I Was A Teenage Toyah Fan 4: Angels and Demons

Even before the car had pulled over I could see that Toyah had clocked me. She continued looking directly at me as it stopped, opened the door and marched directly towards me with single-minded intent.

"I've just realised," she said "You're the same Chris Limb I used to write to YEARS ago!"

It was the summer of 1983 so I suppose at a stretch it could have been described as years ago (two to be precise). She had written me a handful of letters (probably nothing compared to the reams of drivel I used to send her) but even so... Still, it sounded good. It sounded very good. Everyone else must have felt more than a little impressed and perhaps somewhat jealous.

However, paranoid soul that I was my main thought was Oh no - I hope she doesn't remember those bits where I wrote that I loved her! Or still worse bring the letters along and read them out so everyone laughs at me!

But how had I managed to reach the point where she not only knew me but was able to make the connection with my earlier fan letters in only a few short months?

It was mainly because back then time seemed to contain a lot more room in which things could happen.  The year was not even half over and had already become the best year of my life so far.  I suppose it could have been thought of as my Gap Year as I'd finished school but had yet to start university, but what a Gap Year it had turned out to be.

It was meeting Hayley that previous December that had done it. Hayley was as obsessed with meeting Toyah as I was, but seemed to have her ear to the ground a lot more than me and knew what was going down and where. The first event we went to was the British Rock and Pop Awards at the Lyceum in February 1983, the forerunner of the modern BRITs, at which the previous year Toyah had received the award for Best Female Singer.  We weren't able to go inside and watch or anything, we just hung around outside waiting for Toyah to turn up.

Hayley had eschewed the camera for a more imaginative method of chronicling the event.  She brought along a portable tape recorder and microphone. These days of course we'd all be recording such events on our phones in full sound and vision but back then the idea of taping it seemed quite radical.  On this particular occasion she also recorded Boy George saying hello to her. Listening back to these tapes now they're almost unlistenable, partly because of the recording quality but mostly because listening to your teenage self is embarrassing. Luckily I was still pretty quiet back in those days too.

Other pop stars arrived. The Belle Stars, Duran Duran, Buster Bloodvessel (whom the bouncers were very dubious about letting anywhere near the entrance until he'd shown them his invite).

Eventually Toyah turned up. I think Hayley must got a little overexcited on this occasion; she'd brought along a ring as a present for Toyah and duly gave it to her - but in exchange tried to get Toyah to give her one of her famous "eyeball rings"...

"Hey! You're not having that!" said Toyah (although she seemed to take this cheekiness with a pinch of salt).

I had to go home before anyone emerged at the end of the evening, but received a full report from Hayley by telephone the next day, as well as news of somewhere else Toyah'd be appearing in a week or so - the Russell Harty Show (a chat show infamous for the host being slapped in the face by Grace Jones two years previously). I don't recall how we managed to get tickets - I think it was just a case of turning up at the Greenwood Theatre on the day and setting Hayley loose on the receptionist.

Toyah and Hayley after Harty
Once inside we secured ourselves front row seats. This week's show had the theme of "school days"; Harty himself was dressed in a gown carrying a cane whilst the three guests - Toyah, Willie Rushton and Janet Bloody Street Bloody Porter were seated at wooden classroom desks.  The show was interesting enough, the guests regaling Mr Harty with tales of their time at school; Toyah entertained us with details of the occasion she hid an alarm clock under the stage in the school hall, timed to go off during a speech by visitor and then Education Minister Thatcher. Sadly the Iron Harpy's reaction to this is not on record. Also mentioned was the fact that Toyah would soon be appearing in a play at the Mermaid Theatre every day for the entire summer, Claire Luckham's Trafford Tanzi.

After the show we waited at the stage door along with two girls Alison and Linda, and walked with Toyah and Tom to the car, recording sound and snapping photos as we went. I got the impression that Toyah was beginning to recognise me now, if only as Hayley's sidekick.  Eventually Toyah drove off and we departed, planning to meet back at the Mermaid Theatre in fifteen days for the start of Tanzi. We had no idea what we were about to embark upon.

And so it begins...

Toyah and me at the Mermaid, day 1

Mid-week, early-afternoon, late March. A Wednesday.  Hayley and I arrived at the Mermaid Theatre and met up once more with Alison and Linda. Today was the first day of previews for Tanzi before the official opening a few days later.  I can't remember how long we waited but eventually a car drew up and Toyah emerged, dressed in a grey tracksuit. She looked very young for some reason... it took me a few seconds to realise that this was because she didn't have any makeup on.

 She seemed a little surprised to find us waiting there - aside from Alison, Linda, Hayley and myself there were a couple of other fans around and Toyah spent five minutes or so chatting, posing for pictures, signing autographs and answering questions, staying outside for far longer than most people would have done, despite having to go to work...
Toyah at 24 by catmachine
At one point she said hi to me and asked how I was - another indication that she was beginning to remember me, I thought.

I wasn't going to see the show that night - even back then theatre tickets were expensive, but I had already bought tickets for performances in April and on Toyah's birthday. Not having tickets didn't stop us going back to the theatre and waiting outside a few days later. And a few days after that. More people began to turn up and hang around and after a while a close knit gang of regulars began to coalesce. Toyah got to know who we all were, including me. She even made the connection between the spotty peroxide boy Chris and the author of the embarrassing fan letters from a couple of years earlier.

