Thursday, 17 December 2015

Toyah + The Tuesday Club at The Garage Islington London

Toyah - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
So, be honest now, what was your first gig? Mine wasn’t The Sex Pistols at the 100 Club Punk Festival, or The Who at Leeds University Refectory.  I didn’t see Iggy smear peanut butter all over himself while crowd surfing at the Cincinnati Pop Festival and I never saw The Clash at the Victoria Park Rock Against Racism Rally. Nope, my first ever gig was Toyah on June 06th 1981 at the Hammersmith Odeon, the “Anthem Tour” in fact and I was 15 years old. Now, why I should feel a little bit guilty admitting this I’m not sure, but you know how snobby us music fans can be sometimes. But as Toyah herself might say, I should be “proud, loud and heard” and not try to cover up the facts just because it might not be thought of as very “cool”. However, your first gig is rather like your first kiss, buying your first 7” single or going to your first football match, it’s something that stays with you forever. Due to many and varied reasons it was impossible for me to get to many gigs in my teenage years so the whole experience of that first live show was magical.

Toyah - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
My first ever Gig ticket - Toyah Hammersmith Odeon 1981
I remember getting the ticket months in advance and counting down the days. I will never forget that feeling of anticipation when the house lights dimmed, the crowd stopped chatting and that spine-tingling moment when Toyah burst onto the stage in a blaze of colour and I got a glimpse of my first ever Rock Star in the flesh, one that I just happened to have an almighty crush on too! Looking back, I can say that was probably a defining moment in my life, a moment that signed, sealed and stamped my enduring passion for live music that persists to this day. I did see Toyah once more at The Reading Top Rank in December 1982 but in the meantime since that first Hammersmith Odeon gig, I had already moved on to much more noisier fare. I didn’t bother to buy “The Changeling” album, Toyah’s music was no longer my cup of tea and I was clocking up gigs by bands such as The Damned, The Meteors, Black Flag, Hanoi Rocks and The Adicts. Toyah was distancing herself from her Punk roots, which despite me thinking she was not “cool”, were actually pretty credible truth be told, starting up her band quite early on after having seen the Sex Pistols and appearing in Derek Jarman’s movie “Jubilee”. She also narrowly missed out on a role in the Pistols “Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” but did have a live version of “Danced” featured in the brilliant concert movie “Urgh! A Music War” alongside The Cramps, X, The Go-Go’s, Devo and XTC amongst many other fashionable Punk and New Wave acts of the time.

Toyah - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Of course for many of us she will also be forever ingrained in our teenage memories for her role as “Monkey” in Quadrophenia. But after that second gig in ’82 that was it, apart from catching her in the occasional TV programme or hearing a single on the radio I could no longer claim to be a Toyah “fan”. So here I am at The Garage in Islington thirty five years after first seeing her at the Hammersmith Odeon and I must confess to feeling a bit of a fraud standing there at the front amongst her die-hard fans. I was after all, mainly there to see a mate’s band, The Tuesday Club, who were one of the support acts. However, my mind wandered back to that very first gig and a sudden rush of unadulterated nostalgia swept over me and a there’s a genuine shiver down my spine when Toyah bursts onto the stage to the strains of “Good Morning Universe” decked out in a sparkling silver/gold top and a bright shock of blonde hair. She looks absolutely amazing and I feel pretty proud of my fifteen year old self for having such good taste when it came to teenage crushes.

Toyah - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
I think how much I have changed in the thirty five years since that very first gig, but Toyah, well she hasn’t changed a bit! I know Toyah often appears on those Eighties music package tours so I was expecting the show to be a little bit cabaret and dated but I was totally wrong, the band she has assembled were excellent and it all sounded fresh and contemporary and pretty damn powerful too. The songs, stripped of some of that awful 80’s production, really shone and I found myself really getting into it. The highlights for me were the stunning triple hit of “Obsolete”, by far the best track from “Anthem”, and then “Race Through Space” and “Neon Womb”, which to me has always been hugely underrated and deserves to be placed up there amongst those other Post-Punk classics.

Toyah - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The set is pretty much a greatest hits collection mostly made up of some of those familiar early 80’s singles such as “Thunder In The Mountains”, “I Want To Be Free” and “It’s A Mystery” but there were some later tracks that I didn’t know which also stood out. “Little Tears of Love” and “Sensational”, despite being two of Toyah’s later period numbers, were both really great and prompted me to make a promise to investigate the more recent albums as soon as possible. Two cover versions made an appearance, a reasonable stab at Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking” and a pretty faithful run through of Martha & The Muffins’ “Echo Beach”. But it was two classic oldies that really hit the spot, a powerful “Ieya” and of course the stunning set closer “Danced”, which transported me right back to the Hammersmith Odeon on June 06th 1981 and the thrill of my very first live experience.            

The Tuesday Club - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The opening band of the night were The Tuesday Club, which just so happens to be the name of an Arsenal FC podcast too, ironic really as we couldn’t get into the pub near the venue as Arsenal were playing local rivals Spurs. I should have told the bouncer that the Tuesday Club’s keyboard player Roger is a die-hard Gooner and that might have gotten us in for a pre-gig pint a bit quicker. Roger also played keyboards in my Retrosonic Podcast colleague Adam’s band The Jetsonics and we were keen to check out the latest of his many and varied bands. The Tuesday Club are certainly different, to start with they describe themselves as “having a look and style that falls somewhere between The Rocky Horror Show, Oh Boy, Carry On Screaming, a BBC period drama and Dad’s Army”.

The Tuesday Club - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Indeed, there are no typical musical or style reference points on show here, the Rock & Roll hand-book is well and truly ripped up by The Tuesday Club. The six male band members are almost dwarfed by the commanding presence of The Minx, a stunning statuesque six foot goddess decked out in a Russian Army Cap and some impressive high heels. She has the cold, detached look of a somewhat glamorous Stasi Officer and she provides an excellent foil to Andreas Vanderbraindrain, the livewire lead vocalist. The band are all dressed in a selection of vintage military uniforms and they do look a rather seedy and dangerous platoon of the Home Guard. The Tuesday Club are literate and humorous, and Andreas throws himself around with total abandon, at one point somewhat bizarrely waving a book with a picture of Charles Hawtrey on the cover and later smearing himself with a chocolate bar.

The Tuesday Club - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
There’s a touch of Sparks in their songs which are stuffed full of slightly camp, arch humour and "My Consciousness" and "Lady Gargar" really stand out. It’s refreshing to see a band putting so much into the whole package, The Tuesday Club have their own on-line fanzine and Podcasts too along with themed E.P. covers, the uniforms and mysterious pseudonyms.  They know how to sell themselves too – they could be construed as an Anti-Hipster band as in their own words they “just play for the love and the joy, we set our phasers on FUN and go for it!”

The Tuesday Club - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
For more photos of both Toyah and The Tuesday Club then please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and hit “Like”, if you are not already following, to subscribe and get access to the photo album. Some videos of the gig can be found at the Retro Man YouTube Channel here.

My very first attempt at "Rock photography"...! Toyah at Reading Top Rank 1982
Please check out the Toyah "Dreamscape" web-site which has a quite stunning archive featuring photo galleries, press cuttings and even radio appearances that can be downloaded. You can also purchase issues of the Dreamscape fanzine here, including two brand new photo specials.

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