Little Toy Soldier

October 7, 2009


Little Toy Soldier.

“Little Toy Soldier” features a little girl Sadie, a toy soldier and lots of whipping. Amazingly, it was never released.

It’s an obvious rip on the Velvet Underground’s “Venus In Furs,” to the point where Bowie pilfers whole lines from the earlier song. There’s a grubby adolescent sensibility to it: the lyric seems like it’s by a boy who stole a copy of Justine out of the library. It also marks the fittingly perverse, gruesome end to Bowie’s novelty song series.

Gus Dudgeon, Bowie’s dedicated noisemaker by this point, festoons the verses with cackles, whipcracks and creaking springs. That’s just the warm up. Halfway through, after the soldier (a bit too wound up, it seems) kills Sadie in a fit of passion, the track descends into a maelstrom: Indian war whoops, explosions, shattering glass, coughing, motorway noise, and, just as in “Please Mr. Gravedigger,” a loudly blown nose.

Of interest (besides the S&M and noises) for being a document of the battle for Bowie’s soul—Bowie delivers the verses in his Anthony Newley-inspired voice, the choruses in his Lou Reed imitation.

Recorded on 5 April 1967 with the Riot Squad, a London band that Bowie took over for a few months in ’67, playing about 20 shows and cutting a few demos with them. They were Rod Davies (g), Croke Prebble (b), Bob Evans (sax, flute), George Butcher (keys) and Derek Roll (d); “Toy Soldier” is found on bootlegs (where it’s sometimes called “Sadie”) like Pierrot in Turquoise.

Top: Action Man in the field.