BBC RADIO WM
BEV BEVAN MEETS
BBC RADIO WM
BEV BEVAN MEETS
BEV BEVAN: When did we last meet? July I think?
TOYAH: About the 14th of July, Kings Heath, my home town
BEV: When I presented you with your "Walk Of Fame" star (below)
TOYAH: My "Kings Heath Walk Of Fame" on York Road. Outside the old, it's either The Ritz or The Ballroom – but they're celebrating the fact that in Kings Heath - people like Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin – had their first gigs there! Which I never knew!
BEV: Well, I worked there a a lot as The Move -
TOYAH: You did!
BEV: And before that, in my first band ever – Denny Lane And The Diplomats -
TOYAH: Of course!
BEV: We used work a lot at The Ritz in Kings Heath. Fabulous venue!
TOYAH: I would love to have been able to play that actual venue. We played the Hare & Hounds as a celebration that evening, after unveiling the star and it was really lovely for me – to be in a town that recognises I was born there, recognises that I have a place there and I have a place as an artist as well
And I thought the Hare & Hounds was absolutely fantastic. But anyone who has never seen it – it's like walking into this tiled, absolutely beautiful, preserved, hundred year old piece of architecture. Everywhere is covered in tiles. I hope they were made locally. It's just preserved history, it was beautiful. And we had the most fantastic gig there, it was really … the band played great, the audience was great and it was a magical night
BEV: After our little ceremony we went to a really nice coffee shop which I've never been to before -
TOYAH: That was fun!
BEV: Yeah, and then there is a great row of retro shops there
TOYAH: Yes! On York Street
BEV: The fact that there is a parade of shops in Kings Heath that I never knew about -
TOYAH: There always has been. I remember doing my shopping on the side roads of Kings Heath High Street. My first record shop was on Poplar Road. And I would save my pocked money. It would cost about 12 of 6 to buy a single and I would save up my pocket money and go to the record shop on Poplar Road and order my T-Rex and my Marc Bolan and my David Bowie and my Alice Cooper
It was like paying homage when I went to that record shop. So the side roads have always been absolutely fantastic in Kings Heath. And they still are - like you say – on York Road there's a fantastic vintage clothes shop, this wonderful cafe. I can't remember what it's called – it's something like "Cherries" or something and we had the greatest lunch there, didn't we?
BEV: We did, we had a lovely time. And actually you mentioned your local record shop which I sorely miss these days – your local record shop – there's so few left now but going back to your local record shop – this leads us beautifully into the first track. The first record and the first artist/band that you heard that really really turned you onto music?
TOYAH: Well, I had a very guilty pleasures relationship with music up until this point and I'm talking about 1972 being the point of realisation. Up until then – I hate to say it – I owned Cliff Richards, Tommy Steele (both laugh) I mean all the classic film musical music I grew up with. But then I heard T-Rex and “Ride A White Swan” and had my first teenage crush on Marc Bolan (below) And from then on there was just no turning back
BEV: October 1970 according to my -
TOYAH: Oh wow! I'm two years out, that's fantastic!
BEV: Yeah. So it's – you'd be the right sort of age to be falling in love with …
TOYAH: Yes, I was 12. I went to see him at the Birmingham Odeon (below) And I got into huge trouble because I changed into my satin trousers and put the glitter teardrop on at school which was on Cornwall Row, Edbaston Church Of England College for Girls. I got frogmarched back into school by my maths teacher Mrs Cox and made to change
BEV: Yes, we've lead single life – I went to – obviously I'm a few years older than you, but I went to Mercier Grammar School ...
TOYAH: Oh, my brother went there!
BEV: Yeah, there you are! And I was suspended for wearing sort of rock'n'roll type clothes. It was a very strict school – you had to wear the blazer and the cap and the tie. I had drain pipe trousers and the slim jeans and tie, and slicked back hair -
TOYAH: In those days we the pupils represented the school. When we were out of the school we represented it so we didn't disgrace it. So in retrospect I know now why I was marched back but I instantly ran into the ladies under the Fiveways roundabout and got changed there and ran onto The Odeon on New Street fully done up in my satin garb and my glitter teardrop and sat on the front row screaming my head off! (Bev chuckles) Have you ever met Marc Bolan?
