BBC RADIO GUERNSEY
WITH JIM CATHCART
BBC RADIO GUERNSEY
WITH JIM CATHCART
“It’s A Mystery” plays in the background
JIM: She has a career spanning over 30 years. 13 top 40 singles, recorded 20 albums, written two books, been in over 40 stage plays as well, did you know that? She’s made ten feature films, presented hundreds of TV programs.
Talk about wide and varied. From the Good Sex Guide to Songs Of Praise. Toyah Willcox is coming to Guernsey next month and she’s with us on the show this morning. Hello Toyah, welcome to BBC Guernsey!
TOYAH: Good morning, I hope you got the sunshine there?
JIM: Oh we have actually! Yeah today it’s a bit cloudy but we’re in for a good day with good sunny periods. Is it not sunny where you are?
TOYAH: No. (Disappointed) We seem to be in a permanent winter over in the UK.
JIM: Oh no! Which part of the UK are you in?
TOYAH: I’m in Worcestershire (Toyah at home below).
JIM: Worcestershire. Lovely part of the world but –
TOYAH: Absolutely fabulous.
JIM: Still waiting for spring?
TOYAH: I’m just waiting to get to Guernsey, to be honest.
JIM: Well, we’re looking forward to seeing you really and listening to that song brings back all sorts of memories for me. Does it bring back memories for you as well?
TOYAH: Well it does bring back memories but I sing it every day. I’m part of these big 80’s shows and I do about 6 of them a week and it’s part of my life. It’s, you know, the song is as much Toyah as my flesh and blood is. So there are obvious memories but there’s new memories as well.
JIM: Do you ever get tired of hearing that song?
TOYAH: No, because I’m performing to a different audience every day and a difference audience gives you a completely different perspective on the song. I’ve never performed to an audience that felt like the night before.
It’s very very interesting and I respect and appreciate that song means a lot to people. And in a way I’m just sharing it with the audience. I don’t own the song it’s you know, I’m not saying "here have a glimpse of this", we share it and they sing along and dance along and have a really great time to it.
JIM: And of course the 80’s is having something of a comeback at the moment, not just in terms of the music and perhaps people, my generation who were brought up with that music loving, listening to it again but if you look at the fashions today that the teenagers are wearing, we’ve all seen it before haven’t we?!
TOYAH: I’ve been involved in this 80’s comeback for the last ten years, especially musically because we’ve been doing arenas and stadiums all over the world but for the fashion to come back I actually think “oh nooo-oo.” I mean the big shoulders I just think are a massive mistake.
JIM: Who’s your audience today in the shows you’re doing?
TOYAH: They’re incredibly young! I mean obviously I’ve got the same audiences I had 32 years ago but there’s a completely new generation and there has been new generations there about for the last ten years. Example, last year I played massive concerts, 12 000 people in a park in a place called Shrewsbury and when they opened the gates I just saw 12-year-olds running into the ground up to the front of the stage.
And they were dressed in dayglo, they all would dress like Madonna in "Desperately Seeking Susan." They were totally dedicated fashion followers of 1980, the early 1980’s and I just thought this is extraordinary because these young girls know absolutely nothing of me apart from Teletubbies and they want to hear the music.
JIM: Does it make you feel old or does it actually keep you feeling young?
TOYAH: Erm, nothing makes me feel old other than ageism within television which we won’t go into, which is something I permanently fight for and against. But, erm, I don’t feel old, I feel fabulously well informed and intelligent and I have a fabulous background in what I do and I feel very valuable in the work front. And that’s just me talking as a protest member of the female race.
JIM: You talk about just now about the fashion faux pas that perhaps some of the teenagers are going through today. You were part of that punk era, weren’t you?
TOYAH: Oh yeah! Wholeheartedly! I mean I wore outrageous things!
JIM: Do you look back now and think: “why was I wearing that?!”
TOYAH: No. No, it was perfect for the time and it was perfect for that age group. You look at these young girls and the one thing they are, they’re covered up. I just think well, that’s good because if I was a mother I don’t want to see girls dressing like glamour models. I want to see girls being independent, strong and looking forward to a great future.
I dressed up outrageously and it suited me for that age group but I wouldn’t dress up like that now. I tend to dress quite outrageously but I brought it into my age group, I’m 52 in May and I still like to dress outlandishly but it is actually slightly age appropriate.
JIM: Was there a rebellious streak to you, were you
JIM: Were you doing to make a point?
TOYAH: Absolutely! I didn’t want to dress like Farrah Fawcett Majors! I mean back then girls had be pretty and they mad to demure so I was part of a wave of artists that just turned that on it’s head! We were power dressers.
JIM: What was it like on appearing on shows like Top Of The Pops and doing the circuit at the height of your career?
JIM: When you were having those Top 40 hits?
TOYAH: Well, I’m doing the circuit now, I’m playing to more people now than I did 32 years ago.
