JO GOOD: Fans of the 80s star Toyah Willcox are going to be very pleased to know that she is back with a UK tour next year. She's going to be playing the 02 in March featuring artists Paul Young, Martika and China Crises. She joins me here on the afternoon show. Welcome!

TOYAH: Thank you so much!

JO: Do you know what I love about you? You're going to be singing live and we thought we'll set it up but you were late because you were doing an other interview. But you just came in and said “Oh, that's alright. Just give me a pair of headphones.” (Toyah laughs) I guess, Toyah, because you've done everything this is no big deal?

TOYAH: When you do the summer festival season, you literally walk on stage and sing and you don't get a sound check. You just have to land on your feet while running. Most of the time it's absolutely fine, 99.99 % of the time it's OK

JO: You were the first to transfer from music into acting. No one had done that. People do it all the time now. You get models acting and everything else. But it was a big deal when you did because everyone knew you for punk! 

TOYAH: It was social no-no

JO: Wasn't it! 

TOYAH: Acting wouldn't accept music and vice versa

JO: Exactly! But you did that. Was it easy for you to make that transition?

TOYAH: It was easy in that I said yes to everything. I never turned anything down. I love working, I define myself by my work and I'm quite lost if I'm not working. The joy of what I do is these odd tangents just appear in my life. At the moment I have a musical in London at The Scoop, “Crime And Punishment”, with 13 of my songs in

That was just an email from a writer/director saying “I love your music. Can you write some stuff for this show and can I put your retrospective in as well?” I said of course you can! And it's magnificent!

So I never know where I'm going to go. Whenever I've tried to hone my future it doesn't work so I just allow the future to reach to the present and pull me forward. It's always been very rewarding

JO: I remember “Quadrophenia”, obviously, and I was filming you with a local television crew when you were playing "Peter Pan" at Chichester Festival Theatre (below) -

TOYAH: I remember it. 1993

You were literally hanging from the rafters!

TOYAH: I flew from the back of the auditorium. First time it was done anywhere. It was so exciting. I don't think you were there but one night they didn't slow the trajectory of the travel down the wire and I hit the back wall

People would find it so funny when that happened because it looked deliberate but it could be terrifying because you're 60 feet up in the air
flying over the audience

JO: Yeah, you're right. Never been done. For me it was “Trafford Tanzi”. Loads of people won't even know what we mean. Why have they never brought that back?

TOYAH: Well, I couldn't do it. I'm 58 and I just couldn't do that now. At the time in 1983 it had been touring the provinces for quite a few years as a success with an actress called Julia North. I was asked if I would take it to the The Mermaid (Theatre) at the same time when Debbie Harry opened it in New York. They were opening round the world the same week

I was playing a female wrestler in London when a law applied that no woman could wrestle within a mile of London City. My trainer was Mitzy Mueller, a female European champion wrestler and we had to train outside London. She had to pretend not to train me when we were in London

JO: No!

TOYAH: Yeah. It was astonishing

JO: I didn't know any of that

TOYAH: Here you had a play, a huge success, about a woman who fights her husband in the ring during the breakdown of her marriage and we weren't legally allowed to wrestle in London! It could only happen in the play

JO: How extraordinary! I had no idea! Did you ever read Laurence Olivier's autobiography where he mentions you?

TOYAH: No! Did he mention me?!

JO: Because you were at the National (Theatre), weren't you?


JO: He said “I'm in my dressing room. A window opened above me and someone is hanging out called Toyah doing a vocal warm-up”. It was hysterical because now it means nothing but at the time it was the clash of two cultures, wasn't it? 

TOYAH: I love the National Theatre! I've worked there three times. It's the best experience in the world. But when I first worked there I was 18 years old and I'd just moved to London especially to be part of the company in a play called “Tales From The Vienna Woods”. I was just so excited!

I was uncontrollable! I was hanging out of windows, I was racing around the corridors backstage in wheelchairs. I was hacking off John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier. All of them were really hacked of with me. They had so much tolerance. Gielgud referred to me as "The Monkey" because I was always hanging out of windows

There are people switching to the music industry there now but it was revolutionary you being there? It shook that place up! Backstage, they'd never seen anything like it

Now, before we go any further you have promised that you are going to perform live on this show. So this is not pre-recorded. This is Toyah singing live. Can we start with “I Want To Be Free”?

