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The Toy Dolls were formed in October 1979 and comprised Pete Zulu (Peter Robson) – lead vocal, Olga (Michael Algar) – guitar, Flip (Philip Dugdale) – bass guitar and Mr Scott (Colin Scott) – drummer. The band’s first ever gig was at Millview Social Club, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, on 20 October 1979. After a handful of local (empty) gigs Pete Zulu left to form his own band (Zulu & The Heartaches), so the lads quickly recruited Hud, a local Billy Idol look-alike, who had never sung before! Hud left after just one single show!

Rather than cancel a forthcoming show at Sunderland's Wine Loft, the lads decided to chance it as a three-piece with Olga bravely taking on the role as lead singer and guitar player. The Toy Dolls as a trio was born! After a few rave gig reviews by the Sunderland Echo newspaper, the lads found themselves playing hundreds of shows locally around the North East of England.

The next step came when a local businessman financed the first Toy Dolls single, which was 'Tommy Kowey's Car' with 'She Goes To Finos' on the flip side. 'Tommy Kowey's Car' sold out its initial 500 pressing but the band never found the dosh to press any more.

After a few months of either breaking even or losing money at gigs, Mr Scott's girlfriend Val demanded that her boyfriend be paid a tenner a gig. This, of course, was totally impossible. Val threatened Flip and Olga that Mr Scott would leave if his tenner did not materialise. Mr Scott played his last gig not long afterwards!

No time was wasted and drummer #2 was drafted in from local punk band The Cult. In came Dean James (real name Dean Robson). Dean, who always desired to be a guitarist, left The Toy Dolls to learn to master the fretboard after just four months.

A friend of a friend told the band about a great drummer who was knocking about. Trevor Brewis, though a few years older than Flip and Olga, still seemed to have the same level of enthusiasm as the other two members (both 19 years old, incidentally). Fortunately, Trevor was bandless at the time, so the lads quickly christened him with a Toy Doll name (Trevor the Frog) and he was in! Trevor's Toy Doll time was short-lived (just over a month); his reason for leaving: "I resent being called a frog". He went on to form local band Danceclass.

With no shortage of skin-batterers in the North East, Flip and Olga met up with Teddy (real name Graham Edmundson). He was one of the best drummers the Dolls ever had, but unfortunately he was only prepared to stand in for a while as he wanted to pursue his own business as a cherished registration plate dealer. He lasted nearly four months but did appear on some recordings: 'She's a Worky Ticket' (from the NE1 compilation album) 'Deirdre's a Slag' and 'She Goes to Finos' (from the Strength Thru Oi! compilation album).

By this time The Toy Dolls had built up a strong local following, and the national music press were being favourable with reviews of the gigs and records. Garry Bushell in particular, who wrote for Sounds, gave some outstanding features/reviews. There was also a lot of backing from the local media.

But, alas, the lads were caught in that trap of just doing the rounds of being stuck in the North East with no recording deal, so something had to be done or a final split would have to come.

The next step, of course, was to find another bloody drummer! So, the lads auditioned a handful of beaters before deciding on Bob, a former member of Olga's previous band Showbiz Kids – full name Robert Kent and Toy Dolls name Happy Bob. A tall good-looking bastard and competent drummer, Happy Bob was around for some time.

This was probably the most important time of The Toy Dolls’ career with the release of the collectable, self-financed Toy Dolls EP; the regrettable signing to EMI Records and the single release of 'Everybody Jitterbug'; the signing to Volume Records and the release of 'Nellie The Elephant' (1982 version) and the release of the Dig That Groove Baby album.

The first chance to do a national tour was thanks to The Angelic Upstarts. This support slot enabled The Toy Dolls to do further national gigs and tours in their own right.

Anyway, the workload was intense and with a second national forthcoming tour supporting the Upstarts arranged, Happy Bob and Flip had just about enough. With the prospect of another month on the road, sleeping in the van with no money at all, they pulled out only two days before the start.

What could Olga do? The chances of playing to ready-made audiences in towns and cities where The Toy Dolls were unheard of was too much to turn down. Fortunately, the local rehearsal rooms, run by Peter Practice (Peter Dodds) had lots of bands practising that evening, so Olga managed to entice two young and eager musicians to practise for two days solid and embark on the aforementioned tour. And so, The Angelic Upstarts tour plus one or two extra shows was completed by drummer Nick Buck (real name Nick Buck!) and bass player Freddie Hotrock (real name Frederick Roberts)


Next in line for recruitment were bass player Bonny Baz (Barry Warne) and drummer Dicka (Alan Dixon).

With this line-up The Toy Dolls released a single for Volume Records, 'Cheerio & Toodlepip' and also performed a number of gigs nationwide. Dicka left shortly afterwards.


Olga and Bonny Baz then teamed up with drummer Dicky (Malcolm Dick), a local musician who had never really settled down to playing with a particular band for any length of time; he had played in many combos including Prefab Sprout. During Dicky's reign the band embarked on quite a few tours, including international visits to Holland, Germany and North America. The workaholics also released two more singles for Volume: 'Alfie From The Bronx' and 'We're Mad'. At this point, Dicky and Baz both left to do their own thing.

