The apparent leak of Toy, a “lost” 2001 record by David Bowie, has inspired the folks at Flavorpill to consider ten musical works that disappeared due to artistic whim or creative differences. It’s a very solid list, but any such elucidation will naturally fail to be fully comprehensive. Here are five other records that might have been, but never were.
Michael Stipe — Guilty: Concurrent to his bandmates’ recording with Warren Zevon for the Hindu Love Gods album, R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe spent months in the studio attempting “a modern reinterpretation” of this 1980 Barbra Streisand classic. “I’ve always thought that [Guilty songwriter] Barry [Gibb] and I have a lot in common, lyrically,” Stipe told Rolling Stone. After weeks of emotionally-draining performances — Stipe allegedly spent six hours crying on the studio floor while trying to make “Woman in Love” sound “more like Can” — Stipe pulled the plug on the project. “I got to the point where I just kept thinking to myself, I’m gonna lose my religion with this album.” All tapes were destroyed, meaning we will never hear the supposedly astounding duet Stipe performed with Jody Watley on “What Kind of Fool.”
Shaquille O’Neal — ShaqolO.G.: The follow-up to 1993’s Shaq Diesel was supposed to be a gritty, hardcore rap record inspired by Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), but production was halted when everyone involved admitted to each other that they felt a little embarrassed by the whole thing.
Frank Sinatra — I’ve Got Better Music Coming Out Of My Ass, You Rancid Redneck: Enraged by the success of Elvis Presley, this aborted mid-fifties concept had Sinatra performing 10 of The King’s most popular early tracks. Sinatra sang every song note-perfectly, but followed up each with a foul-mouthed monologue that included lines like, “You call that music? This is what you stupid broads like?” and “That’s how you sing a song, you no-talent hick.” Ironically, Sinatra later came around on Elvis, having him on his television program and recording material associated with the singer in a more respectful fashion. Even more ironically, Coming Out Of My Ass was briefly released in a heavily-edited form on Reprise Records, with only the tirades and none of the music making it to the album. Retitled Sinatra Mouths Off, the record quickly disappeared, and the only few copies extant can mostly be found in dusty boxes in the basement of Italian social clubs.
Brian Eno — Music for Headbanging: Eno himself later disavowed this project, claiming it was the result of too much Montrachet and a misprinted set of Oblique Strategies cards, but anyone who has heard the one surviving track, an ambient version of Anthrax side-project S.O.D.’s “Pre-Menstrual Princess Blues,” is bound to wish he had seen it through.
U2 — All That You Can’t Leave Behind: While pleased with the commercial success of All That You Can’t Leave Behind, members of U2 were troubled by a certain school of critical assessment that claimed the band had decided to play it safe after the disappointment that was Pop. “You want to see ‘playing it safe’?” a visibly angry Adam Clayton asked MTV News. “The next thing we do is going to be the most avant-garde move any popular band has ever pulled off.” U2’s plan was to record a note-for-note version of Behind and straight-facedly issue it as a completely new album. The label was less enthusiastic, and after several heated discussions the group compromised, making a few minor tweaks to the record and releasing it under the title How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Purists still claim that the original second version of Behind is the greatest work in the band’s catalog, but the few who have heard it also frequently get it confused with No Line on the Horizon.