The Buoys were a progressive rock band from the early 1970s. Its membership included Bill Kelly, Fran Brozena, Jerry Hludzik, Carl Siracuse, Chris Hanlon, and Sally Rosoff, based in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
They are most famous for their recording of Rupert Holmes’s “Timothy”, a song deliberately written to get banned, based on a theme of cannibalism.
“Timothy” attracted little attention when it was first released, in large part because Scepter Records did not promote the record. Soon, however, it became popular among young listeners who were able to deduce Timothy’s fate from the lyrics. Only as the song became more frequently requested did radio stations begin to take note of the song and its unsettling subject matter. Then, just as Holmes and the Buoys had expected, the song started getting banned.
Under normal circumstances, a radio ban would be considered the “kiss of death” for a single’s prospects on the Billboard music charts, which at that time were based heavily on radio airplay. Yet “Timothy” had already attracted such a great following that as some radio stations banned the song, competing stations would pick it up to meet the demand. As a result, instead of dropping off as expected, the song continued slowly moving up the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Once they realized they had a hit record on their hands, Scepter Records executives tried to claim that Timothy was really a mule, not a person, in order to get radio stations that had banned the song to reconsider. When asked about this claim, however, Holmes refused to play along with the Scepter executives. Even so, “Timothy” kept climbing the chart, finally peaking at #17. Holmes’s entrepreneurial approach to songwriting had worked better than he, the Buoys, or Scepter Records had ever expected. To appease the stations that banned the song, Scepter created two promotional singles with the original version on the A-sides and one of two differently edited versions on the B-sides. One edit revises the lyric “My stomach was full as it could be” to “Both of us fine as we could be”. The second version includes the “stomach” lyric but bleeps out the word “hell” in the second verse. The record labels (in black and white for promotional issues) indicate these versions under the song title as “REVISED LYRIC” and “EDITED, BLEEPED OUT”, respectively (There is no known version of the song with both edits in the same mix).
The success of “Timothy” and its writer’s methods may have worked too well for the Buoys’ sake. Although Scepter did re-sign the band to record an album, they were left with the problem of how to follow up on a hit song as unusual as “Timothy”. Ultimately the Buoys proved unable to duplicate that feat, although they did manage one more minor hit with “Give Up Your Guns” (also co-written by Holmes) before disbanding. Meanwhile Holmes himself continued his career as a songwriter and, by the end of the decade, also as a successful recording artist in his own right, best known for the #1 single “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” in late 1979.
Trapped in a mine that had caved in
And everyone knows the only ones left
Were Joe and me and Tim
When they broke through to pull us free
The only ones left to tell the tale
Were Joe and me
Timothy, Timothy, where on earth did you go?
Timothy, Timothy, God why don’t I know?
Hungry as hell no food to eat
And Joe said that he would sell his soul
For just a piece of meat
Water enough to drink for two
And Joe said to me, “I’ll have a swig
And then there’s some for you.”
Timothy, Timothy, Joe was looking at you
Timothy, Timothy, God what did we do?
I must have blacked out just around then
‘Cause the very next thing that I could see
Was the light of the day again
My stomach was full as it could be
And nobody ever got around
To finding Timothy