BBC RADIO HEREFORD
BBC RADIO HEREFORD
ANDREW: The most famous person ever to come out of Pershore is Toyah Willcox and she’s with us this afternoon. You did come out of Pershore, didn’t you? TOYAH: I’m not the most famous, the most famous is J.R.R Tolkien.
TOYAH: Yeah, he spent part of his childhood in Pershore.
ANDREW: I’ve missed that entirely.
TOYAH: Well, you see I’m an absolute boffin when it comes to Tolkien so … that’s partly why I like living there!
ANDREW: OK. I knew that at one stage John Betjeman when he became the Poet Laureate, he wrote a nice poem about Pershore railway station.
TOYAH: Of course! It’s the most romantic station in the world.
ANDREW: Do you think?
TOYAH: I love it!
ANDREW: Well, it’s one little platform –
TOYAH: I know! I never want it to change!
ANDREW: It’s old signs – I don’t think there’s any ticket office there either -
TOYAH: No and everyone thinks they can walk into town! They can’t! (laughs)
ANDREW: I remember doing the first time – what we call a "radio car bit" when I was young years ago and thought the same thing in the morning, parked up, probably best thing to walk into town to get a bacon sarnie.
TOYAH: Yes! No way. I have journalists turning up virtually every day and I warn them – I say "you can’t walk into town" and they’re always late! (laughs) Because they can’t walk into town!
ANDREW: It should actually renamed "Pershore Parkway".
TOYAH: Yes! (both laugh)
ANDREW: You are just tremendously busy!
TOYAH: It’s been a fantastic year - I’m going to touch wood –
ANDREW: It’s gone all over the place -
TOYAH: It’s never predictable but this year been fabulous! I’m on the road all year touring my first three albums. Which is an adventure in itself because like a romantic idiot I’m also wearing the original costumes -
ANDREW: Oh yeah?
TOYAH: I’m doing the original hair and make-up. And I thought if you’re going to tour three albums that are over 30 years old go the whole hog. And it’s really touched people’s hearts! Having the imagery is almost as powerful as revisiting the music.
There’s people in the audiences crying because they never realized how the Egyptian influence, that I brought into everything, that I did, meant so much to them and still does. So it’s very very good fun and quite powerful as well.
ANDREW: Where did that Egyptian influence come from in the first place?
TOYAH: Well, I used to have a team of costume makers and make-up artists and we’d all sit down with these beautiful coffee table books about the tribes of the world. And I was so influenced by the Masai, so influenced by Kabuki and very influenced by Egyptology.
We used merge them all in to create a new tribe. And that’s how we came up with the costumes and the make-up and the hair. Very very vibrant, very colourful. And we’ve revived it all and it’s on stage.
ANDREW: Wow. Was it your idea? Did you think it was time to drag it all back out? Do it again?
TOYAH: Well, it wasn’t a question of dragging it back. For the last ten years I’ve been playing to between 200 and 30 000 people a night, doing the 80’s shows –
ANDREW: It’s quite a difference! (chuckles)
TOYAH: It’s a huge difference. I thought "wait a minute!" If I’m still playing this music and there is such a demand for this music why don’t I bring the costumes back? Part of me thought that’s a step too far but, you know I didn’t want to look like someone sad reliving the past. But I did in Leicester Square Theatre a month ago and it just went through the roof! I have no regrets now – it works.
And it works in a slightly silly way because we are very humorous in what we do. But there’s also that real finger on the pulse of nostalgia when people are taken instantly right back when I walk on stage.
ANDREW: It’s great, isn’t it?
TOYAH: It’s fabulous! And I can just about get into the costumes!
ANDREW: They are same ones?
TOYAH: They’re the same ones. They’re absolutely pristine, they’ve been in storage for 30 years.
ANDREW: Thank goodness you did that because you could’ve just thought "oh, that’s the end of an era, let’s just take them down to Oxfam!"
TOYAH: There’s a story behind that. The V&A, the Victoria and Albert Museum wants me to bequeath the costumes because they’re all handmade and hand painted. So they’re beautifully made and historically they are quite stunning. So I have to look after them really well and dressers keep them in plastic and hang them up. There’s nothing thrown about at all.
ANDREW: You’re too young to become a museum piece though … because that’s what it says "look at this what happened in the olden days" ... (laughs)
TOYAH: Well, because I think they were so extraordinary in how they were made that they stand apart from everything else really.
ANDREW: So London was the best "litmus test" for this – you said you tried it at Leicester Square?
