In the late 70’s and early part of the 80’s as the Specials Two Tone influence began to grip the country, and all eyes were on Coventry to see who would follow as the next big thing. There certainly wasn’t any lack of contenders, to some bands it was a distant dream but others like The Urge, The Reluctant Stereotypes and Gods Toys, fame and national success seemed to be the next obvious step. Today we look at one of those bands, the hugely entertaining Gods Toys.
The early eighties were exciting times for us Coventry music lovers, Alternative Sounds, our very own fanzine had hit the streets thanks to Martin Bowes and the local scene began to have some structure about it. It seemed like that every night there was someone worth watching somewhere!! On the whole Coventry had some great bands, often enthusiastic often very loud but always entertaining. Some bands would naturally edge above the rest in the musical ‘pecking order’, and Gods Toys probably rose more than most. The first time I saw them it was a déjà vu moment, just like that feeling I had when I witnessed Roxy Music at the Lanch Poly for the first time in the early 70’s. Here was a band that were breaking the rules, with one memorable song following yet another memorable song, not just the songs but the look and the attitude the package was complete but it was also a package that was very new and excitingly different! Unlike Roxy of course these guys weren’t a signed band but were local, our own little secret if you like.
Fronting the band was Dill, dynamic and quirky there was always something about him, he was a star, it didn’t matter if he wasn’t rich and famous with a wall decked with gold and platinum discs, we all knew he was a king pin of the local scene and we all believed we would soon be seeing him on Top of The Pops pretty soon. I caught up with Dill recently and asked him how Gods Toys came about? “Chris Dickie and I met Nick through Jerome Heisler (The End)”, Dill explains, “and I recruited Larry from college and finally John Hobley joined us on drums three gigs into our creation, that was all back in 1978 and the Lord said let there be weirdness and so it came to pass”. “Our first gig was Battle of the Bands at Warwick University, but we unfairly came 2nd in the final- (X certs Payola scam) ha ha…! We supported The Specials on our third gig organised through Horace Panter …a judge for the previous competition”.
Punk had gone (or at least had been refined or re-defined) and the new breed like Gods Toys were bringing strangeness and humour back into music, they called it art (well actually Arty-Natty, the title of the bands first ever song). They once described themselves as a ‘fun show band’, and that pretty much summed them up. With Dill leaping around the stage in bizarre clothes, and Larry Lupin (in even more bizarre clothes and full make-up) playing the demented axe victim playing his guitar like it really hurt. With John Hobley on drums, Nick Kavaz on keyboards and Chris, Dickie on bass the ‘ever so strange’ line-up was complete. Their original rock and reggae sound made them fleeting darlings of the national music press, and saw them tour with Adam and the Ants. I asked Dill about that tour? “The Tour was difficult we had very little money” Dill admits” we were sleeping in the back of the van most nights all in the winter months of 1979,but it was a fantastic experience…I remember the ANTS got to number 1 about half way into the tour and the audience changed from hard core punks to teenage girls virtually over night. The highlight for me was the final show at the Manchester Apollo. Where we watched ourselves on TV (Something Else) before the concert and then went out and played the gig of our lives, we then went back to the Ants hotel to a free tab in the cocktail bar pina colada’s and doctors pharmaceuticals all round, brilliant!” The previously mentioned TV appearance on Something Else was another milestone in the bands history, our own little band was now on the Telly, surely super-stardom was there’s for the taking now? So what did Dill have to say about that TV appearance? “What I remember about ‘Something Else’ was (A) canteen full of famous people eating! (B) All the gizmos in the control room, (C) choosing clothes from the extensive ‘ stars’ wardrobe department; and last but not least…blowing Suzie and the Banshees off stage with We’re all Gods Toys!”
They released two singles, the staggeringly good All the Born Losers in 1980 and Everybody’s Got A Mother in 1981. Despite all the interest and good reviews plus the constant rumours that they were about to break it was not to transpire. Chris Dickie left to become a recording engineer at RAK with Mickie Most. Larry joined The Giraffes. For Dill it was back to the drawing board and the creation of “i”. So despite our hopes and dreams the country missed out on a band that had something a little different to offer, I’ll leave the last words to Dill himself.
“I think that it was a shame that we split when we did we were just starting to get some recognition but the tour had taken its toll… in hindsight we should have kept going the fans were great (Toys Army) the music was gelling and we were Annie Nightingales (Radio One DJ) band to make it in 1980, oh well!”
- Chris Dickie (who once shared a flat with Specials main-man Jerry Dammers), after Gods Toys split he joined forces with former Swinging Cat John Shipley in the band “Ship’s Crew”, the band also included one of Coventry’s finest drummers Rob Hill. Chris became an engineer and has worked with the likes of Depeche Mode, The Pogues and Morrissey. He now lives in Australia.
- Dill and Nick have been writing new material for the past year…and compiling old material on a compilation CD, and they may even be performing soon, you heard it first here!
- Gods Toys über-fan Oliver Corner from County Durham recently informed me that the very rare footage of Gods Toys performing on Something Else is available as part of a five DVD box-set of punk and new wave footage. Sadly not official.
- Other Gods Toys songs included: I Love The Sound (Of My Own Voice), Package Tours to Heaven, Human Farm and Gyroscope.
DID YOU SEE THE BEATLES IN COVENTRY OR NUNEATON, HAVE YOU ANY MEMORIES, PHOTOS OR MEMORABILIA FROM THOSE CONCERTS. Contact Pete Chambers at the usual Coventry Evening Telegraph address or e-mail him at email@example.com to be part of Pete’s next book, “The Beatles Sent To Coventry”.