I Was A Teenage Toyah Fan 8: Which came out of the opened door?
I'd never bought The Sun and was uncomfortable about doing so now. It held all sorts of negative connotations for me. Recently I'd been supportive of the successful campaign to get its sale banned from the campus newsagent but it ran deeper than that. In my head The Sun would always be associated with The Fuckers at school, the bullies. They'd bought it regularly, imagining this made them adult and daring. They'd subsequently sellotaped an endless parade of monochrome newsprint breasts inside their desks and - on one memorable occasion - to the blackboard during an RE lesson.
So I was in a quandary. Tom had sold his story to The Sun and I was curious to read it. You'll have to take my word for this - and some of you may be cynical - but it wasn't in a lascivious "I'm going to get to read all Toyah's secrets" way. I just wanted to know what he'd said.
To be honest I had never been that comfortable around him partly because I felt that he'd always seemed to carry an aura of aggression around with him. Maybe because that was just what people in the bodyguard business tended to do and it was all part of the job? Nevertheless I'd overlooked my initial instincts and given him the benefit of the doubt because he'd been Toyah's boyfriend. If Toyah liked him, I reasoned, he must be all right.
And now that certainty had been thrown into disarray.
The journalist concerned must have been laughed out of the newsroom when he'd filed his story back at Fleet Street. Unfortunately for Murdoch's Minions, Tom didn't really have any dirt to dish. All anyone reading the story would have got out of it was that (a) Toyah was ambitious (b) sometimes they used to have sex (c) sometimes Tom had to do the housework and (d) they'd now split up.
I don't know whether it was the subject's naivety or the journalist's subsequent spinning of what to his chagrin had turned out to be a rather luke-warm exclusive, but Tom ended up coming out of the whole process looking like a bit of a buffoon. His complaints about having to wash Toyah's smalls had a distinctly male chauvinist whiff about them and his revelations about "the day my outburst stunned Olivier" were frankly embarrassing (he'd thrown a jealous tantrum during the filming of Toyah's nude scene for The Ebony Tower). The less said about his macho assertions that "I really ought to go and do this guy Fripp in" the better.
Robert Fripp was about the only useful thing to come out of Tom's kiss-and-tell. I was aware of Fripp but knew next to nothing else about him other than that he'd played guitar on Bowie's Scary Monsters and had been in King Crimson, a band that a hippy called Charlie had played me during an experiment with LSD towards the end of my first year at university (during the hallucinogenic experience I could have sworn I'd heard a voice calling me from deep in the soundscape).
My comic was published in two installments in the official fan club newsletter but Toyah herself seemed to be keeping a low profile in early 1986. Furthermore the Angels and Demons were fragmenting; we did still see a lot of each other, but in smaller groups. A lot of the time I used to hang out with Bob and Lunar and to a lesser extent Eddie and his girlfriend Lynn (who he'd met during the Rebel Run tour two and a half years previously). One of the last times I remember a larger number of us getting together was at Eddie and Lynn's wedding up in Kirkcaldy in early spring. We all made our way up there in little groups although managed to share a hideously crowded train back to London the next day (I stood the whole journey).
Eddie and Lynn weren't the only people to get married in the spring. News came out of a quiet, private ceremony in the West Country at which Toyah and Robert had tied the knot.
In the meantime my life was changing shape again. I came down with glandular fever which put paid to my final exams at the end of university, but which didn't stop me having a great time outside my illness. For a start I suddenly seemed to have no trouble getting girlfriends, which made a nice change. I went to see loads of bands, DJed a lot, went out to nightclubs regularly and inexplicably seemed to be able to smoke and drink anyone under the table with no ill effects the next day.
Perhaps not fulfilling in the long run, but good fun at the time, although given that I now think that I was probably at my physical peak then, it's a shame I frittered it away.
|The Urban Tribesmen|
Even though the Angels and Demons were thinner on the ground now than at any point in the previous three years, it didn't mean Toyah's fans were disappearing. The Urban Tribesmen were still going strong and Gayna Evans (who'd written a Toyah book in the early eighties) had started to organise Toyah parties.
|Me at a Toyah party|
The parties were a lot of fun though. In the absence of gigs it was the only place you could hear Toyah's music in a large venue and it was interesting to meet other fans from around the country all with stories to tell; some similar to mine, some wildly different. On one memorable occasion in late August the highlight of the evening was the playing of a tape Toyah had sent with a message for us all. In it she told us she was now writing and recording her new solo album which was going to be "...100% heavier than Minx..." and also said that she "...would send you all a toe, but I've only got nine left!"This last bizarre message was a reference to yet another erroneous tabloid story published that year which had claimed she'd had a toe amputated and subsequently sent it to an ex-boyfriend.
|On the way to a Toyah party|
Despite this message, Toyah herself was still elusive, although she did release an audiobook album entitled The Lady or the Tiger which featured her reading the short story by Stockton to a backing of her husband's soundscapes. Lunar and I took a trip to the BBC Studios at Maida Vale (where at the time my Dad worked in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop) as we'd heard Toyah would be recording a radio show there, but there was no sign of her.