The lads re-recorded and released a new version of 'Nellie The Elephant'. This single sold a staggering 535,000 copies in the UK and took the band to no.4 in the charts. Ex-member Pete Zulu came in as a desperate measure to play bass and local session player Little Paul (Paul Smith) joined the scene on drums. After numerous TV appearances Pete and the lads decided that Pete himself was just not good enough as a bass player (an understatement!) but rather than sack him, they put him on rhythm guitar (he could play E, G and Am) and employed bass player Ernie (Ernest Algar – Olga's older brother).

So off the lads went as a four-piece! A European and UK tour took place, and a single 'She Goes To Finos' and an album A Far Out Disc were released during this period. The four-piece only lasted three months; Little Paul got offered loads of session and TV work and left.

After a break of a few months, Olga decided to get back on the road again, took a deep breath and started another string of auditions. No one was suitable! So Olga approached two former members, who he thought were the easiest to get on with: drummer Teddy Toy Doll and Dean James, who now played bass.

Throughout this time the band released a singles album, two singles 'James Bond Lives Down Our Street', 'Geordie's Gone To Jail' and an album Idle Gossip. And even more gigs, gigs, gigs. Canny Kev (Kevin Scott) was around to stand in for Teddy at two Austrian shows at this time too.


No time was wasted and in steps drummer extraordinaire Marty (Martin Yule). During the time Marty, Dean and Olga performed together, only one album was released: Barefaced Cheek on NIT Records. Yes, The Toy Dolls finally parted company after five years with the recording company Volume due to various disagreements, for a fresh start with NIT.

After a number of tours Dean departed, a best-of album Ten Years Of Toys was released by NIT, then the band split from NIT and went searching for a new deal. In September 1989 the band signed to Receiver Records, drafted in bass player K'Cee (John Casey) and released an album, Wakey Wakey. Another tour begins! And another and yet another...

(Just for the record, bass player Dickie Hammond stood in for a Scandinavian tour whilst K'Cee took a sabbatical).

A single 'Turtle Crazy' and a string of albums: 20 Tunes Live From Tokyo, Fat Bob's Feet, Absurd Ditties and Orcastrated were all released by Receiver. After a number of successful tours (particularly the Absurd Ditties jaunt of 1993) K'Cee became disillusioned with the band and left. He moved to Japan where he got married. Gary Fun (ex-Martin Stephenson and the Daintees) joined the band just in time for the recording of One More Megabyte in 1997. Olga, Marty and Gary hit the road once more to promote the new release.

During a break from the relentless recording/touring schedule Olga found time to produce Japanese all girl punks Lolita #18. Toy Doll was the fruit of their labours which features the girls' rendition of ‘Dig That Groove Baby’. Olga would go on to produce another album for them, entitled Angel Of The North.

The new millennium saw the much-awaited release of their 11th studio album, Anniversary Anthems, which celebrated the lads’ twenty-first year in the business.

After a less than successful string of live dates (on a personal level), Olga decided that the current line-up was not up to scratch and felt that the fans were being cheated with poor live performances. A decision was made to take a well-earned break. This didn't last too long!

After meeting up with them a year earlier in Japan, Olga joined forces with The Dickies as their stand-in bass player at the end of 2001. In the nine months he spent touring with the band they played in Europe, Japan, the US and the UK. Incidentally, the UK dates were the first time Olga had been seen on a UK stage since 1993!

After The Dickies shows, and with The Toy Dolls still on hiatus, Olga took up the bass duties and toured with The Adicts in 2003 on the first half of their Like Clockwork tour. His stint with the band culminated with a performance at the Holidays In The Sun festival in the UK.

Fired up by his recent live outings, Olga set about re-grouping The Toy Dolls during the latter half of 2003. Marty was unable to commit to recording and touring this time round as he wanted to spend more time with his family so Dave The Nut was bought in to sit on the drum stool. Bass player extraordinaire Reb completed the line-up. After only a handful of rehearsals it started to become apparent that it wasn't going to be financially viable to continue with a line-up whose members lived so far apart. With Reb in Germany and Olga and Dave in the UK, it was becoming increasingly difficult for the band to rehearse regularly, therefore a decision was made to split with Reb.

Olga and Dave had to find yet another bass player; luckily Tom Goober was available and only too pleased to step up to the plate.

2004 saw the release of the much anticipated Our Last Album? and the fans weren't disappointed at all. It was a classic Toy Dolls album in every aspect. Following the album’s release the band took to the road for the first time in five years; over 12 months they took in much of Europe to welcoming, enthusiastic crowds each and every night. Our Last DVD? was also filmed during the tour – a lasting testament to the band's mastery of the live stage.