BEV: I have – there is an ELO single, one of the first ELO singles called “Ma Ma Ma Belle”?
BEV: It was a proper heavy guitar riff driven song and it's Marc Bolan playing guitar on that -
TOYAH: Oh, I'm so jealous!
BEV: And then we did the gig, I think it was the Hammersmith Odeon and he game on stage and jammed with us in the end as well
TOYAH: The only time I've seen him close up, in the flesh, I was going to see – I think it was The Jam play at The Rainbow in Finsbury Park and I was standing at the stage door waiting to go in to say hello to The Jam and he game out with Gloria and he kind of – he pushed past because there was a real kerfuffle when people saw him and I literally brushed shoulders with him but was it. Never met him
BEV: Well, I did, and he was a lovely lovely man. Really was
TOYAH: Ooh. Fantastic!
BEV: And of course he is in that position that he was because he died young. He will always remain – (Toyah cuts him off)
TOYAH: I think he will always remain I think very valid and very present but also listening to “Ride A White Swan” it's so embryonic, the sound that he later went onto to create in the later 70's of these great guitar riffs, “Telegram Sam”, “Revolution”, just absolutely amazing guitar work. And you can hear it growing in “Ride A White Swan” and I think it's the guitar work that is going to keep him alive forever
BEV: Hmm. It was unique
BEV: And leading onto your next choice?
TOYAH: The reason I've chosen this next track is that I grew up - I was born in Birmingham's Kings Heath but at the weekends my parents had a boat and a caravan on the River Avon near Pershore (Toyah on the boat, above). And that's where my life really formed because they were very happy times. I had an other brother, an older sister and my parents would stay on the boat and we'd stay in the caravan and basically we ran amok
And on a Saturday night my brother would take me into Worchester at midnight and we'd go and see the late night showings of Andy Warhol films at one in the morning, two in the morning. So I became quite familiar with that underground lifestyle of New York and with Lou Reed long before “Transformer” (below)
But by the time “Transformer” game out my brother and his gang of friends and myself ... my brother was driving – he was building his own little jeeps and we were driving them round the quarries of Bearden Hill listening to this album at four in the morning
And how I'm still alive I don't know because the times we overturned these jeeps in the darkness! (Bev chuckles) You know, I can count on my fingers. But this next song just transcends all time like every song I'm going to play in this show today. It just transcends, it's just beautiful. It's “Perfect Day”
BEV: Beautiful record
TOYAH: Oh, it's just amazing! What I love about it is you've got this performer who has so much charisma with not the most perfect voice in the world with an orchestra and it's the first time when I heard - you heard the clash of cultures. The classical orchestra and the New York kind of grungy voice. And it just showed that anything is possible. If the ingredients are right anything can marry and I found that so inspiring
I've just got back from Seattle where I've been making the 3rd Humans album. The Humans is a band I have with Bill Rieflin, the drummer of R.E.M and we used “Transformer” as the model of sound that we wanted on our third album. Dissecting the drum sound, dissecting the bass sound, dissecting Lou Reed's approach. And I don't know if looking back listening to that you heard it, it's the way he puts a little yodel in his voice to depict emotion, it's so clever! It's beautiful!
BEV: Yeah. Anyone just tuning in it's Bev, Bev Bevan with Toyah Willcox. I would like to remind the listeners about your incredibly eclectic career (Toyah laughs) I know we look upon you – people think “Toyah” as mainly a singer. According to my records you've had countless hit singles, recorded about 20 albums?
BEV: You've appeared in around 40 stage plays?
TOYAH: Probably a bit more now, yeah
BEV: You've appeared in ten feature films?
TOYAH: A bit more now – about 15 now
BEV: There you go. You've written two books?
BEV: You've been a TV presenter in a real range – I mean you've done “Songs Of Praise” and you've also done “The Good Sex Guide”? How diverse is that?
