Toy (found unreleased David Bowie album; 2001)

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David Bowie - Toy (2021).jpg

The official cover art for the 2021 release of Toy.

Status: Found

Date found: 20 Mar 2011 (leak) / 26 Nov 2021 (final version)

Found by: Anonymous (leak), Parlophone Records (final version)

David Bowie (1947-2016) was an English singer-songwriter active from 1964 all the way until his death in 2016. Widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential rock musicians in the history of popular music, his output was famous for its theatrically-inspired style and constantly shifting direction, leading to him commonly being described as a "Rock Chameleon." So often did Bowie's direction shift that he would frequently re-orient himself in the middle of album-making, oftentimes hinting at forthcoming musical directions in the finished product. At most, this would result in an album being radically overhauled between early drafts and the completed release, such as the more polished, mainstream-friendly sound and revised tracklist of 1975's Young Americans compared to the rawer style of its initial incarnation (eventually given a posthumous release in 2016 as The Gouster), or the early vestiges of an album being scrapped in favor of a new direction (e.g. the halting of 2. Contamination, a planned sequel to 1995's 1. Outside, in favor of 1997's Earthling), but only on one occasion did a planned album go completely unreleased after finishing production: Toy, an aborted re-recordings album that would serve as the basis for 2002's Heathen.

Background[edit | edit source]

Toy was initially put together as the planned follow-up to 1999's 'hours... ' , featuring a similarly mellow electronic rock direction. According to the 2005 edition of Bowie biographer David Buckley's Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story, the album was produced between 2000 and 2001,[1] with other sources describing it as being intended for release in either the latter year or 2002.[2][3] The album consisted mostly of re-recordings of songs from before Bowie's mainstream breakthrough with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972; of these tracks, the majority of them were based on non-album singles that he released at the start of his career. In addition, the album sessions included the recording of a few new songs: "Uncle Floyd", "Afraid", "Karma Man", and "Toy (Your Turn to Drive)".

For 20 years, documentation about the album's production was scarce, with the only clear details about its making being the recording timeframe, the involvement of producer Mark Plati, and the direction of the album itself; however, a 2021 Rolling Stone article would offer a more comprehensive description of the album's production. According to the article, the idea for the album came together following Bowie's performance of his 1965 non-album single "Can't Help Thinking About Me" at the 1999 VH1 Storytellers live show. While Bowie did nothing to hide his embarrassment towards the track, he and Plati where enthusiastic about its new arrangement, encouraging him to revisit more of his early material. Consequently, following Bowie's performance at the 2000 Glastonbury Festival, he and his backing band re-recorded a large number of old tracks at the Sear Sound studio in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan, over the course of just two weeks; overdubbing and mixing were later done at Looking Glass Studios in NoHo, Manhattan. Bowie sent the finished album to his label, Virgin Records, in December of 2000.[4]

Rejection by Virgin Records and EMI[edit | edit source]

As with the making of the album, the circumstances behind its scrapping are only scarcely described. While Toy was finalized at the end of 2000, on June 4th of the following year, Bowie held an online AMA session on his official website. There, he described how the album's release date was rendered indeterminable as a result of scheduling issues with Virgin, and that he would only make a definitive announcement when they're able to provide him with a concrete date. Within the same session, Bowie revealed that he had already begun recording sessions for what would become Heathen.[5]

Despite these early hopes, however, the album ultimately went unreleased for reasons that were never fully specified. Speculation by fans and analysts frequently pins down possible copyright issues surrounding the re-recording of songs that, in their original incarnations, were scattered across a large variety of labels (with Universal Music Group in particular still holding the rights to the 1966-1968 Deram Records material). Popular song-by-song fan blog Pushing Ahead of the Dame argued that the eventual rejection of Toy was partly the result of the commercial failures of both Mariah Carey's 2001 film Glitter and its associated soundtrack album, with Virgin viewing the esoteric nature of Toy as unsuitable for a financial bounce-back. [6] Rolling Stone would corroborate this explanation in 2021, further clarifying that Virgin's parent company, EMI, was also beset by factors such as the rise of file-sharing services like Napster and a decline in the global economy following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.[4]

