From 1986 until its closure, Chris Limb ran the official Toyah Willcox Fan Club Tellurian as well as designing and selling merchandise during Toyah's extensive tours in the early nineties. This is not that story. This is the story of what happened before. It began on a dark winter's night at the tail end of 1979 when a nerdy 14 year old boy watched an episode of the BBC's detective show Shoestring and realised that there was more to life than Blake's Seven/Star Wars crossover fanzines...
This is a coming of age story, about a teenage boy who is inspired by a brightly haired Toyah Wilcox - one of those rare finds in those days, a female artist with something to say and who dared to be different.
There is a deep feeling of nostalgia and shared experience in the first few chapters as Chris Limb relives the time when he discovered the music that mattered to him. Most of us, I guess, go through this in our formative years, though the precise music may differ (Sorry Chris, really liked Toyah, but it was Kate Bush for me - oddly both introduced to me by the Kenny Everett Television Show...) but the process is the same; The music is discovered, the obsession grows and is explored. It is a very personal experience, and Chris writes it in way to make you relive your own experiences through his own.
The rest of the book, covers Chris’s time as a kind of groupie, following where there were Toyah interviews and appearances, and generally being where Toyah was. He became part of, what you could call hardcore Toyah fans who slept rough, hitchhiked and generally went to as many gigs and Toyah related appearances as they could. Toyah didn’t seem to mind much and even hung out with them and treated them like friends.
The story of personal development continues as Chris leaves school, goes to university, and the friends made around Toyah disperse, get married, move on.
So it is, at its end, a coming of age story, one that is familiar and condenses your own growing up into a 130 pages of an afternoon read. (Scary really).
Best line in the book is its last;
A sentiment which sums up the book nicely and could equally be applied to anyone with similar experiences.
As a follower of Toyah I was really interested to read this book & wasn't disappointed. Chris told his story but I for 1 felt as though I was with him on his travels to her gig's. Toyah comes across as a real people person who actually bothered about her fans. I didn't want it to end & would loved to have read more about how Chris got on after taking over the fan club.
Things weren't going so great for teenager Chris Limb. It's the early 80's and he is a student at an all-boys school in England. Quiet, introspective, somewhat effeminate and with few friends, he is targeted by a group of bullies he refers to (in his head, at least) as the Fuckers. Life is miserable, and his only respite comes in the form of Dr. Who fanzines and ogling the crazy-haired, heavily made-up female members of the now-burgeoning punk rock scene. Until he discovers Toyah, and everything changes.
Not trying to completely derail this review, but I think it's time for a full disclosure: It is a little embarrassing to admit, but I was a huge fan of Marilyn Manson when I was a teenager. My bedroom walls were plastered with posters featuring his dour visage, and I practically wore out my copy of Antichrist Superstar. I collected pictures of him from magazines and pored over interviews, and stayed up all night once trying to win concert tickets from my favorite radio station (alas, I was unsuccessful, and spent the next day dragging myself through a sleep-deprived, zombie-like haze.) But it was not just his music I enjoyed; It was what he stood for. He extolled all the virtues I myself stood for, namely the need to be one's self and the importance of resisting authority. At risk of sounding a bit maudlin, he taught me it was okay to be me. Even though, deep down inside, I strongly suspected Brian Warner's dark alter ego was nothing more than a well crafted ploy to garner record sales by appealing to disenfranchised youth and that he didn't really practice what he preached (a belief that was later bolstered by reading his autobiography. Ugh.) I resolved to not throw the baby out with the bath water, as they say, and to continue the Herculean effort to be myself and not let all the naysayers around me drag me down.
Because the truth is, I needed someone like Marilyn Manson. I needed someone on my side, who put into words the things I was feeling and who understood what I was going through. This is what author Chris Limb understood when he wrote about his unwavering admiration for pop star Toyah Wilcox. "I was in the grip of an unhealthy obsession and had fixated on one person, someone who was completely unaware of me," he writes, "but someone whose imagination and creativity resonated and provided me with much needed solace during an unpleasant time."
But it wasn't just her music or even what she represented that gave him solace; As it turned out, Toyah really was just as awesome in real life as she was in music videos and interviews. Throughout the course of this book, Limb details the friendship he formed with not only his idol, but with other Toyah fans as well, a group of like-minded individuals with whom he developed a lasting bond. He writes not only about his life in the 80's and Toyah Wilcox's career that is now spanning 30+ years, he also provides insight into other famous musical acts of the time as well. I should also mention that he possesses a very impressive vernacular, and I was grateful for my Kindle's dictionary function! There were a few grammatical errors and run-ons, but Limb is such an engaging storyteller, it didn't really bother me that much. He writes in a very personable manner, and while I had no knowledge of Toyah previous to reading this book (I was compelled to read this after seeing an advertisement here on Goodreads and, upon realizing it had something to do with 80's music, promptly downloaded it.) I was never lost or bored. There are also numerous photographs taken by the author and his friends interspersed throughout.
