David Bowie                                                Toy                                                On Friday


David Bowie                      Hunky Dory Limited Edition                    On Friday


Every January in Britain, there is David Bowie Fortnight. It has become a tradition, even though it is not yet official.

It marks the bookends of Bowie’s life – his birth on January 8, 1947 and his death on January 10, 2016. If his cancer hadn’t been fatal, he would be 75 today.

The three concerts he has been performing with his touring musicians are in New York. Mike Garson is the madcap pianist and hosts a live stream in Los Angeles.

As this century began, David Bowie (above) was still a superstar on stage, wowing a vast crowd at Glastonbury 2000, but he was stuttering in the studio

David Bowie was still the star of Glastonbury 2000. He was still performing in front of a large audience, and he could be heard muttering from his recording studio.

Bowie may not be happy with the place where posterity placed him. In 2003, he turned down the knighthood. But it’s his own fault for going out at the top of his game, with the mesmerising Blackstar.

A reflective type of rock was discovered by him for the second time. This kind of sound is played by jazzmen and is infused with Gregorian chant.

15 years before, the situation was very different. It’s hard to believe now that Bowie was ever unsuccessful, but even the greatest careers have their slumps

He was still an international star on the stage at Glastonbury 2000. However, as this century started, he began to struggle in his studio.

Outside, Earthling, and Hours were his previous albums. They had been all released in silver. It was like the final days of a God.

He responded in a typical idiosyncratic way: he attempted to get out of one hole by going back to another. Davy Jones was an unhit wonder in the middle of 1960s. He made singles, formed bands and went nowhere.

He pulled out several tracks from that time and brought his band to New York to record them along with later songs. He released the result as an album. Toy – which Virgin refused to release.

You can see why Virgin took against Toy (above): most of the faster songs are dated, snappy but shallow, a far cry from Station To Station

Virgin was right to take on Toy. The faster songs were dated and short, which is a stark contrast from Station To Station.

This week, after featuring in Bowie’s latest boxed set, Toy finally emerges in its own right. Virgin was against the idea. The faster songs were dated and snappy, but not as good as Station To Station.

You can still see why Bowie believed it.

Two ballads are included with the best of his work. Conversation Piece is wistful, grave and grounded (‘I can’t see the road for the rain in my eyes’). Shadow Man is a Ziggy Stardust leftover and it’s sadder, more grand, but just as beautiful.

Bowie is a great singer, and he takes some of the less-than-perfect lyrics and marinates them with midlife wisdom.

Toy is well worth hearing, but you may prefer to download its two gems – or to pick up the picture disc of Hunky DoryReissued to celebrate its 50th Anniversary. ‘Turn and face the strange,’ he urged us on the opening track, Changes.

His advice was sound, and he followed it from Quicksand’s quirks to the grandeur of Life On Mars? It was his first work of art.