In 2021, the Bowie estate offered an alternate explanation, claiming that Bowie had intended to give the album a surprise release, only for it to be deemed infeasible given the technological considerations of 2001;[7] Bowie would eventually follow the surprise release model for his 2013 album The Next Day. Regardless, by October of 2001, Bowie went public about Virgin's parent company EMI requesting an album of original material in place of Toy, before promising to get the latter released in the future.[6] According to an interview with Bowie collaborator and Heathen producer Tony Visconti in Nicolas Pegg's 2002 book The Complete David Bowie, the musician was "terribly hurt" by the label's decision despite the relaxed tone of the October announcement, and that these feelings motivated him to separate himself from EMI altogether in favor of striking a new deal with the Sony-owned Columbia Records, in partnership with his own ISO imprint.[8] It would be through Columbia that Bowie would release Heathen and all subsequent material (discounting archival releases) up to the posthumous EP No Plan in 2017.

Official Availability Pre-2021 and 2011 Leak[edit | edit source]

Though Bowie initially promised to give Toy a release somewhere down the road after Heathen, the album never officially made it onto store shelves. Despite this, remnants of the project were officially released in other forms during the era surrounding Heathen. The 2002 album itself featured re-recordings of "Uncle Floyd" (retitled "Slip Away") and "Afraid", though the original versions would remain officially unreleased. The Toy versions of "Baby Loves That Way", "Shadow Man", and "You've Got a Habit of Leaving" were made B-sides to the single releases of Heathen cuts "Slow Burn", "Everyone Says 'Hi'", and "I've Been Waiting for You", later appearing on the bonus disc of a Japanese double-CD release of the album in 2007. Meanwhile, the re-recorded "Conversation Piece" would surface as both a bonus track on the SACD release of Heathen and on the bonus disc of the limited-edition release.

On March 20th, 2011, roughly a decade after its initial cancellation, the full version of Toy would be anonymously leaked online through BitTorrent.[6] In an article about the leak made just three days later Rolling Stone states that the circumstances behind it were "unclear,"[2] nor has the identity of the leaker ever been uncovered. Meanwhile, an article by The Guardian published the following day notes that the leak occurred roughly a week after an eBay user from Australia auctioned off an alleged copy of the album (the page for the auction has since been deleted with no archives available), implying that this was the basis for what was ultimately uploaded online. The same article also alleged that the leaked version was substantially different from what was planned for release, noting the absence of re-recorded versions of "Can't Help Thinking About Me" and "Karma Man".[3]

According to Rolling Stone, Bowie and his associates refrained from commenting on the leak,[2] though they would ultimately (albeit silently) acknowledge it in 2014, when "Toy (Your Turn to Drive)" and the re-recordings of "Shadow Man" and "Let Me Sleep Beside You" were officially released for the first time as part of the deluxe edition of the retrospective compilation Nothing Has Changed.[9]

Final Release[edit | edit source]

Ten years after the album's leaking, twenty after its shelving, and five after Bowie's death, his estate and Parlophone Records (who were given the distribution rights to Bowie's back-catalog in 2015) announced that Toy would finally see an official release on November 26, 2021, as part of the box set Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001). The release is the fifth entry in a series of box sets documenting different eras of Bowie's back-catalog, including studio albums, rarities, and, in this case, unreleased material. This finalized version of Toy omits "Uncle Floyd" and "Afraid" but includes "Can't Help Thinking About Me" and "Karma Man", and features Bowie's originally-proposed cover art of his adult face superimposed onto one of his baby photos. Parlophone also announced that Toy would be receiving a a 3-CD expanded set titled Toy:Box on January 7, 2022, including alternate mixes and outtakes.[7][4][10] A "radio edit" of the re-recorded "You've Got a Habit of Leaving" was released simultaneously with the announcement to promote all three sets.[11]

