In 2000, David Bowie got an odd idea for an album. And when I say odd, I mean strangely mundane: he’d re-record several of his earliest songs, many from before he recorded his first album in 1967, but with one track that got left off Ziggy Stardust, and make them into a new album. Maybe he’d even create some new songs as filler. It was a simple enough idea; he finished it, and he even had a title for it, Toy, but it never got released.
In a chat with fans in 2001, he said, “I’m finding EMI/Virgin seem to have a lot of scheduling conflicts this year, which has put an awful lot on the back burner. Toy is finished and ready to go, and I will make an announcement as soon as I get a very real date.” EMI/Virgin never gave him a very real date. Indeed, they refused to release it at all. I haven’t been able to find any reasons they give, but I suppose that maybe his dusting off and re-recording several of his older songs, but none of his hits just didn’t seem too commercially viable. Bowie was apparently so hurt by this refusal that he decided to create his own record label (ISO records) and have Columbia Records distribute his next album Heathen. For whatever reason, they didn’t distribute Toy, either, although it looks like the two new songs he wrote for Toy (“Uncle Floyd” [renamed “Slip Away”] and “Afraid”) ended up on Heathen. In 2011, the album was leaked online, but only now has the public decided the world was ready for it.
Toy will be released on its own (as a single disc, and as a three-CD/six- 10″ LP set), and as part of EMI’s newest box set Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001) alongside Black Tie White Noise, Buddha of Suburbia, 1.Outside, Earthling, hours…, and another disc of non-album singles and B-sides called Re: Call 5. The boxed set will be released on November 26, and the solo release will be on 7 January 2022.
And here’s a video of “You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving,” originally a 1966 single with David Jones and the Lower Third:
If nothing else, it’s an interesting throwback single.
Quoth co-producer Mark Plati: Toy is like a moment in time captured in an amber of joy, fire and energy. It’s the sound of people happy to be playing music. David revisited and re-examined his work from decades prior through prisms of experience and fresh perspective – a parallel not lost on me as I now revisit it twenty years later… From time to time, he used to say ‘Mark, this is our album’ – I think because he knew I was so deeply in the trenches with him on that journey,” he added. “I’m happy to finally be able to say it now belongs to all of us.”
And in addition to owning the worldwide rights to all of Bowie’s catalog from Spade Oddity and Hours, the David Bowie estate has reached a deal with Sony Music to have them complete the boxed set series with his last four albums: Heathen, Reality, The Next Day, and ★ (AKA Blackstar.) This last release will be sometime in 2023.