Toyah: Sheep Farming In Barnet – UK – 7″ EP – 
- Neon Womb
- Our Movie
- Last Goodbye
I was barely familiar with Toyah from seeing a review of “Anthem” in the pages of “Dogfood,” out local New Wave newspaper that was published by Record Mart chain in Orlando in the late 70s/early 80s. The positive review piqued by interest as it was written by Robin Shurtz; a guy I knew from teaching English at my junior high school. Robin had interesting music tastes.Then, in 1981, I bought an issue of Flexipop that had an ad for Toyah’s “Thunder In The Mountains” single. The extreme styling and pose of the photo was sort of like a femme take on “Aladdin Sane” but the eerie calmness of the singer’s pose looked interesting. The look fit right in with Visage and the New Romantics I liked. It made me wonder what music by someone who put that forth as their image might be like.
On a trip to the godlike Record City in Fern Park, I got my chance. There I saw the debut Toyah 7″, an EP [the label called it an “A.P. – alternative play”] featuring six tracks on a 7″ record, so yes, the results spun at 33 rpm and was pretty tinny. But this was the first Toyah music that I heard and I went on to buy a lot more. “Neon Womb” was a pretty vivid opening statement. It began with ragged sax and and an electric piano at a calm tempo before accelerating to full shrieking chaos by the song’s end. It was a unique blend of post-prog rock at frantic punk tempos with some free jazz sax added in there for discomfort. Toyah would not earn any gold stars for her singing. She sounded untrained and living in the moment. “Indecision” was based on a monumental bass riff with a tribal drum loop that never resolved. Very energetic and Toyah was bouncing off of the walls with her delivery. As an actress making inroads to music more than vice versa, she tended to have a very ornate and heavily theatrical delivery. “Waiting” was an insular, unresolved number. It actually sounded as if it had been recorded in a metal can and the unceasing rhythm could have been a loop. It sounded more like a fragment of a song.
“Our Movie” sported exceptionally fruity delivery, heavy on the trills and rolled “r”s from Toyah and the vibe was more solidly New Wave than the other, more frantic material thus far. The standout track here was “Danced” which managed to shine through as the one pop moment of this EP, but with great difficulty. The long, slow intro lasted for almost two minutes before the song found its center and took flight with a memorable guitar riff from co-writer Joel Bogen. But even then, as the song was ascendent, a “what-were-they-thiking” excursion into annoying varispeed technique [it worked for Bowie] scuttled the chorus at exactly the wrong point. Still, in a correct world, this song might have been edited down from 5:13 to a killer succinct 3:00 hit. Finally, the dour “Last Goodbye” ended the EP on a sour note. All military tempos and vocoders for maximum alienation with Toyah herself having the last, strident word as the song ended as cold as stone on her vocal.
If I had to compare this to anything, Siouxsie + the Banshees were an obvious jumping off point, but if you cut Toyah and Siouxsie together, they would both bleed Bowie. He’s the elephant in the room. I detect a lot of “The Man Who Sold the World” in these songs. She and Siouxsie were both proto-Goth but Toyah had too much Prog in her system to rank as an influencer in that genre, even though her second album, “The Blue Meaning,” is a as Goth as it gets. Meanwhile, Siouxsie and the Banshees, went on to become prime architects of Goth.
Toyah would move from her dark roots all over the map, even flirting with dance pop and getting some hits in the process. I like her later, post popstar art rock material quite a bit. The incredible “Prostitute” album sounded every inch like the woman who matured from the girl on evidence here making music that was tempered by her circumstances and fueled by her intellect and passions. But this EP certainly gave indication that here was someone to keep an eye on. Even if she was one member of the UK New Wave movement who almost never ever crossed the Atlantic to plant her flag in America. I think the only Toyah ever released in America was on “Urgh! A Music War.”
– 30 –
Hurrah!A Toyah review.
