Thursday, August 18, 2011

Toxic Shock

     After leaving Sanction, Heff moved and joined her friend Al to start a much more personal anarcho-feminist band called Toxic Shock. The duo were Heather 'Heff' Joyce on saxophone and vocals, and Alice 'Al' Marsh on bass and vocals. That was the only line-up and it managed to create a really unique and original sound. However, they claim that before the band got serious they started out as a joke to play songs at a disco, and that the name had no real meaning behind it, until they decided to use it to describe the effect their performances had on the audience. Both women were vegans, Heff helped out with the Catalyst zine and their ideas were a much more extreme version of what Bikini Kill and the Riot Grrrl movement were about.

     They were based in Greenham Common and were heavily influenced by Poison Girls, which ultimately led to the two bands playing several gigs together. Toxic Shock helped to talk sense and expose the truth in regards to women's rights and equality with men. The band even had all girl audiences on purpose sometimes for better results.

     People were often taken by surprise to their unique approach which sort of sounded like a mix of punk, funk, poems, jazz and blues, and their audiences often reacted in a positive, supportive manner. Sexist men would sometimes get in their way, but the band kept their belief that women and men could live as equals. They didn't hate men, and encouraged them to think through a feminists point of view. 

     In 1984, the band appeared in the Who? What? Why? When? Where? compilation with their song 'Remote Control'  featuring several other of the anarchist punk bands. That same year, the band jumped onto Vindaloo Records to release their 'Dubious Deal' 12" . They would start off strong by touring with Poison Girls, and even managed to gig with bands such as Omega Tribe, Conflict, The Nightingales and High Alliance. Their lyrics would often cover sexuality, women's insecurities, love, and also topics regarding politics, police systems and animal liberation. 

     In 1985, the band released a tape called 'Syndrome' on the Poison Girl's Xntrix label. A second 12" named 'Just Another Day' was also released in 1985, and a double compilation L.P. called 'Communicate!!!! Live at Thames Poly' also featured one of their songs.Sadly, sometime during 1985, personal issues between the two members caused the band to split. Heather currently continues to write music on her own. To get a good idea of what Toxic Shock were about, I would suggest reading the handout above(click to enlarge) and the lyrics to 'Resistance' below which was written by Al.


One way of doing things.
Turning an alternative into the alternative.
We all think this.
We all do that.
Building our own circle of security.
Back to the womb.
I don't want to live in an alternative ghetto.
I wan't to live in an an alternative world.
Out, out.

Falling in love
is supposed to answer all your problems.
One day your prince will come and that will be that.
So you spend your life waiting,
but no-one ever talks about the happy ever after.
Over the hills and far away.
To a paradise just for two.
Back to the womb.
I don't want to languish in your arms forever.
I want to linger in our arms for tonight.
And tomorrow we'll have to wake up.
And tomorrow we'll have to get up.
And use the love we've stumbled on.
Love as the reason to go on feeling.
Love as the reason to go on fighting the fear.
Love as the reason to go on making choices.
Love as the spur to resistance.


More lyrics coming soon!

Soon to come downloads:

Dubious Deal 1984 Vindaloo Records(I don't have the technology to get MP3 files from the record)
Syndrome 1985 Xntrix(incomplete)
Unknown songs 198X


  1. hooray! thanks so much for this post Ruben. i can't wait to hear the songs, i love the stuff from the tape.

  2. Hello Listen Again, whoever and wherever you may be - I'm Heather Joyce, and I'm utterly astounded you've dug up all this history on Toxic Shock as well as finding an incredibly recent photo of me.
    Actually your chronology isn't quite right, if you want me to put you straight I'll try and remember. Toxic Shock actually started at Greenham Common where I first sang with Al, and for MetroYouth/Sanction you really should credit Rich Cross, they were his bands.
    Al and I were big Poisongirls fans and we wrote three songs, hitched to a PG gig in Sheffield and asked to play! They took us on tour with them, really we would never have done anything without their inspiration and support, they were amazing. Anyway, that's enough, thanks for the blast from the past.

  3. PS - Resistance was actually written entirely by Al - we wrote most of our stuff together at the beginning, but that one was all hers. Please credit her! If you want to hear what I'm writing now go to - but my guess is you'll hate it!!!

  4. Hey Heather,

    Thank you for commenting, clearing up and acknowledging my posts covering your bands(Metro Youth, Sanction, and Toxic Shock). I have put a tremendous amount of research into this blog which explains how I have acquired lots of interesting information. The information about the origin listed above is from an old fanzine interview with Al done by Rich Cross himself I believe. Still, I will change the information to what you have stated in your comment.

