In the Heat of the Mourning…
As promised, here is the 2017 remaster of Toy on cassette to hopefully make Bowie Fans’ D-day a little brighter this year. I don’t have too much to say about this one, since I already covered the backstory about this peculiar label of tapes in my last post about the Lazarus (No Plan) EP cassette I found. (Definitely give that one a read if you haven’t yet – will answer a lot of questions about where these are coming from, and you’ll get a new Lazarus EP at the end of it.)
Keep reading for more information on Toy, and a download link for the 2017 remaster.
Toy was originally slated to be Bowie’s 23rd studio album. Intended to be released in 2002, it was a collection of remakes of songs from the 60’s, along with a handful of new material. However, when it came time to release the album, the project was showing signs of stalling out.
Bowie addressed the matter during a virtual chat in 2001, saying, “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.”
Unfortunately for us, it seems that date never came, and Toy remained unreleased, while relations between Virgin and Bowie continued to sour… Or so the story goes.
It’s been suggested that Virgin’s decision to sit on Toy may have had something to do with Bowie splitting from the label and starting one of his own, named after his ISO brand. ISO would then go on to release Heathen, while Toy was seemingly left in the dustbin, forgotten…
Which is where it remained until March of 2011, when mp3s of Toy were quietly leaked online by some “anonymous soul”, and they quickly began to circulate around the web. Around the same time, someone also happened to post an unreleased music video for “Slow Burn”, featuring Bowie trapped inside a glass recording studio booth longing to escape. It is generally assumed that Bowie himself was the source of the leak. There are also stories of a CD version going up for auction that was privately pressed by Bowie, which could also be the source. (Bowie’s reps reportedly refused to comment).
Wherever the leaks came from, there were plenty of indicators that this leaked album was not the finished mix, as a compilation of short clips from the album had been posted nearly a decade earlier to BowieNet in a much more polished form. To this day, forum posts on Bowie Wonderworld and elsewhere seem to confirm that no lossless versions of the album have been made available. Yet.
You can listen to the OG leak of the Toy album for yourself here.
I believe this link also includes a vinyl rip of the version from the Godfather bootleg, but again, it is not the same thing as the version we have on tape.
At the very least it is good to have these on hand as a baseline to compare against.
Unfinished and compressed as it was, Toy was still a welcome surprise to Bowie fans in 2011. In fact, it was one of the ONLY new transmissions from Bowie after his sudden heart attack in 2004 during ‘A Reality Tour’.
In the near-decade since the mp3s were leaked, Toy has cropped up on a number of bootleg records and CDs with varied cover art, usually selling for incredibly high prices. However, to the best of our knowledge, all of these versions (or any others available online) have all been based on the mp3 leaks of the unfinished mixes. Furthermore, while a handful of tracks from Toy were re-recorded for Heathen, or released as B-Sides, none of those versions appeared to be the finished Toy mixes either.
Some examples of the variety bootlegs floating out there:
Some are clearly more well designed than others, (apologies in advance for all the JPEG), but the sheer amount of them is fascinating:
Toy (Special Limited 2017 Edition)
This brings us to our shiny new Toy – (Special Limited 2017 Edition) cassette tape. While it’s technically unknown how close this recording is to the “finished” mixes teased back on BowieNet, it’s just as impossible to know when ANY of Bowie’s albums were actually finished.
What we do know is that this tape has a vastly different version of Toy from any we’ve heard before or since.
I could rave about these songs for another overly long blog entry, but I will leave it to you to hear for yourself. Conversation Piece is especially warm and telling, and Liza Jane has the devil’s swagger. Every song has been elevated to new heights, and his 60’s music has never sounded better.
I’ve uploaded the full Toy (2017) Blackstar tape to my Dropbox here, but I’ve also added a YouTube playlist below for quick listening.
EDIT: Since Dropbox can get overloaded, here is a MEGA upload as well.
That should do it for today. Hope you enjoy the new album, and come back tomorrow if you want to catch a very special version of The Trident Tapes (on record).
– Elizabeth & Dee
Toy (2017 Tape) Youtube Playlist:
Each individual song is included below, and the full Youtube playlist can be found Here