Toyah Willcox has a highly successful, prolific and incredibly diverse career of which music is a major component. In a career spanning over 30 years she has amassed 13 top 40 singles, recorded 20 albums, toured live accross the world and written and recorded with Simon Darlow, Steve Lillywhite, Nick Tauber, Mike Hedges, Christopher Neil, Tim Elsenburg, Trey Gunn, Robert Fripp and Bill Rieflin.
In 2007, Toyah released Latex Messiah (Viva La Rebel In You) – her 22nd single and her first ever digital single release. The album was followed in 2008 by her first full-length studio album in 14 years, In The Court Of The Crimson Queen. Toyah continues to write and record and in 2009 releases We Are The Humans, an album by collaboration outfit, The Humans, with Bill Rieflin (REM) and Chris Wong (Toyah’s band guitarist and Musical Director).
In 1977, Toyah put together the first embryonic line up of her own band with Joel Bogen. Whilst the band line up continued to evolve and change the band played the college and university circuit for two years and gathered a repetoire of their own original material. German based independent label Safari Records signed the band in late 1978.
By 1979 Toyah’s band was gaining critical success with the debut single Victims of the Riddle (no 1 in the independent charts) and six track EP Sheep Farming in Barnet. The following year, Toyah’s album The Blue Meaning became a Top 40 hit. An ATV Documentary “Toyah” and an accompanying live album Toyah! Toyah! Toyah! confirmed her status as one of the most significant new talents of the Eighties.
A European tour, further television roles and chart successes including It’s A Mystery, I Want to Be Free and the platinum album Anthem followed and 1981 ended with a Christmas Eve concert from Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, screened live as The Old Grey Whistle Test Christmas Special. 1982 saw her winning Best Female Singer at the Rock & Pop Awards and extensive touring in support of the follow up album The Changeling and the hit singles Brave New World and (Be Proud, Be Loud, Be Heard)
In 1984 Toyah’s music career took a turn as she became ultimately a solo artist. She was signed to the CBS label Portrait, and her first solo album Minx was released in 1985, produced by Christopher Neil. Toyah’s first collboration with King Crimson-founder Robert Fripp came in 1986 with the project album The Lady or the Tiger, released under the monkier Toyah & Fripp. The album consisted of Toya’hs spoken word narration set to Fripp and The League of Crafty Guitarists’s soundscapes. A second solo album Desire followed in 1987, and included the first co-write between Toyah & Fripp. Robert Fripp and Ronnie Wood also played – albeit uncredited – guitars on the album.
Her least commercial album Prostitute was released in 1988 as Toyah moved away from the glare of the pop spotlight and sought out and refreshed her lyrical colour once more. This experimental album is seen as the benchmark for the newest generation of honest and expressive singer songwriters. With her husband Robert Fripp (a Bowie and Blondie collaborator) she formed the band Sunday All Over the World, who became known for their strong live performances and toured world-wide before recording the debut album Kneeling at the Shrine which received critical acclaim.
She also appeared at the ‘Women in Music Festival’ at London’s Shaw Theatre with an aptly named girl band, ‘The She-Devils’. During 1991 Toyah and Robert Fripp travelled to America to promote both albums released that year, Sunday All Over the World and Toyah’s self produced Ophelia’s Shadow, the album Toyah feels is her strongest to date.
1992 saw Toyah tour Germany, Britain and Poland with progressive-rock/jazz outfit Kiss of Reality and in Spring ’93 they recorded an album. In the summer of 1993 Toyah recorded a rock album Take the Leap! which included a brand new recording of It’s A Mystery. To aid this return to her rock roots she brought in a band of young musicians from Salisbury and they embarked on a successful tour of Britain.
In March 1994 she began a music tour which would be one of the biggest Toyah had undertaken, continuing throughout the year until the end of November, playing England, Ireland, Scotland and South America. The Dreamchild album was released in May and received rave reviews in Europe and the UK whilst second single Now and Then was remixed by DJ Tim of Utah Saints. Toyah went onto play live as the special guest at the UK Heineken Music Festivals appearing in front of audiences of 5,000 to 10,000 people.
During 1996 Toyah guested on Trey Gunn’s “The Third Star” album and in the autumn she returned to her hometown, Birmingham to perform a series of acoustic concerts at the prestigious night-club Ronnie Scott’s. She also released Toyah – The Acoustic Album, featuring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on two tracks. In 1997 Toyah toured the UK with her band, recorded a studio album version of the musical Cabaret with Nigel Planer and joined music station VH1 as VJ presenter. Toyah made her first musical recording of the 21st century in 2001 with a vocal contribution to the track Killing Made Easy with punk band Family of Noise.
