The Origins of Gong
Gong came into being almost by accident in the late sixties when Daevid Allen was refused entry back into Britain following European dates with Soft Machine. Deciding to stay in Paris, Allen began working alongside Gilli Smyth and various musicians on what would eventually become the phenomenal Gong.
The first recognized recordings from the band were Magick Brother, Mystic Sister (1970), followed by albums such as Camembert Electrique, Flying Teapot, and You.
Various permutations of Gong have worked together over the years under various names including Mother Gong, Expresso Gong, Gongmaison, Planet Gong, and so on and so forth. They have all included an amazing array of musical talent moving through the ranks, to name but a few: Didier Malherbe aka Bloomdido Bad de Grasse, Steve Hillage, Pierre Moerlen, Mike Howlett, Steffi Sharpstrings, Tim Blake, Hugh Hopper, and Robert Wyatt.
Gongmaison came about in April 1989 after Daevid Allen's return to the UK and, more importantly, following a French gig with former Gong member Didier Malherbe (pictured left, the most amazing wind instrumentalist alive on Earth - but, alas, a fact known only to initiates of GAS - or the Gong Appreciation Society!).
The name "Gongmaison" alluded to the mixture of house/jazz that the band played at the time - which, in fact, was nearer to house music although it still contained all the relevant Gong elements of old. This video clip comes from the band's performance in the early nineties and was filmed at the Fridge in Brixton.
The line-up includes key members of Gong - Daevid Allen, Didier Malherbe and the wiccan poet Gilli Smyth aka Shakti Yoni (right) who developed her own vocal technique dubbed the Space Whisper. It was Shakti Yoni, in fact, who helped to craft Gong's elaborate cosmomythology through her inspired poetry and storytelling.
The impact of GONG on my life
In the early 1970s I was in the habit of shopping for LPs in Singapore. My favorite source was Sing & Co. on Hill Street because they always had some real finds in the cheap bin. On one such occasion I spotted three albums by an unknown band called Gong. Drawn to the cover art (which depicted Pot Head Pixies in their Flying Teapots), I bought two albums without a moment's hesitation - and I wasn't disappointed one bit! In fact, I couldn't wait to return a few weeks later for Angels Egg which I had been forced by budget constraints to leave behind :-)
In 1969 I had been subjected to electroshock therapy on account of the amazing "visions" I'd been experiencing - of contact with extraterrestrials and angels and an Earth reborn in rainbow splendor, gone the historical (and hysterical) nightmare of smelly politics, rotten economics, and perpetual war. Looking at the Gong album artwork and listening to their fantastic music enormously cheered me and reconnected me with my core being. In Gong I had found my own spiritual and musical family at last - indeed, I'd go as far as to say Gong helped me regain my cosmic equilibrium and PHP humor! [PHP in this instance refers, of course, to "Pot Head Pixie" - NOT "Hypertext Preprocessor"!]
Gong's music, I thought, was akin to dervish dancing in that it induced in the listener a beatific trance state, opening one's consciousness to the kaleidoscopic worlds awaiting our discovery within our own neurology. Through all the ensuing decades, Gong and everything they represent have served as trusty friends and soul-family.
I'm indeed overjoyed to learn that Gong is very much alive and well. Daevid Allen is now a still-spritely 69 and rumored to be living in Byron Bay, New South Wales. His latest project is the University of Errors and I recommend a leisurely tour for some exquisite mental stimulation and not a few hearty belly laughs.
OWLY SONG by Daevid Allen (animation by Merav Shacham aka Bananamoon)
Watch GONG live in Nottingham, 1990!
The entire 7-part concert is on YouTube but as I can't embed the videos here, just click on each segment (if you don't have the patience to sit through all of it, go for Part 5 where Didier goes wild on his Yamaha WX7!):
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4a | Part 4b | Part 5 | Part 6
Daevid Allen in 1975: Cozmik Mad Hatter, Wizard of the Keys, and Master of Fohat!
[First posted 20 June 2007]