An interesting knock-on from the release of Our Last Album? was the production of the first of a series of brilliant cartoon videos issued to celebrate stand-out Toy Dolls songs. ‘The Death of Barry the Roofer with Vertigo’ in cartoon form was a YouTube sensation, and was followed in later years by equally successful treatments of ‘Decca’s Drinkin’ Dilemma’ (from The Album After The Last One) and ‘Firey Jack’ from Christophe Saunière’s Classic Toy Dolls album. Christophe was to become something of a Toy Dolls stalwart, playing harp on some of the band’s recordings, and complementing his classical treatment of the band’s songs with an equally phenomenal jazz album, The Toy Dolls: Jazzed Up.

Also released in 2004, to mark The Toy Dolls’ 25th anniversary, was the band’s official biography, The Toy Dolls: From Fulwell to Fukuoka, written by Ronan Fitzsimons and published by Ardra Press.

The question marks tagged to the latest album/DVD/tour put a lot of doubt into people’s minds as to whether this would be the last time they got to see or hear The Toy Dolls. And after the tour finished, it did indeed look like the band was finally going to hang up its blue suede shoes. However, following a handful of live dates in Brazil as special guest of The Lambrusco Kids, an invigorated Olga decided to keep The Toy Dolls’ train-a-chuggin' and enlisted the services of drummer Duncan (from Snuff / Billy No Mates) to take up the drum stool. Things were looking good again! The new line-up continued a seemingly never-ending list of shows, and a brand-new studio album, The Album After The Last One, was well received.

The tightness and personability of the Olga/Tommy/Duncan combination really gelled, and this line-up was to become the longest-serving in The Toy Dolls’ history.

The tradition of playing extensively across Europe continued, taking in countries as far-flung as Russia, Macedonia, Norway and Croatia, as well as welcome tours of Japan and the UK in 2007. This was followed by a string of 30th Anniversary shows in 2010, spanning much of Europe and a wild foray into South America.

The years 2012 to 2014 were taken up with dates on The Tour After The Last One, which saw the lads touring relentlessly, mainly across Europe, but also including a series of shows in the UK (2013) and the US (2014). A highlight of this period was a 2013 football stadium show in Cologne, Germany, where the band played as special guests of the mighty Die Toten Hosen. By now, the extensive club shows were being complemented by an increase in offers to perform at summer festivals, and this schedule set in for the next few years, with the lads kept very busy between April and September. This also left time for shorter, country-specific tours in the spring and autumn.

Another anniversary (the band’s 35th) came around, and a string of shows across Europe in 2015 celebrated this milestone. The Toy Dolls’ enduring popularity was demonstrated by the selling-out of gigs in Switzerland, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden that year – a feat matched in 2016 by shows in Belgium, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands (again!), the Czech Republic and France. It was now completely normal for the lads to have branched out from their long-established European heartland, and to find themselves routinely playing in Serbia, Macedonia and Russia, as well as an unexpected invitation to play a gig in Israel just before Christmas in 2016.

After successful mini-tours of Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal in the early part of the year, 2017 was a heavy year for festivals, including two on home soil (Scotland Calling in Glasgow and North West Calling in Manchester) and some crazy shows at festivals in Poland, Romania and Slovenia. In gaps in this busy touring schedule, Olga was dedicating as much time as possible to writing the next album, as he was acutely aware that a few years had passed since the last studio release, and he was desperate not to keep the fans waiting too much longer.

Building on the success of earlier forays into South American territory (which had involved shows exclusively in Brazil and Argentina, both of which have always had enormous Toy Dolls fanbases), 2018 saw the exciting offer of a more extensive tour of the continent, this time embracing those two countries again, plus jaunts in both Uruguay and Chile – the latter of which sold out, along with two of the Brazilian shows. Olga declared the experience ‘exhausting but exhilarating’.

Much of 2019 was taken up with the long-awaited recording and release of the band’s thirteenth studio album, Episode XIII. This opus entered Olga’s top three Toy Dolls albums, alongside Dig That Groove Baby and Absurd Ditties, so all the effort was worthwhile. In the latter part of the year, after an enjoyable performance supporting Stiff Little Fingers in Belfast, the band embarked on an extensive autumn European tour under the banner of the ‘40th Anniversary Shows’, playing a mixture of old favourites and selected tunes from the new album. This tour continued into 2020, before the Covid 19 pandemic hit, meaning that playing live was essentially impossible for the next two years. However, Olga kept the fans’ spirits up with plenty of banter and competitions on the website and Facebook, and even released two Song Books, as well as handwriting sheets of lyrics for the fans. Soon enough it was 2022 and the Anniversary touring was able to continue, this time including a UK tour and a remarkable festival in France. This show, at Hellfest in Clisson, was filmed for what would become a DVD release of remarkable quality, Live in Hell.

Alongside the band’s formidable back catalogue of studio LPs and live albums, they have also enjoyed having their work re-issued via the imaginative and colourful packages released by Captain Oi (including batches of albums and compilations of their singles – the latter coming out in 2014). This body of work stands as a testament to how hard the band have worked over the last 45 years and the importance and effect their music has had on legions of fans worldwide.