When quarantine hit, many artists responded by covering songs that tried to reflect the solemnity of the situation. Gal Gadot put together an all-star tone-deaf Band Aid take on John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, which was about as welcome as a Winston Mumford’s Book Of The Month club. So you have to admire pop star and actor Toyah Willcox, who channelled the Blitz (Kid) spirit, raided the dressing up box and persuaded her husband, King Crimson prog-rock totem Robert Fripp, into performing increasingly outlandish 90-second versions of classic hits such as Alice Cooper’s ‘Poison’ and Guns ‘N Roses‘ ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, accessorising with nurse outfits or dinosaur costumes for their weekly Sunday Lockdown Lunch series.
Their joyous content – which has also seen them both donning tutus to perform a DIY take on Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, jiving around the kitchen Aga to Bill Haley and the Comets’ ‘Rock Around the Clock’ and pulling out head-scratching Dadaist clips like ‘The Prog Rock Mating Dance’ – has added to the gaiety of the nation. Here are the best and most mind-Pretzling bizarre covers they’ve devised so far.
10King Crimson, ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ / ‘Singalonga Dinosaur’
Toyah originally conceived their escapades as a means of getting Fripp on his feet after he’d become withdrawn in lockdown. Part of the joy has been watching a man never associated with humour revel in it while also covering songs you wouldn’t expect. Here Jurassic larks abound as he plays his band King Crimson’s 1969 track ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ while Toyahsaurus – clad in an inflatable T-Rex costume – changes the lyrics to ’21st Century BC Man’ to wax about prehistoric turds. It all hilariously sounds like what Friends’ palaeontologist Ross Geller might come up with after two weeks of no sleep.
9Sex Pistols, ‘Anarchy in the UK’
Toyah acted in Derek Jarman’s 1977 punk film, Jubilee, and as a festive treat, she comes down your ear-chimneys with this Christmassy slant on the nihilistic Sex Pistols classic, while Fripp ho-ho-hos it up as – who else? – Father Christmas. Best enjoyed with an Eggnog or 10.
8Britney Spears, ‘Toxic’
As #FreeBritney is displayed onscreen, Toyah and Robert tackle this 2003 chart-topper as a “love letter” to the pop star amid her ongoing conservatorship battle with her father. Dressed like one of Alex’s droogs from A Clockwork Orange and brandishing what resembles either a mini-truncheon or something that would arrive in discreet packaging from Lovehoney, Toyah looks like she’s ready to kick down Jamie Spears’ door and retrieve the cash herself. The performance culminates with a ‘Britney We C You’ sign held up in solidarity.
7The Kinks, ‘You Really Got Me’
Toyah racks up the Fitbit steps and shows off the stories of her house in the vein of Hello magazine and Through the Keyhole, running down a staircase while adorned in a scarlet catsuit and outré headpiece, singing The Kinks’ 1964 banger as Fripp lies on his back at the bottom playing his guitar. Sure!
6ZZ Top, ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’’
Robert Fripp, joined by a mystery guitarist, both dressed in ZZ Top-style beards and sunglasses, accompany an oversized-scissors wielding Toyah (looking like’s on her way to either party with Edward Scissorhands or cut the ribbon to triumphantly declare a local leisure centre open), standing in front of a wind-machine. All in all, it’s a brilliantly surrealist homage to the Texan hirsute heroes.
5Metallica, ‘Enter Sandman’
In this ode to the joys of fitness, coming across as the world’s most OTT Peloton instructor, Toyah belts out the metal titans’ Metallica’s 1991 anthem astride an exercise bike. The ever-deadpan Fripp, meanwhile, struggles not to corpse.
4 Foo Fighters, ‘Everlong’
No stranger to reptiles having been in the I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! jungle in 2003, Toyah enlists a snake to slither around while the pair pay homage to the Foo Fighters’ 1997 anthem. It’s not the first time the couple have covered a song Dave Grohl was involved with, as they previously did a (serpent-free, alas) rendition of Nirvana‘s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
3Black Sabbath, ‘Paranoid’
This typically bonkers Halloween edition was filmed in an old bank vault beneath their house and features Fripp, face adorned in tattoos, playing the heavy metal classic while his wife sings, dances and scales the metal gate like she’s trying to escape from Arkham Asylum. Commenting on the tribute in a recent interview, Black Sabbath guitarist Tommy Iommi boggled: “I think the lockdown has drove them mental.” I mean, he’s not wrong.
2Motörhead, ‘Ace of Spades’
Even with the plethora of substances that iconic caner Lemmy imbibed, he probably never hallucinated anything as off-the-wall as seeing his band Motörhead’s signature hit ‘Ace of Spades’ covered by somebody in front of a billowing fan, dressed in a maid’s outfit and hurling playing cards like Gambit from X-Men’s mum. As ever, Fripp admirably maintains his stoic poker-face.
1Billy Idol, ‘Rebel Yell’
Having already scored high on the Camp-O-Meter, here Toyah breaks the barrier by delivering a ‘Beat that, Miley Cyrus!’ version of glam-punker Billy Idol’s 1983 stomper while dressed as a cheerleader, wielding pom-poms and bouncing on a trampoline. How are they going to top it in terms of oddness and ambition in weeks to come? Fire-eating? Toyah peddling a unicycle while having a crack at Stevie Nicks‘ ‘Edge of Seventeen’? Fripp blindfolded and strapped to a wheel of death as she throws knives at him while hollering The Cars‘ ‘Just What I Needed’? Whatever they come up with, it’s sure to be a riot.