A Boxful of New Toys

I’d loved Lene Lovich from my first exposure. I remember seeing her early videos on Rockworld in 1979, just prior to the release of her 2nd album, “Flex.” Her vocal phrasing was like nothing my 16 year old ears had ever heard. It wasn’t until decades later when I got a 7″ EP version of “Voice Of The Xatabay” that I finally heard Yma Sumac and made the connection. Still, no one else was trilling like that in 1979! The actual first album I bought was “Flex” when it came out and 1980 came and went with no new Lene Lovich album. Little did I know that this was a harbinger of things to come, but in the Spring of 1981, a new single finally got released, called “New Toy.” I assumed that the release was heralding an album yet to come, but I eventually broke down and bought the UK import 7″ single.

Stiff Records | UK | 7″ | 1981 | BUY 97

Lene Lovich: New Toy UK 7″ [1981]

  1. New Toy
  2. Cats Away

It was a little surprising that the A-side was written by one “T. Dolby.” At the time, Thomas Dolby wasn’t on my radar; I never had the Bruce Woolley album, and his early, Andy Partridge produced single on Armageddon was still in the future. Previously, Jimme O’Neill had been to go-to man for outside writing on Lene Lovich records, but this song wasn’t too bad. The production was more in line with the sound of 1981; all of the weird ska touches that dotted the tunes of “Flex” were gone and the keyboards were trendier than they had been on previous releases. The B-side was a neat, twitchy, instrumental track that was heavy with synths. I also saw something still pretty unique in 1981 in the glass import case when I bought this record.

Stiff Records | UK | Cassette | 1981 | ZBUY 97

Lene Lovich: New Toy UK cassette [1981]

  1. New Toy
  2. Cats Away
  3. New Toy [ext. ver.]
  4. Cats Away

Cassette singles in 1981 were just beginning to surface, and this was the first time that I’d seen one. It was a four track version, with the flipside of the tape having the extended version of “New Toy” as well as “Cats Away” one more time. I vividly remember the flip top box the tape sported, sort of like a pack of cigarettes. I didn’t bite, though. I was always dismissive of pre-recorded tapes, which traditionally sounded horrible compared to anything I could record myself at home. There were better ways to get the extended version of “New Toy.”

Stiff records | UK | 12″ | 1981 | BUY IT 97

Lene Lovich: New Toy UK 12″ #1 [1981]

  1. New Toy [ext. ver.]
  2. Cats Away

The UK 12″ version sported a different colored  cover. The extended remix filled the A-side with “Cats Away” still on the B-side. The extended remix is only about a minute longer than the single version. In the spirit of the times, it’s gently filled out with some instrumental and rhythmic vamping.

Stiff Records | UK | 12″ | 1981 | BUY IT 97

Lene Lovich: New Toy UK 12″ #2 [1981]

  1. New Toy [ext. ver.]
  2. Cats Away

It was some time later in 1996, when I was browsing the bins at a record store in New Orleans, when I happened across a copy of “New Toy” with a completely different picture sleeve, so naturally I had to bite for that one!

Stiff/Epic | US | 12″ | 1981 | STIFF IT 97

Lene Lovich: New Toy US 12″ [1981]

  1. New Toy [ext. ver.]
  2. New Toy
  3. Cats Away

I think it was some time in the late 80s when I found a US 12″ of “New Toy.” This was the first time that I’d bought the extended version on record. It had both versions of the A-side on it, and the same cover as one of the UK 12″ singles.

Stiff/Epic | US | EP | 1981 | 5E 37452

Lene Lovich: New Toy US EP [1981]

  1. New Toy
  2. Savages
  3. Special Star
  4. Never Never Land
  5. Cats Away
  6. Details

It was later that year when the unexpected “New Toy” EP was released in America [and Canada]. It featured both sides of the single along with four new songs as produced by Lene and her husband/guitarist Les Chappell. At the time I bought this and traded off my “New Toy” 7″ single, as I didn’t have quite the vinyl sickness that I have now. It’s important to remember that I was really just starting out and multiple releases of records I didn’t actually need to hear in my collection were still exotic [if not inconceivable]  to me. At the time Stiff Records didn’t have confidence in the material she was writing with Chappell, so they passed on the recordings, leaving the Stiff/Epic label in North America to release the work they’d done since “Flex.” Her next Stiff album would be “No Man’s Land” in 1982. Strangely enough, two of these songs [“Savages” and “Special Star”] would be released on that full album, albeit in new recordings. In the case of “Savages” an instrumental would get full lyrics. But there were other territories that would release their own “New Toy” EPs using completely different contents.