August became September, which then started threatening to turn into October. I applied for numerous jobs in broadcasting having decided after my experiences in Student Radio that this was the career path I wanted to take. Although I wanted to carry on writing and drawing comics as well. Not to mention join a band.
And then Bob and I spotted in one of the music papers - probably the Melody Maker, which I used to buy religiously - that Robert Fripp and The League Of Crafty Guitarists would be staging a daytime performance in the Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street on 30 September.
We decided to go along. Part of the reason was that I hoped that Toyah might be there. But I was also interested in checking out her new man. What sort of person was he? What did he look like? What kind of atmosphere did he carry around with him?
A dozen or more guitarists sat on chairs in a circle around Robert Fripp who explained some of the ideas behind Guitar Craft, who the Crafty Guitarists were as well as what and how they were going to perform. I hadn't really known what he was going to be like, perhaps imagining some Bowie-ish Seventies rock star, but don't think I'd been expecting this faintly distracted professor-like figure, a musical intellectual whose obvious brain power and euphonic talent far outstripped his slight stature. The sound of the Crafty Guitarists was also like nothing I'd heard before - that many acoustic guitars playing in unison gave the impression of a much larger yet invisible instrument; the sound of a twelve dimensional harp.
After the performance a minor horde of Fripp fans crowded around the maestro. My eyes were elsewhere; Bob and I had spotted a familiar diminutive figure off to one side and made our way over to say hello.
Toyah was pleased to see us and seemed much more relaxed than I ever recall having seen her before. We chatted for around ten minutes, and she once more fed my ego by telling me I was looking good. The situation felt very different from any past meetings. She wasn't the centre of attention and we weren't making any demands of her. We were just... chatting. Was this what being grown up felt like, I wondered?
It had been good to see her, but I had no idea whether I'd be seeing her again at any point over the next few months. In those days the future was a formless, unknowable blank, filled with untapped potential. Some days it felt as if anything could happen.
And some days it did.
Just over three weeks after meeting her at the Virgin megastore I received a letter addressed in a now familiar large unusual hand. I had continued to write to Toyah on a semi-regular basis, but this was the first time she'd written back for a little while. Mindful of the fanclub I'd run for the short-lived Indians in Moscow, she asked if I (and Bob) would like to take over the running of her own fan club as current president Lynda was becoming too busy to continue.
I seem to recall running around the flat shouting "fucking-A!" and "whoopie-fucking-do!" (having recently watched James Cameron's Aliens in the cinema multiple times). I was still unemployed at the time, none of the radio or TV stations having responded in a positive manner to my job applications, but Bob was at work so I made my way into Walthamstow to tell him the news.
It was a different time back then. Landlines and letters were the only way we could keep in touch with each other and we didn't have a phone in our flat. Nevertheless, somehow I managed to make arrangements with Toyah to meet her outside E'G's offices in King's Road at 7.45am on 30 October (a mere week later) where she'd drive me to Lynda's to pick up the fan club paraphernalia and then back to E'G where we'd have a meeting with some of the E'G bigwigs about the club itself.
It was a cold and silent morning, King's Road uncharacteristically quiet. Rather ridiculously I'd gothed myself up to the nines in PVC, leather and studs. Having arrived by tube, I stood shivering in E'G's doorway.
It wasn't just the cold that was making me shiver.
A small car pulled up at the kerb and I could see Toyah at the wheel. She waved. I walked across the pavement and the car door clunked open for me.
Which came out of the opened door - the lady or the tiger?
I climbed into the passenger seat and shut the door behind me.
It is of course at this rather misleading point that this story ends. Whilst it may not be the only story I have in me, it's true to say that from this moment forward I was no longer a teenage Toyah fan...
I was 21 years old for a start.
First and foremost I'd like to thank Toyah without whom this would not only be impossible but also pretty pointless.
I'd like to thank Bob for raiding his diaries for some of the exact details I wouldn't otherwise have been able to recall unaided. I'd like to thank Tes for encouragement and comments.
I'd also like to thank David at Dreamscape and Craig at the Official Toyah Willcox Web Site for their feedback and promotion of this work and also to the other Toyah fans and inhabitants of Twitter and Facebook for making appreciative noises throughout.
The opinions expressed in this memoir are those of my younger, more naive self. They do not necessarily coincide with my current opinions and are in no way representative of the views of Toyah or any members of her entourage past, present or future.
I will be expanding this memoir into a full length book sooner rather than later which will hopefully be published via the lulu.com Print On Demand route, although if anyone offers me another way I wouldn't say no! If you would be interested in this book when it appears, do please register your interest by leaving a comment on the I was a Teenage Toyah Fan website at toyah.org.
As I used to say in the old days, stay proud!