|This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2008)|
|Genres||Progressive rock, psychedelic rock|
|Years active||1967–1976, 1991–2001, 2003–2006, 2007–present|
|Labels||Virgin/EMI, Major League Productions (MLP)|
|Associated acts||Pierre Moerlen's Gong, Steve Hillage, Daevid Allen, Soft Machine, Here & Now|
|Past members||See "Personnel"|
Gong is a Franco-British progressive rock band known for incorporating elements of jazz and classical music into its musical style. The group was formed by Australian musician Daevid Allen in 1967. Notable band members have included Tim Blake, Didier Malherbe, Pip Pyle, Gilli Smyth, Steve Hillage, Francis Moze, Mike Howlett and Pierre Moerlen. Others who have played in Gong include Bill Bruford, Brian Davison, Don Cherry and Chris Cutler.
Gong released its debut album, Magick Brother, in 1970, which featured a psychedelic pop sound. The following year, Gong released its second album, Camembert Electrique which featured a psychedelic rock sound. Between 1973 and 1974, Gong released the "Flying Teapot Trilogy", a series of progressive rock concept albums consisting of Flying Teapot, Angel's Egg and You, describing the adventures of Zero the Hero, the Good Witch Yoni and the Pot Head Pixies from the Planet Gong, who are green with propellers on their heads, and fly around in teapots.
In 1976, Daevid Allen departed from the band, which released the album Shamal without him, and then released a series of jazz rock albums under the leadership of Pierre Moerlen. This incarnation of the band is known as Pierre Moerlen's Gong, and Gong member Gilli Smyth formed Mother Gong. Allen subsequently participated in a series of spin-off groups, including New York Gong and Gongmaison, before returning to lead Gong in 1991, releasing the albums Shapeshifter, Zero to Infinity, Acid Motherhood, 2032 and I See You before Allen's death in 2015.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Early years (1967–73)
- 1.2 Radio Gnome Trilogy (1973–74)
- 1.3 Daevid Allen's departure (1975) and Shamal (1976)
- 1.4 15-year hiatus (1976–1991) – Pierre Moerlen's Gong and other offshoots
- 1.5 Reunions (1991–present) and other off-shoots (Gongmaison, Acid Mothers Gong)
- 1.5.1 Reunion (1991)
- 1.5.2 25th anniversary celebration (1994) and worldwide tours (1996–2001)
- 1.5.3 Important line-up changes (2003)
- 1.5.4 One-off reunions (2004–2006)
- 1.5.5 Daevid Allen and Gong Global Family (2007)
- 1.5.6 Keeping on recording (2009) and touring (2008–2014)
- 1.5.7 I See You, illness and death of Daevid Allen (2014–present)
- 2 Music and lyrics
- 3 Personnel
- 4 Discographies
- 5 Filmography
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Early years (1967–73)
Gong was formed in 1967, after Allen—then a member of Soft Machine—was denied re-entry to the United Kingdom because of a visa complication. Allen remained in France where he and a London-born Sorbonne professor, Gilli Smyth, established the first incarnation of the band. This line-up, including Ziska Baum on vocals and Loren Standlee on flute, fragmented during the 1968 student revolution, with Allen and Smyth forced to flee France for Deià in Majorca.
They supposedly found saxophonist Didier Malherbe living in a cave in Deià, before film director Jérôme Laperrousaz invited the band back to France to record the soundtrack of his movie Continental Circus. They were subsequently approached by Jean Karakos of the newly formed independent label BYG and signed a multi-album deal with them. The albums Magick Brother/Mystic Sister (1970), Camembert Electrique (1971) and Allen's solo album Bananamoon (1971) were all released on BYG.
Gong played at the second Glastonbury Festival in June 1971 (the performance being issued as a side-long track on the 3-LP vinyl festival record release Glastonbury Fayre, later re-mixed and re-edited and released by GAS in 2001 as Glastonbury 1971), followed by a UK tour in Autumn. In late 1972 they were one of the first acts to sign to Virgin Records, getting first pick of the Manor Studio's time ahead of Mike Oldfield. By that time, a regular line-up had been established, and Gong released their Flying Teapot album in May 1973. The following year 1974, Camembert Electrique (1971) was given a belated UK release, priced at 59p which was the price of a typical single, a promotional gimmick Virgin had done before in 1973 on an album by Faust and would do again for a reggae compilation in 1976. These ultra-budget albums sold in large quantities because of the low price, but this pricing made them ineligible for placement on album charts. The intention was that purchasers would be encouraged to buy the groups' other albums at full price.
