For the past 30 years, Gong has lingered on the fringes of pop music’s consciousness, building a following via word-of-mouth. Gong is as much about a unique political and spiritual world view and philosophy as it is about a unique style of music that draws influences from psychedelia, jazz, folk and various ethnic musics. Gong began in the early 1950s in Melbourne, Australia, in the mind of the eccentric youngster, Daevid Allen. A self-described freak since childhood, he was beaten up frequently by classmates at the exclusive Australian Public School. Inspired by Beat poetry, Allen traveled the world after graduation.
During 1960, Daevid Allen emigrated to England with wife Gilli Smyth. The room he rented in London was part of a mansion owned by the Wyatt family. Daevid Allen struck up a close friendship with young Robert Wyatt, as well as Robert’s school chums in Canterbury. After playing guitar with several short lived avant-garde jazz groups, the nomadic Allen traveled Europe, working with writer William S. Burroughs and composers Terry Riley and LaMonte Young.
Allen returned to England in 1966, luring Wyatt from his rock band The Wilde Flowers to join The Soft Machine. Allen’s tenure with the Soft Machine was brief. He and Gilli Smyth remained in Paris following a tour of Europe in 1967. The duo played psychedelic-styled jazz in clubs, finding steady collaborators along the way. In 1969, Allen and Smyth recorded their first album Magick Brother Mystic Sister as Gong, a name derived from Indonesian gamelan music.
By the early 1970s, the band’s lineup stabilized with Allen as guitarist and vocalist, vocalist Smyth, drummer Pip Pyle, bassist Christian Tritsch, and Didier Malherbe on woodwinds. Its 1971 album, Camembert Electrique, was a cohesive blend of psychedelic rock and jazz topped with ambiance and tape loops, with solid song-writing throughout. The bandmembers created a mystique by their unorthodox appearances and adopting whimsical stage names and singing about gnomes who inhabited the Planet Gong and traveled in teapots.
After Gong’s English debut at the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre, Pyle and Tritsch departed. They were replaced by Francis Moze and Laurie Allen. Guitarist Steve Hillage and synthesist Tim Blake also joined, giving the band a spacier ambiance. Gong released the first album of its Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy, Flying Teapot, on the fledgling Virgin label in 1973. The trilogy is a humorous allegory for world peace. The ideal peaceful state thatthe planet Earth could attain was similarto that on the “Planet Gong.” The Planet Gong was inhabited by little green men called pot head pixies who travel around in flying teapots communicating telepathically through the ether wind of Radio Gnome Invisible. Allen created a corollary to the planet earth in Zero the Hero and Captain Capricorn, space travelers from earth who encounter cosmic vibrations from Planet Gong but aren’t sure what to do.
Moze and Laurie Allen left Gong after Flying Teapotand were replaced by Mike Howlett and Pierre Moerlen. Daevid Allen and Smyth quit soon after and the band continued as Paragong. Daevid Allen and Gilli’s departure was temporary, however, as they returned to Gong in mid-1973 to record Angel’s Egg, Radio Gnome Invisible Part II, a high water mark for the band, both artistically and commercially. The collection, recorded in the back garden of the band’s French countryside home, continues the story of Zero The Hero, The Pot-head Pixies, and Radio Gnomes on the Planet Gong in the band’s unique jazz-steeped psychedelic “space rock” style. The band toured constantly, improvising its material into free flights of fancy in concert.
