In our ongoing series on what we’re all doing while on Lockdown, we’ve asked our writer’s, musician friends, and others in the entertainment world what they’re doing to keep themselves busy. We asked if there are any movies, NetFlix series, bands, albums they like that they could recommend. We also asked if they would be interested in something a little more personal. Like telling us what life was like in high school for them, and what their top 10 songs were back in the day.
We posed this question to writer Tommy Johnson. Since he’s a SoCal native we thought he’d have something for us we could all relate to. He picked his favorite high school band; and this was his response…
“Wow, that’s a really tall order. I was in high school in the 80’s… and you wouldn’t know it… but, before I became the cool cat I am today (hahaha),.. I was kinda a nerd. AND OMG, there was so much good music from all different genres back then. The early 80’s had rollovers from 70’s… those bands were still kicking-ass. Bands like Zeppelin, The Clash, The Kinks, The Damned, The Adicts, The Who and the Stones… who knew they’d still be around. AND of course, there was KC & The Sunshine Band. No joke, they were legit.“
“For me, I’ve always love rock bands. AC/DC and Van Halen did it for me back then. I also loved punk. That’s probably my favorite genre from back then. I lived to see bands like Social D, Ramones, and X… oh, and the ska bands too; the Specials and the Beat put on epic shows. I’d say I’d have to lean towards what was considered an obscure band from England that’s my top pick. The band led by a guy named Olga. Not sure if I loved them because nobody else in my school knew who they were, or because I just loved their sound. Anyway, my favorite band from back in my high school days is…The Toy Dolls.”
“What I remember most back then was that it was cool to like bands before they blew up. Bands like The Cure and The Smiths come to mind, If you liked them when they just started out, you were considered one of “those” kids. You know, someone who was way into music. The popular kids would come to you and ask you what was cool and new from England. So consequently, by knowing your shit about music kinda made you different; and different was good… at least for me it was”
NELLIE THE ELEPHANT
“I recall going to Tower Records with my pals one day and I found an import single from a band I never heard of. I liked the title and the sleeve to the 45; that song changed my life. It was Nellie the Elephant by The Toy Dolls. I’ll never forget how crazy that band looked, wearing the cool glasses and their I don’t give a shit what you think attitude. I could never keep track of the drummers or bassist, but back then, but it didn’t matter because it was all about Olga” (lead singer, Michael “Olga” Algar).
The skinny on the band is that they were formed in 1979 in England; they were originally a quartet. Over the years they’ve had a virtual merry-go-round of band-mates. Although, Olga has been the constant…. their current lineup seems to be as stable as its ever been. Today, the Toy Dolls feature Olga on lead guitar and vocals. Now the thing about Olga is that he’s been playing guitar since he was 11 years-old. He’s proven himself to be a world renown accomplished guitarist. His sonic exploits have been notice. So much that he’s played with bands like the Dickies, and has toured with the legendary punkers, The Adicts.
With all these industry acknowledgments and interest, it’s no surprise that he gives guitar lessons to the masses. Rounding out the band are Duncan “The Amazing Mr. Duncan” Redmonds on drums / vocals and Tom “Tommy Goober” Blyth on bass / vocals. Collectively the band is simply electricity personified.
“I loved Nellie the Elephant so much, I started to pick up some of their other songs. I still have those 45’s somewhere in my garage. I got into songs like “Doughy Giro,” “Spiders in the Dressing Room,” “Dig the Grove Baby,” “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” “Yul Brynner was a Skinhead,” The Devil Went Down to Scunthorpe,” “James Bond (Lives Down Our Street,” Ghost Riders In The Sky,” “Glenda and The Test Tube Baby,” “Idle Gossip,” but the kicker was always their version of “Dueling Banjos.” All these so,gs are from the soundtrack of my life. I still remember everything I was doing and who I was hanging out with the first time I heard each one of these songs.”
I’M GONNA BE (500 MILES)
SPIDERS IN THE DRESSING ROOM
DIG THAT GROOVE BABY
GLENDA AND THE TEST TUBE BABY
The Toy Dolls TODAY
Even today, I still listen to those early Toy Dolls songs when I’m in my car or out and about. My favorite song I would say is “She Goes to Fino’s”… I really can’t say why (hahaha!).
SHE GOES TO FINOS
“Anyhow, as I got older, high school was in my rear view mirror and adult life took over. Having to pay rent and bills caused me to part ways with the punk scene and going to my boyhood haunts.”
“Then again, every once in a while, I come across new bands with a punk sound and swagger that make me smile.All I can say is it’s really hard to put a list of my favorite songs by this band. They just have so many great songs that mean a lot to me and so many other people. As for Olga and the Toy Dolls, they’re still doing it. I highly recommend checking them out. Olga will even teach you how to play their songs on their website. Check them out, they’ll make you smile.”
No home, no bed, he says he’s lucky… he can smile and still be … happy | The Toy Dolls