David Bowie

The Laughing Gnome

Song Review by

The phenomenon of the early (and sometimes totally juvenile) piece of work that comes back to haunt its creator is hardly limited to the world of music, but in "The Laughing Gnome" one can find perhaps the ultimate example. Certainly David Bowie wasn't expecting it to ever return after recording it as a failed single in 1967, but once he ended up achieving fame in later years, it was rereleased (and charted!) to general amusement. Bowie's since made his own peace with the song, but there's little surprise why he's not exactly shouting from the rooftops about it -- slight, silly and often groaningly awful, it's an utter flop compared to Syd Barrett's own fractured fairy tale "Gnome" on the first Pink Floyd album. With a driving drumbeat provided most of the music along with a bit of horn and harpsichord orchestration, "The Laughing Gnome" is essentially a descendant of efforts like "Witch Doctor" and "The Chipmunk Song." Sped-up vocals representing said gnome work against Bowie's generally okay enough vocal, but some of the worst puns committed to vinyl are used throughout the too-whimsical-for-its-own-good storyline. Thankfully Bowie himself appreciates the full ridiculousness of it all, breaking down in laughter towards the end of the song.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
David Bowie [1967] 1967 Deram 0:00
Starting Point 1977 Deram / PolyGram
No Image 1981 Decca
Rock Reflections 1990 Deram 3:02
No Image 1993 Spectrum Music
Blockbuster: 18 Smashes of the 70's 1994
Various Artists
MCI 2:59
Stardust: Glam, Vol. 1 1994
Various Artists
Stardust Records 2:58
The Deram Anthology 1966-1968 1997 Deram 3:03
London Boy 2001 Polygram 3:03
'70s [Universal 2004] 2004
Various Artists
Universal / USM 3:01
Jackie: The Party Album 2010
Various Artists
EMI / EMI Music Distribution 3:01
Classic '60s Pop
Various Artists
Spectrum Music 3:00