Since the day we set up this blog and Twitter account, Polly and I have sometimes encountered the view that such-and-such ‘isn’t really punk’. By which they mean 1st generation saw-the-Sex-Pistols and lived-in-a-London-squat sort of punk. Here at punkgirldiaries.com, we tend to think that punk’s a way of thinking that lives on, and what’s more, it probably existed under another name back in Ancient Greece.
But having seen the Sex Pistols and then forming a band doesn’t even guarantee you full punk kudos. Some people seem to be sniffy about Toyah and whether or not she counts as a ‘proper punk’. There’s a Daily Mail article which describes Toyah as ‘the acceptable face of punk’.
Toyah cites the reason that punk attracted her was that it allowed her to be herself. As a child, she had many operations and years of physiotherapy to overcome spinal and leg problems. She was bullied due to her speech impediment and didn’t fit into the 1970’s version of fixed gender identity and roles.
In this interview with Neil McCormick, Toyah talks about punk providing a reason for everything she felt and wanted to do:
“I walked in on my own and the place was full of three hundred people with different colour hair, who’d all made their own clothes and we’re all looking at each other and it was “oh wow! There’s a community! This is fantastic!.” It was fabulous, it gave me so much confidence.”
People came to punk from different outposts and have since moved onto other things. Toyah’s trajectory hasn’t been typical and that’s part of the reason why she’s ‘punk’ mainstream instead of mainstream punk.
Running through all her biogs, blogs and interviews is the idea that Toyah loved the rebellious style of punk whilst maintaining more traditionalist views on politics, morality and music. In this interview, she shows her sensible side – in 1979 she’s proud to be able to tell Sting that her band had been signed with a £30 a week wage. Security and comfort.
The other reason punk purists don’t tend to be Toyah fans is that she seems to have put just as much energy into being an actress as being a musician. Here’s her first TV appearance in the TV drama Shoestring where she manages to be both:
To be blunt, Toyah is overlooked as a part of the punk tapestry because of her sheer level of success. Back in 1978, the cry of ‘sell-out’ was a big emotional tug that held earnest young musicians back. But with albums, tours and acting combined with marriage to famous guitarist/producer Robert Fripp, Toyah has left the world of making-do far behind. She has her own blog and glamorous website: https://toyahwillcox.com/ and has recently celebrated her 60th birthday complete with stadium retro-fest and close-up acoustic gigs at little venues. Punk credibility is a fine thing, but to be rich and successful might just be preferable. Toyah, we salute you and would love to hear from you!