Toyah on It’s a Thriller: ‘I advised Princess Margaret I used to be a punk rocker. She stated “How ridiculous”’ | Toyah Willcox

Toyah Willcox, singer/songwriter

I used to be a cult punk singer enjoying sweaty little golf equipment and getting coated in a lot gob that dry cleaners would go: “Yeuch! We’re not touching that!” Then an excellent PR lady referred to as Judy Totton turned the whole lot round. She put me in each parish journal within the nation that might speak to me. I quickly had all these followers who stated they found me as a result of their dad and mom or grandparents had advised them about this punk rocker.

I used to be making singles that had been eight minutes lengthy with reams of lyrics and had by no means had successful. When Safari Information performed my 1980 single Ieya on rotation of their workplace, a person apparently appeared at their door with a knife and stated: “When you play that tune once more, I’ll kill you!” I began working with a brand new producer, Nick Tauber, who stated I wanted to simplify the message. He was utterly proper.

It’s a Thriller was written by Keith Hale, who was in a band referred to as Blood Donor. Safari had been satisfied it might be successful, however I wasn’t. The demo lasted greater than 12 minutes, with a really lengthy intro and an instrumental. We shortened it to beneath 4 minutes so it could get radio play. Then I wrote the second verse that begins: “It will possibly deal with you with a vengeance and journey you at the hours of darkness.” That bit’s about empowerment, as a result of we’re not in management regardless that we predict we’re.

Toyah on ITV’s Razzmatazz programme in 1981. {Photograph}: ITV/Shutterstock

In any other case, it’s a tune about how life actually is a thriller – it’s a thriller to me that an aeroplane can fly! However the tune is imprecise sufficient that everybody can learn their very own life story in it. I did the vocals in a single take, then Nick stated: “Might you be extra contemplative at first?” We redid the primary 4 strains in a distinct voice, which made the remainder sound like a name to arms.

It was launched on an EP referred to as 4 from Toyah, however there was a vinyl scarcity on the time. Safari had been ringing spherical to get outdated information despatched to the manufacturing unit, so that they might be melted down and pressed, making sufficient to get the tune into the charts. Quickly it was promoting 75,000 a day and went to No 4. Having been uncertain in regards to the observe, It’s a Thriller opened each door for me. Shortly afterwards, I went with Katharine Hamnett to have tea at St James’s Palace with the Queen Mom. Princess Margaret was fabulous. She requested what I did and I stated: “I’m a punk rocker.” She went: “Ohhh! How ridiculous!”

Nick Tauber, producer

I went to the filming of an ATV documentary that includes Toyah’s band and watched them play a tune. They requested me what I believed and I stated: “Would you like the reality?” I advised them that the guitarist – Joel Bogen, who’d completed the whole lot with Toyah – was nice, however I needed to place a brand new band collectively for her. Toyah wasn’t too pleased about dropping the opposite musicians, however she was a really pushed younger woman and needed to achieve success. I introduced in Nigel Glockler, a terrific drummer, an unimaginable bass participant referred to as Phil Spalding and an digital whiz child referred to as Adrian Lee. They gave us a really modern sound.

I at all times suppose a producer’s job is to make information which are inventive and consultant, but it surely’s no good having one thing that nobody will get to listen to. Toyah’s earlier information had been eclectic and darkish, however they didn’t have extensive attraction. My function is to make issues a bit extra business, which I believe is why Safari acquired me in. I spent hours within the studio with Adrian attempting to sync issues up, as in these days the whole lot was handbook. To her credit score, regardless that Toyah didn’t just like the tune at first, she acquired it and understood why it could be a hit.

She was a star the second she walked out of her entrance door – and she or he was sensible at it. She was the identical within the studio. I’d beforehand labored with one other punk band referred to as Slaughter and the Canines, who I liked dearly however they had been tough. They’d been thrown out of their lodge for wrecking it and so they scribbled graffiti all around the studio management room on the primary day of recording their album. There was none of that with Toyah. She by no means made a fuss. She simply needed to hear the music in her headphones and get the lights proper within the vocal sales space, then she’d nail it.

  • Toyah’s Anthem deluxe field set is out now. Her UK tour begins at Epic Studios, Norwich, on 16 September.

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