TOYAH: Yes, I know and I was doing them at the same time as well! (Bev laughs) I had more letters in green ink than you can imagine! At the BBC there is always a giggle than when a letter arrives with green ink on the front of it you know it's going to be about hating you. Funny enough the only time I ever had hate mail was when I did "Songs Of Praise". Never any other time in my career
It was such a provocative choice I think for the BBC to choose me although I am very proud of my Christian heritage and I'm very spiritual. I'm not necessarily a born again Christian or anything like that but I do – I'm a believer. So I think when they chose me to do “Songs Of Praise” they were trying to broaden their audience. But to do “The Good Sex Guide Late” at the same time, they were really trusting me a lot! (Bev laughs)
BEV: It was diverse to say the least, yeah! (Toyah laughs) Now we'll play some music and you picked a track - I mean you picked a track called “Out Of The Blue” - which is ELO's biggest ever selling album which has nothing to do -
TOYAH: I've done a single called “Out Of The Blue” as well -
BEV: Have you? Oh, it's obviously a brilliant expression isn't it – out of the blue, but this is Roxy Music
TOYAH: Yeah … Roxy Music. I just love everything they have ever done. Right from the first album right to the last album. They did with panache, with style, with dedication, they've never done anything bad. And they were a fantastic group were every member of the group was valid. What they did, how they did it, from Brian Eno to Brian Ferry, to Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera. They were all ground breaking in every way they approach, how they played their instruments on each song
I went to drama school in Birmingham, at the Birmingham Old Rep Theatre School on Station Road in the center of Birmingham and I was very very poor, I didn't get a grant. When I did my grand audition – my lisp was deemed as a disadvantage and I saw my examiner right down “unattractive”.
So I was poor when I went to drama school and I could just about order a cup of tea and a KitKat when I went to a cafe at the end of the day and I would always put Roxy Music on the jukebox. And later when I could afford to buy their albums I discovered this album “Out Of The Blue”(sic) (the album is called "Country Life"(below)) and I'm so in love with this track
For example ten years ago when I was touring "Calamity Jane" around the country and I was in Sunderland. And after a show I can't sleep so drove off to the Sunderland coast and pulled up at a carpark by the sea, opened the doors and played “Out Of The Blue” as loud as I could and wondered why all of these cars started to appear around me flashing their headlights.
And I'd never heard of what goes on in car parks today! (Bev laughs) But they must've thought I was the wildest tease on earth. Eventually I realised that they wanted my attention and I left. And a friend told me why later. So I haven't done that ever since. But “Out Of The Blue” is a favourite track to just loose myself to
BEV: Well, that's great – we can listen to it and imagine you being parked at the beach at the same time … (Toyah laughs)
BEV: We're talking about Toyah's career and playing her favourite music. Am I right in saying that your first brush in showbusiness was dressing other people?
TOYAH: Yeah! The way I earned my way through drama school was I worked as a dresser at The Alex Theatre and The Hippodrome (below) And I loved every minute! I dressed Julie Gleason, Sylvia Simms, I fell in love with both of them. They used to call me their “bird of paradise” because by this time I had green and yellow hair and even though punk rock hadn't arrived I was obviously a different kind of person
And I earned £25 a week dressing them on stage. I dressed Simon Williams, absolutely charming man. I had great fun dressing the Dad's Army team at the Hippodrome one summer and totally fell in love with Jon Le Mesurier who I got on with like a house on fire. And we used sit in the wings and he'd tell me about Hattie Jacques and he'd talk touring and acting in films and doing any "Carry On" films and the comedies he did.
For me dressing someone – they put me in such a position of trust because you'd arrive at six in the evening after drama school, go and get their supper, make sure the costumes are dressed, they were all in place with the quick changes, then sit quietly with them in case they needed anything like a cup of tea
Then the show would begin and you would just be waiting in the wings to make sure they got to the right place for their quick change, found the dressing room. Because they were in different cities every week. They never knew when they came off stage. So I absolutely adored that job. I'm very honourable when it comes to looking after people, I don't mind
BEV: Talking of seeing people your next choice is Nirvana “Smells Like Teenage Spirit” -
TOYAH: Yes, I just wanted to choose this because I first heard this around 1990 - 91 and I think this album was just one of the best things about the 90's -
BEV: Nirvana of course, what an energetic record -
TOYAH: It's unbelievable, isn't it?
TOYAH: I just love it and I'm in Seattle a lot, at least twice a year for quite long periods and of course Nirvana is still played everywhere in Seattle. So it feels like home whenever I hear it
BEV: It's great. Your favourite movie – I know what you're going to say here I think?
