Recording: The Laughing Gnome

The backing track for David Bowie’s single ‘The Laughing Gnome’ had been recorded on 26 January 1967. On 7 February a vocal overdub session took place.

As with the earlier session, the recordings took place at Decca Studios in north London. It was produced by Mike Vernon, with studio engineer Gus Dudgeon – later to produce Bowie’s first major hit ‘Space Oddity’ – providing the voice of the second gnome.

We did this bloody silly song and he finished the vocal and decided that he wanted to do a speeded-up voice. I got the tape operator to run it at half-speed, and as we took the tape down in speed, our voices went up. I mean, it’s so corny, it’s pathetic. And somehow we got this idea that we would try and incorporate as many jokes about the word ‘gnome’ as we could think of. I mean, it was pathetic really. Well, in fact, it is pathetic. Somehow or other we got off on doing this. That’s the really scary part. Technically it worked, but it’s bloody embarrassing. We actually came up with those lines between us. I mean, what were we on?
Gus Dudgeon
Strange Fascination, David Buckley

The Laughing Gnome single – United Kingdom

The voice effects were achieved by slowing the tape machines, so on playback at normal speed the voices were higher and faster. It was a technique popularised on the 1950s children’s TV show Pinky & Perky.

More vocals were added on 10 February. The song was completed on 8 March; a note on the tape box from the session stated that this final version contained “less gnome voices”.

The various edits and mixes lasted between 2:30 and 3:30 – the final version is midway between the two. There was also reportedly a version featuring only gnome voices, which was credited on the tape to the Rolling Gnomes.

Last updated: 26 July 2022
Recording: The Laughing Gnome, The Gospel According To Tony Day
Recording: The Laughing Gnome
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