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TOY

Belgian group playing "civilized rock music", with a career spanning the seventies to the nineties.

 
Songs
 

"Crazy Monday"
58,6 sec. - 115 Kb.
Produced : Toy
Year : 1979


"Suspicion"
59,4 sec. - 117 Kb.
Produced : Alan O'Duffy.
Year : 1980

"Tanz Der Gilles"
59,6 sec. - 117 Kb.

"Empty Houses"
1 min 4 sec. - 125 Kb.

Produced : Jürgen Krämer
Year : 1981
Record co. : Payola

"Helpless Girl"
1 min 28 sec. - 173 Kb.
Produced : T.Van Hemelrijk
Year : 1987

"Un dramma di sera"
1 min 14 sec. - 147 Kb.
Year : 1993

all songs : Harry Woods,
Theo Vanhemelryk
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 international standards".
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 New Toy".

 

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.

Members :
- 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 proxis

Albums :
- Bad night (Payola - 1978)
- The Split (Payola - 1981)
- Brand New Toy (Koch International - 1994)
- AnTOYlogy 1980-1993 (Payola - 1999)

Websites :
- My review of "Antoylogy"

Forum :
- Read the messages/questions about Toy
- Add your message, question, cd- or concertreview ... about Toy

 

   
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Dirk Houbrechts stopped working at The Belgian Pop & Rock Archives (you can read his personal statement here). The website is now entrusted to the Flanders Music Centre (www.muziekcentrum.be). Contact: webmaster@muziekcentrum.be.

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Last update to this site : December 2001.

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