Toyah joined her fellow 80’s pop stars ABC, Howard Jones and ex-Spandau Ballet in April 2002 when she performed on the Here and Now UK stadium tour. Toyah stole the show with a daring outfit which alluded to her 80s stage costumes. The nostalgia-filled tour saw Toyah perform her biggest hits to a sold out Wembley Arena and a crowd of over 20,000 at Manchester Evening News Arena.
2002 saw Toyah return to songwriting as she co-wrote and recorded new material for a limited edition EP, Little Tears of Love and a one-off preview concert at London’s prestigious Ronnie Scott’s venue. Carlton Television also made a documentary on Toyah’s music career in December as part of the Rock Legends series.
Toyah continued to record material and in May 2003 a brand new mini-album Velvet Lined Shell was released on Toyah’s own record label Vertical Species Records, showcasing a darker, edgier direction. In addition, her personal favourites and most critically acclaimed albums Prostitute and Ophelia’s Shadow were repackaged with commentary from Toyah and reissued on Vertical Species. In October 2003, Toyah performed a one-off concert at the Mean Fiddler in London to mark the celebration of her 25 years in showbusiness and the music industry.
2004 saw Toyah return once again to her musical roots as part of The Best of the 80s Tour – a month-long national UK tour alongside fellow 80s hit-makers Nick Heyward, Curiosity Killed the Cat and Altered Images. In 2005, demand resulted in the reissue of Toyah’s 80s albums Warrior Rock – Toyah on Tour and Love is the Law, receiving their first ever CD release. This was followed by CD reissues of the 1985 studio album Minx and a rarities anthology, Mayhem. This series of reissues all contained material and bonus tracks previously unavailable on CD.
In addition, Cherry Red issued two CD collections which compiled all of Toyah’s A-Sides and B-Sides from 1979-1983. Toyah successful played at many of the 2005 summer festivals including the Wasted Punk Festival and the Hastings Beer & Music Festival, performing alongside Keane to 4,500 festival-goers. An Autumn concert date featuring Toyah, her band and a guest brass section, was recorded and released in November as the DVD, Wild Essence – Live in the 21st Century.
In the autumn of 2006 she embarked on The Hitmakers Tour, a series of live UK dates with Howard Jones and ABC’s Martin Fry. The year also saw two further CD album releases, – a reissue of the live album Toyah! Toyah! Toyah! and the first ever UK release of the acclaimed album Take the Leap! – previously only available on CD in Japan, complete with four bonus tracks and two critically acclaimed previously unheard demos.
In 2007 Toyah has continued to perform concerts with her band, including a series of summer dates at prestigious outdoor venues across the UK. Toyah also began writing and recording a brand new studio album with Simon Darlow, and signed a brand new worldwide publishing deal with Zomba Music. Her first digital single – Latex Messiah (Viva La Rebel In You). This was followed up with the 2008 album In The Court Of The Crimson Queen, written and produced in collaboration with Simon Darlow.
Alongside this Toyah began a collaboration with Bill Rieflin (REM) and Chris Wong on the band project, The Humans. Described as “European experimental meets West Coast American grunge”, The Humans debut live performances took place in Estonia in 2007. Their debut album, We Are The Humans, was recorded in Seattle in 2008 and released in Estonia in May 2009 to coincide with the band’s return to play before the country’s president at Tartufest. It received a UK digital release in September 2009, along with a Humans’ single, These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.
The Humans marked their first ever like UK appearances with a series of warm-up concerts in the very intimate and beautiful surroundings of churches including St. Michael’s & All Angels’ Church and St. Anne’s Church, Worcester. These were followed up by dates across the UK, featuring special guest Robert Fripp playing live with the band. They appeared on the bill of acts invited to perform at The Roundhouse for the Helping Haiti fundraiser concert. Their UK tour culminated in a headline date at London’s Scala, yielding a 4-star, review from the Financial Times who concluded it was an “intriguing, often terrific, show” with “programmed beats, sinewy, rumbling rhythms, a kind of twisted funk”. The Humans’ forthcoming, second album Sugar Rush, which sees a further development of the band’s songs and sound will be released worldwide in winter 2010. The album features guest guitar on all tracks from Robert Fripp.