Toy (found unreleased David Bowie album; 2001)
One of many fan-made covers for the unreleased album.
Date found: 20 Mar 2011
Found by: Anonymous
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, with other sources describing it as being intended for release in either the latter year or 2002. 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 featured three new songs: "Uncle Floyd", "Afraid", and "Toy (Your Turn to Drive)".
Rejection by Virgin Records and EMI[edit | edit source]
Documentation about the album's production is 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; similarly, the circumstances behind the album's scrapping are only scarcely described. On June 4th, 2001, Bowie held an online AMA session on his official website, during which he described how the album's release date was rendered indeterminable as a result of scheduling issues with his record label at the time, Virgin Records, and that he would only make a definitive announcement about the album's release 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.
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. Regardless, by October of that year, 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.
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. 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 and Leaking[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. In an article about the leak made just three days later Rolling Stone states that the circumstances behind it were "unclear," 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 a purported re-recording of "Can't Help Thinking About Me" and an original track titled "Karma Man".
According to Rolling Stone, Bowie and his associates refrained from commenting on the leak, 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. To this day though, Toy as a whole has never been officially released in its entirety, leaving the leak the only publicly available means of listening to the album.
Track List[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:
- "Uncle Floyd" (6:15) - New track, re-recorded on Heathen as "Slip Away"
- "Afraid" (3:29) - New track, re-recorded on Heathen
- "Baby Loves That Way" (4:38) - B-side to non-album single "You've Got a Habit of Leaving", 1965
- "I Dig Everything" (4:52) - Non-album single, 1966
- "Conversation Piece" (3:53) - B-side to the original non-album version of "The Prettiest Star", 1970
- "Let Me Sleep Beside You" (3:14) - Compilation track from The World of David Bowie, 1970
- "Toy (Your Turn to Drive)" (4:46) - New track
- "Hole in the Ground" (3:30) - Home demo, 1969
- "Shadow Man" (4:41) - Outtake from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972
- "In the Heat of the Morning" (3:52) - Non-album single, 1965
- "You've Got a Habit of Leaving" (4:49) - Non-album single, 1965
- "Silly Boy Blue" (5:33) - Album track from David Bowie, 1967
- "Liza Jane" (4:48) - Non-album single, 1964
- "The London Boys" (3:47) - B-side to non-album single "Rubber Band", 1966
Total time: 62:07
External Links[edit | edit source]
- YouTube playlist of the leaked version of Toy.
- Internet Archive reupload of the leaked version of Toy.
References[edit | edit source]
- Buckley, David, Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story (2005). Retrieved 27 Apr '21
- Rolling Stone article about the Toy leak. Retrieved 27 Apr '21
- The Guardian article about the Toy leak. Retrieved 27 Apr '21
- Transcription of the June 4th, 2001 AMA session. Retrieved 27 Apr '21
- 2014 Pushing Ahead of the Dame article about the making of Toy. Retrieved 27 Apr '21
- Pegg, Nicolas, The Complete David Bowie (2002). Retrieved 27 Apr '21
- Press announcement for Nothing Has Changed, including details about the Toy cuts included within. Retrieved 27 Apr '21