Radio Gnome Trilogy (1973–74)
Between 1973 and 1974, Gong, now augmented by guitarist Steve Hillage, released their best-known work, the "Radio Gnome Trilogy", three records that expounded upon the (previously only hinted at) Gong mythology, Flying Teapot (1973), Angel's Egg (1973), and You (1974). For about two months at the end of 1974, Bill Bruford played drums with Gong.
Daevid Allen's departure (1975) and Shamal (1976)
At a gig in Cheltenham in 1975, Allen refused to go on stage, claiming that a "wall of force" was preventing him, and left the band. With both Smyth, who wanted to spend more time with her two children, and synth player Tim Blake having jumped off in previous months, this marked the end of the 'classic' line-up.
The band continued, touring the UK in November 1975 (as documented on the 2005 release Live in Sherwood Forest '75) and working on their next album Shamal (with Jorge Pinchevsky on violin), but Hillage who had been the band's de facto leader since Allen's exit, and his partner Miquette Giraudy who had taken over from Smyth in late 1974, left before Shamal was released in February 1976. Nevertheless, Hillage and Giraudy took part in the sessions for Shamal in December 1975. Both joined Planet Gong briefly for a 1977 live reunion in Paris.
15-year hiatus (1976–1991) – Pierre Moerlen's Gong and other offshoots
Drummer Pierre Moerlen, who had been persuaded by Virgin to rejoin Gong in 1975 as a co-leader with Malherbe (after his spell with the French contemporary ensemble Les Percussions de Strasbourg), gradually took over the band's leadership (with the original band dissolving in 1976). When Malherbe, the only remaining founding member, finally left in 1977, Moerlen formed a new percussion-based line-up with American bassist Hansford Rowe and percussionists Mireille Bauer and Benoit Moerlen. To avoid confusion, it became known as Gong-Expresso, and from 1978 on, as Pierre Moerlen's Gong up to 2002 with the recording of their last album Pentanine and 2005 with Pierre Moerlen's death.
Allen, however, continued to develop the Gong mythology from the late seventies up until the nineties in his solo work, and with bands such as Euterpe, Planet Gong (which comprised Allen and Smyth playing with the British festival band Here & Now), and New York Gong (comprising Allen and bassist/producer Bill Laswell, who would later become known as Material), while Smyth formed a separate band Mother Gong, with Jean-Paul Vivini from the band Can am des puig (author of The Book of AM produced by Daevid Allen), playing in Spain and England. Allen delighted in this proliferation of groups and considered his role at this time to be that of an instigator, travelling around the world leaving active Gong-related bands in his wake.
Reunions (1991–present) and other off-shoots (Gongmaison, Acid Mothers Gong)
After spending most of the eighties in his native Australia, Allen returned to the UK in 1988 with a new project, the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet, whose revolving cast included the likes of violinist Graham Clark and saxophonist Didier Malherbe. This morphed into Gongmaison in 1989 and by 1991, the name Gong was again in use, by which time early drummer Pip Pyle had also rejoined. The band released the album Shapeshifter in 1992 (subsequently dubbed Radio Gnome part 4), followed by extensive touring.
25th anniversary celebration (1994) and worldwide tours (1996–2001)
In 1994, Gong celebrated its 25th birthday in London, including a performance by most of the 'classic' line-up, including the returning Gilli Smyth and bassist Mike Howlett. This formed the basis of the "Classic Gong" band which toured worldwide from 1996 to 2001 (Pierre Moerlen returning to the band in 1997 through 1999) and released Zero to Infinity in 2000 (by Allen, Smyth, Howlett and Malherbe plus new recruits Theo Travis on sax and Chris Taylor on drums).
Important line-up changes (2003)
However, 2003 saw a radical new line-up including Acid Mothers Temple member Kawabata Makoto and University of Errors guitarist Josh Pollock. Allen and Smyth's son Orlando Allen drummed on the album Acid Motherhood (2004), but the drummer on most of the band's live dates was Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida. Members of Gong and Acid Mothers Temple later worked together under the name "Acid Mothers Gong".