TOYAH: “Aliens”, “Star Trek”?
BEV: You've put put “Aliens” -
TOYAH: Well, there you go, good - I haven't let you down. At the moment I quite like “Prometheus”
BEV: There's “Alien” and “Aliens”. And “Alien 3” isn't there?
TOYAH: I love all of them. I mean even the prison one – people say it's not the best one, it's still incredibly entertaining. I have such an ambition to be in an “Alien” film! (laughs)
BEV: Sigourney Weaver (above) - what a heroine!
TOYAH: Her heroines are so good! They never scream, they never weep, they never have self-pity – they're strong women!
BEV: You're married to Robert Fripp? (below with Toyah)
TOYAH: Yes, from King Crimson
BEV: He was a wonderful … I've met him several times, he's a lovely man. He's very quiet?
TOYAH: He's is generally very quiet, yes. He's is about 66 and he's semi-retired. He's just finished a book and he is teaching his students. Erm, he shies away from being on stage so he's not extrovert at all
BEV: No, and he doesn't look, surely he wouldn't mind me saying – he doesn't look very rock'n'roll?
TOYAH: No, he's not rock'n'roll at all
BEV: But he is a fantastic guitar player!
TOYAH: He is an astonishing guitar player
BEV: Yeah, he really is!
TOYAH: And when he touches a guitar the same beautiful mellow sound comes out the same way when Dave Gilmour – when he touches a guitar. The sound transcends the instrument and Robert has just got that knack that the notes that come away from the guitar transcend him and the actual guitar.
It's as if an angel is speaking. He's the most extraordinary player. I just wish he would go out there and work a bit more but he doesn't want to. I'm the worker in the family. I'm one who's on the road the whole time
And in America it's a bit of burden being married to Robert because my band doesn't get booked because they play this game of “oh no, we're not booking you unless Robert's on stage with you” (Bev laughs) Which I think is a terrible form of sexism and I fight it. But it's slightly ironic that my husband holds me back and he's not working! (Toyah laughs)
BEV: Aah! Well from someone who's introvert to say someone who's extrovert, now an absolute hero of yours and believe your favourite ever album was made by Mr Bowie?
TOYAH: Oh yeah, absolutely. Bowie has kept me alive through thick and thin. I often say fans come up to me and say “thank you this album, thank you for that album ... it kept me alive through a bad period”. For me Bowie's kept me alive from the age of 12 till now! His work is so astonishing and eternal
The way he writes, the production, the Tony Visconti years. Still magical to listen to! I even love the early Bowie “Man Who Sold The World”, “Hunky Dory”, David Bowie” - just great albums where he pushed the boat out creatively.
And he took Buddy Holly's rock'n'roll and turned it on its head and put a new narration on it. I just find him eternally inspirational. And something to aspire to as a writer. My all time favourite album is “Ziggy Stardust”
BEV: And this is a track from it. (After the track) Have to be eternally thankful to David Bowie because when he was David Jones and he was making his – just before he became David Bowie, he had a band and it came up to the Cedar Club, they were tipped to make it really big.
And this is about 1966 and Trevor Burton and Ace Kefford got talking to him and said “we'd love to be in a band that was like yours, successful”. And David Jones, David Bowie said to them “what you should do is get yourself the best four or five best guys you can find in Birmingham, rehearse like crazy, get yourselves down to London and you'll make it." And what was The Move (below)
TOYAH: Ah! That's incredible
BEV: Yeah. And it was because of him saying that
BEV: That Ace Kefford and Trevor Burton got Roy Wood and then they asked me and then they asked Carl Wayne and we became The Move and it all became true.
TOYAH: And did you meet again after that?
BEV: I did meet him again actually at Music Land Studios in Munich. I was recording with ELO and we were coming in and he was coming out – he did that track with Queen -“Under Pressure”. And they'd literally just finished it and we were just going in. That's the only other time I met him
TOYAH: My husband worked with him quite a bit in the late 70's. Did “Heroes” and “Scary Monsters” with him. And I was so proud when we were watching the Olympics opening ceremony this year and “Heroes” played as Team GB came in because that's my husband on guitar. And then in the closing ceremony when Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell came on they played David Bowie's “Fashion”! Which again is my husband on guitar! So I was so proud of my hubby. So proud!
