The Mavis Toi

The Mavis Toi

Here's the few tracks that we recorded with Louise on backing vocals. On 'Passion On Dean Street' she comes into her own on the vamp at the end.
The band was called The Mavis Toi ( pronounced TOY ) meaning gang in certain Glasgow sub culture as the singer & original bassist were from Glasgow.

Matt Barry
The line up was
John O'Brien - Vocals
Louise Rutkowski - Backing Vocals
Derek Summerville - Bass,( '87- '90) then Carlo Ballestrini ('90 - '92)
Jeremy Holroyd - Drums
Jim Jessop - Keyboards
Matt Barry - Guitar
Dave Smith - Sax & 2nd Gtr

Passion on Dean St..mp3

My friend's a Nurse.mp3

Love Injection.mp3


Heat of Your Love.mp3

Heart Lies Bleeding.mp3

Band History

1987 In the summer of 1987 Matt, Jeremy and bassist, Derek Sommerville had recently ceased working on a musical project with a female vocalist from Worcester. Matt was the proud possessor of a publishing deal for his songs, courtesy of a fellow named Eddie Levi and his effeminate sidekick, Clifford 'with the red specs'. Well, it was the 80s! Dave Smith (Miff) was in the picture too and was always around to blow a bit of sax, amongst other things. Meanwhile John was settling into London life having left rock and roll behind in Scotland, when "The Orchid" folded and the bright lights beckoned. John took to the London club scene like a fish to water and enjoyed a few drinks like a fish too. Legend has it that John bumped into an old friend on a train from Waterloo to Surbiton late one Saturday night in the Spring of 1987. The old friend happened to be Derek, who had lived in The same street when they were children in Scotland and was now a friend and fellow musical colleague of one Matt Barry. Turns out that Derek now lived a few hundred yards from John on the Surbiton/Kingston border. After a few nights out with John and a bit of bonding, Derek suggested to Matt that he try John out as vocalist on two backing tracks that Matt had recoded on an old 4 track recording machine.

On 2nd September 1987 the nucleus of The (as yet unnamed) Mavis Toi got together at 131 Trinity Road, Tooting Bec to lay down vocals on backing tracks of ' 'Talk to Me' and 'Never get Tired'. The session was a disaster! Everyone overlooked that the date chosen was John's birthday and true to form he turned up incapable, like Brian Jones at the 'Sympathy for the Devil' sessions! Matt eventually gave up as John continued to down whiskey like it was going out of fashion. Thankfully, the boys tried again a few days later and the vocals were laid down and the songs indicated possible progress for the fledgling band. Next up was a rehearsal. John joined the band and sat down on the floor with 4 cans of Guinness. They never looked back. Matt quickly recruited Louise Rutowski on backing vocals and more tracks were laid down on Matt's trusted portastudio in his bedsit in Trinity Road. These would form the basis of the band's early set list. Among the songs written in this initial energetic surge were: In the Heat of Your Love I Can Feel You My Friend's a Nurse Whirlpool Melanie Matt and John quickly formed a songwriting partnership that would drive the band through 5 years of creativity. Generally, Matt would lay down the backing tracks and pass a tape to John, who would draft lyrics and the two would work together on finishing the songs.

The band debuted at a club called 'Zeta's' in Wandsworth, South London in early 88 and the reception was warm, if a bit subdued. On reflection, the band's image was perhaps to some extent at odds with the music. John, in particular looked outlandish, in black clothing, jewellery and heavy make up, whilst the music leant more towards the mainstream. This was an issue that would dog the band for a significant period of time and would not be resolved until a seismic shift that would take place around 1990, when a fresh direction would see the band merge image and sound more fully, logically and cohesively. However, that was a bit down the line and the formative years were vitally important in gelling the band, with the regular, forming storming and norming phases that frame such liaisons.

The final member of the original band was recruited in early 1988, Jim Jessop. Jim was a particularly bohemian keyboard player from North London and he slotted in comfortably and quickly as the band became more comfortable with one another and started to gig earnestly and frequently. Gigs throughout 1988 at a variety of venues saw the band become tighter and more relaxed on stage. London venues that the band graced included, the Half Moon, Putney, the Fulham Greyhound, the Cricketers, Kennington and the Rock Garden in Covent Garden. In addition there were several jaunts into the Home Counties and down to the South Coast. It was an exciting time and the band developed into a tight unit that could rock it up, funk it up and cool it down as needed. It was a happy time.

