Daevid Allen

Daevid Allen (1938–2015) was an Australian musician, best known as the frontman of the Anglo–French space-rock band Gong, which he co-founded in Paris with partner Gilli Smyth. He also played in the original lineup of Soft Machine. As a solo artist, he debuted with the 1971 album Banana Moon.

With Gong, he made the 1970–71 albums Magick Brother and Camembert Electrique on the French BYG label. They signed to Virgin for the 1973–74 album Flying Teapot, Angel’s Egg, and You — colloquially known as the Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy. After leaving Gong in the hands of drummer Pierre Moerlen, Allen resumed his solo career with the 1976–77 albums Good Morning and Now Is the Happiest Time of Your Life. Gong briefly reformed for the 1977 live release Gong est Mort…Vive Gong. In 1979, he released his fourth solo album, N’existe pas!, and formed New York Gong with members of Material.


Background

Daevid Allen was born on January 13, 1938, in Melbourne, Australia. He survived a rough school life and found work in a book store, where he took an interest in American Beat writers. In 1960, he migrated to Paris, where he occupied the former room of poet Allen Ginsberg at the Beat Hotel. Allen hit the Latin Quarter jazz scene and befriended another foreigner, American composer Terry Riley.

In 1961, Allen moved to Lydden in Southeast England, where he first replied to an ad by a Dover-based band called The Rolling Stones, which lost its frontman: guitarist–singer Neil Landon (later of the Flower Pot Men and Fat Mattress). Allen declined to join the band, which dissolved before another band emerged with the same name.

Allen placed a wanted ad in the New Statesman for an artist’s loft. This drew the attention of Honor Wyatt, who invited Allen to stay in Canterbury. Once there, Allen bonded musically with Honor’s sixteen-year-old son, drummer–singer Robert Wyatt.> With organist Mike Ratledge, they formed the Daevid Allen Trio: a Sun Ra-inspired combo with poetic monologues based on The Ticket That Exploded, the 1962 postmodern novel by American Beat writer William S. Burroughs.

DAT ended when Allen returned to Paris and Wyatt joined the Wild Flowers, a Canterbury R&B band with guitarist Richard Sinclair (later Caravan), bassist–singer Kevin Ayers, and brothers Brian and Hugh Hopper.

In 1966, Allen and Ayers secured backing for a new band with Ratledge and Wyatt. They named the band Soft Machine after the 1961 Burroughs novel. Soft Machine emerged on London’s underground psychedelic scene, where they played initial shows with fellow upstarts Pink Floyd at the UFO Club, an oft-raided and relocated hub for the new movement.

Soft Machine cut the February 1967 Polydor single “Love Makes Sweet Music” / “Feelin’ Reelin’ Squeelin’” and embarked on a summer tour of France. On their return to the UK, customs denied Allen re-entry because he overstayed his last visit. Allen returned to Paris, where he eventually formed the Bananamoon Band with his partner Gilli Smyth (b. 1933), an English woman who taught at the Sorbonne.

In 1968, the couple formed Gong with French musicians. That May, they partook in the Paris protests and fled to Deià, Mallorca, where they hid from authorities for fifteen months. In August 1969, they regrouped Gong in Paris, where BYG Actuel offered them a record deal. Gong released their first album, Magick Brother, in March 1970 on BYG. Between the first and second Gong release, Allen recorded his first solo album.


Banana Moon

Daevid Allen released his debut solo album, Banana Moon, in July 1971 on BYG Actuel. It features six Allen originals, including “Stoned Innocent Frankenstein” and the epic “Adventures in the Land of Flip,” the latter co-written with drummer Robert Wyatt and two sessionists: bassist Archie Legget and violinist Gerry Fields. Gong bassist Christian Tritsch contributes “It’s the Time of Your Life” and “All I Want is Out of Here.”

Side One contains the first-released version of “Memories,” a mid-sixties number by Wyatt’s unsigned Wild Flowers. Allen first recorded the song in early 1967 with Soft Machine but their version remained unreleased until the 1972 BYG release Faces and Places Vol. 7, later issued as At the Beginning and Jet Propelled Photographs. (Fifteen months after Allen’s time in Soft Machine, “Memories” writer Hugh Hopper joined the band in place of Kevin Ayers.)

1. “It’s the Time of Your Life” (3:21)
2. “Memories” (3:37) features Wyatt on guitar and vocals.
3. “All I Want is Out of Here” (4:48)
4. “Fred the Fish and the Chip On His Shoulder” (2:27)
5. “White Neck Blooze” (4:38)
6. “Codein Coda” (0:58)

7. “Stoned Innocent Frankenstein” (3:28)
8. “And His Adventures in the Land of Flip” (11:44)
9. “I Am a Bowl” (2:46)

Sessions took place in January–February 1971 at Marquee Studios, London, where BYG co-founders Jean Georgakarakos and Jean-Luc Young co-produced Banana Moon amid concurrent label titles by Arthur Jones, Coeur Magique, Don Cherry, François Wertheimer, and Gong’s upcoming second album Camembert Electrique. Marquee soundman Phil Dunne engineered Banana Moon in sequence with 1971 albums by Beau, Keef Hartley Band, Medicine Head, and The Way We Live.

On Banana Moon, Allen backs himself with Tritsch (mostly on guitar) and partner Gilli Smyth, the space-whisperer on “Adventures in The Land of Flip.” The opening track, “It’s the Time of Your Life,” features ex-Delivery drummer Pip Pyle, who joined Gong for the duration of 1971.

Centipede trombonist Nick Evans — who joined Soft Machine for their 1970 release Third — plays on “I Am a Bowl.” Erstwhile Spooky Tooth keyboardist Gary Wright plays piano on “Memories” and “White Neck Blooze.” Session singer Barry St. John and Stone the Crows frontwoman Maggie Bell provide backing vocals on “White Neck Blooze.”

The original BYG release of Banana Moon features concentric gatefold art by Didier Léon. The inner-gate has a photo of Allen and friends surrounded with white-on-black handwritten liner notes and doodles. In 1975, the album reappeared on Caroline (a subsidiary of Gong’s subsequent label Virgin) with artwork by Allen that depicts a guitar-playing moon man with peeling banana skin.


Discography:

  • Banana Moon (1971)
  • Good Morning (1976)
  • Now Is the Happiest Time of Your Life (1977)
  • N’existe pas! (1979)
  • About Time (w/ New York Gong, 1980)
  • Ex/Don’t Stop (w/ David Tolley, 1982)

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