I've never met Bowie. I've stood next to him in a room when he talked to my husband about Robert joining Tin Machine with me kicking Robert going “you will! You will join!” (Bev laughs) “Don't say no!” Of course he said no. But I've never actually said hello or spoken to him. He just stood next to me and I'm so short I don't think he even saw me! (Bev laughs)
BEV: It's a shame, he's become a bit of recluse, we probably won't get to meet him again. But he is a monster talent!
TOYAH: Well, the music lives without him and good music does that anyway. It's there for the future generations
BEV: Yeah. And talking of future - this young lady we're going to play?
TOYAH: I'm fascinated by this young lady. Her first single was "Video Games" which is an extraordinarily brave single which did incredibly well on (BBC) Radio Two and around the world. And she did one of her first live performances on a very important show in America like the “Midnight Show” or “The Eleven O'Clock” show and she obviously wasn't used to performing live and she lost her footing in the style she sings in
Now I partly adore this woman because she has learned to sing with the voice that nature has given her. Like Kate Bush. She's learned how to manipulate and engineer and work what is naturally hers. And her album “Born To Die” I think is actually extraordinarily brilliant. It captures the culture of the east coast of America so superbly.
And it's an album that moves me to tears. She splits listeners – they either hate her love her. And this is Lana Del Ray (above) and I just love this track, it's so clever
BEV: Pretty up much to date, this is this year isn't it?
TOYAH: Yeah. It's a great album, I love it
BEV: Excellent. More music – this is modern, pretty much gone into the 2000's here with Muse?
TOYAH: It is modern but again Muse take the notations of orchestras and put them against Matt Bellamy's voice which to me is an operatic voice. And they've brought I suppose progressive rock into the new age. I often go – I have a small home in France, next to Monaco, on the Italian border and I go there as much as possible to write and Muse is what I put on when I want be creative. Because for me they just get the creative juices flowing.
I never suffer writers block when I have them playing. They have meant so much to me in the last ten years. Their music inspires me, their shows are incredible, I love how they approach their work a s band. They're a three piece, my band The Humans (below) is a three piece so whenever I'm having a conversation with fellow musicians they say “we're only a three piece, we can't do that!”, I always wag my finger “if Muse can, we can!” So here you go, here's Muse.
BEV: Trio's can make a great noise because I in The Move days I worked a lot with Cream and we did the British tour with the Jimi Hendrix Experience
BEV: Trio's can be brilliant!
TOYAH: Got The Police ... I don't know of a bad trio but they're always fantastic
BEV: I'm sure you can think of one if you think hard enough! (Toyah laughs) Your next choice?
TOYAH: I just love this song. It's Tasmin Archer, a local girl at the time of the release of this. I'm not sure if he still lives in the area. But “Sleeping Satellites” is just utterly gorgeous. And I got to interview her once about 15 years ago. She was delightful. Just so humble – with this great song. And I want to share it with everyone. It's not as noisy as Nirvana.
BEV: This hours has just flown by!
TOYAH: Really enjoyed it! I've enjoyed you and the music, it's been lovely!
BEV: I hope we get a chance to work together again, either microphone to microphone or I'd love obviously to play drums for you again one day. It is such a pleasure -
TOYAH: Oh, yes please!
BEV: Before you go please tell us what your future plans are?
TOYAH: Well, in the spring I start a 67 venue tour in a two and half month run -
TOYAH: It's one theatre a night, a comedy, three hander called “Hormonal Housewives” (above) Every woman recognises the situation we're acting out of stage. So it's an absolute scream! If you're interested just look on toyahwillcox.dom and all my band dates are there and all my theatre dates are up there
BEV: A new album as well?
TOYAH: Yes, the new Humans album, “Humans 3” is due out in the late spring and I'm hoping to be touring that in the early summer
BEV: That's wonderful! It's been an absolute pleasure to see you again!
TOYAH: Thank you!
BEV: And we're going out with – I think heroes of both of us -
TOYAH: Rolling Stones! How can we not?