WFMU DJ Julie (of Dark Night of the Soul) says:
This spring I excitedly told friends and family that I'd be interviewing one of my childhood idols, singer/actress Toyah Willcox. This announcement was met with blank stares and silence from those who assumed they didn't know her due to their age or a "Who's that?" from the unembarrassed. At least one responded with, "Oh, Robert Fripp's wife." When I explained she was a household name in the UK, with huge hits like "I Wanna Be Free," and "It's a Mystery," they may have thought I exaggerated her fame because of my excitement.
So why don't people in the U.S. know Toyah Willcox? Her biggest claims to fame here, aside from the Fripp connection, may perhaps be her appearance in the film "Quadrophenia," or her narration of "Teletubbies." Toyah blames her reluctance to tour outside the U.K. for her relative anonymity. But there are other English performers who never played the U.S. -- Kim Wilde and Kate Bush for example -- who still managed to have American hits in the '80s. So what is it about Toyah that people here never picked up her records? Why no airplay?
Hooked since I saw her photo in the UK magazine Smash Hits and immediately sought out her records, I count myself among the elite group of American Toyah fans. There was enough interest to justify the (temporary) existence of the North American Toyah Fan Club. Back in the East Orange days, Toyah appeared on WFMU in 1991, with Fripp, on Dave Mandl's show for an interview about their project, Sunday All Over the World, and I was delighted to bring her back on the air -- via phone -- 20 years later.
Toyah is currently touring the UK in celebration of the 30th anniversary of her classic album, Anthem. Always eager to travel, I headed out to London to see one of her shows and meet the lady herself. Her current band, The Humans, recently signed to a New York label, and it seems a tour with them is brewing for the fall. Whether she comes with her new band or her classic material, new and old American Toyah fans will be happy to finally see her.