David Bowie Laughing Gnome - 1967 BBC

David Bowie Laughing Gnome – 1967 BBC

We’ve all been young. We’ve all done embarrassing things. Luckily, most of our youthful indiscretions weren’t posted on YouTube or immortalised on vinyl for future generations of nosy parkers to discover. So spare a thought for the following pop stars, who have attempted to move on swiftly from inauspicious beginnings, only for curious pedants like us to dredge them up again.

Ill-advised novelty singles, dubious dance-pop directions, fits of pique or simply just sub-par tunes that should never have been released – open enough closets and you’re sure to discover a few interesting skeletons. Here are the early songs that had the stars wishing life came with a ‘clear history’ option.

The archetypal embarrassing early single, David Bowie released puntastic novelty song The Laughing Gnome in 1967, when he was still furiously trying on different musical hats in search of a breakthrough. These days, stars can count on their record companies to erase such embarrassing juvenalia from history as soon as they establish themselves as a more credible artist (see Charlie Puth, below). However, in 1973, with Bowie riding high as Ziggy Stardust – a character he created specifically to outrun his past – Deram chose to cash in and re-release The Laughing Gnome, whereupon it reached No.6 in the UK charts.

Bowie was never allowed to forget his youthful folly. In 1990, he announced that the setlist for his Sound+Vision greatest hits tour would be decided by telephone vote. Those wags at the NME launched a campaign to get The Laughing Gnome on to the setlist and the vote was annulled. Yet at least Bowie was hip to the joke, launching into a few lines of the song at the tour’s press conference. He even wrote a sequel for 1999’s Comic Relief; Requiem for a Laughing Gnome was a four-hour excursion for solo recorder, with viewers invited to donate money to get him to stop.

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