TOYAH: Yes. We did it the first time at Leicester Square (below) a month ago –
ANDREW: You thought "London, we’ve got to try in London" – if it works there in that sort of setting maybe we can roll it out?
TOYAH: Yeah and I had the most ingenious hairpieces made that can be just kind of slotted on in-between songs. So I do about six costume changes in the whole show. Starting at 1981 regressing to 1978. And the hairpieces all slot on, it’s just incredible! (laughs)
ANDREW: Wasn’t that good?
TOYAH: Yeah, we did the "litmus test" in London. The power of how well it went was the internet which was all up in high definition within 24 hours. Everyone saying that it was the show of their lifetime.
ANDREW: How do you feel now 30 odd years on, is it a surprise, are you flattered that there is a massive demand for you to get back and fill the auditoriums again?
TOYAH: Well, I’ve been filling them for ten years but it’s the way you fill it. And I thought I just wanted to make this particular year, the 30th anniversary of a platinum selling album “Anthem” very very special.
And I thought rather than re-invent the costumes I have them, let’s go right back and place everything back in that moment. Because there is so much based around nostalgia but no-one kind of takes it right back to the event.
(After a break)
ANDREW: We have Toyah Willcox with us this afternoon. Do you have to dust many things off apart from the costumes when you decided to turn back 30 years? Did you go back – did you try to go back to that time yourself with some of the records, with some of the original stuff that you had at the time?
TOYAH: It’s a very interesting question because I was on stage in Oxford the other week when I realised I was behaving exactly how I behaved in 1978.
ANDREW: Many men listening think that’s a good thing!
TOYAH: (laughs) And I thought "wait a minute!" I have not done that look to the side - that kind of profile look to the audience for 32 years! It is quite odd to have a memory, the muscle memory of what I did back then - is still in me. It’s dormant and kind of comes alive on stage.
ANDREW: You had to practice though?
TOYAH: Well, no I didn’t have to practice, it just came out which was a bit worrying!
ANDREW: Just throw it!
TOYAH: Yes! Just throw it! Cool as a cucumber.
ANDREW: (laughs) Oh, brilliant! The album of course was platinum, it was one of biggest albums of the year wasn’t it?
ANDREW: Do you have a wall of fame in your house?
TOYAH: No –
ANDREW: Is it hanging up there? Do you have a trophy area?
TOYAH: No, I don’t. Robert doesn’t either. I’m married to Robert Fripp and he’s got gold albums, so no. We keep them all in cupboard. They come out when film crews are around because they like to have them for reference. But no.
ANDREW: It would be lovely actually, wouldn’t it?
TOYAH: We don’t have any memorabilia in the house whatsoever and the only guitar in the house is when Robert’s practicing for playing live. So you wouldn’t guess that we were musicians at all.
ANDREW: What about when walked, when you wondered through Pershore? We talked, you did panto (Toyah as the Wicked Fairy in "Sleeping Beauty", below) last year in Walvern, it was snowed in completely wasn’t it?
TOYAH: It was! If it wasn’t –20 and blizzards! (they both laugh) I got snowed into Malvern! Before Christmas!
ANDREW: Did you?!
TOYAH: Yeah, I had to stay at the Abbey Hotel, I couldn’t get back! It was just shocking!
ANDREW: It sounds ridiculous!
TOYAH: I could actually see the lights of Pershore from my hotel window (Andrew laughs) and I was thinking I didn’t expect this to happen!
TOYAH: It was so bizarre!
ANDREW: It’s great for you being local, do people still come up and want to have a chat when you’re walking down the High Street?
TOYAH: Yeah, Pershore is just very friendly. Everyone does that everyone, it’s not just me. It’s one of the best places I’ve never lived in the world. I absolutely love it. And my husband, who is a Dorset man, who said he’d never leave Dorset, said it’s the town he’s wanted to live in all his life. And he’s lived everywhere.
Across America, across Europe. It’s just - nothing compares to it. I even commute to London most days because I don’t like staying in London. It’s just a great place and people are very friendly and very supportive.
ANDREW: Remind me why you chose it?
TOYAH: When I was a child my father and my mum had a boat and a caravan in Wyre Piddle and we spent every weekend at Wyre Piddle and it was the happiest place of my childhood. So I’ve now moved mum to Wyre Piddle. And dad when he was round. I managed to get them a cottage and they lived there.
And then this house came up for sale in Pershore that we looked round just to be nosey and on the say I said to Robert "we should’ve not this" because it broke my heart, I fell in love with it and so did he. And then a month later he bought it, he managed to get it. And we’ve never regretted it.
