29.6 - 3.7.2015


KEN BRUCE: "The Tracks Of My Years" are being chosen this week by Toyah Willcox. Her first choice of the week comes from T. Rex

SONG: T. Rex “Ride A White Swan”

TOYAH: The first time I heard “Ride A White Swan” it was because I was watching TV and I think I was watching a programme called “Lift Off With Ayshea”

KEN: Oh, yes! I remember!

TOYAH: Oh, just a fantastic programme that seemed to have no boundaries when it came to music and men that crossed the genre from being blokey to feminine. And there was Marc Bolan with a glitter teardrop on his cheek, tight satin trousers, satin jacket and I thought this is my future!

Just the whole image of this man totally in touch with his feminism and this utterly fabulous song utterly gripped me. I was in love with music and rock music and my hormones were kicking off the walls and I think that's when the rebel in me woke up

KEN: Right! That was your rebellious moment. When did the music first hit you? Was that a long time before or ...?

TOYAH: Well, “Ride A White Swan” came out in about 1972 when I was 13 going on 14 so I already knew I wanted to be an actress by that point. I'd already seen “The Sound Of Music” about 20 times and decided I have to be the woman in front of that camera!

But there was something about the music in the 70s that it started to cross boundaries. It crossed boundaries politically from a woman's point of view where it said to you “you can be individual, you don't have to fit the mould, you can have a unique voice – give it a go”

So music came into my mind really around the time of David Bowie when I moved on from Marc Bolan to David Bowie very quickly and rather cruelly the way you do at that age. I thought there's just nothing in this world for me other than to be a rock singer

KEN: And so it became. But before we hear a bit more about that tell me about Kate Bush, which is next. “Moments Of Pleasure”

TOYAH: I laugh every time I mention this song and I've discussed this with Kate herself. When I first heard this song I'd done a concert in Skegness, it was the early 90s, she'd just released the album it's off and it was 4 in the morning and it was played on ... I imagine (BBC) Radio 2 because that's all I listen to

And tears welled up in my eyes at the sensitivity of this song. The subject matter of the song … I actually crashed the car. I was on a quiet Norfolk Road at the early hours of the morning and I couldn't see! I was actually sobbing by halfway through the song and I crashed into a cottage on a country lane!

KEN: Oops!

TOYAH: And I blame this song! But it is just such an utterly unique moment that really, for me, only an artist like Kate Bush can pen. It's beautiful. “Moments Of Pleasure”

SONG: Kate Bush “Moments Of Pleasure”


SONG: The Moody Blues “Nights In White Satin”

TOYAH: I love this song, I've always loved the The Moody Blues. When I was a punk singer in the late 70s touring Germany we'd go into Berlin. Those days you had to go into Berlin through East Germany, which meant you were locked on a bus, you went through these roads where there were men with guns watching your every move as you passed through East Germany

They didn't want you to stop, they didn't want you in the their country. One of the albums we always played on the bus was a conceptual album by The Moody Blues with “Nights In White Satin” on it

Now me, being a bit of a space cadet, thought it meant knights on white horses in white satin. Not nights in bed with a lover! I just thought this was the wildest song in the world! You've got all these Knights of Templar, in white satin, in touch with their feminine side and here's this beautiful song. I was actually quite depressed and quite disappointed when I found out that it meant in bed in white satin sheets … Lost complete interest in it then … but it's still a beautiful song

KEN: Well, it shows it works on different levels

TOYAH: On many levels!

KEN: Adele you've chosen next and “Rolling In The Deep"?

TOYAH: What can I say about this? When an artist comes along who knows their voice so well ... they know how to write a song for their voice. You have Kate Bush, you have Lana Del Rey, you have Adele … All have different technical abilities but they know their voice

I've been in the business now for over 35 years and I'm still getting to know my voice. The reason I've picked “Rolling In The Deep” is I just wish I could get there as a songwriter to know the best song for my voice

So hats off to Adele - thank you! You've woken me up to myself. I'm permanently dissatisfied with myself as a writer thanks to you Adele but I really do think you are utterly remarkable and thank goodness you are British!

SONG: Adele “Rolling In The Deep”


SONG: David Bowie “Life On Mars?"

I could not go through life without this song. When I first heard it I was a 12 year old at school and knew I didn't fit in. I had dyslexia, I had a very minor disability but it meant I was the brunt of everyone's jokes including my own family

I heard this song and this song was about the possibility within storytelling. I knew when I got into David Bowie that as a writer I wanted to be a narrative lyricist. I wanted to tell stories through my lyrics

I did my very first audition as an actress singing “Life On Mars?” and I got the job. This was many years later, I was about 17 when I got my first acting job. But this song just opens doors for me. It's the key that allows the future in

KEN: It's a beautiful beautiful song as well. Next choice is Tasmin Archer and “Sleeping Satellite”?

