Band of the Week – CUDDLY TOYS

By on 13 September 2010

Cuddly Toys

“You need a new name lads, something a bit softer.”

That’s what manager Alan Hauser told his punk infants ‘Raped’ in the winter of 1978.  Two years on from their formation in the capital, Cuddly Toys emerged with their new sound, new style, and new name at the break of 1979.  Gone were the shock lyrics of tracks like ‘Pretty Paedophiles’ and ‘Foreplay Playground’, and in came a set of decadently glam songs for their debut album, “Guillotine Theatre”.  With more than a nod to Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’, this album was co-produced by Woody Woodmansey (the Spiders From Mars drummer), and also featured a song written but never released by Bowie & Marc Bolan entitled ‘Madman’.  Bolan had known the band during their Raped period, and had even blessed them with the tag of ‘Peacock Punks’, before giving them a copy of the demo he had made with Bowie in a Manchester hotel room.

Cuddly Toys (Sean Purcell – vocals, Faebhean Kwest – guitar, Tony Baggett – bass, Paddy Phields – drums, and Billy Surgeoner – keys) toured extensively between 1979 and 1981 and appeared with such artists as the Psychedelic Furs, Bauhaus, Iggy Pop and Gary Glitter.  Their following consisted of glam-punks, transvestites, and skinheads, an unlikely mix by anyone’s terms!  Even though the name was softer the band still courted controversy in the press, with tales of being descendents of Aleister Crowley, DIY exorcisms, and bisexual obsessions with other up and coming bands.  The media hype sold albums, and concert tickets, and brought several trips to Paddy’s homeland of Japan where they found an army of Godzilla-armed fans waiting for them.

By 1982 the lineup had changed, with new guitarist Terry Noakes replacing Faebhean, drummer Robert Barker joining, and Billy being phased out in favour of Andy Millar-Reid on keyboards.  The single ‘Someone’s Crying’ was released followed by the ‘Trials & Crosses’ album, which showed Sean’s vocals going from strength to strength.  Their track ‘It’s A Shame’ seems to ring true, as this lineup of the band didn’t last too long, and a progression of keyboardists and bassists followed, including a short stint by Paul Raven (Killing Joke/Ministry).  At this stage the band were being managed by ex-Saturday afternoon wrestler Kendo Nagasaki, though Angie Bowie was also rumoured to have expressed an interest in representing them.

After several attempts at getting the Toys back on track, and several lineup changes, Sean finally hung up his feather boa in 1985 and moved to Ireland.  He worked with local traditional musicians, up until his sad passing in 1996 from a brain tumour, aged just 37.

Whether it’s Cuddly Toys Mk1, or the later incarnations, Sean’s voice was always the striking factor of the band, the one true thread over the years.  This was a band(s) that happily sat on the same shelf as Tubeway Army, early Bowie, pre-Midge Ultravox, and even Bauhaus.  Their punk snarlings gave way to glam theatrics in a blink of an eye and, despite inner bickerings, the band still maintained a sense of humour and friendship.  Faebhean, Tony & Paddy have worked together in recent years and the possibility of a reunion, in Sean’s memory, has been discussed.  Bring on the Ravers! – official – fan site

About Miranda Yardley

I'm Miranda. Bite me.

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