As you know Monk,Toyah is still my fave artist,someone I have followed and grown with over 40 odd years.I still recall the fabulous shock of “Our Movie” being the opening track for my first ever Toyah gig(Liverpool,Dec 83) and the Sheep Farming album and A.P. are great.My favourite Toyah works are the Editions EG releases “Prostitute” and “Kneeling at the Shrine”(as Sunday all over the World)
Her more recent experimental works as The Humans and This Fragile Moment are stunningly creative and live shows from these two offshoots of her very varied career are my personal favourites.
Have you heard the Blood Donor material?They were basically the earliest incarnation of the first Toyah band but without her on vox and musically are very similar in parts.
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Gavin – She opened the “Love Is The Law” tour with a deep cut like “Our Movie?” Incredible! Speaking of “Love Is The Law,” I was stunned at the time to see that the video for “Rebel Run” actually made the MTV playlist as printed in Billboard magazine every week – even though Toyah never had a US label. I saw it twice and managed to almost tape the whole thing the second time. Of course, her next album was specifically engineered for the US market even though it never managed to sell to US Epic Records, ironically. Even after she recorded a cover if Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out” in the hopes it would give her a cachet over here.
As Toyahs first album there are a few good tracks on the album but as for the rest of it it’s all experimental shouting and wailing how it got a remaster and ‘re release is boyond me . Cherry red must be desperate 80s material.
Philip Colliins – Welcome to the comments. I don’t think it’s so much that Cherry Red is desperate, but that they are [with Edsel] the last man standing for CD reissues at the British mass market level. That they have widely varying mastering quality from release to release [mis-sourced tracks, vinyl rips, etc.] makes me happy that at least with the Toyah catalog, the artist is involved, which can only help in that regard. But the experimental shouting and wailing really got going on the next one!
Mr. PPM (No idea if you knew about this, I didn’t until this past week!)
As I thought I would pay a visit (actually visited before (In 2015/2016 and a few times after every now and then) with no comments or maybe I did, cannot remember. To be honest all these past blogs I have stopped visiting and just based on people’s comments went out or hunted some of these vinyl’s (or CD’s) down for myself.
After looking for a Visage remaster for a Dance Mix Compilation (Red Border On Cover) (I Do have This) after realizing it was remastered by Rubellan Remasters (I have been in contact with him and apparently the license is expiring soon, no time to start with more pressings) looking for a copy.
Then going over to Cherry Red/Cherry Pop UK and thought they may have done something for it, only the Beat Boy and The Anvil albums. Then I saw this advertisement banner and clicked on it.
This was shown: –
What do you think, since you are a fan of Toyah and for me this was my first album experience discovering Toyah with “I Want to Be Free” and “Obsolete” I’m Just wondering if you have any interest in buying this super remastered, reissued set or even the simple 2CD/1DVD edition?
I know I’m on board for some kind of format!!
Mike B (Contributor over at Djjedredy’s Blog)
*Mike B.* – Welcome to the comments! djjedredy might not exist as we know it without your efforts! I have to admit that the “Anthem” 2xCD+DVD is calling out to me. I have a huge Toyah collection, but “Anthem” was my second Toyah purchase. I had read reviews of Toyah in the local New Wave newspaper, “Dogfood,” and the reviewer was an English teacher that I knew from Junior High School [grades 7-9 in the 70s] who had interesting, if Proggy, tastes in music, though I’d never had him as a teacher. So I took a chance on the “Sheep Farming From Barnet” 7″ AP and immediately liked what I heard. “Anthem” was the second Toyah release I bought as it was brand new and I’ve never looked back. I have noted the Cherry Red Toyah campaign and I was not relishing the thought of buying many of these Toyah albums on CD for a third time, but “Anthem” is modestly priced, begins her imperial period, and once I have the DLX RM of that …why not collect the whole set? And therein lay my conundrum. My spartan music budget is already strained to the point of collapse this year. Lots of money going into home improvement and other domestic issues. And that’s fine. I have to pick my battles carefully, and the “Rage In Eden” ultrabox is nigh, and that’s a much more valuable target for me. We’ll see what happens with Toyah.