One-off reunions (2004–2006)
The "Classic Gong" line-up retired from regular touring in 2001, but there were one-off reunions subsequently, most notably at the "Gong Family Unconvention" (Uncon), the first of which was held in 2004 in the Glastonbury Assembly rooms as a one-day event and featured many ex members and Gong family bands including Here and Now, House of Thandoy, Thom the Poet, Invisible Opera, Andy Bole, Bubbledub and Joie Hinton. The 2005 Uncon was a 2-day affair featuring several Gong-related bands such as Here & Now, System 7, House of Thandoy and Kangaroo Moon. The most recent Uncon was a 3-day event held at the Melkweg in Amsterdam on 3–5 November 2006, with practically all Gong-related bands present: classic Gong (with Allen, Smyth, Malherbe, Hillage, Blake and Howlett, plus Miquette Giraudy, Chris Taylor and Theo Travis), System 7, Steve Hillage Band, Hadouk, Tim Blake & Jean-Philippe Rykiel, University of Errors, Here & Now, Mother Gong, Zorch, Eat Static, Acid Mothers Gong, Slack Baba, Kangaroo Moon and many others. These events have all been compèred by "Thom the Poet (now Thom Moon 10)".
Daevid Allen and Gong Global Family (2007)
In November 2007, Daevid Allen held a series of concerts in Brazil, with a branch of Gong, which was called Daevid Allen and Gong Global Family (Daevid Allen on vocals and guitar, Josh Pollock on guitar, megaphone and percussion; Fred Barley on drums and percussion; Fabio Golfetti of Violeta de Outono fame on guitar, Gabriel Costa, also from Violeta de Outono, on bass, Marcelo Ringel on flute and tenor saxophone), along with his other band University of Errors (Allen, Josh Pollock, Michael Clare, Fred Barley). The presentations took place in São Paulo on 21 and 22 November and São Carlos on 24 November. These musicians – less Marcelo – recorded some new songs in the studio Mosh, in São Paulo. The show of 21 November was then released only in England as DVD and CD by Voiceprint Records.
Keeping on recording (2009) and touring (2008–2014)
In June 2008, Gong played two concerts in London: Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank (opening Massive Attack's Meltdown festival) and the Forum, with Allen, Smyth, Hillage, Giraudy, Howlett, Taylor and Travis among the line-up. This line-up then released new album 2032 in 2009 and toured in support. They played the Glade stage at Glastonbury Festival with Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy. Gong played at the Big Chill festival in the UK on 9 August 2009 with Allen, Smyth, Hillage, Giraudy, Travis, Taylor and Dave Sturt on bass, at the Beautiful Days Festival in Devon, 23 August 2009 and at the Lounge on the Farm festival near Canterbury in the summer of 2009.
Gong played four UK live shows in September 2010 with Allen, Smyth, Hillage, Giraudy, Sturt, Taylor and Ian East. O2 ABC Glasgow (9th), Manchester Academy (10th), HMV Forum London (11th) and HMV Institute Birmingham (20th). Support for these shows was provided by Nik Turner's Space Ritual.
Gong toured Europe in the fall of 2012 with the line-up of Allen, Smyth, Sturt, East, Orlando Allen on drums, and Fabio Golfetti on guitar. Gong also played in Brazil in May 2013 with the line-up of Daevid Allen, Sturt, East, Orlando Allen and Golfetti and in 2014 with the addition of Kavus Torabi on guitar.
I See You, illness and death of Daevid Allen (2014–present)
On 10 November 2014, Gong released a new album entitled I See You featuring the 2014 line-up with Gilli Smyth guesting. Due to Daevid Allen's illness and an extensive period of recuperation further to radiation therapy, Gong toured Europe without him in the fall of 2014 in support of the new album. Thus, while Allen was recovering, the current line-up was Sturt, East, Golfetti, Torabi and a "mystery drummer" now revealed as Cheb Nettles. Entitled "I See You Tour 2014", this 7-date short tour of France (Châteauroux, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lille, Sélestat) and the UK (London, Manchester) began on 11 November 2014 and ended on 5 December 2014.