TOYAH: Yeah, go for it. I've not warmed up but let's see what happens!

Toyah sings “I Want To Be Free”

JO: Oh my goodness! I am absolutely speechless! That was amazing! 

TOYAH: Thank you so much!

JO: To be in your presence to do that! I never thought that was going to happen because we had no time to rehearse. For me your voice is as good, if not better, than it ever has been. A lot of people, forgive me for saying this, who've been in the industry as long as you ... often the voice is damaged and it's spent -

TOYAH: It's a lifestyle. I'm very tough about my lifestyle. For example I had a meeting in a restaurant last night and it was too loud so I left because I will not damage this gift. I'm happier in my body now and I'm happier singing than I was 30 years ago. I'm more confident. I am aware if I'm not careful I can do a lot of damage. So I really only sing 4 times a week throughout the year

Tonight I'm at the 02 Islington (below), which is going to be a punk/gothic show. It's a big sing. All the early punk stuff. So it's nice doing this with you now Jo, because I'm warming up for that. You've given me the chance. But I will not go near smokers, I will not drink, I will not shout above volume. I really need to protect this voice

JO: Is that because punk by its sheer nature broke all the rules? People were screaming including yourself. But hearing that I know you could go three times louder. You could open that window and London would hear you! You didn't need a microphone

TOYAH: That was me turned up to two

JO: So you are really holding back. Were you trained to sing or did you have training after you started?

TOYAH: I've had training three times in my life. I went to a school that taught opera and ballet. My musical training there was German opera, which really helped build the voice. Then when I went to the National Theatre they were very concerned about my lisp. I had wonderful voice training with Kate Fleming, who trained everyone from Ian Mckellen right through to me

And about seven years ago I decided to retrain the voice because it wasn't sounding right. It didn't feel right when I was singing. I retrained at Stratford with the RSC's (The Royal Shakespeare Company) voice trainer Penny. She completely got me back on track and taught me techniques that I now pass on to other singers when they tell me their voice is uncomfortable. I say “try this because it's revolutionary"

You can hear the strength in your voice, my goodness. Right, questions that are coming in. This is from Andrew, who asks about somewhere you live so you don't have to answer! (Toyah laughs) “Can you please ask Toyah what it was like living in -” Do you mind me saying? A famous person's house?

TOYAH: Yeah, go for it

JO: “What it was like living in Cecil Beaton's grand old house? Was there anything left of his time there?”

TOYAH: There was plenty left. When we bought the house, which was is Salisbury, Reddish House, the curtains were original, the carpets were original. They were made in Wilton, which was only six miles away

This was a house where Princess Margaret announced her engagement apparently before the Queen knew. She went straight to Cecil Beaton. Mick Jagger took Bianca Jagger there. It was a fabulous house. So atmospheric and beautiful

JO: This is from Paul. He says “Jo, you have real punk royalty live on your show. I grew up listening to Toyah and Adam and The Ants and The Clash. What amazing memories. What is her favourite memory from that era?

TOYAH: I think my toughest memory, which is also my favourite memory is I played Drury Lane on Christmas Eve 1981 and it was televised. I was the guest of The Old Grey Whistle Test. It was the ultimate accolade to be asked to do that. We had 12 million viewers. I remember the terror but also remember the ecstasy. It was a fantastic show

I wished that I'd had a week off before doing it but I had been doing concert matinees that week for my younger audience. So by the time we were on air I was pretty spent. But knowing you were going out live across Europe lifted you. That for me was one of my greatest memories
JO: There will be loads of our listeners who would've watched that go out live. Tonight's gig ... is it sold out?

TOYAH: I don't know but it's the Islington 02. Please come along because it's going to be rocking

JO: Now, we're going have another track and this is “It's A Mystery”! Are you ready?

TOYAH: You bet!

Toyah sings “It's A Mystery”

JO: Right! That's Toyah. This is from Karen: “Wow! She's singing my favourite ever song, “It's A Mystery”. She is a legend!” This is from Margaret who says “please tell Toyah I have really fond memories of her when she was in the panto at the St Alban Arena. She was excellent!” Robert says “she is still the grooviest chick in town!” There you go. Toyah, thank you so much!

TOYAH: Thank you Jo, that was great! Thank you to everyone

JO: What a treat on a Friday! Fantastic!


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