ANDREW: Wonderful. So the tour takes you – you’re going everywhere?
TOYAH: Yeah, it’s been added to all the time which is fantastic. We’re getting about ten enquiries a day. We play next in this region, we’ve got Bromsgrove –
ANDREW: Bromsgrove, Saturday 23rd of July?
TOYAH: Yes. And – tell me name of the theatre because –
ANDREW: The Artrix -
TOYAH: I said Asterix –
ANDREW: Oh gosh, don’t go there! The Artrix in Bromsgorve is lovely, in fact I was there a couple of weeks ago. Just a great little venue.
ANDREW: You’ll love it.
TOYAH: I can’t wait! It’s exclusively Toyah material, the first three albums. Very colourful, very lively show. But then if anyone wants to try and track us down around the rest of Europe, just go to toyahwillcox.com, two l’s in Willcox and you’ll find –
ANDREW: Rest of Europe? What about it?
TOYAH: Well, Europe’s just started to be added because they’ve heard what I’m doing. Norway’s going in, Germany, France …
ANDREW: Where were you biggest in Europe?
TOYAH: All over. I was massive!
ANDREW: Yeah! (incomprehensible, they talk on top of it each other)
TOYAH: I was massive even in Africa but I never broke America and ironically I tour America in September. My fist ever tour with a different project called The Humans. I’ve just been signed to label in New York so … that is so ironic that I get to go to America with a completely different name.
ANDREW: Coz the other thing is the "Quadrophenia" nights haven’t stopped have they so that’s also kept you in ... gainful employment?
TOYAH: Yes! Well, don’t forget I do a lot of telly! I’m just off the A1 to film with Tony Blackburn! ("Celebrity Antiques Road Trip", below)
ANDREW: You’re a media tart, loiter - Toyah, frankly! You are!
TOYAH: Well, you had to call me loiterer or something!
ANDREW: I was getting all excited! (reads an email) Gareth says that "Toyah was and still is drop dead gorgeous, always gives me a thrill", he says, "when I see her in Pershore, stood behind her in a queue once and I got very excited but didn’t pluck up the courage to say hello" …
ANDREW: You should’ve said hello!
TOYAH: That would’ve been in a local large name supermarket -
ANDREW: Would it? Do you have one in Pershore?
TOYAH: Yes, we do. We have two. We have one Metro something and one very large cheapest of them all. I shop in both. But I also shop on the High Street and I support our local grocer because he sells great fruit and veg.
ANDREW: Go first thing in the morning, get the best stuff. Look, thank you so much for coming in. It’s Toyah on Saturday the 23rd of July, which a week on Saturday, "Classics Revisited", it says here (reads) "celebrating the 30th anniversary of your breakthrough hit “It’s A Mystery” and the platinum LP “Anthem”."
TOYAH: That’s correct!
ANDREW: That is it in a nutshell, I thought I’d better read it make sure I got it right. You’ll hear all Toyah stuff, it will take you back to – in fact the whole room will be back in between ’78 and 80 …
TOYAH: We start at ’81 and we regress to 1978 when it gets very very lively indeed! (laughs)
ANDREW: Do you – incidentally, clearly there will be lot of people who were there the first time round wanting to relive that and bring about these great memories. Do you see a mixture of faces, actually is it not all who wanted to reminisce about their childhood, quite a few new faces as well?
TOYAH: So many new visits it’s unbelievable but I think that’s because artists like Marina And The Diamonds and Florence Welch (below) have all cited me as influence so a lot of young students are in as well. But then there is my age group who’ve come to reminisce and they don’t have a problem with it, they love it.
ANDREW: Flattering, Marina to say, you know, you are –
TOYAH: It’s not only flattering, it really is a big help because I’m virtually ignored by the critics in the music business. So when they actually name me it makes a huge difference! It’s fantastic! And I absolutely adore what they are doing so it’s really nice to be put under the same umbrella with them, as it were.
ANDREW: Well, never stop because we love you. You’re going to do this until Christmas and then you’re back in panto but not round here?
TOYAH: No. St Albans.
ANDREW: In St Albans so it’s less commutable but it’s still a nice place to be –
TOYAH: It’s a great place for a visit, I love that place!
ANDREW: We were just talking about that, got friends nearby and they’ve got the Abbey and the Roman ruins and the quaint town center, yeah, it’s got everything.
TOYAH: Olde English.
ANDREW: Toyah, for now, thank you so much.
TOYAH: Thank you and it’s good to see you!
ANDREW: See you next time!