Stiff/Festival | OZ | 12″ | 1981 | X 13067

Lene Lovich: New Toy OZ EP [1981]

  1. New Toy [ext. ver.]
  2. Cats Away
  3. Monkey Talk [live]
  4. The Night [live]
  5. Too Tender To Touch [live]
  6. You Can’t Kill Me [live]

Yow! The OZ version of “New Toy” is also a six track EP but the new single is appended with four live cuts from 1979’s “Flex” album! These were originally released on the UK 2×7″ of “What Will I Do Without You” but also surfaced Stateside on the US promo “Global Assault” 10″ EP.

Victor Music Industries | JPN | EP | 1981 | VIP-5908

Lene Lovich: New Toy JPN EP [1981]

  1. New Toy
  2. Lucky Number [disco ver.]
  3. Bird Song [edit]
  4. Details
  5. Joan
  6. Cats Away

Leave it to Japan to really shake up the paradigm. For some reason, many large, pic-label EPs were produced in 1981 from UK acts, licensed to JVC in Japan. The one for “New Toy” contains the 7″ contents then reaching all the way back to the “Stateless” period with the extended version of “Lucky Number.” Two cuts from “Flex” are included; “Joan” and an edit of the sublime “Bird Song.” Finally, “Details” from the US “New Toy EP” was also released here.

“New Toy” was little more than a stopgap single that surfaced between albums as 1979 turned into 1980, and then 1981 as Lene Lovich was taking what was then a lot of time to record her next album. Different territories marketed the song, which was somewhat successful, in vastly different ways. It is probably her best known song in America, due to the Thomas Dolby connection. Little did we know that her next three albums would get released over an ever-widening 25 year arc! “No Man’s Land” dropped in 1982 and seven years later “March” appeared. Her latest album, “Shadows + Dust” was released in 2005, and I’ve only just ordered that one from the label, having never run across a copy in the intervening six years.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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6 Responses to A Boxful of New Toys

  1. ronkanefiles says:

    A great single, to be sure. Rather stinkin’ of Rhino to put “New Toy” on the CD for “Flex”, but I guess she didn’t rate a “Greatest Hits” CD. I found that US 10″, too.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      ronkanefiles – I just got that Rhino “Flex” CD and personally, I felt that adding the US “New Toy” EP to it made good sense. Especially since not all of the US “New Toy” EP cuts are all on CD elsewhere. Given that it was probably her best selling US record, it’s a wonder it’s not called the “New Toy” album appended with “Flex” over here! I like the liner notes in that disc, too, by the way. I’d like the “Stateless… Plus” CD eventually. Where did the Japanese “I Think We’re Alone Now” originally cone from? Nippon? For years I only had the UK Great Expectations “Stiff Years” volumes. They have a lot of material, but they’re inelegant. Also, I’d like to get hard data on which versions of “Stateless” are on CD. Did the original UK mix ever get to CD, or just the US remix?

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  2. Taffy says:

    Ah, Lene. Loved her from the first time I heard Lucky Number. You totally need the Stateless album/CD on your shelves. I recall in college wearing a button (badge) which said “If it’s Lene’s, you’ll Lovich,” much to the bewilderment of those around me. New Toy is a big fave of mine, but absurdly I only first heard (of) the extended version a few years ago online. An extra minute of New Toy – yes please! Shame that she is so wildly unprolific.

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  3. Tim says:

    Geez! I never realized that there was so many versions of this out there. My favorite is the one on the Live Wireless concert with Thomas Dolby that was an MTV staple for so long.

    I only bit on Lene Lovich because of the 1 degree of separation to TDMR. An ex- sometime long ago had the album which I gave a whirl and it just did nothing at all for me. Danielle Dax seemed to be broadcasting from a similar antenna and that was a signal that came through loud and clear for me though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Which Lene Lovich album did you hear? “Stateless” is great, but I prefer the darker shades of “Flex.” The “New Toy” EP is okay, but it you heard that first, I can understand your antipathy. It’s weaker sauce. As for Dax, yeah, I hear the similarity, but imagine if you’d heard “Blast The Human Flower” first! I’d call that even weaker then “New Toy.”

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