine singing about something that I call 'soppy'."
You think love is soppy?
"No, but I can't stand watching people kissing in films, it's like invading someone's privacy - and when I feel the same, I just don't want to hear it, I don't need that. I've got a very strong relationship with a man that I live with and so I don't feel I need to listen to that sort of thing. And to write a love song, that would be weird, I can't imagine doing it. I've never felt the need to write one!"
Is that partly so that you can keep your private and public lives apart?
"That helps, yeah. I just don't think I have those conventional sort of feelings, so I find it very hard to write a conventional love song because it would be like a virgin writing about sex! And I'm not saying I'm a virgin, but I just don't have those conventional feelings.
"I've tried to write a conventional love song and it just comes out the biggest load of crap you've ever laughed at. It was just boring pap, with no natural adrenalin in the lyrics."
It's a shame that this lack of "love" in Toyah might only reinforce the cynical view of the frigid child-woman who still speaks with a (childish) lisp, can't have an orgasm and sings twee musical ditties.
In fact, not only is Toyah's lisp barely noticeable, but I feel she has the talent and vision to become a hugely successful and respected artist if only she wouldn't let her romantic idealism and dreams of druids, devils and angels get in the way. But for a moment, I'll indulge her fantasies and allow her to metamorphose into anyone/thing she wants. What's your choice?
"Oh, let's see...(pauses)
...David Bowie's pillow! No I dunno...it seems so sad to wish you were someone else, so I always try to hide those sort of feelings anyway. I'd like to have Bo Derek's body with someone else's brain - maybe David Bowie."
It's odd that you should mention Bowie, because I've come to believe - through talking to you, and listening to your music - that you could be as effectively brilliant as him, if only...
"But I'd never dream of trying to be like Bowie, because he's the greatest, do you know what I mean? I don't want a comparison like that, that would frighten me...because there was one female singer who was trying to be the female Bowie" (although she doesn't name her, I'd guess she means Hazel O'Connor), "and she failed miserably - and she's a very talented young lady. But I think trying to be someone who's gone before is so dangerous."
I didn't mean as a replica, but on that level! You see, when you tell me how brilliant your music is, I believe you. I'm convinced by your enthusiasm, but when I go away and listen to it...
"You don't hear what I talk about," she concludes in anticipation and resignation.
"But maybe I ruin the record for you by giving you my own interpretation when the whole point of our music is for people to make their own opinions."
Maybe, but I'm not convinced. In my defence I summon the first minute of a song called "Angel And Me" on the new album, which to an accompaniment of just a melancholy piano and a hint of synth, Toyah sings some of the best, most personal lines I've heard all year:
"Why do you always cry when you come to see me?
I always die to see you smile."
But the mood of reflective sadness is broken as soon as the band enter the song and turn it into just another celebratory Toyah romp, all too flash and superficial for me. I wonder who the song is about though?
"In my personal life you mean? The person she's talking to is her mum, when I was in hospital and my mum visited me, she'd always start crying, so it comes from that."
Are you close to your mother?
"I am now, I didn't use to be. I always loved her very much, but she had a weird way of loving me back. I can never remember kissing and cuddling mummy and daddy when I was small. But I love them both, my father is one of my heroes."
At that stage, there's a banging on the locked door and a muffled voice announces that my time's up again. One day I'm determined to spend hours with Toyah just trying to find what motivates her, to see how I can get past her preoccupation with her land of make believe that seems to cast her as Cinderella when I want her to be Lady Macbeth!
Pausing to admit "We're still learning about production and techniques" and that "maybe we should have worked the new songs in on tour before recording them, so that 'The Changeling' would have a more natural flow." Toyah grabs Joel by the arm and skips off down the corridor, gleefully mocking the whole world and herself with a camp, cruel parody chorus of "It'th a mith-ta-wee, it'th a mith-ta-wee..."
Robin Smith gets a taste of vintage Toyah
Down in Toyah's recording studio something evil stirs.
The place is haunted by a man who sits in the corner and Toyah says that he's even punched her. People in the studio often feel something brushing against them and the ghost leaves tapes scattered all over the place.
"This studio is on the site of a plague pit," says Toyah, "after the London plague they dug mass graves because there were so many victims. But I don't think the young man is from those times, his dress is too modern. Perhaps he's a dead musician."
Toyah's no stranger to the supernatural. Throughout her life she's dabbled with the spirit world and she has a collection of old manuscripts on black magic at home. A session with a ouija board brought disastrous consequences.
"I told the Devil to go and stuff himself," she says. "The glass we were using leapt into the air and shattered. It scarred my face."
"A palm reader told me that I'm going to die when I'm 73, but I'm determined to live until I'm 90."
