Toy: The Lost Album (Godfather Records GR 649)
(60:53): Uncle Floyd, Afraid, Baby Loves That Way, I Dig Everything, Conversation Piece, Let Me Sleep Beside You, Toy (Your Turn To Drive), Hole In The Ground, Shadow Man, In The Heat Of The Morning, You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving, Silly Boy Blue, Liza Jane, The London Boys
The choice to perform some obscure oldies on the 1999 The Hours tour, including “Can’t Help Thinking About Me,” was an impetus for David Bowie’s next studio project called Toy.
Recording began at Sear Studio in New York in July 2000 with Bowie’s current touring band. Rehearsing many oldies, they wanted to keep a loose feel to the sessions. Several songs he wrote in the sixties were recorded. Some were obscure rare singles, others had never been recorded in any form and were as new to Bowie as they were to the fans.
After a two month break and the birth of his daughter, work began again in September. Multi-instrumentalist Lisa Germano was brought in to provide overdubs to the recorded music. Producer Mark Plati said “her playing – especially violin – was simply magical and made some of the songs truly complete.”
Mixing occurred in October and at that time Bowie’s assessment of Toy was “It really has surpassed my expectations already. The songs are so alive and full of colour, they jump out of the speakers. It’s really hard to believe that they were written so long ago,” describing the music as “dreamy, a little weird at times, it rocks, it’s sad, it’s got passion, it… it … it’s really good.”
Toy initially was going to be released in March, but EMI/ Virgin pushed it back to May, then July. Finally it was dropped it altogether and the label wanted Bowie to record an album of all new material instead of revisiting old, albeit very obscure, songs. This suggestion lends weight to the speculation that Virgin didn’t, or couldn’t, release an album of song of which they didn’t own the rights.
Bowie himself was very hurt and went to work on Heathen. The two new songs from Toy, “Uncle Floyd,” renamed “Slip Away” and “Afraid,” were released on the new album. Three songs, “Baby Loves That Way”, “Shadow Man”, and “You’ve Got A Habit of Leaving” were released as b-sides to Heathen’s singles, and “Conversation Piece” was released on the limited edition bonus disc of Heathen in 2002.
But the rest of the project has been sitting away in the vaults until surfacing in March 2011 for unknown reasons. We can now hear the entire project as Bowie intended in excellent sound quality.
Of the older tunes, “Liza Jane” was Bowie’s debut single, released under the name Davie Jones with the King Bees. The original version of “Silly Boy Blue” appeared on Bowie’s eponymous debut album, and several other versions of these songs were released during Bowie’s early career including “I Dig Everything,” “Baby Loves That Way,” as collected on Early On (1964-1966), and “In The Heat Of The Morning,” and “The London Boys,” as collected on The Deram Anthology 1966-1968. A version of “Conversation Piece” was recorded and released in 1970.
The artwork was rumored to be completed but has never surfaced. The cover art on Godfather utilizes an interesting collage of photographs from Bowie’s career, showing him in all his multiple personas. Packaged in a tri-fold cardboard sleeve, this is a wonderful edition of a lost classic and is worth having.