Toyah has been experiencing something of a renaissance since the release of the excellent In The Court Of The Crimson Queen back in 2008 which was then reissued in 2019. As well as her increasing social media presence during the pandemic including her “At Home” and hilarious “Sunday Lunch” broadcasts (featuring husband Robert Fripp of King Crimson fame) and assisted by some superb reissues of her back catalogue which include two Edsel box sets Toyah Solo and Toyah & The Humans – Noise In Your Head. Hot on the heals of Cherry Red’s 2020 Deluxe treatment of her Safari Records 1980 debut Sheep Farming In Barnet to celebrate it’s 40th anniversary comes the remastered and expanded version of it’s follow up The Blue Meaning originally released the same year. Available in either Deluxe 2CD/1DVD expanded version or Limited Pink Vinyl. The Deluxe CD version as well as including the original Steve James produced album also includes over a CDs worth of live, demo and alternative cuts which are previously unreleased.
First up on disc one is the original 10 track album remastered by Nick Watson at Fluid Marketing. Opening with what must be one of Toyah’s most iconic battle-cries ‘Ieya’ the track was originally worked up from soundcheck jams but took on a life of it’s own when performed live by the band during their shows and thus has stayed in her live set up to this day. It became her 4th single in June 1980 and was re-released in 1982. Both the album & single versions as well as a live recording performed at ICA London can be found on this extensive collection. The B-side to the single ‘Spaced Walking’ is next up with it’s more psychedelic sound aided by the addition of Helium gas induced vocals which is even more pronounced on the additional acapella and ‘Helium Song’ versions also included within the extras.
‘Ghosts’ has a pounding pace with the cold lyrics punching out the words of its spectral protagonists. Toyah’s dark source material is highlighted in the tale of exhumed Mexican remains during ‘Mummies’. The dark mood continues on the title track ‘Blue Meanings’ but the subject matter is much closer to her industrial Birmingham home with visions of the future it takes themes from William Blake’s “Dark Satanic Mills” line lifted from “And Did Those Feet In Ancient Time”. Like the previous track ‘Tiger Tiger!’ takes inspiration from the words of Blake this time from “The Tyger” and it’s “Tiger! Tiger! Burning Bright line” with her vocal once more pummeling the story home. Again we look into a bleak future with ‘Vision’ and what we see it far from comforting. As if we couldn’t get any darker during “Insects” we seem to be hearing the tale of a corpse that is fully aware of the “Insects crawling inside of of me”. Delightful! ‘Love Me’ takes us to the streets of Toyah’s future world asking questions as to the intentions of those around her. Final track on the original album ‘She’ finds the schoolgirl Miss Wilcox on one of her most personal themes. Returning to the school playground but once more airing dark thoughts with her references to bullying, teacher troubles and pier pressure.
If you invest in the Vinyl that is what you will find onboard its lurid pink 12” disc. Designed to match Toyah’s flamboyant hairstyle from the back sleeve of the original album. If however you opt for the full 2CD/1DVD experience read on.
I think we get that Blue Meaning doesn’t come from a happy place and this expanded form gives us a chance to delve deeper into whence the angst came. Many of the 27 accompanying extras consist of alternate takes, demos, instrumentals and live recordings of the albums ten tracks. But first off to complete CD1 we get ‘Silence Won’t Do’. A track much sort after by the Toyah faithful who will be glad of its inclusion here. It also fit’s very well with the mood of the main album with it’s crazy owner still seeking love. The crazed vocals continue on the previously unreleased ‘Jack & Jill’ playing with words and rhythms from children’s nursery rhymes. These two tracks were the final ones recorded by the Blue Meaning line-up of her band. ‘Cotton Vest’ and ‘The Merchant & The Nubile’ have previously been available on the rarities album Mayhem. The former is very mid period Stranglers both vocally and in it’s naive keyboard. These are followed by three session versions before disc one concludes with further alternative versions of Blue Meaning tracks.
The second disc continues where disc one left off adding more versions of many of the songs above as well as a number of demos for tracks which would later be used on the follow up Anthem. Also included is the original version of Toyah’s most popular tune ‘It’s A Mystery’ by Blood Donor featuring Toyah Wilcox. Disc three is a DVD containing rare archive BBC footage along with new interviews and 2020 acoustic sessions. This is all wrapped up in a lavish 24-page booklet with an introduction from the lady herself and extensive sleeve notes from Toyah archivist Craig Astley.
So for pure nostalgia vinyl is totally the way to go but if you are a completest I’m sure you will find plenty to entertain you within the deluxe CD version (although you’ll probably buy both). However if you are new to the world of Ms. Wilcox prepare to be welcomed to the dark side.
Review by Peter Brockwell
- Released through Cherry Red on 28th May 2021
- Toyah: The Blue Meaning, 2CD/1DVD Expanded Deluxe Edition available on Cherry Red Records
- The Official Toyah Willcox Website
- Toyah on Facebook
2. Spaced Walking
5. Blue Meanings
6. Tiger! Tiger!
9. Love Me
11. Silence Won’t Do*
12. Jack & Jill*
13. Cotton Vest
14. The Merchant & The Nubile
15. Danced (Session Version)
16. Last Goodbye (Session Version)*
17. Love Me (Session Version)*
18. Ieya (Single Version)
19. Helium Song (Spaced Walking)^
* Previously unreleased
^ Previously unreleased digitally
1. Love Me (Live At ICA London)*
- Waiting (Live At ICA London)*
3. Ieya (Live At ICA London)*
4. Blue Meaning (Alternate Vocal)*
5. She (Alternate Vocal)*
6. Spaced Walking (Helium Acapella)*
7. Ghosts (Instrumental)*
8. Mummies (Instrumental)*
9. Vision (Instrumental)*
10. Silence Won’t Do (Alternate Vocal)*
11. Jack & Jill (Alternate Vocal)*
12. The Merchant & The Nubile (Alternate Vocal)*
13. It’s A Mystery (Original Version) by Blood Donor Feat. Toyah
14. Angels & Demons (Demo)*
15. You’re My Hero (Demo)
16. Sphinx ( Instrumental Demo)*
17. Walkie Talkie ( Instrumental Demo)*
18. Anthem ( Instrumental Demo)*
* Previously unreleased
DISC THREE (DVD):
1. The Story Behind The Album: Toyah Interview 2020
2. Track By Track Album Commentary: Toyah Interview 2020
3. Ghosts: Acoustic Session 2020
4. Blue Meanings: Acoustic Session 2020
5. Ieya: Acoustic Session 2020
6. Danced: Friday Night, Saturday Morning 28/11/1980
7. Mummies: Friday Night, Saturday Morning 28/11/1980