On 5 February 2015, Allen released a statement announcing that the cancer had returned to his neck and had also spread to his lungs, and that he was "not interested in endless surgical operations"; leaving him with "approximately six months to live". Just over a month after the initial announcement, on 13 March 2015, Daevid's son, Orlando Monday Allen, announced through Facebook that Allen had died.
It was revealed on 11 April, 2015 that Daevid Allen had written an email to the band prior to his death, expressing that he wished the five remaining members of the lineup to continue performing following his passing; although whether the band will continue is at present unclear. The email suggests that Kavus Torabi is to become the new frontman of the band.
Music and lyrics
Style and influences
Gong's musical style incorporates free jazz and avant-garde classical music into a distinctive musical style, which has been described by critics and journalists as experimental rock, jazz fusion, jazz rock, progressive rock, psychedelic rock and space rock. Gong has also been associated with Canterbury scene of progressive rock bands.
||This section possibly contains original research. (February 2010)|
The Gong mythology contains many similarities to concepts from Buddhist belief, e.g. the search for self, the denial of absolute reality and the search for the path to enlightenment. The story should not be trivialised as mere hippy dreaming – except that in true Gong style neither should it be venerated as any sort of lore.
Flying Teapot (1973): Radio Gnome Trilogy, Part 1
Gong mythology is a collection of recurring characters, themes, and ideas that permeate the rock albums of Daevid Allen and Gong and to a lesser extent the early works of Steve Hillage. The story is based on a vision Allen had during the full moon of Easter, 1966 in which he claims he could see his future laid out before him. The mythology is hinted at through all of Gong's earlier albums but is not the central theme until the "Radio Gnome Trilogy" (1973–1974).
The story begins on the album Flying Teapot (1973) when a pig-farming Egyptologist called Mista T Being is sold a "magick ear ring" by an "antique teapot street vendor & tea label collector" called Fred the Fish. The ear ring is capable of receiving messages from the Planet Gong via a pirate radio station called Radio Gnome Invisible. Being and Fish head off to the hymnalayas of Tibet (sic) where they meet the "great beer yogi" Banana Ananda in a cave. Ananda tends to chant "Banana Nirvana Mañana" a lot and gets drunk on Foster's Australian Lager.
Meanwhile, the mythology's central character, Zero the Hero, is going about his everyday life when he suddenly has a vision in Charing Cross Road. He is compelled to seek heroes and starts worshipping the Cock Pot Pixie, one of a number of Pot Head Pixies from the Planet Gong. These pixies are green with propellers on their heads, and they fly around in teapots.
Zero is soon distracted by a cat which he offers his fish and chips to. The cat is actually the Good Witch Yoni, who gives Zero a potion. This concludes the first album of the Radio Gnome Trilogy.
The Flying Teapot Trilogy was influenced by Russell's teapot an idea that is referred to by Allen in his books 'Gong Dreaming'.
Angel's Egg (1973): Radio Gnome Trilogy, Part 2
The second album Angel's Egg (1973) begins with Zero falling to sleep under the influences of the potion and finding himself floating through space. After accidentally scaring a space pilot called Captain Capricorn, Zero locates the Planet Gong, and spends some time with a prostitute who introduces him to the moon goddess Selene.
Zero's (drug-induced) trip to the Planet Gong continues, and the Pot Head Pixies explain to him how their flying teapots fly (a system known as Glidding). He is then taken to the One Invisible Temple of Gong.
Inside the temple, Zero is shown the Angel's Egg — the physical embodiment of the 32 Octave Doctors (descendants of the Great God Cell). The Angel's Egg is the magic-eye mandala that features on much of the band's sleeve-art. It is also a sort of recycling plant for Pot Head Pixies.
A grand plan is revealed to Zero. There will be a Great Melting Feast of Freeks which Zero must organise on Earth. When everyone is enjoying the Feast, a huge global concert, the Switch Doctor will turn everybody's third eye on, ushering in a New Age on Earth. The Switch Doctor is the Earth's resident Octave Doctor, who lives near Banana Ananda's cave, in a "potheadquarters" called the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet (C.O.I.T.) and transmits all the details to the Gong Band via Bananamoon Observatory.