I have since moved on to greener musical pastures and no longer hold Manson in such high esteem, but I can still remember with fondness the emotions his music welled up in me back then, and sometimes miss being able to truly "feel" music like I did when I was young and new. "Part of me can sympathize," says Limb, "I would give anything to be back there in the days when I was skinny and had energy and enthusiasm. Then again those days are still here, in the past. The past is merely another location in space-time. Nothing is ever lost." I therefore highly recommend this to folks who, like myself and the author, have ever escaped a tumultuous time through music and is eternally thankful to the musicians who helped them through and perhaps even saved their lives.
Chris Limb tells the story of his obsession with Toyah and how he went from adoring her from afar to interacting with her and running her fan club.
I'm around the same age as the author (a little older I think, but only a little!) so his description of the 1980s rang true with me. I remember only too well the pain and pleasure of seeing bands and performers I liked on TV but having no reliable way of finding out more about them or when I'd be able to see them again. The whole fan experience has changed immeasurably in the years since then, but in many ways the mystery of not knowing much about a band or performer added to it. These days over-familiarity can indeed breed contempt.
I'm also a bit of a Toyah fan too - not to the same extent as Chris, but her songs take me back to particular times and places. Hearing "It's A Mystery" zooms me right back to one particular special evening in December 1982 as if it was yesterday.
This is such an affectionate book and represents beautifully how a fan can be completely taken over by their admiration of a performer, and how this experience can change their life for the better. Toyah herself comes over very well as having a lot of time for her fans, even when they ask too much of her.
I really enjoyed reading the book and will definitely read it again.
I liked going back to the 80's in this book as the TV shows and musical references I remember well, too. So that was fascinating. I was never a particular Toyah fan but you don't need to be. It was nice to read that she paid attention to her fans and that Chris built up such a nice connection with her. It covered the years from 1979 through to 1986 then stopped VERY abruptly, I have to say, as I'd like to have known what he ended up doing and if he continued to be a fan now in his mid-forties. It was well-written too with no horrible spelling and grammar errors which makes a nice change these days.
A wonderful glimpse into 80s culture, and of growing up a teenage fan. Limb captures that feeling of obsessive pop-culture wonderfully, making me remember my own years where I collected everything to do with a certain band, and covered my walls with adverts for their singles, ripped from the pages of the Melody Maker.
The style feels a little stilted when it first begins (Chris likes whilst far more than I do) but within a few pages it settles down, and I can see and hear him, and thanks to a recent trip to Brighton (where I in fact met Chris at WFC) and London, could picture the places perfectly.
As a teen completely obsessed with Suede's Brett Anderson, I could totally relate to this book. In fact, anyone who grew up in the eighties will instantly relate to this book.
I was a Teenage Toyah Fan is a strikingly honest and witty account of the affect the punk princess known as Toyah had on a fifteen year old boy.
It's a memoir about the relationship between fan and star, but its also a story of growing up feeling a little bit different from anyone else and the realisation and inevitable acceptance of that individuality.
Chris' detailed descriptions are just lovely. I was compelled to Youtube some videos of Toyah which became a fantastic visual and audio companion to the story.
I saw a lot of myself in the author's Toyah fandom as I was a teenager at the same time who also related strongly to her music. The main difference being that I lived in rural Australia so there wasn't any way I could get to Toyah gigs in the UK and I had to import/order most of the records. It's a good picture of the time and of a healthy, if slightly obsessive, fandom. Another angle of this is Toyah Willcox's friendly and welcoming behaviour towards her fans which was really refreshing and I think not all that common with many celebs. It's an interesting read, but I would have liked more insight into why the author loved her music so much, it's adressed of course, but on the page I felt the fandom overtook the music appreciation a little. I related on many levels to her music, even the sci-fi operas, so that's why that is important to me as a reader. It does also seem to end a little abruptly, but these quibbles aside it's a very enjoyable read.
This isn’t just a brilliant book for anyone who loved (still loves) Toyah. It will resonate with everyone who ever had a teenage fixation on an eighties pop star. I was most definitely a teenage Toyah fan, but unfortunately, in the 80s, I lived in sleepy North Devon so the nearest I ever got to seeing her in the flesh was one live gig in Bristol. Chris Limb’s engrossing story and his descriptions are evocative of a time when ‘celebrities’ were largely inaccessible (no facebook, no twitter, no internet etc) and the music was so great it made my hair stand on end!