Alive, She Cried: ‘Toyah! Toyah! Toyah!’

❉ Cherry Red continue with their impressive re-releases of Toyah’s albums, writes James Collingwood.


After only two albums it may have seemed slightly early in Toyah’s career to record a live album. However there appeared to be three reasons for the release of Toyah! Toyah! Toyah! in 1980. One: Toyah had been filmed for a one-hour ATV documentary that included clips from this gig and brought her nationwide coverage. Two: It was a last add on gig of a UK tour and would be the last time she played with this particular band.  Thirdly: She was on the cusp of stardom and becoming a regular Smash Hits and Look-In cover star.

Cherry Red continue with their impressive chronological repackaging of Toyah’s Safari Records albums with their re-release of the live album Toyah! Toyah! Toyah! Presented as an expanded deluxe CD+DVD and a limited edition coloured vinyl LP this album includes the full ATV documentary Toyah!, originally broadcast December 1980, a 24-page booklet with  artwork and photos, an introduction by Toyah herself and sleeve notes by Toyah’s archivist and compiler Craig Astley.

Toyah must have been the hardest working woman in showbiz at the time and really was on a mission to succeed. She seems to have been everywhere.  As well as fronting and touring with the band Toyah was constantly working as a TV, film and stage actress. On stage she had recently appeared in Nigel Williams’ Sugar and Spice at the Royal Court. She had appeared as Monkey in Quadrophenia, in Derek Jarman’s Jubilee and The Tempest, and who can forget her appearance in Shoestring!

The eponymously-titled ATV documentary of the artist was directed by Graham Moore (Emmerdale, The Bill and Brookside) and is a ‘fly on the wall’ film that captures the band rehearsing at their Battersea warehouse known as ‘Mayhem’, concert footage of fan favourites Insects, Danced and Ieya, in sessions, clips of Toyah rehearsing plays and video performances of Neon Womb and the Blue Meaning.

Recorded at the Club Lafayette in Wolverhampton using the famous Rolling Stones Mobile Recording Unit the concert album has high-quality sound for a live recording and features tracks from both Sheep Farming in Barnet and The Blue Meaning and the six-track Safari EP. This edition also includes an unreleased track called She, a reprise of Danced and a longer version of Neon Womb. The band comprises of Joel Bogan on guitar, Pete Bush on keyboards, Steve Bray on drums and Charlie Francis on bass and, as noted before, was the last time this particular line-up would play together. Toyah stated in an NME interview with Paul Morley around this time that the rest of the band were resentful of her acting commitments and only guitarist and co-writer Joel Bogan stayed.

For the song Visions Toyah’s vocals are reminiscent of The Slits’ frontwoman Ari Up but for a lot of the tracks the band sound more prog than punk. Were it not for Toyah’s idiosyncratic vocals, Neon Womb could almost be a Genesis or Black Sabbath song complete lengthy guitar solo. Toyah seems to have a rapport with the audience but the crowd noises don’t interfere with the audio quality. Reports of Toyah gigs at the time suggest that crowds could get unruly, and at one stage you can hear her tell the crowd to “move back a bit”. Stand-out tracks are the opener, debut single Victims of the Riddle, Love Me, Tribal Look with its lyric “Don’t break laws… you’ll never stand a chance”, Race through Space, the apocalyptic and disturbing Insects, Toyah standard Ieya and two strong versions of the crowd pleaser Danced with its enthusiastic stomping jig.

Toyah really is a strong performer on this album and the album and documentary captures a moment in time. It’s not perfect but it is that rare thing – a live album that works.

‘Toyah! Toyah! Toyah!’ was released by Cherry Red Records 13 May 2022 on CD/DVD (CDBRED841), RRP £11.99 and and Limited Edition Coloured Vinyl LP (BRED841), RRP £20.99. Click HERE to order CD/DVD. Click HERE to order on Limited Edition Coloured Vinyl

 James Collingwood is based in West Yorkshire and has been writing for a number of years. He currently also writes for the Bradford Review magazine for which he has conducted more than 30 interviews and has covered music, film and theatre.  His Twitter is @JamesCollingwo1

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