2022 – Toya Wilcox and Robert Fripp remember: “He came from the 1960s and had several girlfriends at the same time” | family

Toya Wilcox and Robert Fripp in 1986 and 2022
Toya Wilcox and Robert Fripp in 1986 and 2022. Post photo: Pål Hansen/The Guardian. Style: Andy Redman. Archive photo: Courtesy of Toyah Willcox

Toya Wilcox and Robert Fripp are a pair of rock stars turned YouTubers. Actor and musician Willcox, 64, rose to prominence during the punk rock era, appearing in cult films like Quadrophenia before releasing ’80s hits like It’s a Mystery. Fripp, 76, is now a founding member of King Crimson and has worked with the likes of David Bowie and Brian Eno. Both prolific musicians, they launched their Sunday Lunch video series in 2020, which covers classic songs in their home in Berchshire, Worcestershire. Toyah is performing across the UK this summer: on the Ladies Electric Tour in June; And at Let’s Rock – The Retro Festival from May to September.

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This picture was taken on our wedding day in 1986 which started out very rainy but as soon as we got to the church the sun came out. Robert was horrified. I enjoyed it but was very nervous: I had to keep the party a secret so the pictures wouldn’t leak to the press. Unfortunately, the newspapers got wind of it and then the paparazzi chased us for two days. They knocked on the car door and screamed and said they would print a bad story about us if we didn’t let them take a picture. It wasn’t fun.

There were only about 15 people in the church, just a family. I couldn’t be seen buying anything for the wedding, so I got myself a prom dress from a local clothing store. I prepared all the food for the reception myself – chickpea curry, rice and pasta salads. The most terrifying thing was that he had such a commitment. We both thought the same thing: Are we ready for that?

Robert never expected to get married, and I’ve only attended one wedding in my life. Attending the ceremony was formal and regimented. It was a very strange feeling for a punk rocker. Robert wanted medieval vows about rotting monsters in the field, when the only thing I really wanted was to delete the phrase “I obey” – the pastor insisted it should be there.

At the time, everything was from Robert’s point of view. It was the 60’s – from several girlfriends at once, lots of casual sex while I wasn’t having any of it. He’s been a huge hit in rock music all over the world and his world was just him and his band. I come from the realm of villain and complete independence. It was an unexpected match, but he was the first person I met and he wasn’t trying to dominate me as a woman but instead met me as a human being.

Robert and I met while working together at a charity event. We talked nonstop, we didn’t sleep for a week. He told me he knew at once that I was his wife; We were engaged in a week and married nine months later. But at the time I was trying to get out of a terrible relationship. Organizing the wedding for Robert was incredibly stressful, and oddly enough, walking into this church was the quietest moment I’ve had in a long time.

During the first 30 years of our marriage, Robert never saw what I was doing outside the home environment. Since the shutdown – during which I released an album and made Sunday brunch videos on YouTube – I know what I’m doing. Involving him in the videos was an experience. He is known for being stubborn but has become more friendly and playful over the years. I was worried that Robert wasn’t moving enough, so I told him, I’ll teach you how to dance. We started with Jeff and I quickly realized that this guy can play 11 notes per second, but he can’t distinguish between left and right. I posted the footage and within five minutes we had 100,000 responses from all over the world. We have over 65 million views.

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Robert and I have never felt so comfortable – there is no such thing as a beach vacation. We’ve talked about doing Route 66 for 36 years, but I have to accept that’s not going to happen. We have created something as artists that means the world to us. We are fully committed to our work and that is what keeps us going.

We like to renew our vows, and when we do, he pays for the dress, the ceremony, and the reception. It sounds unromantic, but this time he has to go along with it. No homemade chickpea curry. We do it right.

sObert

I’m sure if I remembered my birth it would be a level of horror worthy of my wedding day. I knew I loved her, but I didn’t know her very well. And here I gave my life to this person.

When we first met, the press followed us everywhere. So the wedding had to be a special family celebration. This was somewhat undermined because there was a big auction going on at the same time at Abbey House in Witchampton, Dorset, across from the church where we got married, so there was a lot of national press. A local photographer saw something going on and jumped. After the wedding we ran away from the church.

My direction in life has always been difficult. I surround myself with pointed sticks. One strategy I’ve always used is spending money I don’t have. Then I have to go out and earn money. It made my wife wince. Yet the past two years have been the only time I find solace; I live with my wife every day. We have small moments of intimacy: 30 minutes in a cool café in town where I can listen to my wife tell me what’s on her mind.

What I’ve seen over the past two years – something I already knew but didn’t fully engage in – is the depth of my wife’s creative vision. There is something very different about her. I often say it came from the planet Zarg. But I’ve also seen how hard it can be to see, hear, or recognize a woman who is very young for a certain age. These days my work emails are backed up because if I don’t, there’s a good chance they won’t get a response.

This was not always the case. When Toyah sang “It’s a Royal Knockout” in 1987, I sat next to my banker supporting the event. He said to me, “Would you mind being just an accessory to your wife’s fame?” I said, “No, that wasn’t a problem for me.” She’s the star of this family, she insists, no doubt, and I don’t deny that for a moment. I’m here to support you. Even if it means putting on a tutu, walking to the river at the end of our garden, and dancing as often as possible on Swan Lake.