In April 1988 the band spent a day filming performances on the BBC's 'Top of the Pops' set at Limehouse Studios in the Docklands, East London. The resulting videos were directed and produced by Charles Richardson, son of eccentric English actor Ralph Richardson. The band completed videos for 4 Tracks:

In the Heat of Your Love

I can Feel You

My Friend's a Nurse


The videos survive on tape and are an interesting curio from the very earliest period in the Mavis Toi history. The band would visit the BBC's 'Top of the Pops' set for a second time the following year; this time at Borehamwood. Further videos were produced, featuring the songs;

Heart Lies Bleeding, Performance and Passion on Dean Street.

Throughout 1989 the band continued to work hard and recorded several songs at a variety of studios, most notably at RAK in St. John's Wood. The Toi finished off some vocals in the Same studio that the Pogues had been recording 'Fairy Tale of New York' the previous week. True to form some of the band decided to try to out-drink Shane MacGowan! It's understood that the final result on that one was a draw!

In 1990 Derek departed the band and was replaced by male model and DJ, Carlo Ballestrini on bass. Carlo immediately set to work and proved to be an excellent organiser and bass player. With Carlo's business drive the work flowed in for the Toi. The handsome figure of Carlo with his signature on-stage bare feet provided the final part in the band's final incarnation and they entered into the most productive period of their existence.

In March the band filmed an atmospheric 'Love injection' on the banks of the Thames at Rotherhithe, with John filming additional Scenes the following week in a house in St. John's Wood in North London. The result was an excellent snapshot of the Mavis Toi in video and audio excellence. The film, partly filmed in sepia was a fine vehicle to showcase one of the the standout tracks that the band ever managed to record on vinyl. Talking of vinyl, the Toi released an EP in Spain  on Gettovox records that Featured 3 tracks:

Cry Like a Baby

Passion on Dean Street

Love Injection

In addition, the band produced a further EP under their own steam and featured 4 tracks;

Passion on Dean Street

Cry Like a Baby

I Can Feel You


Both of these records have cropped up on Amazon recently, with fairly hefty price tags!

In October the band played the Camden Underworld and the gig was filmed. The performance was strong and captured the band exactly at the point of a major transformation. John appeared for the first time with a freshly shaved head and was painfully thin. The band had changed direction and the image was tougher and the sound harder and faster,but maintained the familiar groove. This performance was reviewed by George Berger in 'Sounds', the now defunct weekly music paper. George was mightily impressed and described the event as follows;

'Imagine a still vital Bowie performing in a dingy and smoky Berlin cellar and you'll have some idea of the vibe that the Toi created here.'

Back in the studio the finishing touches were made on tracks including, 'Hole in my Heart' and 'The World's not Ready'. These songs and several others recorded around this time typified the direction that the Toi had embarked upon and set them up for a roller coaster ride through the next 18 moths that would see them work harder than ever.

In 1991 the band indeed went into overdrive and realised their potential, producing some of their best songs and performing at the top of their game. The Toi  played dozens of gigs in London and the South East and made trips to Brighton, Southampton, Cambridge, Oxford, Bath, Birmingham,  Windsor, Farnham, Hastings, Ramsgate, Watford, Hertford, Saint Albans, Bognor Regis and many other towns in the South of England. The gigs included a great number of colleges and universities. They performed at the Croydon Fairfield Halls and in front of around an 800 strong audience with the River Detectives at an East Anglian University Summer Ball.


The band checked into several studios in the period and recorded some of their best work. A favourite was Beano's in Croydon, where on a particularly warm evening in March they recorded the evocative 'When You Bare You Teeth to Smile' . 'Teeth' was a soaring melodic masterpiece that juxtaposed a quasi-flower power Byrdsesque jangle with dark and pleading lyrics. John is on record as quoting Bulgakov's 'The Master and Margarita' as a prime lyrical influence for this track. On the same night the boys had some fun, laying down an extended version of the Archies' bubble gum pap 'Sugar, Sugar'! Despite some initial enthusiasm for the track, Matt wisely consigned the recording to a secret place and that's where it has remained for the past 20 years or so!