    I have already credited Rich Cross in my first post, along with several others. I have had his website listed at the bottom page as well, and I am looking forward to reading his up and coming coming book. I tried to contact him a few weeks ago, but I did not get a response. I will give Al credit for 'Resistance' as soon as I finish posting this comment.

    Just now I have just listened your songs that are in that website. I enjoyed listening to them actually. I am very open minded when it comes to music. Once again, thank you for getting in touch.



  5. Mmmmmm, just wrote you a really long and funny message with lots of juicy anecdotes only to lose it when i got called away to mend the playdough ice cream maker...
    I guess i feel you should credit Al more, do you want me to try and find some photos?
    i probably know all sorts of stuff about this time that i haven't thought of for years, before i spill the beans (if you want me to!!)do you mind me asking, who are you? why are are you doing this? I'm still astounded anyone is interested...
    anyway, glad you like my current stuff, it's a real joy writing songs with and for little kids(even if it is in bloody French!...)
    all the best hjx

  6. Dear Heather,

    If you really want to, you may send me a picture of Al if you can find one and I'll include it in the post. If you do have more memories and stories that you can remember from your days in Metro Youth, Sanction or Toxic Shock, I would like for you to tell me and I could possibly add that information also. I would love to answer your questions seeing as though nobody really knows who I am, but not here. Do you have an email I can reach you with?



  7. Hi R, Ok you'll find my email on the songfishing site.
    The thing about crediting Al, is that it really was a duo, and she's pretty absent from your record. I think i've got some nice pics of both of us somewhere, i'll dig them out and scan them...when the kids are back at school! Drop me a line on my mail and tell me a bit about yourself and I'll have a proper read of your site and see if there's anything useful i can add.
    all the best

  8. not to be too pesty, but i am still dying to hear these songs. if you could find time to upload them i would really appreciate it. :)

  9. My apologies. I have been busy with other projects and forgot about this one. I'll start right now. I do have their "Dubious Deal" record, but I never managed to get the necessary materials to turn them into MP3's. I do have everything else though. I'll start splitting them now.

  10. i really appreciate you uploading what you have, thanks a lot.

  11. My friend Phil Tonge (AKA Phil Hedgehog) got me into this band. I have Dubious Deal and saw them live once. I loved them then and love them still.

    1. Finally, we play the game again Time Lord. Is that you John?

  12. I saw Toxic Shock quite a few times (I even remember a very memorable gig at the 1 In 12 Club in Bradford, probably late 1984 or early 1985, where Heather or Alice hit a note and the sonic pitch caused a wine glass I was standing next to, to crack! Never seen that happen before or since, but it certainly imprinted on my memory circuits!

    I think the Poison Girls gig they were referring to was the 1984 Big Brother tour at Sheffield University (I was 14 or 15 at the time and got to do a video interview with the Poision Girls for a local Sheffield 'yoof' funded venture, so that's probably why I remember the gig more than the countless others I went to at the time.

    Great to read the comments above - Phil Hedgehog and Rich Cross, wow, haven't heard those names for a very very long time! I think one of the best interviews with Toxic Shock was in a fanzine by Steve Waterhouse that came out in 1984, can't remember the name sadly, (it was something similar to Brigandage I think) - afraid my long term memory isn't what it used to be - and that is what is great about your blog, keeping this music from disappearing down the memory hole.

  13. Just thought I'd add some more background history about Al/Alice/Alison.....
    She started her musical career with a political musical theatre group in North Staffordshire called "Limited Theatre Warfare" where she wrote a play called "Blam!!" and lots of song lyrics... she then moved on to learning to play bass and co-writing songs forming a local band called Day Five - not strictly anarchist but definitely feminist and political - anti-war and anti-establishment.
    Al was at the time a massive Au Pairs fan so they were quite a big influence .....
    The band's first gig was playing support to Poison Girls at Tunstall Town Hall (history repeating itself?) and they played local music venues with a highlight being support to Au Pairs at what is now Staffs Uni.
    Al was very active in local feminist groups and CND so it was inevitable she would gravitate to Greenham....
    She left the band when she met Heff and moved to Brum to become Toxic Shock.
    I know all this because I was the guitarist and co-writer with Al (mostly) of Day Five's stuff...I'm male and was very much a supporter of the feminist movement back then - I guess I still am......
    We made one tape recorded at Keele Uni studios - I've got some but not all on MP3 if anyone's remotely interested....some of the songs have become topical again - well I think so anyway !!

  14. Are the links dead now? I just stumbled across this blog and found it really interesting. I saw Toxic Shock about 100 years ago ( well it feels like it) any chance of re-upping the files please?

  15. Hi there, great posts re Toxic Shock thanks you. I'm Ming (Ming de Nasty) I took the black & white photo of Al and Heff t, I have many more if you'd like to use them. Would appreciate a photo credit . X