Monday, 1 February 2010

Subterranean gnomesick blues

I'm not sure where this has popped up from (I watched "The Man Who Fell To Earth" the other day, maybe that's it). I never listened to the radio much when I was a teenager. I don't know why not. It's not like I was outside playing football or being popular - I'm sure I was as alienated as all those people who tuned into John Peel. But I never did. I think I lacked the patience to be fiddling about with radio dials.

When I was a kid though when this song used to come on the radio I absolutely loved it. I probably heard "Starman" and definitely "Space Oddity", oh and "Ashes to Ashes", but I don't think I connected them. The first time I really became aware of Bowie was with "Let's Dance", which I loved. I didn't understand the vilification (I still don't).

Back to "The Laughing Gnome". It's silly but no more so than "The Yellow Submarine" and it's stacks better than "Effervescing Elephant". The NME's campaign to get him to play it on his greatest hits tour was typically mean spirited but I do wish he'd just ripped into a stomping version of it rather than scrap the idea.

David Bowie: The Laughing Gnome


  1. I'm someone born in the 70s (ok late anyway). And as that I always love the EARLY stuff from everyone famous until the point younger persons call me "grandpa". I love early bowie and think "Space Oddity" and "The man who sold the world" is the best music he ever did. And to the sound of sighing "youngsters" I am of the opinion that popular music after 1980 (oh, 1979 was high tide) was just lame attempts to recapture the golden age. god, I sound conservative. Can't help myself. (there are no visionaries nowadays).

  2. Wow, I think most people would say he was just warming up on those albums, but each to their own. Probably my favourite would be "Hunky Dory" which isn't too long after but I still really like loads of his other stuff.

    I nearly elaborated in the post about listening to the radio in the early eighties. I couldn't believe how good music was. I remember how incredible I thought "The Model" was, and how no song could ever be better. Then a few weeks later (I've checked the dates) "Senses Working Overtime" came along and I realised that music was going to be a major preoccuption. There was so much going on in the eighties - I loathed the middle of the decade but I just didn't know about things at the time (the Jesus and Mary Chain being the biggest example).

    I'm not sure about visionaries - it's a term I'd only really apply to politics or technology and a bit too big a word for musicians. I think there have been lots of innovators since 1980 - there's always something new going on.

  3. Never had a problem with 'the gnome'... or any of the other stuff from his Antony Newley period either... I have always played it quite regularly. The B-side on the pic cover above "gospel according to Tony Day" came up on shuffle on my MP3 player at lunchtime only yesterday!! "rotten Tony...".

    Remember when Bowie did the 'Sound and Vision' tour and suposedly you could vote for what tracks you wanted to hear so each set list would be different?? Load of bollocks, it was the same in every country, and I bet nobody actually voted for bloody "Modern Love"! NME (ithink) ran a campaign for everyone to vote for Laughing Gnome and aparently it pissed it! Still didn't play it tho!

    When i saw him at the Astoria a few years back he did "cant help thinking about me" which is the oldest of his tracks i've ever seen him perform.


  4. Piley - I know I've said that I wouldn't go to see old heroes, but I think I would with Bowie (and Paul Weller). Even if it was a greatest hits show (I still wouldn't go to an arena though).