The Laughing Gnome

Album: Starting Point (1967)
Charted: 6
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Songfacts®:

  • Every artist produces at least one work that must make him cringe in later life, and Bowie is no exception. Before "The Man Who Sold The World," Life On Mars" and "All The Madmen," there was "The Laughing Gnome." This novelty single - which is about, you guessed it, a laughing gnome - was released April 14, 1967, the same day The Rolling Stones played the Warsaw Palace of Culture, a concert which ended in a riot as police using tear gas battled two thousand fans. One can only speculate as to what would have happened if Bowie had played instead.
  • Actually, "The Laughing Gnome" isn't that bad, but decades on its awful puns will be wasted on most listeners, domestic and foreign alike. "Hev you gotta loight, boy?" is a reference to a contemporary song, and the Home Service - punned as "Gnome Service" - was the forerunner of modern BBC Radio.
  • A cynic might suggest that Bowie ripped off the idea from Al Stewart's "The Elf," which was released the previous year, but novelty songs were not new even in the '60s, and the two tracks are poles apart. Bowie was obviously writing with an eye on the charts while Stewart's song is about a different kind of magic. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3
  • In 1973, Deram, the record label Bowie recorded his debut album on in 1967, re-released "The Laughing Gnome" to cash in on the innovative rock musician's success. To the amusement of the music press the re-issued song made #6 in the UK singles chart.
  • In 1990, Bowie announced the set list for his Sound+Vision Tour would be decided by telephone voting. The music magazine, NME, attempted to rig the voting so Bowie would have to perform "The Laughing Gnome," but the voting system was later scrapped.
  • The studio engineer, Gus Dedgeon, voiced the gnome character. When Dudgeon was killed in a car crash in 2002, Bowie sent flowers to his funeral with the note: "Farewell to the Laughing Gnome."

Comments: 3

  • Paul Osman from Liverpool, EnglandIt's possible that this is Bowie trying to impersonate Anthony Newley. When interviewed on BBC Radio in the1990s Anthony Newley denied ever hearing The Laughing Gnome. I think AN was aware of the Laughing Gnome song but HATED it and like Bowie wished it never had happened and would disappear!
  • Mark from London, EnglandA few years ago, Bowie decided to do a Greatest Hits tour. He asked people to vote for their favourite Bowie songs and he would perform those which won. Despite Gnome winning hands down, he refused to play it!
  • Kenny from Clydebank, ScotlandThe laughing gnome is just a bit of fun and makes me laugh and tap my toes. Bowie's a great laugher, too. Despite his alien image, when you hear him being interviewed he's always bursting into laughter, so there must be an essential goodness there (he believes in God, or goodness, call it what you will). I like a bit of silliness myself... hee, hee, hee.
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