Saturday, January 13, 2018

From the Planet.... GONG! (In loving memory of Daevid Allen)

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, reposted 13 March 2015]


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Soft drinks, hardheadedness, missionary aliens & funky ad campaigns that never saw the light of day...


Concept & Copywriting - M. Eeel (Antares)
Artwork by Mohd Nor Khalid (Dato' Lat)

Story Outline

On a planet called Glug (where thirst is unknown) there are two intelligent species, viz., the Fun-loving Effs and the very Nice Enns.

The Effs and the Enns are highly evolved beings, sparkling of spirit and always joyful. Since there are no serious problems on Glug, young Gluglings are usually sent on special missions to more primitive worlds where through service and direct experience of hardship they acquire maturity.

Earth happens to be an important training ground for Glugling youths. This is one planet where Boredom, Thirst and General Nastiness abound: ideal conditions for the eager young Gluglings to learn through service to those less fortunate.

The main characteristic of the Effs is that they are Fun-loving. The Enns, on the other hand, make a life practice of being Nice. Working in close cooperation, the Effs and the Enns are dedicated to spreading Fun and Niceness throughout the Cosmos.

Our story is essentially set in the tropical zone of Planet Earth specifically a spot designated Station 17 – better known to Earthside cartographers as the Malay Archipelago. At the start of the Aquarian Cycle in Earth’s Solar System, the year 1883 by Gregorian reckoning, Project Waterbearer was launched. Taking human form in the persons of John Fraser and David Neave, two friendly Gluglings began a soda water bottling operation in the bustling port of Singapore.

The rest is F&N history.


Conditions on Earth at the inauguration of Project Waterbearer are hideous, to say the least. The sluggish atmosphere makes it easy to become hot-tempered and nasty which results in constant quarreling among a large proportion of Earthlings. The natives are hostile and suspicious and will not accept any kind of Fun and Niceness – unless appealingly packaged and appropriately price-tagged.

Working through the agency of Fraser & Neave, the Effs and Enns discover that trying to dispense Fun & Niceness on Earth brings with it many pitfalls and paradoxes. They learn that helping Earthlings have Fun is very hard work; and that promoting Niceness entails a certain amount of aggression. (These philosophical sub-elements can be drawn upon whenever the plot thins out and needs heavier ballast.)

The F&N strategy revolves around the idea that most Earthlings have developed hard heads as a result of constant knocking against artificial barriers (also known as Walls). Perhaps if they acquired a fondness for SOFT DRINKS, they would feel more relaxed and kindly towards each other.

Another factor is the initial resistance put up by avid believers in Hard Drinks. An interesting tale can be told about how F&N eventually solve the problem and bring about a planetary reconciliation. (The introduction of F&N cordials and mixers – and the acquisition of a brewery.)

Exobiological Notes

Effs and Enns are fluid existences and airy spirits. As such they do not have a fixed form or shape. When they travel they usually occupy canister or bottle type craft. In short, Glugling vessels can look like anything from a barrel to an ice-cream cone.

On Glug, the Effs and the Enns live in beautiful colonies of bubbles, floating freely over the friendly seas of this remarkable jug-shaped planet.


[Illustration: Paradise on Glug]

On the planet Glug there are no serious problems. The Gluglings found out a long time ago that life is Fun – and that the best way to live is to be Nice to everyone. But you can only learn these things through hard experience. That’s why so many young Effs and Enns receive their further education on EARTH…

[Illustration: Glugling briefing session showing Earthlings confounded by walls]

Planet Earth: a popular training ground for young Gluglings. A planet where boredom, thirst and general nastiness abound. Why are so many Earthlings bored? Because from the time they’re very small their enthusiasm is blocked by artificial barriers called “walls.” (Besides, they get very few good shows on TV.)

[Illustration: scene of typical Earthside mayhem]

Why do Earthlings get thirsty? Because their frustration makes them quarrel a lot and they become hot and bothered. Why are they so often nasty? Because they’re thirsty and bored – and always running into walls makes them extremely hardheaded (even when they’re not wearing helmets!)

And so, Project Waterbearer was launched by an enterprising bunch of young Effs and Enns…


[Illustration: zodiacal image of Waterbearer with replica of Planet Glug]

The objectives of Project Waterbearer were: (i) to restore enthusiasm and a sense of Fun among the Earthlings; (ii) to moisten their throats, parched from useless bickering, and (iii) to make them feel Nice all over.

[Illustration: Effs and Enns put on their thinking caps]

What was needed was: (i) something BUBBLY; (ii) something WET, and (iii) something very PLEASANT…. Hmmmm.

[Illustration: The Soft Drink unveiled]

And so… Glug created the Soft Drink as the answer to Hardheadedness. (The Gluglings also invented the Bubble Bath… but that’s another story.)


We never heard back from Fraser & Neave, unfortunately! :(