During the course of the pandemic, King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp and his singer wife, Toyah Willcox, have been distracting music fans with lighthearted and eye-catching covers of iconic rock tunes. This week, the couple took a more serious tone as they turned their attention toward the war in Ukraine, performing Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” and Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality.”
For their latest “Sunday Lunch” performance, Robert and Toyah take on Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” While the original may have been an indictment of American policies under the George H. W. Bush administration at the time Young released the song in 1989, it’s clear that the Robert and Toyah are focusing on Russia’s current attack on the freedom of the Ukrainian people right now.
In the clip, Robert is wearing the colors of Ukraine, with a blue vest and yellow tie. As Toyah sings and dances on the couple’s kitchen table, a sign behind her reads, “A free world for all is the dog’s bollocks.” In UK slang, “the dog’s bollocks” means a “really good thing.” The YouTube description further cemented their sentiment, briefly stating, “Enough said.”
In between “Sunday Lunch” performances, Toyah and Robert offered a condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin with a cover of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality.” Under the title “Ukraine We Hear You,” the couple performed the 1988 song in a more subdued manner than usual.
The Wikipedia entry of the phrase “cult of personality” defines it as “the phenomenon to describe the effort made by a government to create an idealized and heroic image of a leader, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.” The term was coined by Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev to describe the policies of his predecessor, the dictator Joseph Stalin, who is actually named in the lyrics of the Living Colour song. Here, it’s pretty obvious that Toyah and Robert are referring to Putin.
While Toyah’s outfits are still pretty revealing in both videos, it’s a departure from the couple’s usual covers, which are often very seductive and playful in nature. Most recently, the frisky pair took on The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy” and Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.” In the past, they’ve offered up risqué renditions of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”, Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”, Heart’s “Barracuda”, The Prodigy’s “Firestarter”, The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs,” and many more songs.
Watch Toyah and Robert cover Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” and Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” below.