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Daily Record
Daily Record
Rick Fulton

Toyah Willcox on refusing to be 'controlled' by age, and playing Glasgow with Billy Idol

Toyah Willcox continues to be audacious in her 60s and refuses to be “controlled by the number” of her age.

In the 80s her anthem I Want To Be Free and her vivid hair colours made her an icon of rebellious youth.

And the punk remains a beacon of individuality at 64, posing in revealing outfits for her Sunday Lunch YouTube sensation with guitarist husband Robert Fripp.

The videos have had 100million views since they started doing them during lockdown in 2020.

Toyah said: “I’m not being controlled by the number of my age. I have a great passion for what I do and I’m continuing it. Age should only be a number.

“I’ve been rocking in this world for 45 years as a career. You don’t just suddenly stop or stop that connection with music.”

The Birmingham singer and actress – who Coronation Street character Toyah Battersby was named after – has had a late career boom.

Her 2021 album Posh Pop reached No22 – her highest charting album since 1982 – and in October she will tour the UK with Billy Idol, including Glasgow’s Ovo Hydro.

She’s also become a social media star. Toyah and King Crimson legend Robert publish weekly videos at noon on Sundays on the official Toyah YouTube channel.

They have covered songs from Britney to Ozzy Osbourne – Robert on guitar and Toyah gesticulating wildly as she sings, sometimes wearing very revealing costumes.

She posed as a schoolgirl for AC/DC’s Back in Black and covered herself in gold leaf while squirting paint on her chest for their rendition of Foo Fighters’ All My Life.

It’s provocative and often mesmerisingly seductive. Toyah is certainly unapologetic about the videos.

She said: “It has been a positive experience because I’m able to connect with the people who look at what I do in a very positive way. My message is positive. Robert’s message is positive.

“We are playing on British humour and irony and puns.”

Like everyone in 2020 the couple, who married in 1986, were in lockdown at their home in Pershore, Worcestershire, in 2020. On April 5, they posted a video – filmed on Toyah’s iPhone – of themselves dressed up and dancing to Bill Haley and His Comets’ Rock Around the Clock.

The 28-second clip got 100,000 replies in five minutes.

Toyah said: “The replies we got to that first clip were from people who were alone in lockdown and really suffering. They’d enjoyed this clip so much that we felt we had a responsibility to keep entertaining them.

“Sunday Lunch has grown and grown and grown out of that very British humour both Robert and I create.”

Each week Toyah gives Robert a list of songs and he decides which one he wants to do.

“He very much needs to enjoy what he’s playing,” Toyah pointed out. They don’t just use any song – the lyrics have to mean something to them or to what’s happening in the world.

Shirley Manson sings during a Garbage concert on Princes Street in Edinburgh in 1999 (Daily Record)

Toyah said: “We are aware of what we do and how huge the audience is.”

So much so that next year they will tour Sunday Lunch.

Toyah is definitely back in vogue and finding support from places she wasn’t expecting.

She and Robert covered Garbage’s tune I Think I’m Paranoid in May after Scottish lead singer Shirley Manson wrote an open letter on her Facebook page in 2020 claiming Toyah inspired her after seeing her at the Edinburgh Playhouse in 1982.

The Scot even apologised for not admitting she was a fan because as a teenager she didn’t think it would be cool, and then later not revealing she was an inspiration.

Toyah said: “That was really, really lovely. We’ve stayed, via social media, connected. I’m hugely grateful.”

Ahead of her Billy Idol Autumn gig in Glasgow, Toyah remembers her first concert in Scotland playing the city’s Apollo in 1981.

She said: “It had so much character about it. Just getting on stage was an adventure. The way the whole building moved with the audience dancing, it was a fantastic venue. The Scottish fans were riotous. The audience were rapturous and I still find when I play Glasgow the fans are completely dedicated to the lyrics, dancing and singing. I find it a very joyful audience.”

As well as fans from the 80s, Toyah is pleased to see her followers include their children and now children’s

She is proud of her Coronation Street namesake, Toyah Battersby, played by Georgia Taylor. Before she was introduced in 1997, the producers asked Toyah for permission to use her name. She said: “I was very grateful they were so respectful towards me before the
character began to film. I’m very proud of that actually.”

Next up is a six-date arena tour with Idol. Toyah, who starred in Derek Jarman’s punk movie Jubilee in 1978 as well as mod film Quadrophenia the next year, said of Billy: “Our paths crossed but I’ve never had the opportunity to get to know him. But I’m wildly excited about this tour.

“I think it’s going to be a really excellent, high-energy rock night, where the audiences get hits as well as little visitations to punk.”

Toyah will later go on her own tour celebrating her 1981 album Anthem, which will be re-released in September.

She’s also released a cover of Grace Jones’s Slave to the Rhythm and revealed: “I was a demo singer and sang the song before it went to Grace. I was very happy when she did it.”

It follows the success of her 16th studio album Posh Pop.

“I was absolutely thrilled,” she admitted.

“To have written and released it when I was 63 years old and for it to reach No22 in the charts - That’s quite staggering.”

● Toyah joins Billy Idol at the Glasgow OVO Hydro on October 21.

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