Despite its successes, Gong was fraught with tension. Smyth left after the You album to care for her children. She was replaced by Steve Hillage’s girlfriend Miquette Giraudy. Daevid Allen, who had recently quit using drugs was finding himself increasingly at odds with other bands members who continued to use them. You is the most polished of Gong’s albums. There are more
Members include John Alder ,(a.k.a. Twink, band member c. 1994), synthesizers; Daevid Allen ,(a.k.a. Bert Camembert, The Dingo Virgin b. January, 1938 in Melbourne, Australia), vocals, glissando guitar; Kevin Ayers ,(b. August 16, 1945 in Malaysia), vocals, guitar; Keith Bailey ,(a.k.a. Keith The Missile Bass, bandmember c. 1992), bass; Tim Blake ,(a.k.a. Hi T. Moonweed, b. February 2, 1952 in Hammersmith, West London, England, bandmember c. 1972-5, rejoined c. 1994), synthesizers; Graham Clark ,(a.k.a. Albert “No Parking” Parkin, bandmember c. 1992-4), violin, vocals; Miquitte Giraudy ,(a.k.a. Bambaloni Yoni, bandmember c. 1976), vocals; Steve Hillage ,(a.k.a. Steve Hillside, b. August 2, 1951 in London, England, bandmember c. 1973-6), guitar, vocals; Rachid Houari ,(b. Morocco, bandmember c. 1969-70), drums; Mike Howlett ,(a.k.a. Mr. T. Being, b. April 27, year unknown, Lautoka, Fiji, bandmember c. 1972-6, rejoined c. 1994), bass, vocals; Shyamal Maitra ,(a.k.a. Banana Ananda, bandmember c. 1992), tablas, percussion; Didier Malherbe ,(a.k.a. Bloom-dido Bad de Grass, b. January 22, 1943 in Paris, France, bandmember c. 1969-76, rejoined c. 1992), saxophone, flute, woodwinds; Pierre Moerlen ,(a.k.a. Pere Cushion de Strasbourger, b. October 23, 1952, Colmar, France, bandmember c. 1973-9, rejoined c. 1995), drums, percussion;Pip Pyle (a.k.a. Pip The Heap, b. April 4, 1950 in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, England, bandmember c. 1970-1, rejoined c. 1992), drums; Gilli Smyth ,(a.k.a. Shakti Yoni, b. Wales, bamdmember c. 1969-75, c.. 1994-8), “space whisper” vocals; Christian Tritsch ,(a.k.a. The Submarine Captain, bandmember c. 1969-73), bass.
Band formed c. 1969, Paris France; released debut album Magick Brother, Mystic Sister, 1969 on Byg Records; made English debut c. 1971 at Glastonbury Fayre Festival; signed with Virgin Records c. 1972; released Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy, c. 1973-5; disbanded c. 1976; reformed c. 1992; released Shape-shifter on Celluloid Records, c. 1992; toured Europe, United States, Japan, c. 1994-8.
Addresses: Record company —Cleopatra Records, 13428 Maxella Ave., Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292.
instrumentals, as Daevid Allen’s influence in the band was waning, but he still managed to tie up loose ends of the Pothead Pixie and Zero the Hero story.
In 1991, Daevid Allen explained the Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy to interviewer Jason Rubin. “There was the first level, which was the playful silliness and just having fun. But it is also the code both for a political manifesto and a spiritual teaching. But what is interesting is that while the story that we told originally appears to be just talking about little green men with pointed hats, every single thing in the Planet Gong mythology has a deeper meaning for those who want to peel away the layers and get to the chocolate center. I can’t say much more than that, it’s really something you need to come and check out for yourself.”
After You, Smyth departed, followed soon by Daevid Allen in 1975. The band was led by Steve Hillage, backing him on his solo album Fish Rising. Hillage’s influence waned on the 1976 release Shamal, after which he quit Gong for a successful solo career. As Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, the band soldiered on for several instrumental albums before disbanding in the early 1980s.
Daevid Allen went to Majorca upon leaving Gong in 1976 and joined the local acoustic band Euterpe for Good Morning. Subsequent soloalbums of the 1970s, including the punk influenced About Time, belied his lack of direction. Daevid Allen and Smyth separated in 1978. She founded Mothergong, representing the feminine side of Gong. Allen retired from the music business in 1981 and returned to Australia, in time to see his father before he died. Allen drove a taxi in Australia until 1989 when enough contact from fans convinced him to return to public life.
Since the early 1990s, Allen has been recording prolifically solo, with Shimmy Disc founder Kramer, and Mothergong. He reunited Gong in 1994 for a 25th birthday celebration concert in London. On the strength of consistent touring and a well-organized fan network, The Gong Appreciation Society, Gong keeps going strong into the next millennium, picking up new ‘family members’ along the way.
Magick Brother Mystic Sister, Byg, 1970, reissued Decal, 1990.
Continental Circus,(soundtrack), Philips, 1971, reissued Giacomo, 1996.
(with Dashiell Hedayat), Obsolete, Shandar, 1971, reissued Mantra, 1994.
“Est-Ce Que Je Suis (Garcon ou Filie)” / “Hyp Hypnotise You”, Byg 129021, 1970, reissued on Je Ne Fume pas Des Bananes,(ree. 1969), Legend, 1996.
Camembert Eclectique,(ree. 1970), Gong Appreciation Society, 1994
Camembert Electrique, Byg, 1971, reissued, Decal, 1991.
(with others), Glastonbury Fayre, Revelation, 1972.
Flying Teapot, Virgin, 1973, reissued Decal, 1991.
Angel’s Egg, Virgin, 1973.
You, Virgin, 1974.
Shamal, Virgin, 1976.
Live Etc.(ree. 1973-6), Virgin, 1977.
Gong Est Mort, Vive Gong, Tapioca, 1977, reissued Celluloid, 1993.
(Pierre Moerlen’s Gong), Expresso II, Virgin, 1978.
New York Gong, About Time, 1979, reissued, Decal, 1991.
Gong Maison, Demi Monde, 1989.
Gong Maison, Live At Glastonbury 1989, Gong Appreciation Society, 1994.
History and Mystery of the Planet Gong,(circa 1964-89), Thunderbolt, 1989.
Shapeshifter, Celluloid, 1992, reissued Viceroy, 1996
Live au Bataclan 1973, Mantra, 1993.
Live At Sheffield 1974, Mantra, 1993.
25th Birthday Party, Gong Appreciation Society, 1994.
Pre-Modernist Wireless, The Peel Sessions 1971-74, Strange Fruit, 1995.
“Perfect Mystery” (ree. 1974) on Supernatural Fairy Tales: The Progressive Rock Era, Rhino, 1996.
Daevid Allen solo projects
(with Freaks of Nature), “People! Let’s Freak Out” “Secret Police”, Island, 1966.
(with Soft Machine), “Love Makes Sweet Music” “Feelin’ Reelin’ Squealin’”, Polydor, 1967, reissued on Rare Tracks, Polydor, 1975.
(with Soft Machine), Rock Generation Volumes 6 & 7 (ree. 1967), Byg, 1971.
Banana Moon, Caroline, 1971, reissued Decal, 1992.
(with Euterpe), Good Morning, Virgin, 1976.
Now Is The Happiest Time of Your Life, Tapioca, 1977, reissued, Charly, 1992.
N’Existe pas, Charly, 1979.
Invisible Opera Company of Tibet, Voiceprint, 1987.
Australian Years (ree.81-88), Voiceprint, 1991.
The Death of Rock (ree. 1982), Voiceprint, 1991.
(with The Magick Brothers), Live at the Witch wood 1991, Voiceprint, 1991.
Twelve Selves, Voiceprint, 1991.
Trio, Live 1963, Voiceprint, 1993.
(with The Magick Brothers), “Trial by Headlines” on Passed Normal Volume 5, Fot/Ponk, 1993.
Daevid Allen and Kramer, Who’s Afraid, Shimmy-Disc, 1993.
Daevid Allen and Kramer, Hit Men, Shimmy-Disc, 1994.
Je Ne Fume Pas Des Bananes,(ree. 1969), Legend, 1996.
Dreamin’ A Dream, Gong Appreciation Society, 1996, reissued Cleopatra, 1998.
(With Solid Space), “Visions of Angels” on The Fox Lies Down, A Tribute To Genesis, Purple Pyramid/Cleopatra, 1998.
(with Pip Pyle), Brainville, Knitting Factory Works, 1999.
Gilli Smyth and Mothergong projects
(with Pip Pyle), Gilli Smyth, Mother, Charly, 1978.
Fairy Tales, Charly, 1979.
Robot Woman, Butt, 1981.
Robot Woman 2, Shanghai, 1982.
Robot Woman 3, Shanghai, 1989.
(with Daevid Allen), Magenta/She Made The World, Voiceprint, 1993.
Every Witches Way, Voiceprint VP, 1993.
“Spiral Dance” on Passed Normal Volume 5, Fot/Ponk, 1993.
Radio Promo, Voiceprint, 1994.
Wild Child, Demi-Monde, 1994.
Eye, Voiceprint VP, 1994.
Politico-Historico-Spirito, Voiceprint, 1995.
The Best of (ree. 1978-94), Purple Pyramid/Cleopatra, 1997.
“In The Beginning” on The Fox Lies Down, A Tribute To Genesis, Purple Pyramid/Cleopatra, 1998.
Pip Pyle solo projects
Hatfield and the North, Virgin, 1974.
(with Hatfield and the North), “Let’s Eat (Real Soon)” (ree. 1974) on Supernatural Fairy Tales: The Progressive Rock Era, Rhino, 1996.
(with Hatfield and the North), The Rotters’ Club, Virgin, 1975.
National Health, Charly, 1978.
National Health, Of Queues and Cures, Charly, 1979.
National Health, D.S. Al Coda, Europa, 1982, reissued on Voiceprint, 1996.
National Health, Complete (ree. 1978-1982), East Side Digital, 1990.
(with Steve Hillage), National Health, Missing Pieces (ree. 1976-78), East Side Digital, 1997.
Soft Heap, Charly, 1979.
(with Didier Malherbe), Pip Pyle’s Equip’Out, 52 Rue Est, 1985.
(with Phil Miller), Split Seconds, Reckless, 1987.
(with Phil Miller), Digging In, Cuneiform, 1991.
Pip Pyle’s Equip’Out, Up, Gimini/NTI, 1991.
(with Didier Malherbe), Short Wave, Live, Gimini, 1993.
(with Didier Malherbe), Seven Year Itch, Voiceprint, 1998.
Other Gong members’ projects
(with Didier Malherbe), Kevin Ayers, Whatevershebring-swesing, Harvest, 1972, reissued BGO, 1992.
(with Steve Hillage), Kevin Ayers Bananamour, Harvest, 1973, reissued BGO, 1992.
Paragong, Live 1973, Gong Appreciation Society, 1995.
Paragong, “Pentagramaspin”, V, Virgin, 1975.
(with Tim Blake, Mike Howlett, Didier Malherbe, and Pierre Moerlen), Steve Hillage, Fish Rising, Virgin, 1975.
(with Mike Howlett), Strontium 90, Police Academy (ree. 1977), Pangea, 1997.
(with Tim Blake), New Jerusalem, Mantra, 1978.
with Tim Blake), Crystal Machine, Mantra, 1979.
(with Pip Pyle), Didier Malherbe, Fetish, Votre, 1990.
(with Tim Blake), Magick, Voiceprint, 1991.
Allen, Daevid, If Words Were Birds, Outposts Publications, 1964.
Allen, Daevid, Gong Dreaming part 1, Gong Appreciation Society, 1995.
Allen, Daevid, Gong Dreaming part 2, Gong Appreciation Society, 1996.
Allen, Daevid, A Pocket Introduction To The Planet Gong, Byg, 1971.
Cutler, Chris, File Under Popular, Autonomedia, 1994.
Joynson, Vernon, Tapestry of Delights: The Comprehensive Guide to British Music of the Beat, R&B, Psychedelic, and Progressive Eras, 1963-1976, Borderline Productions, 1996.
King, Michael, Wrong Movements: A Robert Wyatt History, S.A.F., 1994.
Miller, Bill, Listening To The Future: The Time of Progressive Rock 1968-1978, Open Court, 1998.
Smyth, Gillian, The Nitrogen Dreams of A Wide Girl, Outposts Publications, 1966.
Thompson, Dave, Space Daze: The History and Mystery of Electronic Ambient Space Rock, Cleopatra, 1996.
Woodstra, Chris, editor, The All Music Guide To Rock, Miller-Freeman, 1995.
Facelift, Issue 11.
Goldmine, October 6, 1989; April 10, 1998.
Melody Maker, April 27, 1974; October 19, 1974; November 9, 1974; April 19, 1975; April 26, 1975; June 19, 1976; September 26, 1976; July 16, 1977; January 12, 1980.
Option, July, 1992.
Record Collector, June, 1992.
Sound Choice, No. 17.
Voiceprint News, Spring, 1994.
http://www.alpes-net.fr/~bigbang/calyx.html (October 22, 1998).
http://musart.co.uk (September 26, 1998).
http://www.ice.net/~ponk (September 26, 1998).
http://www.terrascope.org (September 28, 1998).
Additional information was obtained through The Gong Appreciation Society and interviews with Gilli Smyth, Pip Pyle, and Mike Howlett.
gong, percussion instrument consisting of a disk, usually with upturned edges, 3 ft (91 cm) or more in diameter in the modern orchestra, often made of bronze, and struck with a felt- or leather-covered mallet or drumstick. Of ancient origin—representations of the gong date back to the 6th cent. AD—it has also been called the tam-tam. First used in Western music in the funeral march of Gossec's Mirabeau (1791), the gong has since been a regular member of the European-type orchestra, but it is used sparingly. It is commonly used in East Asian music and in the gamelan music of Bali and Java.
gong / gäng; gông/ • n. a metal disk with a turned rim, giving a resonant note when struck: a dinner gong. • v. [intr.] sound a gong or make a sound like that of a gong being struck.