Earlier in the year in January, the band worked on two tracks in a Central London studio that would be placed into the new and vibrant set. 'Run from the Sun' and 'I'll never see a way' were good strong songs that were crafted and recorded to a high standard and demonstrated that throughout the period from the summer of 1990 through 1991 the band were at their peak. This was their time; creatively, image wise and both onstage and in the studio. Energy levels were high and the industry began to take notice. Several positive reviews in the music press were encouraging and over a short period through March and April 91 band members met with prospective management and major and minor record companies. They signed a deal with Ian Carlisle, erstwhile manager of 80s hit makers Living in a Box and turned down a minor recording deal with EMI, on the grounds that they were worth a better deal. In February of that year the band engaged in an hilarious meeting in a west London hotel with Larry Page, former manager of the Troggs. Larry was past his own sell by date and was more 'Arthur Daly' than the band could handle.

With Ian Carlisle on board and a host of new songs the band powered their way through 1991 and 1992 and underwent further image related transformation. They recorded 'Patricia Villas' another tuneful jangling track that fitted perfectly into the set. The prolific production of recordings continued with a string of memorable songs completed and laid down in the studio:

When You Bare Your Teeth to Smile


The Only Lovers Left Alive

Loosen Up


Run from the Sun

I'll Never see a way 

She's got What I Want

You Slept Here

Swept Downstream



No sooner had the band completed a set of new songs, that they would be back in the studio to complete more. The gigs continued unabated until mid 1992. Around this time the stresses and strains of the high tempo activity began to tell. Following the parting of ways with Ian Carlisle, Miff decided to leave the band and they continued for a short time. It appeared that the band's star was waning and it took to the stage for the final time in August 1992 at the Bun Shop in Surbiton, Surrey, just a few miles down the road from where it had all begun.

The Mavis Toi song list

Luxury, Never get Tired, Talk to Me (unfinished), In the Heat of Your Love, I can Feel You, My Friend's a Nurse, Whirlpool, Heart Lies Bleeding, Performance, Passion on Dean Street, Melanie, Lamb to the Slaughter, Cry Like a Baby, Running in Circles, Energy, Poem, Feels like there's a Hole in My Heart, Swamp, I  Know You'll be as Gentle as me, Summer of Love, Till Leaves are Green Again, Jealousy, Love Injection, Can't You Hear Me?, Gimme a Noose (Cause I Hate Entertainment), The World's not Ready, When You Bare Your Teeth to Smile, Patricia Villas, The Only Lovers Left Alive, Loosen Up, Stay, Run from the Sun, I'll  Never see a way, She's got What I Want, You Slept Here, Swept Downstream, Angel, Dream, Someway or Somehow.

The Mavis Toi Gigs 1987-1992

London:  Zeta's Wandsworth Half Moon, Putney Half Moon, Herne Hill Swan, Fulham Pour hauls Islington Trolley Stop, Dalston Subterranea, Notting Hill Moonlight Club, West Hampstead Sir George Robey, Finsbury Park Fulham Greyhound New Pegasus, Newington Green Brunel University, Uxbridge The Bun Shop, Surbiton The Cricketers, Kennington Royal Standard, Blackhorse Lane, Walthamstow The Opera on the Green, Shepherd's Bush The Rock Garden, Covent Garden Underworld, Camden Amersham Arms, New Cross Fairfield Halls, Croydon City University, Islington Middlesex University, Trent Park East London Polytechnic The Production Village, Cricklewood, Bull & Gate, Kentish Town Lady Owen Arms, Clerkenwell West London New Cross Gate Soho,Central London Croydon Wandsworth

South East England, East Anglia and The Midlands:  The Ship, Brighton Fire Station, Windsor The Old Trout, Windsor The Jericho Tavern, Oxford Brighton Polytechnic Guildford University, Surrey Bath University The Pump Room, Bath (University Summer Ball) Chichester College, Bognor Regis Aston University, Birmingham University of East Anglia, Cambridge University of East Anglia, Country Estate Summer Ball (with River City People) Ravensbourne College, Chiselhurst, Kent Hertford Polytechnic, Hertfordshire West Surrey College of Art and Design, Farnham, Surrey Ramsgate The Carlisle, Hastings Ocean Village, Southampton Watford The Horn of Plenty, St. Albans

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