The third recording session for David Bowie’s single ‘The Laughing Gnome’ took place at Decca Studios on Friday 10 February 1967.
The backing track had been taped on 26 January 1967, and a first vocal overdub session took place on 7 February.
The sessions were 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?
Strange Fascination, David Buckley
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.
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.
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