Toy Love were a New Zealand new wave band that grew out of the country's first punk band of note, the Enemy. And while their small number of recordings were pretty much by-the-numbers new wave pop with a few moments of inspiration, Toy Love (and especially their founding member Chris Knox) proved to be an important starting point for New Zealand's alternative rock scene of the '80s.
The Enemy was formed in 1977 in Dunedin by singer/songwriter Chris Knox (who also attempted bass for a short time), guitarist Alec Bathgate, drummer Mike Dooley, and guitarist Chris Pendergast. Pendergast was replaced shortly by a friend and former collaborator of Knox's, Mick Dawson. The band built a cult following, playing gigs throughout 1978 in Dunedin and Christchurch -- Knox's reputation for wild on-stage antics (such as self-mutilation) drew much attention. Dawson left the band by year's end and was replaced for a short time by Phil Judd (ex-Split Enz), but the band decided to call it quits by January of 1979.
Remaining members Knox, Bathgate, and Dooley recruited keyboardist Jane Walker and bassist Paul Kean to complete the lineup for their new band, Toy Love. WEA New Zealand signed the band for a single, "Rebel"/"Squeeze," in July 1979. The single received a lot of critical attention in New Zealand and probably stands as their finest recorded moment. In 1980, they recorded another single, "Don't Ask Me," for the independent Deluxe. The band were received well in their homeland, but an attempt to break in Australia failed, and constant touring took its toll on the band. They recorded one self-titled album before internal disputes forced the band to break up in late 1980. Though an artistic failure for the most part, the album and the single, "Bride of Frankenstein," saw some moderate success in New Zealand. The band broke up shortly after the release. Knox went on to a successful solo career and (along with Bathgate) formed Tall Dwarves, Flying Nun Records' first recording act. Kean later joined the Bats.
For the next 25 years, very few of the band's recordings were readily available (the band's sole LP became a much-sought-after collectible), but a couple of their tracks were made available on various CD compilations -- "Rebel" can be found on It's Bigger Than Both of Us, and radio session versions of "Squeeze" and "Frogs" were released on AK79. In 2005, Flying Nun released the definitive Toy Love collection which combined their entire recorded works over two discs. ~ Chris Woodstra
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