After a while we thought we should probably give our small group a name. We discussed possible titles drawn from Toyah's canon before eventually settling on Angels and Demons. Nothing to do with Dan Brown (who would only have been about 18 at the time anyway) this was track four of the Four From Toyah EP, a haunting song with lyrics loosely based on the Arthur C Clarke novel Childhoods End.

Toyah loved this idea of a little gang and insisted that she was one of us as well.  We got the artistically inclined member Bob to design us a logo which we drew on the back of our jackets in gold marker pen.  Toyah even brought a jacket of her own in and asked Bob to draw the logo on it.  Once he'd done so she added her own tagline to the bottom:

The Chosen Ones

Listening back to some of Hayley's recordings of the early days (although she stopped documenting our summer in this way fairly early on thank goodness) the overriding impression you get is how damned patient Toyah was with us. There she was surrounded by teens babbling incomprehensible questions at her from every angle and she took it in such good spirits, making a point of spending time with us where so many other celebrities wouldn't have bothered.  When she had the sides of her hair styled short for the photo shoots for the forthcoming album and single she gave each of us a lock.

And we were so hyperactive. High on nothing but youth and alcohol, we were a strange collection of individuals. There was Toyah of course, the Boss. Hayley, Alison and Linda.  Artistic Bob and his friend Lee. Steve. Eddie and Simon who were tall and cool and knew about the Batcave, Specimen and Sex Gang Children. Bill who was into heavy metal as well as Toyah.  Mark.  Kev from Watford and his mate Russ. Trevor. Lunar the outrageously tall thin man who was older than Toyah and claimed to be able to do black magic. The other Chris who was also older than Toyah. Zetta. Abi and Jenni the "munchkins". And me.

Spring became summer. In an article about the play in Smash Hits rival "Number One" Toyah's co-star Neil McCaul (who went on to star in a plethora of TV shows including the controversial  Heil Honey I'm Home) was quoted as saying "We get punks camping out around the theatre. It's like a new wave Greenham Common."

We hadn't actually camped out, but the quote was all the encouragement that we needed to do so. The following Saturday we all turned up with our sleeping bags and after saying goodbye to Toyah when she left the theatre set up camp in Puddle Dock and went to sleep for the night.

This became our weekly ritual. When Toyah began recording her new album at the Marquee recording studio in Wardour Street we extended these habits, catching the last tube from Blackfriars to Leicester Square after the play and hanging around outside the studio until she finished for the night before walking back to the Mermaid and crashing out for a few short hours.

Bob and the Big Graffiti
There was something strangely calming and surreal about half-waking at 4.30am in the centre of a totally deserted city, tucked away from general view in an industrial cul-de-sac, the desolate sounds of lonely vehicles passing occasionally through the nearby tunnel which we'd christened with our name in two-foot high letters. The oddness of realising that one had been asleep in such an unusual situation.

Sundays were usually spent at home recovering.

Sometimes real life got in the way of this unorthodox idyll. Several of us had to go away on family holidays and missed a week or so of the unrepeatable experience. I was particularly lucky yet very unfortunate - my parents had arranged for me to spend time in Mexico spending five weeks travelling around and staying with a friend of a friend of the family.

Mexico was amazing, but I was so upset to be missing the party.  I sent postcards on a regular basis back to Toyah and the rest of the gang care of the Mermaid Theatre.

When I returned there were only a couple of weeks of Tanzi left. I'd missed some amazing things; apparently one night at the Marquee Toyah and her guitarist Joel had asked the members of the Angels and Demons who were outside that night in to record backing vocals on the title track of the album Love is the Law. I'd also missed some trials and traumas too, as well as a coming out. The good thing was that everyone was pleased to see me back including Toyah.

The last night felt like the shindig at the end of the world.  The play had been spectacularly successful  and over the months we'd seen a number of famous visitors including Tracey Ullman and Rik Mayall.  Toyah had been asked to stay on but was unable to as not only had she a tour coming up at the end of the year, but was also flying off to France immediately after the end of Tanzi to make a film, The Ebony Tower, with Lawrence Olivier and Greta Scacchi.

Maybe it was because we were all drunk, but the final performance seemed like the best of the run. Outside afterwards Puddle Dock was crowded with fans from all around the country, a street party to end all street parties which continued long after Toyah had left.  Larger numbers than ever crashed out on the pavements and walkways of Blackfriars that night before being determinedly escorted out of the City of London by two hard-nosed police constables.

A chapter had ended but the events therein had completely changed the shape of the book.  The future looked bright.

Coming soon

Part 5: The Angels and Demons hit the road...


Eddie said…
I was there in spirit!! I've been a fan since 1980 when I first saw the ATV documentary... I managed to get the mother to allow me to go to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane gig on 23 Dec 1981 (my first ever gig!) and it was amazing :) never forget that! Have a couple of really bad pics from then (crap camera!)... saw one of the Strange Girls gigs at the Borderline (1992 I think) and still kicking myself for not having the confidence in my drumming to audition for them after Denise left... ah well... and seeing her with the full band lineup next month.. wooohoooo!! I'm still a teenager at heart!! Would've loved to have been a part of the Angels & Demons... nice one!!

Looking forward to part 5 :)
Kim said…
I remember seeing you guys around. I was really young (I think I was 12 when Tanzi played) and my parents insisted on accompanying me everywhere (gosh can't think why), I was so jealous of the Angels & Demons lol. It's neat to read your reminiscences & see the pics.

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