Track Lists[edit | edit source]

Leaked Version[edit | edit source]

The following is the tracklist for Toy as seen in the 2011 leak, alongside a description of the sources for each re-recorded song:

  1. "Uncle Floyd" (6:15) - New track, re-recorded on Heathen as "Slip Away"
  2. "Afraid" (3:29) - New track, re-recorded on Heathen
  3. "Baby Loves That Way" (4:38) - B-side to non-album single "You've Got a Habit of Leaving", 1965
  4. "I Dig Everything" (4:52) - Non-album single, 1966
  5. "Conversation Piece" (3:53) - B-side to the original non-album version of "The Prettiest Star", 1970
  6. "Let Me Sleep Beside You" (3:14) - Compilation track from The World of David Bowie, 1970
  7. "Toy (Your Turn to Drive)" (4:46) - New track
  8. "Hole in the Ground" (3:30) - Home demo, 1969
  9. "Shadow Man" (4:41) - Outtake from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972
  10. "In the Heat of the Morning" (3:52) - Non-album single, 1965
  11. "You've Got a Habit of Leaving" (4:49) - Non-album single, 1965
  12. "Silly Boy Blue" (5:33) - Album track from David Bowie, 1967
  13. "Liza Jane" (4:48) - Non-album single, 1964
  14. "The London Boys" (3:47) - B-side to non-album single "Rubber Band", 1966

Total time: 62:07

Final Version[edit | edit source]

The following is the tracklist for Toy as seen in the finalized 2021 release, alongside a description of the sources for each re-recorded song:

  1. "I Dig Everything" (5:03) - Non-album single, 1966
  2. "You've Got a Habit of Leaving" (4:48) - Non-album single, 1965
  3. "The London Boys" (3:47) - B-side to non-album single "Rubber Band", 1966
  4. "Karma Man" (3:46) - Compilation track from The World of David Bowie, 1970
  5. "Conversation Piece" (3:53) - B-side to the original non-album version of "The Prettiest Star", 1970
  6. "Shadow Man" (4:40) - Outtake from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972
  7. "Let Me Sleep Beside You" (3:14) - Compilation track from The World of David Bowie, 1970
  8. "Hole in the Ground" (3:32) - Home demo, 1969
  9. "Baby Loves that Way" (4:37) - B-side to non-album single "You've Got a Habit of Leaving", 1965
  10. "Can't Help Thinking About Me" (3:25) - Non-album single, 1966
  11. "Silly Boy Blue" (5:35) - Album track from David Bowie, 1967
  12. "Toy (Your Turn to Drive)" (4:16) - Nothing Has Changed, 2014

Total time: 50:36

External Links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Buckley, David, Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story (2005). Retrieved 27 Apr '21
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Rolling Stone article about the Toy leak. Retrieved 27 Apr '21
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Guardian article about the Toy leak. Retrieved 27 Apr '21
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 2021 Rolling Stone article about the history of Toy. Retrieved 29 Sept '21
  5. Transcription of the June 4th, 2001 AMA session. Retrieved 27 Apr '21
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 2014 Pushing Ahead of the Dame article about the making of Toy. Retrieved 27 Apr '21
  7. 7.0 7.1 Stereogum article about the 2021 release of Toy. Retrieved 29 Sept '21
  8. Pegg, Nicolas, The Complete David Bowie (2002). Retrieved 27 Apr '21
  9. Press announcement for Nothing Has Changed, including details about the Toy cuts included within. Retrieved 27 Apr '21
  10. Super Deluxe Edition article about Brilliant Adventures and Toy:Box. Retrieved 29 Sept '21
  11. You've Got A Habit Of Leaving (Radio Edit) [Official Lyric Video] Retrieved 29 Sept '21