“Ophelia’s Shadow” deserves more credit for its influence


Stephani Bradley

Toyah Wilcox’s fourth album Ophelia’s Shadow features ten songs. Its title is inspired by William Shakespeare and Carl Jung.

When you typically think of women in the British art-rock scene, Kate Bush is usually the first name to come to mind. However, Toyah Willcox is a fairly underappreciated figure in the same scene. She may not have achieved the same success as Kate Bush did stateside, but she still served as an influence to punk and indie acts in the decades to come.

One of the albums that come up as strong Toyah solo work is “Ophelia’s Shadow,” released in 1991. Willcox was firmly influenced by her early ventures with husband Robert Fripp (of King Crimson fame) in creating the album. She toured with Fripp and some other King Crimson mainstays under the names Sunday All Over The World and Fripp Fripp.

In fact, two tracks on the album (“Brilliant Day” and “Lords of the Never Known”) began life as a part of the Sunday All Over The World live repertoire. The majority of the album’s tracks have a trippy and dreamlike feel, in a way that only Toyah and her supporting musicians could pull off.

The album explores the theme of the binary between good and evil, and how the two could merge to form a complete person. This is best exemplified by the title track, as well as the rocker, “Prospect”. Willcox plays to her strengths in painting surreal lyrical pictures and trying things in the music that a conventional musician wouldn’t dare try.

Willcox also explores the themes of gender and what society wants femininity to be in her work. She states that she chose the album’s title because it is a juxtaposition between the romantic side of a woman’s personality (Ophelia) and Jung’s concept of the shadow, or the part of the person that they conceal.

I would highly recommend Toyah’s music to fans of artists such as BØRNS, fka Twigs, Lorde and Kate Bush. Whether they wish to admit it or not, today’s indie artists have Toyah to thank for the influence on their sound.