Just as well too, because Toyah likes to pack as much into her life as she possibly can. This week she's been working 20 hours a day in the studio on the tapes of her live album Warrior Rock and she's beginning promotion work on her single Be Proud Be Loud (Be Heard). On top of all that, she's planning to conquer America and write material for a new studio album which she should start in January.
"Sometimes I cry because the pressure is so great," says Toyah, "I also scream if I can't get the things I want.
"The Changeling album was very depressing, because although I was doing very well, my life was very traumatic. I had to tell my old manager to push off, because he was trying to come between my boyfriend Tom and me.
"The album was very autobiographical and in years to come I think it will become quite a landmark in my career. The next album will have less fantasy and more sound experiments. I hope every album I do pisses over the last one. I'm digging solid foundations.
"My current single is a cry against manipulation. People who try to get hold of you and sit on you and change you. That's something I hate.
"It's also about motivation. I know a lot of unemployed kids are fans of mine and when they come to see me, I tell them to be proud and take life in both hands."
Toyah's quick to point out that although she has a bit of brass to rub together today, she's had more than her fair share of troubles.
"People didn't use to allow me on buses or in shops because of the colour of my hair," she says, "During the punk era I was so desperate that I used to go into film companies and offer to show them all the good places in London where they could take interesting shots. I didn't want to sit in front of a television set all day. I'm a champion of the fight against boredom."
Toyah's doing her bit to ease unemployment, by recruiting young fashion designers to work on a range
of clothes she's promoting. Toyah hopes to open a shop in London's Covent Garden, she might also do some deals with department stores.
"It's a hobby really," she says, " I often think that off-the-peg clothes look good but they're really shoddy quality when you come to wear them. My clothes won't be like that. I want to sell outrageous day clothes of good quality. But I don't want to give too much away, other people might steal my ideas."
How about Toyah dolls where you pull a string and they sing It's A Mystery or something like that?
"Well, yes. I'm working on unusual things. I want to do interesting and unusual jewellery as well with decent jewellery kits for children."
All this has resulted in Toyah being labelled as a pretty hard nosed business woman, willing to sell her
soul for commercial gain.
"A lot of people who write bad things about me are people who don't know me atall," she says, "All I can say is that at the end of the day I listen to my fans. That's where my heart is.
"We actually put microphones in the audience when we recorded the live album at Hammersmith so that they could really be heard. What's the point of doing a live album if you don't get the atmosphere created by the fans?
And as a further tribute to the people who made her what she is today. Toyah plans to bring out a book of fan letters.
"Some of the fans are really crazy," she says, "One fan writes me 50 page letters."
More serious, are the requests Toyah receives from the parents of incurably ill kids for momentoes and messages.
"There was a 14 year old boy and he had two weeks to live," she says, "I try to help but the emotion of going into a hospital ward is too much for me.
"When it's my turn I want to be like one of those old people who know that the time is right to die.
"I don't believe it all ends when you die. I've been here before but I've never been a woman. I've always been re-incarnated as an artistic man. My boyfriend's family are all clairvoyants and we can sit down and discuss this sensibly.
"I would like to be a man again. I feel I could achieve so much more if I was a man. Men are allowed to be alone so much more than women."
Toyah's ideal people are the Masai warriors who live on the plains of Africa and she's fascinated by various forms of tribal life.
"Their society isn't boring like ours," she says, "The boys all go out and kill a wild boar to prove they're men. Throughout their lives the Masai have a sense of purpose and a sense of unity with their world."
Toyah likes the Masai so much that she'd like to use a group of them in the video for her single.
"Something like having a group of tribesmen dancing in a shopping centre to contrast the two cultures." she says.
"But all those beautiful black bodies would really show me up. I'm not physically perfect and my legs are put together in a funny way."
Oh I don't know, Toyah's looking pretty trim today and she's lost a bit of weight.
"Put it down to overwork," she says, "Not only am I constantly working in the studio but I'm decorating my house as well. I don't want decorators in, I'm too artistic for that. I like doing it myself with Tom.
"No, I don't think I'm ready for marriage and settling down with two kids by the fireside at the moment. But if I ever did get married, I'd never break it's laws which are sacred. I don't like promiscuity, I've always thrown groupies out of the dressing room."
A national newspaper offered Toyah a handsome sum to tell her life story, but she turned the offer down.
"The money would have kept me going for a few years, but they were after scandalous sex stuff and I didn't want to write my story that way." she says.
"I've also been approached to do shots for porn magazines and films but I've turned them down. I did one shot revealing my breast. I honestly did that as a joke but the photographer sold it everywhere. I've never used him again.
"I think that if I did anything more like that, it would betray my boyfriend. I don't want to hurt anybody.
"I think I'll write my life story down when I'm 60, when I've done a lot more and I'm more fulfilled. I think I'm definitely one of those people who improves with age."