The new wave sequel to the seminal kiwi punk band The Enemy, Toy Love expanded the Enemy’s brutally primal sound to include organ, angular guitar, and even more literate vocals.
By this stage of his musical development (early 1979 through 1980), lead-singer and song-writer Chris Knox was at his most populist peak, writing songs like ‘Pull Down The Shades‘ and ‘Squeeze‘, which became New Zealand pop classics.
Toy Love was more than just Knox’s band though, they welded his charismatic and warped vocals to Alec Bathgate‘s eclectic guitar playing, a young Paul Kean’s explosive bass playing, the poppy hooks of Jane Walker on keys, along with Mike Dooley holding up the fort on drums.
Toy Love were a band highly in demand, creating a stir on both sides of the ditch the band played continuously, holding up residencies where-ever they would land, but (due to the economics of the time) barely scraping by financially.
Everything would eventually came to a screaming halt when the band launched into recording their debut album. The sessions were a farce, with the band clashing with their engineer who just didn’t know how to handle such an eclectic and wild bunch of misfits.
They were tired.
The resulting album, though still containing quality material, wasn’t a patch on their earlier singles, each song sounded flat and warn-out and compounded the collapse of the group as a working unit.
Despite what Knox will later say, Toy Love were beginning to build a good live following in Sydney, selling out their final show at Chequers nightclub before returning to New Zealand in August 1980 for a successful tour to promote their song-crammed, self-titled album, which leaps to No.4 in the pop charts. A tour on which the group will founder and quietly break up.
The blame for the break-up comes to rest on Mike Dooley’s shoulders, and it’ll be years before he gets a chance to have his say. Speaking to Dunedin magazine, Spec, in the 1990s, Toy Love’s drummer says that Australia wrung him out, and that there was no time to develop new songs to drive them forward. He also felt Knox was performing for himself by then. Dooley, one of the era’s most distinctive percussionists had only just turned 20 when the group split.
Paul Kean will go on to become a key member of The Bats, and a concert organizer; Jane Walker will skirt the New Zealand post-punk scene in Wellington then return to England where she was born, as a graphic and, later, internet designer; Mike Dooley will flicker occasionally in groups; Alec Bathgate, responsible for some of Toy Love’s best posters, becomes a graphic designer in Christchurch and eventually, a solo artist; and Chris Knox will help to spark and grow Flying Nun Records, which will release a substantial body of his music, both with Alec Bathgate in Tall Dwarfs and solo. He will also establish himself as a respected artist, filmmaker and commentator, and, for better or worse, a powerful cultural polemicist.AudioCulture profile of Toy Love
Although Chris Knox suffered a debilitating stroke in June 2009 that stopped his ability to communicate verbally; the group made a triumphant return to the New Zealand album charts on Record Store Day, April 22nd 2012 with the release of the Double LP Live at the Gluepot, an extremely limited (400 copies worldwide!) live album sold exclusively at Real Groovy in Auckland.
Jane Walker passed away from cancer in 2018.
- Chris Knox (The Enemy, Tall Dwarfs, Chris Knox and the Nothing, Knoxious, Right Left And Centre, The Jessels, vocals, 1979 – 1980)
- Alec Bathgate (The Enemy, Tall Dwarfs, The Alexey Blinov Singers, The Sundae Painters, guitar, 1979 – 1980)
- Mike Dooley ($100 Band, Pop Art Toasters, Snapper, The Dri Horrors, The Enemy, The Snares, drums, 1979 – 1980)
- Phil Judd (Swingers, guitar, 1979)
- Paul Kean (Detroit Hemorrhoids, The Bats, Playthings, Minisnap, The Sundae Painters, bass, 1979 – 1980)
- Jane Walker (The Basketcases, Detroit Hemorrhoids, Static, keyboards, 1979 – 1980)
- Rebel/Squeeze 7″ single (1979, Elektra, Z10015)
- Don’t Ask Me 7″ single (1980, Deluxe, Z10022)
- Toy Love 7″ EP (1980, Deluxe, 20630)
- Bride Of Frankenstein 7″ single (1980, Deluxe, Z10029)
- Toy Love (1980, Deluxe, Z20008)
- Live at the Cook – Volume I CDr (2000, self-released)
- Live at the Cook – Volume II CDr (2000, self-released)
- Cuts (Reissue / Anthology 2005, Flying Nun Records, FNCD473)
- Live at the Gluepot Double LP (2012, Real Groovy Records)
- Swimming Pool Split 7″ (w/ Knoxious 2012, Real Groovy Records, KNOXIOUS)
- Toy Love (Compilation 2012, Real Groovy Records, RGLP002)
- Pull Down The Shades DVD (Video Compilation 2012, Real Groovy Records, RGDV01)