July 21, 2023

These two releases now available form a perfect set of stepping stones leading from the club-venue rawness of Toyah! Toyah! Toyah! to the theatrical, large scale Changeling shows which birthed Warrior Rock. They have been a long, long time coming, and they are most welcome to say the least.

Continuing the excellent Toyah reissue series comes the bonus of two albums, both originally recorded in 1981, to follow up the slightly earlier Toyah! Toyah! Toyah!, recorded the previous year. Interestingly, however, these two albums – which nicely bridge the gap between the raw Toyah! Toyah! Toyah! album and the later more populist Warrior Rock double – are less reissues than they are entirely new releases. Live At The Rainbow, of course, from a February 1981 show, was a popular video release back in the day, but oddly enough has never seen the light of day in audio form until now. Live At Drury Lane, on the other hand, is a show from the latter end of that same year, originally broadcast by the BBC on the annual Old Grey Whistle Test Christmas In Concert programme, and has only ever been available, for a relatively short time in incomplete form, on a BBC videotape called Good Morning Universe. The differences between the two releases really highlight how much was going on within a few months of this highly successful year, and is a large part of what makes these releases a fascinating back-to-back listen for fans.

When the Rainbow show took place at the end of a UK tour in early 1981, the success of the recently released Four From Toyah EP (with its lead track It’s A Mystery of course) led to an upsurge in popularity, and when the originally planned date at The Lyceum had to be rearranged owing to a double-booking, downsizing was no longer an option, and the gig was duly moved to the legendary Rainbow Theatre (scene of the last Ziggy Stardust shows and Eric Clapton’s comeback performance and live album, among others), the biggest venue Toyah had played up to this point. The major change since the last Studio album The Blue Meaning and the previous live album was that the original band had splintered in late 1980, and 1981 dawned with only Toyah and her songwriting foil, guitarist Joel Bogen, left in place. Phil Spalding and Adrian Lee came in on bass and keyboards respectively, but perhaps the biggest change was the arrival of Nigel Glockler on drums, whose impressively powerful performances led to him soon moving to the drum stool with Saxon.

As previously noted, Live At The Rainbow has long been available as a filmed performance, and this is included on the second disc of this set in DVD format, but the audio adds a whole extra seven tracks, with four added in to the show sequence which is now in its correct order, with only three tracks moved to the end, as they are in mono only – though still in very good quality. This is a far more complete and authentic listening experience, therefore – and the first thing to notice is what a brave set it was for anyone not a die-hard at the time. There are eight of the original 11 tracks from the debut album Sheep Farming In Barnet, as well as both sides of the early single release Bird In Flight/Tribal Look, with just five from the follow up The Blue Meaning. A smart touch at the time, however – which doubles as a bonus for fans now – is the inclusion of all four tracks from the Four From Toyah EP: the Anthem album had yet to be recorded, but It’s A Mystery had just entered the charts and seen the band on Top Of The Pops for the first time, and this EP was the first material recorded by the new line-up, so not only was it good for them to play, but also would have been heard by any new converts having bought the EP. This context still barely lessens the surprise at hearing the EP track War Boys as the show opener, and with six ‘deep cuts’ mainly from the first album following up, along with Angels And Demons from the EP, this is marvellous stuff for the hardcore fan today. It’s A Mystery comes up at this mid-show point, and apart from the unexpected diversions to Ghosts and the rarely played Computers, the more popular stuff from these more niche days comes in, with Bird In Flight and Tribal Look giving way to a barnstorming finale of a scintillating Victims Of The Riddle (which has never sounded better) before Danced and the always-spellbinding Ieya wrap things up. With the DVD as well, some great performances (the lengthy, sinister Angels And Demons being a highlight) and the presence of tracks rarely played in later days makes this a treat for fans. Nigel Glockler is tremendous throughout, his playing giving new dynamism in places.

By the time of the Drury Lane show in December of the same year, things had changed. As well as It’s A Mystery climbing still higher in the charts, there had also been big hits with I Want To Be Free, Thunder In The Mountains and the Four More From Toyah EP with its lead track Good Morning Universe. The album Anthem had also been released to huge success as well, and Toyah was riding high (quite literally, on a chariot, in the unforgettable Thunder In The Mountains video). Consequently the change in setlist gives the impression of the recording being some two or three years later rather than a scant eight months or so. Good Morning Universe was already ensconced as the highly suitable show opener despite having just been released, and the show is now studded with genuine ‘hits’. The band has also changed, with Glockler having already moved to replace the departing Pete Gill in Saxon – but his absence is certainly made up for by the arrival of the prodigious and highly-rated Simon Phillips to the drum-stool.

13 songs were played that night and broadcast on the BBC programme, including two which were cut for the VHS release and never subsequently seen or heard. Happily, they are back here, on both the CD and the double pink vinyl versions, with War Boys especially being a tremendous version as well as the always impressive Victims Of The Riddle. Elsewhere big changes are rung: the setlist is admittedly slightly shortened for broadcast, but even so the change within ten months is a startling one. Of the 15 tracks culled from the first two albums and the Bird In Flight single at the Rainbow show, only three remain here – Victims Of The Riddle and Danced from the first album and just Ieya from the second. However, there is still good ‘fan value’ to the show, with deeper tracks from Anthem Jungles Of Jupiter, We Are and Masai Boy being joined by In The Fairground and The Furious Futures from the Four More From Toyah EP. There are plenty of hits for the more casual fan, however, with It’s A Mystery, I Want To Be Free, and a storming Thunder In The Mountains all present. There are plenty of highlights, with Ieya being a particularly blistering rendition, and a much-rearranged Danced working extremely well, in addition to the aforementioned hit-it-out-of-the-park version of War Boys. There are only a couple of mis-steps really – Masai Boy, with its sparse, tribal feel, although well-performed seems an odd choice to play live from the Anthem album, and the encore of I Want To Be Free sags as an audience participation section stretches it to over six minutes. That aside, it’s a tight and well-judged set, with the CD version also containing the full visual show on DVD, with the two previously missing songs included on film for the first time. The other difference between the CD and vinyl editions is the presence on the former of three bonus tracks recorded in Milan earlier on the same tour, though these are not essential. All very stripped back musically, Stand Proud and Urban Tribesmen from the Four More From Toyah EP are joined by the experimental Pop Star from Anthem. If they were slotted into mid-show they might work better as a change of pace, but three together in the same mode end things in a slightly anticlimactic way. The vinyl is a good option for this one, unless you really want the show on film as well as audio, as the pink vinyl is certainly striking.

The two releases together make for a great snapshot of the changes wrought by that monumental year in Toyah’s career path, but if looking for just one to get, the choice would be down to the individual listener. Taken as a performance overall, and for the lover of the earlier, edgy, prog-post-punk material. Live At The Rainbow would get my vote. However, for someone wanting some more of the hits and less drawn by an array of more obscure treasures, Drury Lane is the clear choice. Next up will be The Changeling, and from that same tour the next ‘official’ live album from the time, the double vinyl Warrior Rock. These two releases now available form a perfect set of stepping stones leading from the club-venue rawness of Toyah! Toyah! Toyah! to the theatrical, large scale Changeling shows which birthed Warrior Rock. They have been a long, long time coming, and they are most welcome to say the least.