Toyah Willcox

Toyah Willcox (born May 18, 1958) is an English New Wave vocalist, actress, and television personality from Birmingham who released five studio albums and two live discs on Safari between 1979 and 1983. In 1986, she cut a collaborative spoken-word/ambient album with Robert Fripp, whom she married that year.


Early Life

Toyah Ann Willcox was born on May 18, 1958, in Kings Heath, an affluent suburb of Birmingham; the youngest of three children borne to woodworker Beric Willcox and Barbara Joy (née Rollinson), a onetime backing dancer for the 1940s singing comedy duo Flanagan & Allen.

The source of her forename is undetermined. Willcox learned of an obscure ghost town in Reeves County, Texas, named Toyah (possibly after the Native American word for “water”) that had a population of 100 before its destruction by a 2004 tornado.

Willcox attended a private girls school, where she withdrew from her classmates and cultivated interests in music, dance, drama, and outré fashion. After passing her music O-Level, she attended Birmingham’s Old Rep Drama School, a repertory theatre with a famed alumni that includes Sir Laurence Olivier, Albert Finney, and Julie Christie. She first worked as a theatre dresser for productions at The Alexandra and the Birmingham Hippodrome.


Acting

Willcox landed her first significant role in Glitter, a 1976 play in the BBC Second City Firsts series (broadcast November 28, 1976), which also featured (radio and TV presenter) Noel Edmonds and recurrent co-star Phil Daniels. She portrayed Sue, the finger of a pop band named Bilbo (the name of a Scottish band overseen by Bay City Rollers manager Tam Paton). Glitter featured two Willcox originals: “Dream Maker” and “Floating Free.”>

Willcox next played the part of Emma in a Royal National Theatre production of the 1931 play Tales from the Vienna Woods by Austro-Hungarian writer Ödön von Horváth (1901–1938).

In July 1977, Willcox filmed her part as Mad, a murderous tomboy in Jubilee, a punk dystopian film by director Derek Jarman. Mad cavorts with a group of young women — cabaret singer Amyl Nitrate (Jordan, a model for Malcolm McLaren’s SEX boutique), frigid misanthrope Bod (Jenny Runacre), and libidinous groupie Crabs (“Little Nell” Campbell, Columbia in The Rocky Horror Picture Show) — who terrorize modern-day London, portrayed as a bleak apocalypse visited by a time-traveling Elizabeth I. The gang interacts with Scum, a punk band portrayed by The Ants (a Jordan-managed act). Their singer, Kid (Adam Ant), dies in police hands.

Jarman cast Willcox as Miranda in The Tempest, his 1979 adaptation of the 1611 tragicomedy by William Shakespeare. Willcox also played Monkey, a pixie-haired mod girl in the 1979 drama Quadrophenia, a beat-era period film (based on 1973 Who album) starring Daniels as Jimmy, a young Vespa-riding mod whose brief round of thrills (uppers, sex, seaside brawls) precede his breakdown into double-schizophrenia.


Toyah (the band)

In the Jubilee timeframe, Willcox embarked on her first musical activities. She rehearsed with a band of amateurs at Golden Green cemetery led by the groundskeeper’s son, who introduced her to guitarist Joel Bogen, a serious musician from Hampstead.

Willcox and Bogen formed a songwriting partnership and rehearsed as a trio with keyboardist Pete Bush. They played their first show nameless in June 1977 without a bassist. After a spell and Ninth Illusion, they band stabilized with bassist Windy Miller and drummer Dave Robin. Adopting their singer’s forename, they debuted as Toyah on June 27, 1978, in Barnet at the Duke of Lancaster.

Toyah demoed material at Mayhem, Willcox’s converted London warehouse space. Their 1978 demos include “Computers,” “Danced,” “Eyes,” “Gaoler,” “Hunger Hill,” “Israel,” “Little Boy,” “Mother,” “Neon Womb,” “Problem Child,” and “Waiting.” They signed with Safari Records.


Discography:

  • Sheep Farming in Barnet (1979)
  • The Blue Meaning (1980)
  • Toyah! Toyah! Toyah! (live, 1980)
  • Anthem (1981)
  • The Changeling (1982)
  • Warrior Rock (live, 1982)
  • Love Is the Law (1983)
  • Minx (1985)
  • The Lady or the Tiger? (1986 • Toyah and Fripp)
  • Desire (1987)
  • Prostitute (1988)
  • Ophelia’s Shadow (1991)
  • Take the Leap! (1993)
  • Dreamchild (1994)
  • Looking Back (1995)
  • The Acoustic Album (1995)
  • Cabaret (1997 • Toyah Willcox & Nigel Planer)
  • Phoenix (1997)
  • In the Court of the Crimson Queen (2008)

Sources:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *