Gong

Gong was a French–Anglo musical collective that existed through numerous iterations over a four-decade period, starting in 1969. During the first half of the 1970s, the band operated as a space-rock performance act under the leadership of Australian-born guitarist–vocalist Daevid Allen. Later in the decade, Gong steered toward jazz-rock with drummer–percussionist Pierre Moerlen affixed to the nameplate.

Members: Daevid Allen (guitar, vocals, 1968-75, 1991-2015), Gilli Smyth ([space whispers] vocals, 1968-75, 1994-2001, 2004-06, 2008-13), Didier Malherbe (saxophone, flute, 1968-77, 1991-2001, 2004-06), Dieter Gewissler (violin, double bass, 1969), Barre Phillips (double bass, 1969), Tasmin Smyth (vocals, 1969), Daniel Laloux (percussion, vocals, 1969-70), Christian Tritsch (bass, 1969-72), Rachid Houari (drums, 1969-72), Michael Brown (vocals, effects, 1970), Pip Pyle (drums, 1971, 1991-99), Kevin Ayers (bass, vocals, 1971), Mac Poole (drums, 1972), Charles Hayward (drums, 1972), Laurie Allan (drums, 1972, 1973, 1974-75), Di Stewart Bond (vocals, percussion, 1972, 1973-74), Rob Tait (drums, 1972, 1973-74), Francis Moze (bass, 1972-73, 1976-77), Pierre Moerlen (drums, percussion, 1973, 1974-77, 1994), Steve Hillage (guitar, 1973-76, 1994-99, 2004-06, 2008-12), Tim Blake (synthesizer, vocals, harmonica, 1973-75, 1994-99, 2004-06), Mike Howlett (bass, 1973-76, 1994-2001, 2004-06, 2008-09), Arthur Brown (vocals, 1974), Chris Cutler (drums, 1974), Bill Bruford (drums, 1974), Miquette Giraudy (vocals, 1974-75, 1994-99, 2004-06, 2008-12), Dave Stewart (keyboards, 1975), Brian Davison (drums, 1975), Patrice Lemoine (keyboards, 1975-76), Jorge Pinchevsky (violin, 1975-77), Mireille Bauer (percussion, 1975-77), Benoit Moerlen (percussion, 1976-77), Allan Holdsworth (guitar, 1976-77), Mino Cinelu (percussion, 1976-77), Hansford Rowe (bass, 1977)


Background

Gong was instigated by Australian-born musician Daevid Allen (1938–2015) during a forced stay in France, where he first touched base in 1960 before heading to England the following year. During his six years in England, he first led the free-jazz Daevid Allen Trio with organist Mike Ratledge and drummer Robert Wyatt, both of whom followed him to Soft Machine, which he co-founded in 1966 with bassist–singer Kevin Ayers. The Softs developed a fervent following in France during their 1967 European tour. On returning to the U.K., Allen was denied re-entry because he had overstayed his visa on his last visit. The rest of the band recorded as a trio while he settled in Paris with his English-born partner Gilli Smyth (1933–2016), then a professor at the Sorbonne.

In the spring of 1968, Allen did uncredited guitar and voice on the album Dreaming the Magic of Your Maya by free-folk combo Princess Flower and the Moon Rays. It also features flautist Loren Standlee, who Allen enlisted for the first lineup of Gong with Smyth and vocalist Ziska Baum. Before they could record, Allen and Smith were forced to flee France after an incident during the May Paris riots. The couple took refuge in Deià, Mallorca, in the Spanish Balearic Islands. While there, they met French multi-reedist Didier Malherbe, who’d played with everyone from Jacques Thollot and Eddy Louiss to Davey Graham and Ravi Shankar.

In August 1969, the couple returned to France at the urging of filmmaker Jérôme Laperrousaz, who wanted their music for a proposed motorcycle movie. Though the project flat-lined, they secured a deal with BYG Actuel, a French free-jazz label. Allen and Smyth assembled a new Gong lineup with Malherbe, bassist Christian Tritsch, and drummer Rachid Houari. Gong (minus an unprepared Tritsch) recorded their first album during September and October at the Paris studios ETA and Europa Sonor.

The new Gong (billed as the Daevid Allen Group) made their live debut at the 1969 BYG Actuel Festival in Amougies, Belgium. The five-day event (October 24–28) featured sets by Ame Son, Aynsley Dunbar’s Retaliation, Blossom Toes, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, Caravan, Colosseum, Cruciferius, Don Cherry, Fat Mattress, East of Eden, Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, Joachim Kühn, Martin Circus, The Nice, Pink Floyd, Renaissance, Robin Kenyatta, Soft Machine, Ten Years After, Triangle, and Zoo. Zappa introduced Gong, who performed on Monday the 27th alongside Chicken Shack, John Surman, Keith Tippett, Pharoah Sanders, The Pretty Things, Sam Apple Pie, Sonny Sharrock, and Yes.


1970


Magick Brother

Gong released their debut album, Magick Brother, in March 1970 on BYG Actuel. The album is split into the Early Morning Side (side a) and the Side of the Late Night (side b) with five Allen originals per side (credited to Smyth for legal reasons), including “Pretty Miss Titty,” “Gongsong,” and “5 and 20 Schoolgirls.”

Allen plays bass and guitar (listed as Semprini Crystal Ball); Smyth provides voice and “space whisper.” Musical guests include jazz pianist Buron Green and contrabassists Earl Freeman (“Ego”), Dieter Gewissler (“Magick Brother,” “Gong Song”), and Barre Phillips (“Glad To Sad To Say,” “Princess Dreaming”). The voice of Smyth’s daughter, Tasmin, is heard on the track “Princess Dreaming.”

Side One (Early Morning)
1. “Mystic Sister” (1:32)
2. “Magick Brother” (4:44)
3. “Rational Anthem (Change the World)” (3:43)
4. “Glad To Sad To Say” (4:09)
5. “Chainstore Chant” (1:13)
6. “Pretty Miss Titty” (4:06)
7. “Fredfish / Hope You Feel OK” (4:33)

Side Two (Late Night)
8. “Ego” (3:57)
9. “Gong Song” (4:11)
10. “Princess Dreaming” (2:56)
11. “5 & 20 Schoolgirls” (4:30)
12. “Cos You Got Green Hair” (5:05)

Magick Brother was co-produced by BYG founders Jean-Luc Young and Jean Georgakarakos. BYG pressed the album in France, Spain, Germany, and Japan.


Garçon Ou Fille?

In April 1970, Gong released Garçon Ou Fille? (Boy or Girl?), a standalone 7″ with “Est-Ce Que Je Suis?” (Am !?) and “Hip Hypnotise You.”

A. “Est-Ce Que Je Suis?” (3:32)
B. “Hip Hypnotise You” (3:23)

The Garçon sleeve identifies Gong as guitarist–singer Divided Alein (Allen), space-whisperer Gilli S’Myth (Smyth), soprano saxist Didier Bad De Grass (Malherbe), and electric violinist How Wow Now (Gewissler). Drummer Rachid Houari and bassist Christian Tritsch appear under their real names with Tritsch’s instrument identified as “bass electricque perpendicular.” Garçon introduces multi-instrumentalist Daniel Laloux, who plays “cor a muse” (horns), “deux tuyaux” (pipe), and “tambour d’arc” and “une botte a arche” (percussion).

In May, Gong performed a multi-act bill at the Vincennes Commune with Ange, Magma, Red Noise, and Triangle. That month, Gong and Triangle also played the Numes Festival with Rory Gallagher & Taste. In June, Gong and Red Noise played the Valbonne Festival with Amon Düül II and Brigitte Fontaine.

On Sunday July 19, 1970, Gong played the third annual Hyde Park free concert, a Floyd-headlined event with sets by Kevin Ayers, Edgar Broughton Band, Roy Harper, and Third Ear Band.

On Friday July 24, Gong played the Valbonne Festival, a three-day event (July 23–25) with sets by Amon Düül, Zappa, Red Noise, Iron Butterfly, Jean-Luc Ponty, Moving Gelatine Plates, Swegas, and Warm Dust. On August 5, Gong and Rare Bird played Le Festival Popanalia: a shambolic event in Biot, France, that listed Alice, Chicago, King Crimson, The Moody Blues, and Spencer Davis Group on its (mostly unfulfilled) bill.

In October, Gong took permanent residence at Pavillon du Hay, a derelict twelve-room hunting lodge near Voisines and Sens.


1971

In January–February 1971, Daevid Allen recorded his debut solo album, Banana Moon, with select backing by Gilli Smyth, Christian Tritsch, and numerous English musicians, including former Softs bandmate Robert Wyatt, who introduced Allen to Pip Pyle, a drummer fresh off a one-album stint with Carol Grimes & Delivery. Pyle replaced Rachid Houari as Gong’s new drummer.

On Saturday January 16, 1971, Gong played the Lorraine Pop Festival, an event in Nancy, France with sets by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Pete Brown & Piblokto!, and Soft Machine. On the 31st, Gong and the Softs appeared with Yes, Iron Butterfly, and Kevin Ayers & The Whole World at the Palais des Sports for an event that promoters halted when agitators grabbed the microphones and sparked a riot.

On Sunday, February 7, Allen led a concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre billed as Daevid Allen & Friends, which featured Gilli Smyth, Wyatt, bassist Archie Leggett (an Ayers and Gary Wright sideman who plays on Banana Moon), and current Softs saxist Elton Dean. On Saturday, March 20, Gong played the Centennial of the Paris Commune with Barney Wilen, Dharma, Komintern, and Red Noise.

In the spring of 1971, Jérôme Laperrousaz kickstarted the motorcycle film project and enlisted Gong for soundtrack music.


Dashiell Hedayat – Obsolete

Gong backed poet Dashiell Hedayat on Obsolete, released in 1971 on the French free-jazz label Shandar. It features two side-long pieces:

Side One. “Eh, Mushroom, Will You Mush My Room?” (19:40) is a three-part suite.

  • “Chrysler”
  • “Fille De L’Ombre”
  • “Long Song For Zelda” features the voice of Robert Wyatt’s son Sam (credited with “baby song”).

Side Two. “Cielo Drive / 17” (21:09) features Pip Pyle on guitar.

Sessions took place in May 1971 at the Chateau d’Hérouville. The back cover credits Daevid Allen with lead guitar but gives descriptor credits to backing vocalist Gilli Smyth (“Wet Pleasure Shout And Intergalactic-whisper”), drummer Pip Pyle (“Here There and Everywhere”), and flutist–saxophonist Didier Malherbe (“Bloomdido-saxo, water music”). Hedayat sings and plays keyboards, guitar, and “Cosmic-hedayat-rumble And Cut-ups.”


Glastonbury Festival

On June 25, 1971, Gong played the Glastonbury Fair, a five-day event (June 22–26) at Worthy Farm with sets by Brinsley Schwarz, David Bowie, Edgar Broughton Band, Fairport Convention, Family, Hawkwind, Help Yourself, Henry Cow, Kingdom Come, Marsupilami, Mighty Baby, Pink Fairies, Quintessence, Terry Reid, Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, and Traffic.

British filmmaker Nicolas Roeg (Performance, The Man Who Fell to Eath) directed an 87-minute documentary film on the event, which featured a pyramid stage based on the Great Pyramid of Giza. Glastonbury Fayre shows footage of eleven festival acts, including Gong, who play an early version of the yet-unrecorded “Tried So Hard.”

A three-record document of the event, also titled Glastonbury Fayre, devotes an entire side (D) to Gong and their 23-minute number “Glad Stoned Buried Fielding Flash and Fresh Fest Footprint In My Memory.” The album appeared on the Revelations Enterprises label in a six-fold sleeve with a silver pyramid designed by Barney Bubbles.

On Sunday, August 19, Gong played the 4ème Festival de Séloncourt, which featured sets by Warhorse and the Belgian bands Kleptomania and Lagger Blues Machine. Gong guested on the closing jam by Wyatt, Mac Poole, and Peter Brown.

On September 11, Gong stopped by BBC Studios for a set on DJ John Peel’s Top Grear radio program. They played three cuts: “Magick Brother,” “Clarence In Wonderland” (an early Soft Machine number), and “Tropical Fish” from their upcoming album.


Camembert Electrique

Gong released their second studio album, Camembert Electrique, in October 1971 on BYG Actuel. It features a mix of lucid psychedelic dreamscapes and spacey proto-punk. The title is French for Electric Camembert. (Camembert is a creamy surface-ripened cow’s milk cheese named after the commune in Normandy, France).

Guitarist–singer Daevid Allen wrote the jolted rocker “You Can’t Kill Me” and the multi-movement adventures “Tropical Fish / Selene” and “I’ve Bin Stone Before / Mister Long Shanks / O Mother.” He co-wrote one song each with whispering partner Gilli Smyth (“Fohat Digs Holes in Space”) and bassist Christian Tritsch (“And You Tried So Hard”). Smyth and Tritsch co-wrote the Side One numbers “I Am Your Fantasy” and “Dynamite / I Am Your Animal.” Each side opens and closes with a murmured snippet. Original vinyl copies play out with continuous locked outro grooves.

1. “Radio Gnome” (0:26)
2. “You Can’t Kill Me” (6:23)
3. “I’ve Bin Stone Before / Mister Long Shanks / O Mother” (4:53)
4. “I Am Your Fantasy” (3:41)
5. “Dynamite / I Am Your Animal” (4:32)
6. “Wet Cheese Delirium” (0:29)

7. “Squeezing Sponges Over Policemen’s Heads” (0:13)
8. “Fohat Digs Holes in Space” (6:24)
9. “And You Tried So Hard” (4:39) Allen (credited as ‘Dingo’) and Tritsch swap instruments.
10. “Tropical Fish / Selene” (7:36)
11. “Gnome the Second” (0:26)

Gong recorded Camembert Electrique during the full moons of May (Monday the 8th), June (Wednesday the 9th), and September (Sunday the 5th)> of 1971 at Strawberry Studios, located inside a Val-d’Oise castle owned by composer Michel Magne, who subsequently renamed the place Château d’Hérouville. (Not to be confused with Strawberry Studios in Stockport, Greater Machester, operated by the pre-10cc Hotlegs).

Actuel Magazine journalist Pierre Lattès produced Camembert Electrique in sequence with Banana Moon. The engineer, Gilles Sallé, worked on Camembert in succession with Obsolete and 1971 albums by Coeur Magique, José Afonso, Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes, and Bernard Lubat & His Mad Ducks.

Camembert Electrique identifies Gong as Bert Camembert (Allen), Shakti Yoni (Smyth), Submarine Captain (Tritsch), and Bloomdido Bad De Grasse (saxist–flutis Didier Malherbe). Drummer Pip Pyle appears in the credits under his own name. “I’ve Bin Stone Before” features piano and organ by veteran French jazz keyboardist Eddy Louiss, who also plays on the 1971 A&M release Wings by Michel Colombier. Conductor Konstantin Simonovitch adds phased piano to “Dynamite / I Am Your Animal.”

Dingo (Allen) illustrated the Camembert Electrique outergates, which features a mandala with doodles (“From the Planet Gong”) of hippies and their throughts (“CHEEZ PLEEZ”) and gnome-like characters with quotes (“Strong and steamin mate!”) mixed with select credits and a location ID (Fabriqué en Normandie — Made in Normandie). Further doodles appear with song lyrics on blue-card inserts. The inner-gates feature a phot-spread of Gong in hippie regalia. Little Sam Wyatt appears next to Pyle, who co-raised the boy.

On November 11, Gong played the Hammersmith Town Hall with Robert Wyatt, poet Lady June, and up-and-comers Supertramp. On the 16th, Allen appeared at Battersea Arts Centre for a rock poet’s event with Pete Brown and (future Hawkwind frontman) Robert Calvert. On November 19, Gong played London’s Rainbow Theatre with Afro-rockers Osibisa. Gong rounded out 1971 on  Belgian tour with Garçon Ou Fille? sessionist Daniel Laloux and ex-Velvet Underground singer Nico. Before New Years, Pyle cleared out for onetime Chris McGregor drummer Laurie Allan, who months earlier replaced Pip in Delivery.


1972

On March 18 ,1972, Gong played the performed at Troyes commune as part of a champagne fair that also featured Audience, Genesis, Magma, Nico, Renaissance, Ten Years After, and Wishbone Ash.


Continental Circus

In April 1972, Gong released Continental Circus, the soundtrack to a documentary film by French director Jérôme Laperrousaz. The album appeared on Philips as a French-only release. The film documents the world of motorcycle road racing and stars Grand Prix champions Jack Findlay and Giacomo Agostini.

Continental Circus features “Blues for Findlay,” an eleven-minute jam by guitarist–singer Daevid Allen, who co-credits the song to Laperrousaz. “Findlay” reappears in looped form (as “Continental Circus World”) and an instrumental version (Side Two). “What Do You Want?” is a slowed alternate version of the Camembert Electrique piece “Fohat Digs Holes in Space.”

1. “Blues for Findlay” (11:18)
2. “Continental Circus World” (4:13)

3. “What Do You Want?” (9:04)
4. “Blues for Findlay” (9:38)

Gong recorded Continental Circus at Château d’Hérouville in April 1971, one month prior to the first sessions for Camembert Electrique, which features the same lineup: guitarist–singer Daevid Allen, space whisperer Gilli Smyth, saxophonist–flutist Didier Malherbe, bassist Christian Tritsch, and drummer Pip Pyle, who’d already left by the time of this release. As on Magick Brother, Allen credits his songs to Gilli for legal reasons.


Lineup Flux

In 1972, bassist Christian Tritsch switched to guitar, an instrument he played on Banana Moon and the Camembert track “And You Tried So Hard.” Gong hired bassist Francis Moze, who played on the first two Magma albums and titles by Rhesus O and the Zorgones. Gong also on-boarded twenty-year-old synthesist Tim Blake, who Allen first hired as a sound mixer after the Banana sessions.

Gong performed with four drummers in 1972, starting with Laurie Allan, who cleared in April for ex-Warhorse drummer Mac Poole. Soon after, Poole gave way to Charles Hayward, a member of the unsigned Quiet Sun, a band active in 1970–71 before guitarist Phil Manzanera joined Roxy Music. (Concurrently, Quiet Sun keyboardist Bill MacCormick played in Robert Wyatt’s new band Matching Mole. Quiet Sun regrouped in 1975 and recorded Mainstream, a document of their earlier repertoire.) Hayward soon cleared for Rob Tait, fresh off a stint in Bell + ARC after time in The Battered Ornaments and Pete Brown & Piblokto! Tait’s girlfriend, Diane Stewart, briefly deputized Gilli Smyth, who took time out from Gong to care for her and Daevid’s newborn baby son. By autumn, Laurie Allan reclaimed his spot in the lineup.

In October, Gong signed to Virgin Records, a UK independent label co-founded months earlier by record store owner Richard Branson. In late December, Gong descended on The Manor, Branson’s recently purchased manor mansion in Shipton-on-Cherwell with a recording studio installed by soundman Tom Newman (formerly of the Jade Warrior precursor July).


1973

In January 1973, Gong hired Steve Hillage, the former guitarist of Arzachel which (in his absence) morphed into Egg, led by (future Hatfield & The North) keyboardist Dave Stewart. Hillage recently completed a second round of activity with Stewart in Khan, which issued the 1972 album Space Shanty on Deram. 


Flying Teapot

Gong released their third studio album, Flying Teapot, on May 25, 1973, on Virgin. This is the first installment of the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, which follows a cosmic fairytale detailed on the inner-gate.

Singer–guitarist Daevid Allen wrote both side openers (“Radio Gnome Invisible,” “The Pot Head Pixies”) and co-wrote songs with new bassist Francis Moze (“Flying Teapot”) and space-whisperer Gilli Smyth (“Witch’s Song / I Am Your Pussy”). Incoming synthesist Tim Blake contributes “The Octave Doctors and the Crystal Machine” and co-wrote “Zero the Hero and the Witch’s Spell” with Allen and outgoing guitarist Christian Tritsch.

Flying Teapot is the only Gong album with the rhythm section of Moze and drummer Laurie Allan. This is the final album with bassist-turned-guitarist Tritsch, who played on all Gong–Allen titles since Garçon Ou Fille? His onetime rhythm partner, Rachid Houari, makes his last appearance as guest percussionist. Tritsch’s replacement, guitarist Steve Hillage, arrived late in the sessions and therefore contributes little apart from the space solo on “Zero the Hero.”

In “Tha Story,” Radio Gnome is a telepathic pirate radio that transmits from a flying teapot launched from Planet Gong. The teapot (full of pot head pixies) descends on Tibet but lands on top of an upset Lawrence the Alien, who “does an ape dance on his drums.” Banana Ananda rescues the pixies and introduces them to the band, The Octave Doctors (the “great sages and wise gooroos of the wee pixies”), who send “subliminal secret wisdoms” via the Crystal Machine. Zero the Hero songs a song of love and devotion to the PHP’s, who take him to the magnetic fields of Bad de Grass, where he meets the Witch Yoni, who “bewitches everybody into total float” and sings “I Am Your Pussy.” Zero offers her fish and chips.

1. “Radio Gnome Invisible” (5:32)
2. “Flying Teapot” (12:30)

3. “The Pot Head Pixies” Allen (3:00)
4. “The Octave Doctors and the Crystal Machine” (2:00)
5. “Zero the Hero and the Witch’s Spell” (9:45)
6. “Witch’s Song / I Am Your Pussy” (5:10)

Sessions took place in January 1973 at the Manor with Georgian producer Giorgio Gomelsky, the impressario behind London’s famed beat venue the Crawdaddy Club, the breeding ground for The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds. A prolific sixties pop, psych, and soul-jazz producer (Yardbirds, Blossom Toes, Brian Auger & Trinity), Gomelsky produced the 1967 Allen-era Soft Machine songs that recently surfaced on the 1972 BYG release Faces and Places Vol. 7 (later issued as At the Beginning and Jet Propelled Photographs). Gomelsky produced Flying Teapot in succession with the 1973 A&M–Vertigo release Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh, the third studio album by Magma.

Gong’s use of the Manor ran concurrent with sessions for the inaugural Virgin release Tubular Bells, the debut album by nineteen-year-old classical–rock musician–composer Mike Oldfield. Manor soundman Simon Heyworth engineered both albums, which Virgin released on the same day with the catalog numbers V2001 (Tubular Bells) and V2001 (Flying Teapot).

Flying Teapot credits the members of Gong with the corresponding pseudonyms:

  • Daevid Allen = Dingo Virgin & Hi T Moonweed (pon voicebox… aluminium croonguitar & stumblestrum)
  • Gilli Smyth = Good Witch Yoni (orgone box & space whisper)
  • Tim Blake = Hi T Moonweed the favourite (VCS3box Cynthia size A & crystal machine)
  • Didier Malherbe = The Good Count Bloomdido Bad De Grasse (split sax i.e. tenna & soprasox & so flooth)
  • Steve Hillage = Stevie Hillside (spermguitar & slow whale)
  • Christian Tritsch = The Submarine Captain (sidereal slideguitar & Dogfoot)
  • Francis Moze = Francis Bacon (VCS3 fertilised elect piano & left bank uptightright pno & Shakesperian meat bass)
  • Laurie Allan = Lawrence the Alien (drumbox kicks and knocks)
  • Rachid Houari = Rachid Whoarewe the Treeclimber (congox)

Gong identifies their road crew as Wiz De Kid (lights), Duke (roadie), and “switch doctor” Venux De Luxe (sound mixer Francis Linon).

Allen illustrated the Flying Teapot gatefold, which shows the green teapot aflight with the pot head pixies aboard broadcasting Radio Gnome. The back cover shows Zero the Hero atop the Tibetan hill of Lawrence the Alien with binoculars pointed at the flying teapot, which hovers near bananamoon. The inner-gates (white type on blue) features doodles, credits, and the album’s plot synopsis. In 1976, BYG pressed the album in France and Germany with altered artwork that sets the green teapot on a black backdrop with redrawn spectators and the name Gong placed below in yellow.

Houari died shortly after this recording. Moze and Laurie cleared out on the ensuing tour for Australian bassist Mike Howlett (b. 1950) and French drummer Pierre Moerlen (b. 1952), both relative newcomers apart from Moerlen’s contributions to 1972–73 albums by Roger Siffer and Supersister.

Gong plugged Flying Teapot with shows in the UK, Spain, and France. On June 6, they played the Free Trade Hall in Manchester with Krautrockers Faust, who signed to Virgin for their third and four albums The Faust Tapes and Faust IV (both 1973). On the 15th, Gong played London’s Rainbow with Arthur Brown‘s Kingdom Come.


Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall

On Friday, July 20, 1973, Gong played Festival of Tabarka, an annual open-air event in Tunisia. Their fourteen-minute number from that event, “General Flash Of The United Hallucinations,” appears on Side Four of Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall, a two-record concert album assembled by Greasy Truckers: a loose charitable collective that hosted a multi-act concert event to raise funds for the construction of a hostel in Notting Hill Gate. Three acts played complete sets at the October 8th Dingwalls Dancehall event: Camel, Gong, and the Global Village Trucking Co.

Greasy Truckers Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall devotes one side to each scheduled act, including Henry Cow, who contributed live-in-studio tracks from the Manor because their Dingwalls set was cut short by a curfew. Gong, who disliked their Dingwalls performance, insisted that Greasy Truckers include their Tabarka showpiece and another number, “Part 32 Floating Anarchy,” taken from an October full moon show at Sheffield City Hall.

Live at Dingwalls Dance Hall appeared in early 1974 on the Greasy Truckers self-press with a gatefold sleeve that combines fashion, interior, and graphics from multiple eras (1920s, ’30s, ’50s, ’70s). The credits identify Gong’s ongoing personnel by their Flying Teapot pseudonyms. Newcomers Howlett and Moerlen appear respectively as “Mr T. Being” (fingerbass) and “Pierre de Strasbourg” (overdrive).

Gong embarked on an autumn UK tour with label-mate Kevin Coyne. In November and December, Gong played mid-month shows at Newcastle University and Queen Elizabeth School with Virgin’s newest act Hatfield & The North.


Angel’s Egg

Gong released their fourth studio album, Angel’s Egg, on December 7, 1973, on Virgin. It features ten songs and four interludes across subtitled yin and yang LP sides. This is the second installment in the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy.

Angel’s Egg is the first of two Gong albums with the classic mid-period septet lineup of singer–guitarist Daevid Allen, space-whisperer Gili Smyth, saxist–flutist Didier Malherbe, guitarist Steve Hillage, synthesist Tim Blake, bassist Mike Howlett, and drummer–percussionist Pierre Moerlen.

Each member receives writing credits on Angel’s Egg. Allen contributes the Side One sequence of “Givin My Luv to You” and “Selene” (not the Camambert Electrique song) and collaborates with Blake (“Other Side of the Sky”), Howlett (“Sold to the Highest Buddha”), Moerlen (“Love is How U Make It”), and Malherbe (“Oily Way,” “Inner Temple”).

Hillage submits “Castle in the Clouds” and “I Never Glid Before” and partners with Smyth (“Prostitute Poem”) and Blake (“Outer Temple”). Two Malherbe compositions (“Flute Salad,” “Eat That Phone Book Coda”) bookend Side Two, which features the Moerlen miniature “Percolations.” Pierre’s girlfriend, Mireille Bauer, adds glockenspiel on select passages.

In Part 2, a now-cynical Zero takes Yoni’s magick potion and loses his head, which flies “through the quim of the moon and out the other side into seventh heaven where is perpetual orgasm and nacherly ze Planit Gong.” He hears the music of the sperheres and sees the invisible mother planet. Zero sees an Earth rocket but fails to contact Captain Capricorn, whose “mind is veing invaded by 7th heaven orgasm vibes.” Zero sees a castle in the clouds with a “luscious whore” (earth month, sea sister, prostitute princess, etc). Zero arrives in Planit Gong, greeted by the pot head pixies. The Wizard of the Keys tajes Zero to the Temple of Gong, wherein lies the Angel’s Egg, used by the 32 Octave Doctor to perform “the opening of the 3rd eye of this great new Earth world soul.”

Yin / Side of the Goddess

1. “Other Side of the Sky” (7:38)
2. “Sold to the Highest Buddha” (4:27) The outro is subtitled “6/8 Sax” in the liner notes.
3. “Castle in the Clouds” (1:13)
4. “Prostitute Poem” (4:52)
5. “Givin My Luv to You” (0:47)
6. “Selene” (3:42)

Yang / Side of the Fun Gods / The Masculaing Side

7. “Flute Salad” (2:09)
8. “Oily Way” (3:37)
9. “Outer Temple” (1:09)
10. “Inner Temple” (2:34)
11. “Percolations” (0:46)
12. “Love is How U Make It” (3:28)
13. “I Never Glid Before” (5:37)
14. “Eat That Phone Book Coda” (3:14)

Sessions took place in August 1973 on the Manor Mobile — Richard Branson’s portable version of the Oxfordshire Manor — on Gong’s communal home, Pavillon du Hay in Voisines, France. Gong self-produced Angel’s Egg “under the direction of Giorgio Gomelsky.” The mix-down occurred at the Manor mansion, where Simon Heyworth engineered Angel’s Egg in sequence with albums by American hard rockers Elf, Capetown jazzers Duda Pukwana & Spear, and the multi-national pop trio Slapp Happy, a recent Virgin signing.

Angel’s Egg identifies Gong’s members with the corresponding pseudonyms and credits:

  • Daevid Allen = Dingo Virgin (local vocals, aluminium croon, glissando guitar)
  • Gilli Smyth = Shakti Yoni (space whisper, loin cackle)
  • Didier Malherbe = Bloomdido Bad De Grasse (ten/sop sax, floot, bi-focal vocal)
  • Steve Hillage = Sub. Capt. Hillage (lewd guitar)
  • Tim Blake = Hi T. Moonweed “the favourite” (Cynthia “size a”, lady voce)
  • Mike Howlett = T. Being esq. (basso profundo)
  • Pierre Moerlen = Pierre de Strasbourg (bread & batteur drums, vibes, marimba)

Guest percussionist Mireille Bauer appears as Mirielle de Strasbourg.

The Angle’s Egg gatefold shows an illustrated synopsis of Zero’s exploits between the first two installments: handing Witch Yoni fish and chips, getting drugged, passing out and mind-floating to the prostitute princess in the clouds. The back cover contains hand-scrawled columns with credits and the Part 2 story synopsis. The inner-gate is a gold-on-blue ilustration of an Earthling sea ship afloat in space on a winding coarse to the concentric Planet Gong.


1974

On Saturday, January 19, 1974, Gong performed the London Polytechnic with Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers. On March 17–18, Gong headed multi-act bills at London’s Roundhouse with Ace, Dave Elliot, and Brotherhood of Breath alumni Dudu Pukwana and Mongezi Feza.

On May 1, Gong played Oxford’s Mayfly Festival with Byzantium and now-Hatfield drummer Pip Pyle, who performed with trumpeter Lol Coxhill, an ex-Delivery bandmate. Two days later, Henry Cow drummer Chris Cutler deputized Pierre Moerlen for a Gong show at Sussex University. On Saturday, June 29, Gong played the 1974 Hyde Park free concert with GT Moore & the Reggae Guitars, Kevin Ayers (backed by erstwhile PattoTempest guitarist Ollie Halsall), and Streetwalkers, the new band of ex-Family leaders Roger Chapman and Charlie Whitney.

In the spring–summer of 1974, Pierre Moerlen spent time away with Les Percussions de Strasbourg and Gilli Smyth departed to care for her and Daevid Allen’s second child. Her last gig with Gong was Day 3 (July 7) of the London Rock Prom, which also featured 10cc, Arthur Brown, Dr Feelgood, Incredible String Band, New York Dolls, and Sharks. On July 23, Gong played the Bath Pavilion Festival with Keith Christmas and Isotope, a jazz-rock band signed to Gull Records. Gong and Isotope teamed for a September UK tour.


You

Gong released their fifth studio album, You, on October 4, 1974, on Virgin. This is the third installment in the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy.

You features two miniatures (“Thoughts for Naught,” “A P.H.P.’s Advice”) and three songs (“A Sprinkling of Clouds,” “Perfect Mystery,” “The Isle of Everywhere”) group-composed by Gong’s instrumentalists: singer–guitarist Daevid Allen, saxist–flutist Didier Malherbe, guitarist Steve Hillage, synthesist Tim Blake, bassist Mike Howlett, and drummer–percussionist Pierre Moerlen.

Three songs — “Magick Mother Invocation” “Master Builder,” and the eleven-minute “You Never Blow Yr Trip Forever” — are ten-way compositions between the instrumentalists and space-whipserer Gilli Smyth, auxiliary vocalist Miquette Giraudy (Hillage’s girlfriend), and guest percussionists Mireille Bauer (Pierre’s girlfriend) and Benoit Moerlen (his younger brother).

1. “Thought for Naught” (1:32)
2. “A P.H.P.’s advice” (1:47)
3. “Magick Mother Invocation” (2:06)
4. “Master Builder” (6:07)
5. “A Sprinkling of Clouds” (8:55)

6. “Perfect Mystery” (2:29)
7. “The Isle of Everywhere” (10:20)
8. “You Never Blow Yr Trip Forever” (11:22)

Sessions took place in the Summer of 1974 at the Manor, Oxfordshire, where Gong co-produced the album with ongoing engineer Simon Heyworth “under the universal influence of C.O.I.T., the Compagnie d’Opera Invisible de Thibet.” Moerlen and Smyth both partook in the sessions depsite their absence from Gong’s touring lineup in the surrounding months.

You credits Hillage, Howlett, Pierre Moerlen, and guests Bauer and Benoit Moerlen under their real names but lists the others under the following pseudonyms:

  • Daevid Allen = Dingo Virgin (vocal locust and glissandoz guitar)
  • Gilli Smyth = Shakti Yoni (poems and space whisper)
  • Didier Malherbe = Bloomdido Bad de Grasse (wind instruments and vocals)
  • Tim Blake = Hi T Moonweed (Moog, EMS synthesizer, Mellotron)
  • Miquette Giraudy = Bambaloni Yoni (wee voices and chourousings)

You is housed in a single sleeve designed by Blake and his partner Brigitte Moonweed with light show artwork by Barved Zumizion. The font shows a red–yellow-tinted pyramid afloat in space amid Saturn rings. The back cover shows the Planet Gong symbol: a mandala with an inner-pyramid overlaid with a rainbow-iris orb. US copies replace the colored rectangular letters with a lined yellow font.

Gong promoted You on a French tour with percussionist Robert Wood. Hillage remade “Master Builder” as “The Glorious Om Riff” on his 1978 fourth solo album Green.


1975–1977

Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth left Gong in April 1975. Moerlen led a new lineup on the mallet-laden jazz-rock album Shamal, released in early 1976 on Virgin, which issued the 1977–78 albums Gazeuse! and Expresso II. After the Virgin contract expired, the band (now comprised of no founding Gong members) changed its name to Pierre Moerlen’s Gong and issued four 1979–81 albums on Arista.


Live Etc

In August 1977, Virgin issued the double-album Gong Live Etc., a live chronicle of three different Gong lineups between May 1973 and September 1975.

The two records (78:33) collect fifteen concert pieces, including two apeice from Camembert Electrique (“You Can’t Kill Me,” “Dynamite / I Am Your Animal”) and You (“Isle of Everywhere,” “Master Builder”) and four each from Flying Teapot (“Zero the Hero and the Witch’s Spell,” “Flying Teapot,” “Radio Gnome Invisible,” “Reprise”) and Angel’s Egg (“6/8,” “Oily Way,” “Outer Temple,” “Inner Temple”).

Live Etc. credits all group-composed numbers to the collective pseudonym COIT (Compagnie d’Opera Invisible de Thibet). Sides Two and Three contains unissued studio tracks: “Ooby-Scooby Doomsday or The D-Day DJ’s Got the D.D.T. Blues” (a 1973 studio rarity by singer–guitarist Daevid Allen) and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” (a COIT-credited You outtake).

The first record contains seven 1973 tracks from the Angel’s Egg lineup: Allen, space whisperer Gilli Smyth, guitarist Steve Hillage, saxist–flutist Didier Malherbe, synthesist Tim Blake, bassist Mike Howlett, and drummer Pierre Moerlen.

Side One features two numbers from a May 20 show at Le Bataclan (“You Can’t Kill Me” “Zero the Hero and the Witch’s Spell”) and one from the August 21 Edinburgh Festival (“Flying Teapot”).

1. “You Can’t Kill Me” (6:50)
2. “Zero the Hero and the Witch’s Spell” (11:08)
3. “Flying Teapot” (6:28)

Side Two features three tracks from an August 17 show at Club Arc-en-ciel (“Dynamite / I Am Your Animal” “6/8” “Est-ce que Je Suis”) and ends with the June 1973 Manor studio track “Ooby-Scooby Doomsday or The D-Day DJ’s Got the D.D.T. Blues.”

