Tag Archives: Toyah Willcox

2015 ➤ Hot revelations from the Flexipop book party

Flexipop, pop music, London, Swinging 80s, books,Barry Cain, Tim Lott, Red Gallery

Flexipop founders: Tim Lott and Barry Cain at Red Gallery last night. (Photographed by © Shapersofthe80s)

◼ THREE DECADES AFTER the maverick monthly music magazine Flexipop closed, guilty names were named during last night’s book launch at Shoreditch’s coolest new venue, the Red Gallery. During a Q&A with the mag’s founders Barry Cain and Tim Lott, they confessed that the three most difficult artists to deal with in those heady days of Britain’s burgeoning pop scene were. . . [X-Factor-style pause] . . . Tears for Fears and . . . Paul Weller and . . . the American new-wave band Blondie! Lott tactlessly remarked that what surprised him most was that singer Debbie Harry had “a huge head out of all proportion with her body” – which clearly means he really had a thing about blondes.

Whinging hosts apart, guests at their party were distinctly more polite. Generating tidal waves of affection was the original 2 Tone rude girl Pauline Black, who was happy to chat about this summer’s new album titled Subculture 36 years after her band The Selecter set out, having survived two splits and reunions, and now poised for a UK tour. . . Exchanging gossip beneath the “Free hugs” notice we found veteran 80s popsters Christos Tolera (Blue Rondo à la Turk) and Phil Bloomberg (Polecats). . . Catching up on the music du jour were the gifted jazzer Mark Reilly (Matt Bianco, still going strong and knocking out albums every few years) and the ubiquitous Andy Polaris (Animal Nightlife, long defunct) who these days injects magic into the windows of the UK’s trendiest Oxfam in Dalston. . .

Click any pic below to launch slideshow


Powering through the crowd was photographer Neil Mackenzie Matthews, eager to push his exhibition of pop-star photos printed on smart Somerset paper and selling at very affordable prices. He produced some flopsy-bunny big ears which apparently was the prop he invited stars of the 80s to wear in front of his camera. We saw immortalised on a poster the playful chanteuse Toyah Willcox, though Neil recalled how, despite having bought the ears as a gift for the precious Ian McCulloch of Echo and The Bunnymen (geddit?), he refused outright to see their entertainment value.

It was Flexipop’s belief that all celebs should be humiliated at every turn. As further proof, souvenirs of the magazine’s heyday were visible everywhere, including a blown-up cartoon strip satirising Marc Almond as a “sex dwarf” and Dave Ball his partner in Soft Cell as a beer-swilling “mega-hunk”. Writs for libel were due to be served at midnight.

Flexipop’s trademark plastic 7-inch discs were being dispensed free, after unsold supplies were recently unearthed in Cain’s mum’s garage – and “still playable”, assuming you have a wind-up gramophone.

Apparently Paul Weller couldn’t get along to the party as he was collecting some award as Modest Mod-father of Them All.

➢ The big public Flexipop! book launch party
for charity starts at 7.30pm tonight 25 Sept at the Red Gallery, London EC2A 3DT – tickets £20 at door

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➤ Steve Strange: deciphering the pen portraits of the man of masks

Toyah Willcox, Steve Strange

Click on image to view BBC vintage video from 1981: Toyah Willcox interviews Strange in Robin Hood guise

◼ ONE OF STEVE STRANGE’S TALENTS was persuading the press to believe in his latest wheeze, however fantastic. He had a way of convincing himself that a story was already written and a mission achieved before he had pressed the accelerator and set off. This irritated as many journalists as it amused and many were consequently very sceptical of his next big announcement – like saying he’d booked a big American star to do her first live promotional performance in Britain at his crowning glory, the Camden Palace, capacity 1,410. But in fact he had and she did, and in June 1983 the unknown Madonna was launched singing to backing tapes for half an hour.

The myths surrounding Steve were always the stuff of self-promotion. Today, he would say, I am Robin Hood, tomorrow Ruritanian Space Cadet, the next day Marionette with the mind of a toy. A compulsive man of masks presents a tricky subject for the scribblers obliged to capture that life once it is spent, so we must tiptoe through the obituaries like a minefield, and beware of tripping over Steve’s much-spun versions of history that were pure fantasy. Even national newspapers seemed to fall for many of the dreams he spouted, as well as the exceedingly vague memories committed to his 2002 book, Blitzed.

➢ Read extracts from the obituaries inside Shapersofthe80s: As the mainstream writers lead you through those New Romantic years, see if you can spot the porkies

BOY GEORGE’S OWN TRIBUTE TO HIS RIVAL

➢ At Shapersofthe80s: Original Blitz Kids say farewell to Steve Strange, their host, pivot, style icon, friend

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➤ Toyah’s odyssey from Viennese Woods to Wicked Queen

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❚ AS TOYAH’S 30th ANNIVERSARY TOUR, From Sheep Farming To Anthem, comes to an end in London on Saturday after months on the road, let’s compare and contrast the manic bouncing Toyah from the Rainbow Theatre in 1981 (above) with the smiling mumsy Toyah 22 studio albums and a stage career later (having happily admitted to having had a facelift in 2008). Earlier this summer she seemed genuinely affected by the welcome War Boys received 30 years on (video below) … The hour-long Rainbow video is a brilliant reminder of what a force Toyah was in the singles charts of 1981 when her second album Anthem also went platinum — by year’s end she won the Smash Hits Reader’s Poll as both Best Female Singer and Most Fanciable Female. In 1982 she was voted the Best Female Singer at the Brits.

All of which had become a curious adventure following her lucky break aged 18 and fresh from drama school in Birmingham. In 1977 Toyah was cast in the role of Emma in Tales from the Vienna Woods at the National Theatre. The role required her to front a band they called Toyah wearing orange hair, and the rest is history. OK, a couple of edgy parts in Jubilee (video clip with Adam) and Quadrophenia helped too.

Toyah’s lucky year, 1977: playing Emma in Tales from the Vienna Woods, and a shaven-headed punkette in Derek Jarman’s film Jubilee

❏ Back in the present, Toyah can take only a short rest, however, before she’s back onstage, yeahhh! In panto, yeahhh! As the Wicked Queen in Snow White, boooo! Toyah says: “It’s a gift as an actress to play a baddie because you can be really nice and noone believes you, and you can be plain bad and noone loves you.” Panto comes to us all, darlings. Even Cliff Richard. Eventually.

➢ Snow White, Dec 9–Jan 1 at the Alban Arena, St Albans — Visit Toyah’s website for blog and plans of a spring tour

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