TOYAH: There are many songs in our lives, and I feel I have right to talk for everyone here, where the song is transformative. When you hear it and when you live with it and it comes on randomly over radio stations across the world ... it transforms you wherever you are, whatever mood you're in. “Sleeping Satellite” by Tasmin Archer is one of those songs. It will never go away, it's a timeless classic

I've been lucky enough to interview her and I talked to her about the song and how it came about. She just said it was one of those moments. You couldn't find the moment. It was there and it happened and it was instantaneously beautiful and wonderful. And for me this song is transformative

SONG: Tasmin Archer “Sleeping Satellite”


SONG: Simon and Garfunkel “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

TOYAH: If I could ever write a song as good as anything that Simon and Garfunkel have ever written - their relationship with harmony, their relationship with chord structure, their relationship with the lyric within the harmony – ah! It's what I go back to time and time again

I think I'm on my 29th album in 35 years as a singer and this is the album I always return to. Every time I finish a song I will sneaky peek back to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and see if I can bear to listen to what I've just written in comparison to this album

Most of the time I'm forgiving of myself because you know we all have limitations and we all have uniqueness. I'm one of those people along with 6 billion others. This album through decades has been my bridge over troubled water, excuse the pun! It's so cheesy but it's forever eternal

KEN: Excellent! Next - you've mentioned her already – Lana Del Rey “Videogames”?

TOYAH: I have a passion about female artists who have the right relationship with their voice. There's something about Lana Del Rey that you know you don't get all the woman that she is in social media. I'm not terribly fond of social media. You can't express anything with true depth

But when you listen to her and you listen to how she presents the lyrics and the narrative you know there's an incredible depth there she's not going to give away in the papers and in social media

Therefore I really give her my time. I find her innovative, exciting and in many ways – although she does not have the genius that I think Kate Bush has - she has something equally golden

SONG: Lana Del Rey “Videogames”


SONG: Peter Gabriel “Sledgehammer”

TOYAH: I was lucky enough, when Peter Gabriel produced the album “So”, that his management team called me to the office and played the album for me. It might be because I'm married to Robert Fripp, who produced Peter Gabriel's first solo album, but I was just in the moment and I felt very privileged. And boy when they played me “Sledgehammer” I thought this production is life changing! It is remarkable!

How he got the layers and the depth of the brass ... nothing was fighting with his voice. It was uplifting! And then he managed to move it into the arena as well. So I just think Peter Gabriel has broken so many boundaries within production as a singer and as a writer that this has to be one of the tracks of my years

KEN: Lovely. And quite a video too -

TOYAH: Oh! Jealousy! My goodness – I can't tell you how jealous I am of that man's talent!

KEN: Your final choice is U2 and “Where The Streets Have No Name”

TOYAH: What fascinates about U2 is the curve of their career. I love all their early stuff and I've worked with Steve Lillywhite. He produced and album of mine called “The Changeling”, which is cited as being the beginning of the goth movement (below, Toyah in the studio with Steve in 1982)

It's a good complex album with great production and this was the time he started working with U2. When you look at the voice of truth that they represented and now they've gone on this incredible universal journey into what I see as corporatism ... I'm not too keen on what they do now

Again it's down to the power and the manipulation of social media. I just yearn for the days of their beginning but I will never ever let go of their first albums because they are utterly remarkable. And “Where The Streets Have No Name” - wow! What a fabulous song!

KEN: Beautiful and we shall hear it in a moment. Do you think of yourself as an actor/musician, musician/actor, actor or a musician?

(laughs) I just want to work! (Ken laughs) I just want a creative life. I don't like mediocrity, I don't like being weighed down by mediocrity. I will bounce from pillar to post to wall to jukebox

I'm a performer. I like to try and live a creative life. I love the act of performance and I have a good singing voice. I'm a relatively good actress so I will not deny myself either

KEN: Yeah, you just keep doing whatever you can and want to -

TOYAH: Just keep going! Yeah!

KEN: Yeah! And you're touring?

TOYAH: I'm on the road all year. The Toyah band is on the road all year. I do a rock show and I do an acoustic show, which is divine. I also tour my Seattle band The Humans, which is with Bill Rieflin from R.E.M. That is very off the wall and very diverse

But if the humans were to live off The Humans alone we would grow hungry very quickly. The trouble with art is it doesn't put food on the table and I have a fantastic career as Toyah Willcox as well so I just nurture them all

KEN: Right. So you do the stuff for fun and profit, if you like?

TOYAH: Profit? (they both laugh) Fun and the taxman more likely … yes! (Ken laughs) That's more like it. For me life is about the act of living. It's not about how others perceive you. It's taken me 57 years to find that bit of me that I must do what I need to do to remain creative and I can not live by other people's opinions

KEN: Enjoy yourself. That's the main story of life

TOYAH: Yeah! Live!

KEN: And do it now! Toyah, thank you so much!

TOYAH: Well, thank you!

SONG: U2 “Where The Streets Have No Name”


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