Toy contained songs mostly written in the 1960s and early 1970s, although there were three new compositions: ‘Uncle Floyd’, ‘Afraid’, and ‘Your Turn To Drive’ – sometimes known as ‘Toy (Your Turn To Drive)’.
The album included a new version of ‘Liza Jane’, David Bowie’s first single, released in 1964 when he was 17 years old. The single was credited to Davie Jones with The King Bees, and released on Decca Records’ subsidiary label Vocalion Pop.
‘Liza Jane’ was an R&B adaptation of an old blues standard. The songwriting was credited to Leslie Conn, a Decca talent scout and effectively Bowie’s then manager, who also took the producer’s credit.
It was an old Negro spiritual that we played around with. I don’t know how he came to put his name on it.
The Complete David Bowie, Nicholas Pegg
After parting company with Parlophone, Bowie released three singles on the Pye label. The first, ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’, was issued on 14 January 1966, and the song was re-recorded for Toy 34 years later.
Another Toy song, ‘I Dig Everything’, was first released on 19 August 1966 as Bowie’s third and final single for the Pye label. It was originally demoed with Bowie’s band The Buzz, and the single was produced by Tony Hatch with session musicians.
The b-side of ‘Rubber Band’ was ‘The London Boys’. This was written in late 1965 and originally recorded that year with The Lower Third, but Pye objected to its references to drug taking. It was re-recorded on 18 October 1966 for the single, and again in 2000 for Toy.
‘Silly Boy Blue’ was the only Toy track to have been included on Bowie’s 1967 debut album. It was his first expression in song of his burgeoning interest in Buddhism and Eastern philosophy, which he returned to in songs including ‘Karma Man’, another 1967 song also re-recorded for Toy.
‘Karma Man’ had originally been recorded for the rejected singles ‘When I Live My Dream’ and ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’. ‘Karma Man’ and ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’ had both been recorded on 1 September 1967, and were both re-recorded for Toy.
‘In The Heat Of The Morning’ was first unveiled during a BBC radio session on 18 December 1967. This was Bowie’s first for the BBC, and saw him accompanied by the Arthur Greenslade Orchestra. The original recording was included on the deluxe reissue of Bowie’s 1967 debut album in 2010.
It was recorded again at Decca Studios on 12 March 1968, with overdubs following on 29 March and 10 and 18 April. The song was again turned down by Decca as a single, and prompted Bowie’s departure from the Deram label shortly afterwards.
‘Hole In The Ground’ is believed to date from late 1969 or early 1970. It was originally recorded as a home demo with George Underwood on lead vocals, with Bowie playing guitar and singing harmonies. The song was reportedly considered for single release, but it went no further until the Toy sessions. The original demo can be heard on the 2019 box set Conversation Piece.
‘Conversation Piece’ was itself another 1969 song, which was originally the b-side of the single ‘The Prettiest Star’ in March 1970. It was considered in 1969 for inclusion on Bowie’s self-titled second album, and was restored to the running order for Tony Visconti’s 2019 remix.
‘Shadow Man’ was originally recorded at Trident on 15 November 1971, during a session for The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. It was left unfinished, although various rough mixes have been bootlegged since.
One track remains elusive, and was not among the Toy songs leaked online in 2011. ‘Miss American High’ was registered by Bowie’s publishing company Nipple Music, although it is unclear whether it was actually recorded or from when it originally dates.
A news item posted on BowieNet on 1 January 2001 mentioned the songs ‘Untitled’ and “Gail’s favourite ‘Secret 1’”. The latter is assumed to be ‘Shadow Man’, although it may have been yet another unknown recording.