Four From Toyah (An Alternative Play Record) – Toyah (1981)

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Safari Records TOY 1

Toyah Willcox could never be described as boring. Born in 1958, and a native of my home city Birmingham she is a TV presenter, Film and TV Actress, Author, but mainly known as a producer, writer and performer of music. Her acting career was carved out locally in the mid 1970’s as the punk revolution was taking place. Her dyed hair as a young teenager made her a focus of attention. In 1984 she started with the late Sir Lawrence Olivier in a TV Film “The Ebony Tower”

Toyah wanted to add another string to her bow with her acting career in full flow. Having moved to London towards the later 1970’s she began asking around if anyone needed a singer and eventually was introduced to Joel Bogan, other musicians were auditioned and the band were collectively named Toyah.

In 1979 they began recording what they described as an alternative play otherwise known as a 6 track EP called Sheep Farming In Barnet. After releasing studio albums, live recordings, and EP’s this Alternative Play with 4 tracks started to climb the UK chart, and appearances on Top of the Pops catapulted Toyah into the top ten for the first time reaching #4 in a 14 week run. Unusually this single plays at 33 ⅓ rather than 45 rpm.

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Front Cover – Four From Toyah photo’s credited to Geoff Howes and acknowleged on the B -side of the record label

The main track played on radio was “It’s A Mystery”. The delivery in parts highlighted a slight lisp, however this doesn’t detract from this excellent recording of punk/new wave/gothic rock.

This was so different from earlier single releases and written by a friend Keith Hale and Toyah didn’t feel the song was right for her or her growing army of fans but the record company asked to record it.

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Back Cover showing the titles of all the tracks

Its success may have come down to being more commercial as the other tracks featured on this AP are more non mainstream avant-garde “Revelations”, “War Boys” and “Angels and Demons”.

It’s A Mystery is included on Toyah’s most successful album “Anthem” which made #2 in the UK.

The line up at the time was Toyah Willcox – vocals, Joel Bogen – guitar, Phil Spalding – bass, Nigel Glockler – drums, and Adrian Lee – keyboards. Another two top ten hits came in quick succession. This was followed by “Four More From Toyah” the title track being “Good Morning Universe” reaching #14

Toyah Willcox is still active today recording albums and colaborating with other artists. She has been married for 30 years to Robert Fripp who is a musician, writer and guitarist. His Rock background has had him collaborate with dozens of well-known artists and was a member of the band King Crimson.

 

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Parallel Lines – Blondie (1978)

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Chrysalis Records CDL  1192

This album has been played many times.

I never get tired listening to any of the tracks. Without doubt in my top five records of all time. A mixture of punk elements, rock, pop and their first move into a synth disco song. 12 tracks produced solely by Australian Mike Chapman, known as a writer and producer with Nicky Chinn and at the forefront of British pop with a distinctive sound called Chinnichap in the 1970’s. 

This was Blondie‘s third album release and from gigging in the punk clubs of New York, 1978 saw them with 2 top ten singles and a top ten album in the UK and when Parallel Lines hit the shops,

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Side A – Singles included Picture This and Hanging on the Telephone.

it took them on an almighty global pop experience. The album opens with what was the albums 2nd single release “Hanging on the telephone” which peaked at #5 on a 12 week run on the UK single chart, and top 20 in 3 European territories. “One Way Or Another” written by Debbie Harry and Nigel Harrison, rasps it way along as if in a hurry. Track 3, which was the lead single from the album is “Picture This” a piece of rock / pop about what appears to be lost love which reached #12 for an 11 week run on the UK chart. It also made the top 20 in Ireland and Sweden. “Fade Away And Radiate” is one of my favourite tracks. It’s a slower rock ballad, with a reggae beat ending. Guitar on this was played by Robert Fripp, husband of British Punk Rock singer and actress Toyah Willcox. “Pretty Baby” is an uplifting  pop song, and  includes a spoken word passage by Debbie Harry , with the other band members vocals over the top. Side A finishes with

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Side B – Singles include Sunday Girl and the International #1 best seller Heart of Glass

“I know But I Don’t Know” written by Frank Infante  and sees the use of the bass and drums which are clearly heard.

Side B starts with “11:59” written by Jimmy Destri. The lyrics evoke a dark place and time. “Will Anything Happen” total commercial punk rock at its best. Moving on to “Sunday Girl” written by Chris Stein was the 4th and final single release from the album, a big pop hit across the world reaching #1 in the UK for 3 weeks in a 13 week chart run, at the time a second #1 in a row. I have a 12 inch version with the B-side duplicated by being sung completely in French.

“Heart of Glass” is the track that gave Blondie their first taste of US chart success, ironically with a synth pop song, peaking at #1. It also made number one in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, several European territories and for the first time the UK with 4 weeks at the top in its 15 weeks on the chart. The album version contains the word “ass” in one line when

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Back Cover

part repeating it from earlier in the song, which was edited in the UK single version thus passing the unhappy BBC Radio censors. “I’m Gonna Love You Too”, is a Buddy Holly cover version. “Just Go Away” closes the record another rock/pop song.

The British public took Debbie Harry (Vocals), Chris Stein (Guitars), Nigel Harrison (Bass Guitar), Frank Infante (Guitar), Jimmy Destri (Keyboards) and Clem Burke (Drums) to their hearts.

The album reached #1, was certified platinum and stayed at the top for 4 weeks enjoying an incredible 114 weeks on the UK chart.  In the US Billboard Album chart sales took it to #6. It also hit the top ten in several countries peaking at #2 in Australia.

The album was recorded in New York and mixed in Kentucky, and the cover art attributed to Edo. As of 2008 sales worldwide have reached 20 million copies and recently I saw a brand new vinyl pressing on sale in my home town.