NICOLA: First up this afternoon I am delighted to be joined by a musician and actor who has been shaking up counterculture and the pop charts for over 40 years. Toyah Willcox made waves in films like “Quadrophenia” and Derek Jarman's “Jubilee”.

She blazed the trail on Top Of The Pops with hits like “It’s A Mystery”. And that's not to mention her TV stints in “Casualty”, “Kavanagh QC” and “Teletubbies” and that is not the half of it

What I'm saying is Toyah was already amazing. But then in lockdown - did you see her? She and her husband, who is the King Crimson genius and collaborator Robert Fripp, made our Sundays. They did these YouTube renditions of classics from Radiohead, AC/DC Metallica - the list goes on

And she and Robert Fripp also performed Grace Jones’, “Slave To The Rhythm”, which Toyah is now releasing as a single. She has got quite a history with the song and she's here to tell us all about it. Welcome back to the afternoon show, Toyah!

TOYAH: Thank you so much. It's so wonderful to join you on this rather remarkable day, where so much is going on in the world!

NICOLA: There is a lot going on indeed. Toyah, you're having a new single out. What a song it is. And what fascinates me about “Slave To The Rhythm”, Toyah, is the life of this song and your involvement with it. Take us back to before the time it came to Grace Jones?

TOYAH: Well, there was a quite a history with it before Grace Jones. It was written by my long term writing partner, Simon Darlow (above (left) with Robert Fripp and Toyah) and I was the demo singer when this song was presented to Frankie Goes To Hollywood and they decided it wasn't for them

But (the producer) Trevor Horn then picked the song up, he rearranged it, got more writers in alongside Simon and then produced it for Grace Jones and we all know the classic, brilliant version that Grace Jones did

So about two months ago, Simon Darlow said to me "don't you  think it's about time you release your own version?" I was very nervous about it, because you cannot mend what isn't broken. Grace Jones’ version is absolutely perfect. And my husband Robert Fripp plays on it. It's myself, Simon Darlow - that's the three of us on it

We have one of the original writers on it, Bruce Woolley, playing theremin and it's just a beautiful version. Our version is slightly reflective and gentle. That's all I can say about it in comparison to Grace Jones’ version, but it's very beautiful and the audience dance like crazy to it

NICOLA: Oh, I'm not surprised. We are going to play it shortly. I'm fascinated by the fact that you inhabited this song for the first time decades ago. What are your memories of your connection to it at that point? It's got haunting quality that song as well, I think

TOYAH: I know and I actually can not remember singing that demo because 35 years ago I was writing constantly and making demos constantly. That was the nature of the business. We always had to submit new songs to the record labels

And I have very little memory other than when I first heard Grace Jones’ version I thought it was one of the most magnificent things I'd ever heard, as with every single she ever released. So when Simon Darlow mentioned to me “you do know you were the original singer on this track?” My reaction was “oh, was I?!” (Nicola laughs)

But you know, we do a lot as artists. The audience gets to see the cherry on top of the cake. That's when we walk on stage, we're all dolled up and we share our music with these wonderful people. But to get to that point, so much more goes on. And to be honest, I have virtually no memory of doing that demo (Nicola laughs)

NICOLA: But you've brought it back to life and we are delighted about that. Simon Darlow, who co-wrote the original and is involved in this version of it also produced your most recent album, which was last year's “Posh Pop”. And that featured, Toyah, another long time collaborator under a pseudonym. Tell us about Bobby Willcox?

TOYAH: OK, I'm married to Robert Fripp (above with Toyah) of King Crimson and he's a very reluctant superstar. Everyone I know who has superstar credentials really want to be invisible and anonymous. And believe me I know a lot and my husband is one of them

And when he played on this album, he didn't want to be known as Robert Fripp on “Posh Pop”. He wanted to be known as Bobby Willcox, which is his alias when he books into hotels around the world. So everyone now knows his name at every hotel he books into. He's he's changed his mind in recent months because next year, we're touring Sunday Lunch -

NICOLA: Oh wow!

And we're going out as Toyah and Robert. So he's very, very happy now to be known as Robert Fripp because he's entering the world of classic rock, whereas he's probably better known for prog rock and working with Bowie. So he's changed his mind and on “Posh Pop 2”, which we start recording in a couple of months, he will be known as Robert Fripp

NICOLA: Ah, he’s stepping into the limelight under his own name. I think we last spoke around about the 2019 reworking of your album “In The Court Of The Crimson Queen”, which echoed the similar King Crimson title. Were you and Robert Fripp creative sparring partners from the off? Was there always a spark there?

TOYAH: It's very good question, Nicola. I'd say it's always been a point of creative friction because my husband works historically in a world where timing is absolute. And what I mean by that is if you're in a band and you're playing a time signature where there's 18 beats to a bar, you cannot have fluidity in that timing

I come from punk where everything is about fluidity and tightening. And if I want to shift a vocal across a bar, I will. So we've only really met creatively as successfully as we have in recent times with Sunday Lunch.

The lockdown allowed us to kind of grow together creatively. And thus, we are now probably huge influences in YouTube. We have over 111 million visits to our site. This could only have happened if we were locked in a house together and we were for two and a half years

NICOLA: A lot of us were locked in a house together but none of us had the costumery, the musical ingenuity, the playlist. How did you decide on the songs that you wanted to cover? It was a great surprise every single week

TOYAH: I know. In the beginning it was just me choosing the material. I must say now Robert is so excited every week he comes to me with ideas. And initially I posted a 28 second clip of me teaching Robert to dance and it went viral within five minutes.

And that was April of the first lockdown. And what we learned very, very quickly from that was the responses we were getting were from people who were alone, who had no one, access to no one in this terrifying time

And we decided that we would keep posting every Sunday lunch. And eventually we evolved into classic rock and this is because we learned something out about the world and the history of classic rock is that it's timeless. Classic rock is a universal language. It crosses every generation

Old people and you know - what is old? It's just a number but people in their 80s, 70s, 60s right down to those who are in their early teens love classic rock and we found a way of communicating with a broader span of generations through the use of classic rock songs

NICOLA: I love the fact that you're both embrace classic rock. Your most recent album was called “Posh Pop” and there's another on the way -


NICOLA: In saying that do you think that at the heart of all this punk as an ethos, as a rebellion, with its lack of boundaries still drives your art in some way?

TOYAH: Well, yeah, absolutely. I think rebellion is in my DNA. I was brought up that way. There's nothing I can do about it. I see the world through different glasses to everyone else. It's extraordinary. However when I tried to just fit in with everyone else I managed to just hit some kind of note that is rebellious. And believe me, I'm not trying! It’s me (Nicola laughs). So I've learned to accept it

NICOLA: Oh, wow. You're gonna record “Posh Pop Two” - I hope you're going to come to Scotland soon with your Sunday Lunches -

TOYAH: I am! I'm coming on the Billy Idol tour. We play the Glasgow Hydro on the 21st of October

Oh, fantastic! Well, listen, (I’ll be) down the front for that. It's really, really lovely to speak to you. Thank you so much for coming on Toyah, and thank you for making those Sundays, for what felt like an eternal time, so much brighter. It was so important to people as well. And by the way - the costumes as well - that's a whole other conversation (they both laugh)

For now though, absolute pleasure. Let us go back to this new single. Imagine Toyah recording the demo of this! And here she is, released this week, “Slave To The Rhythm”


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