4. “Dynamite / I Am Your Animal” (5:44)
5. “6/8” (3:53)
6. “Est-ce que Je Suis” (4:12)
7. “Ooby-Scooby Doomsday or The D-Day DJ’s Got the D.D.T. Blues” (5:15)

Side Three contains four numbers from a January 1974 BBC studio performance by the Angel’s Egg lineup minus Moerlen and Smyth (deputized by 1972-era temps Rob Tait and Diane Stewart). “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” is an unissued COIT-credited 1974 studio track by the Egg lineup (with Moerlen and Smyth).

8. “Radio Gnome Invisible” (7:35)
9. “Oily Way” (3:20)
10. “Outer Temple” (1:05)
11. “Inner Temple” (5:15)
12. “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” (3:07)

Side Four contains four numbers from a September 9, 1975, show by the Shamal lineup: Howlett, Malherbe, Moerlen, malletist Mireille Bauer, keyboardist Patrice Lemoine, and guests Hillage and vocalist Miquette Giraudy.

13. “Isle of Everywhere” (10:24)
14. “Get It Inner” (2:31)
15. “Master Builder” (5:56)
16. “Flying Teapot (Reprise)” (1:55)

Mike Howlett co-produced Live Etc. with Phil Newell, a Mike Oldfield soundman whose recent credits include albums by Gryphon, David Bedford, and the 1977 Harvest release The Roxy London WC2 (Jan – Apr 77), a document of the Covent Garden venue’s first 100 days with performances by The Adverts, Buzzcocks, Slaughter & The Dogs, Wire, and X-Ray Spex.

Gong Live Etc. is housed in a die-cut silver-gray sleeve. Both inner-sleeves feature concert photo collages by Virgin photographer Cooke Key.


Gong est Mort…Vive Gong

On May 28, 1977, the Angel’s Egg lineup regrouped for the headline slot of a 24-hour festival at the Paris Hippodrome: an event documented on Gong est Mort…Vive Gong, a 76-minute live double-album released in September 1977 on Tapioca Records, Georgakarakos’ short-lived follow-up to BYG. The title translates to “Gong Is Dead, Long Live Gong.”

Gong performed a three-hour set that featured the bulk of Camambert Electrique and the three Radio Gnome Trilogy albums. The contents of Gong est Mort (76:00 total run time) features roughly half of Gong’s Hippodrome with select tracks faded short.

The Hippodrome drew together the classic 1973–74 Gong lineup: singer–guitarist Daevid Allen, space-whisperer Gilli Smyth, saxist–flutist Didier Malherbe, guitarist Steve Hillage, synthesist Tim Blake, bassist Mike Howlett, and drummer Pierre Moerlen, the only member of the current Expresso–Gong, which played a seperate set. The May 28 festival also featured solo sets by Blake, Hillage, and Allen, who performed with his backing band Euterpe.

Especially for the event, Howlett formed Strontium 90, an impromptu act with veteran guitarist Andy Summers (Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, Eric Burdon & The New Animals) and a rookie London trio called The Police, formed by late-period Curved Air drummer Stewart Copeland with Gordon Sumner, a Newcastle bassist–singer who went by the name Sting. The Hippodrome show marked the first interaction between Summers and the two Police, who soon hired him (in place of their first guitarist Henry Padovani).

Side One
1. “Can’t Kill Me” (7:53)
2. “I’ve Been Stoned Before / Mister Long Shanks / O Mother” (6:39)
3. “Radio Gnome Invisible” (2:39)

Side Two
4. “Zero the Hero and the Witch’s Spell” (10:04)
5. “Flute Salade / Oily Way / “Outer Temple” (10:09)

Side Three
6. “Inner Temple (Zero Meets The Octave Doctor)” (6:01)
7. “IAO Chant and Master Builder” (7:05)
8. “Sprinkling of Clouds” (4:50)

Side Four
9. “From the Isle Of Every Where to the End of the Story of Zero the Hero” (12:14)
10. “You Never Blow Your Trip For Ever” (8:26)

Hillage and his keyboardist partner Miquette Giraudy appear under their real names. The six remaining participants of Gong’s set appear under the corresponding pseudonyms:

Daevid Allen = Bert Camembert (vocals, guitar)
Gilli Smyth = Shakti Yoni (space whisper)
Tim Blake = High T. Moonweed (synthesizer, keyboards)
Didier Malherbe = Bloomdido Bad de Grass (Selmer sax, flute)
Pierre Moerlen = Le Pere Cushion de Strasbourger (drums, percussion)
Mike Howlett = Mister T. Being (souper bass)

Gong est Mort…Vive Gong is housed in a gatefold sleeve with an outer illustration by Allen and an inner-gate group photo by Martin Sylvie. Allen’s illustration features doodles of the flying teapot, pot head pixies and assorted characters with credits and notes inside a concenetric yin and yang.


Discography:

  • Magick Brother (1970)
  • Continental Circus (OST, 1971)
  • Camembert Electrique (1971)
  • Flying Teapot (1973)
  • Angel’s Egg (1973)
  • You (1974)
  • Shamal (1975)
  • Gazeuse! (1976)
  • Live Etc (1977)
  • Gong est Mort…Vive Gong (1977)
  • Expresso II (1978)
  • Downwind (1979)
  • Time Is the Key (1979)
  • Leave It Open (1981)
  • Breakthrough (1986)
  • Second Wind (1988)

Sources:

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