JIM: That’s interesting!
TOYAH: It is interesting. And I now run my own record label and sign my own material and I’m doing just as well as 32 years ago. But that’s thanks to the internet. But, back then it was all I ever wanted and everything was a first time experience.
Therefore it was a really magical experience. To go on Top Of The Pops, the greatest music show in the world that should still be running today, it was absolutely wonderful. Back then TV gave you the coverage you needed to be in the charts. It was magnificent! You are top of the world, you’re on a pedestal. You’re there with others artists like Duran Duran, Adam and The Ants, Spandau Ballet, Kim Wilde. You were up there with them all and it was really really magnificent.
JIM: Who was the best person you met during those years?
TOYAH: They were all great. I didn’t get to meet too many of them because we were ferociously busy! I’d do Top Of The Pops and an hour later I’d be on a two engine plane going over to Belgium. This is what our life was like, we were country hopping the whole time.
But all of them were good fun, I remember Simon LeBon being incredibly good fun. Who else? King were great fun, Bad Manners - great fun, Beat -great fun. They were just exceptional times.
JIM: You do use the word fun because sometimes the rock’n’roll lifestyle can be seen as little bit “naughty”. Were there some naughty phases or was it just good fun?
TOYAH: No, I was heavily protected by having incredibly tough security (Tom Taylor, also Toyah's boyfriend, below with her in 1983) so I had a very isolated existence. I’d heard that a lot of people were having fun but my fun was mainly on stage with my audience. But it’s … that kind of passed me by! And I have a little bit of regret about that! I just went from album to the other and I had to write and write and write. So, no, it was hard working time in my life.
JIM: I mentioned in the beginning many people will know you of course as the 80’s icon, will know you too as well being an actress as well but I hadn’t appreciated just how much stage and film work you’ve done and writing as well. As a child, what was your dream? Was it to be a singer? Was it to be an actress? Or what did you want to do when you grew up?
TOYAH: I wanted to be both. I wanted to act and sing and I wanted to keep them apart from each other. One of my first awakenings to the world of showbusiness was the Sound Of Music. I sat in the audience in the cinema in Birmingham with my mother and I thought I want to sing, I want to act but I want to keep them apart. I don’t want to do musicals. And for a fair amount of time I managed to do that.
I managed to have parallel careers. But now one of the benefits of being in my age group now and being an established artist I get a really lovely choice of things to do and I have a lot more fun now. But these shows, these musical shows are great fun and I feel incredibly relaxed in them. And I enjoy the audience amazingly. For instance next week I’m back on a film called the Power Of Three which is a movie I shot last year that has to do five pick up scenes. So I have lovely variety in my life and I enjoy it very much.
JIM: Talk about variety, I mean Songs Of Praise as well? That was something that I would’ve not expected you to do back in the 80’s? Does faith play an important part in your life?
TOYAH: It’s probably the most controversial thing I’ve done because the religious audience is - no matter what faith you are - is the most fanatical audience. I did enjoy doing and culturally I’m a Christian, I was brought up in a Christian school.
I don’t go to church today but I acknowledge that God exists. I also like that fact that non-fundamentalists hold communities together - in a good way. So I have no problem with doing Songs Of Praise but boy! The only time I’ve ever had hate mail and death threats was when I did it!
TOYAH: Oh gosh, those audiences are fanatical! And you get Christian fanatics as well so it was a very interesting time in my life.
JIM: Yeah. You’re playing over in Guernsey as part of the “The Best 80’s Party Of The World Ever ... Part 2” which is taking place next month. Have you done Guernsey before?
TOYAH: No, I’ve only ever holidayed in Guernsey as a child so I’m really looking forward to it.
JIM: Excellent. And I’ve no idea what the audience is going to be like for this one but I imagine like you were saying, you’re going to get a real cross section of ages and people who remember you the first time round and some have been perhaps taken along by their parents as well.
TOYAH: An interesting mix, because it’s me and The Beat and The Beat are kind of ska.
TOYAH: I think it’s a very interesting mix. It’s selling incredibly well. So we’re all looking forward to it!
JIM: Got to ask you: are you a fan of Ashes to Ashes? Do you have to time to watch it?
TOYAH: I haven’t had time to watch it but I’ve had a lot of dealing with they use my image on some of the programs so I’ve had a lot of dealings with the props department but I haven’t had time to see it. I know it’s wonderful.
JIM: It’s one of those things, it’s really taken me back to my sort of teenage years and your music has done the same. It’s been great talking to you today, thanks for agreeing to being on the show with us.
TOYAH: Absolute pleasure and I can’t wait to be there!
JIM: We really look forward to seeing you over here next month. I will give all the details for where you can tickets from in just a moment or two. But let’s hear a bit of “Thunder In The Mountains” shall we, first? Thanks to Toyah Willcox.
SONG: Thunder In The Mountains.