all songs : Harry Woods,
Record co. : Payola
The group got together in the early seventies when Theo Van Hemelrijk &
Harry Woods (a Belfast-born musician) in Sint-Amands. These two form the backbone
of the band, the musicians surrounding them have been changing very regularly
(initially : Renaat Boeykens on bass & Paul Illegems on drums).
In 1976, Toy became winner of the contest "Singe Sange Jo" (on national
television, with deejay "Jo met de Banjo"), a prize that would do their
reputation no good and would take a long time to wear off : although the songs
they got to record were their own material, the record firm took some bad decisions
in production and promotion. Singles were "Don't go away" and "Lazy
Time", nowadays collector's items.
Toy decided to take matters into its own hands by founding a record firm/publishing
company of their own : Payola (with a 20 BEF note as a logo). For the debut album,
which got released in the spring of 1979, they recorded in the Swan Studio's and
remixed in London. The album was called "Bad Night" and had as most
prominent singles "Crazy Monday" and "Coconut". As their bio
said : "Here was something. It was the period rock in Belgium came to
an adult age : Raymond had learned Flanders how to
rock, The Kids had made us discover punk, there was TC-Matic,
Jo Lemaire, The Machines,
Once More, Rick Tubbax and
de Kreuners and some more. And then there was Toy.
A band that was hard to place, not easy to classify. In hindsight this was probably
a disadvantage, but at the time it seemed different." The album and singles
got airplay from Wallonia to Holland and Germany and earned Toy a place as a household
name in the live-circuit.
With drummer Marc Bonne, the band recorded a second album very soon afterwards,
in a production by the German Jürgen Krämer, in a German studio. When
the album was almost finished, they realized that there was a cherry on the cake
missing, so they hired producer Alan O'Duffy (a technician for Paul McCartney
...) for the song "Suspicion". The song became a "hit", measured
with the standards of a Belgian rock-band of those days, with a venture into the
hitparade and television. To this day, "Suspicion" remains one of the
true classics of Belgian music in the eighties, and probably the closest the belpop-generation
came to a pure-pop single. Strangely enough, this single did not make it abroad.
The album that follows (ominously called The Split) was released in Belgium, Holland,
Germany, Spain, Argentina, Switzerland, New-Zealand, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.
According to the bio : "There was much more contrast in the music by incorporating
synths (with Werner Pensaert, who would become a regular member soon afterwards).
The point that was perhaps most unique was the vocals : two singers with a totally
different sound and timbre made Toy stand out. With this album it was proven that
a Flemish group was capable of putting together a balanced album that was up to
However "The Split" didn't become a landmark album : "Too much
cut- and paste technique by Harry Woods and Theo Van Hemelryk, and not enough
strong melodies." was the verdict by Oor. "I think we suffered
from the "Big Disappointment" among the media people" said
singer Harry Woods later "Everyone was expecting a bit too much. When
the "Big Breakthrough" didn't happen, everybody was disappointed."
Further on in the eighties, things died down a little (singles from that period
are "Blue Night" and "All American" with a lot of synth-pop
influences). In the period between 1987 and 1990 they put Toy to a halt and recorded
under the name "New Forces". This project had an altogether different
sound, and used the voice of Theo Van Hemelrijk in combination with a female vocalist
(such as on the best song of that period "Helpless Girl"). Although
Harry Woods still co-wrote some songs and was part of the live-band, New Forces
was mainly a Theo Van Hemelrijk project.
When this didn't turn the tide, the two companions reformed Toy and started
releasing singles again : "Run, Rosie, Run", "Love Cat", and
most of all "Un dramma di sera" of 1993 got the band in picture again
: they signed a deal with Koch International and got to record a full-cd "Brand
From the bio : "Again, Toy knew to surprise with a collection of terrific
songs. Especially "A Message For You" and the goose-bumps song "Hurting
For Love" once again made clear that Toy is a band that simply had the bad
luck of never being released internationally. If this had come from abroad, it
would've caused a storm. The CD got quite a bit of attention on the radio, but
during too short a period." In 1996 they released a single "We Are
Lovers Now" as T.O.Y.
In 1999, they re-released all the best material from "Bad Night",
"The Split" and the singles from 1983-1993 on a compilation album called
"Antoylogy". However, the band insist this is not at all an "epitaph"
: Theo Van Hemelrijk and Harry Woods keep on pursuing their quest in search of
the ultimate song.
- Harry Woods (vocals, guitar, piano)
- Theo Van Hemelrijk (guitar, vocals)
- Renato Marciano, Alain Gautier (bass)
- Pol Ille / Marc Bonne (drums)
- Werner Pensaert (keyboards)
Buy CD's of this band at
- Bad night (Payola - 1978)
- The Split (Payola - 1981)
- Brand New Toy (Koch International - 1994)
- AnTOYlogy 1980-1993 (Payola - 1999)
Watch it : This site pays royalties, and was built and maintained in
accordance with the terms and conditions negotiated with SABAM,
the Belgian society of copyright-holders. Consultation of this site is free, but
this exludes downloading, reproducing or public performance of any part of this
site. Please do not copy. Link!