You (1974): Radio Gnome Trilogy, Part 3
In the third instalment, You (1974), Zero must first return from his trip. He asks Hiram the Master Builder how to structure his vision and build his own Invisible Temple. Having done this, Zero establishes that he must organise the Great Melting Feast of Freeks on the Isle of Everywhere, Bali.
The event is going well, and the Switch Doctor switches on everyone's third eyes except for Zero's. For Zero is out the back, indulging in Earthly pleasures (fruitcake).
Zero has missed out on the whole third eye revelation experience and is forced to continue his existence spinning around on the wheel of births and deaths and slowly converging on the Angel's Egg in a way which, to a certain extent, resembles Buddhist reincarnation.
In episode four in the album Shapeshifter (1992), Zero meets an urban shaman who agrees to take Zero to the next level of awareness on the proviso that Zero spends nine months on an aeroplane travelling where he wants but not using money or eating anything other than airline food. Zero eventually dies in Australia under mysterious circumstances.
The next instalment in the album Zero to Infinity (2000) sees Zero's spirit enjoying a body-free and virtual existence. During the course of this he becomes an android spheroid Zeroid. With the help of a strange animal called a gongalope, he learns that all the wisdom of the world exists within him and practices Lafta yoga and tea making. At the end he becomes one with an Invisible Temple and has a lot of fun.
The final instalment of the story 2032 (2009) is set in that year, the same as Daevid Allen had seen as significant for the enlightenment of humanity. The planet Gong now serves as more of a digital portal for humanity still grappling with contemporary issues of life. The album is well produced containing mainly tracks written by Allen, but sees Steve Hillage back in the recording fold alongside founder member Didier Malherbe and relative newcomers Theo Travis on sax and Chris Taylor on drums. The style has echoes of old psychedelia, but includes funk and even rap elements.
Gong's mythology is not universally serious. Great amounts of the story pertain in some way to the production and consumption of tea (perhaps suggesting mushroom tea, although the word tea has also long been a word to describe cannabis, especially in the 1940s and 1950s). The characters of the story are often based on or used as pseudonyms for band members.
Influence on other artists
Gong's influence has been seen in artists such as Ozric Tentacles and Insane Clown Posse, whose member Violent J listened to Gong's music for inspiration during the recording of ICP's 2009 album Bang! Pow! Boom! Gong's music has also found fandom in the ambient music scene.
American hard rock band Raging Slab has covered Gong's "The Pot Head Pixies" for NORML's Hempilation release. Japanese psych-rock band Acid Mothers Temple frequently covers Gong's "Master Builder", titled as "Om Riff", and have released 2 full albums dedicated to album-length renditions of the song; 2005's "IAO Chant From The Cosmic Inferno" and 2012's "IAO Chant From The Melting Paraiso Underground Freak Out".
Hip hop artists have sampled Gong's music. Madlib samples Gong's music frequently, including "Eat That Phone Book Coda" on his song ""Maingirl", "You Never Blow Yr Trip Forever" on "Bullyshit", and "Shamal" on "Mr. Two-Faced". Insane Clown Posse has also frequently sampled Gong, including "The Pot Head Pixies" on "Ringmaster's Word" and "Toy Box", as well as "Selene" on "The Dead One" and "Bambooji" on "For The Maggots".
- Current members
- Fabio Golfetti – guitars (2007, 2012–present)
- Dave Sturt – bass (2009–present)
- Ian East – saxophone, flute (2010–present)
- Kavus Torabi – guitars, vocals (2014–present)
- Cheb Nettles – drums (2014–present)
(Daevid Allen's) Gong albums
(Daevid Allen free) Gong albums
Pierre Moerlen's Gong albums
Mother Gong albums
New York Gong
- 2015: Romantic Warriors III: Canterbury Tales (DVD)
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- Allen, Daevid. Gong Dreaming 1 (SAF Publishing) ISBN 0-946719-82-9
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- Brown, Brian. "Gong: Angel's Egg", (Crawdaddy!) 26 March 2008
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gong (band).|
- Official web site for Gong, GAS & Gliss
- The Archive – Archival photos of Gong, Mother Gong, Steve Hillage, Nik Turner, Here & Now, Hawkwind and many Free Festivals from the 1960s–1980s
- Acid Mother voted weirdest album cover of all time
- Gong at calyx.perso.neuf.fr, the "Canterbury website"
- "Not Just Another Gong Website" – comprehensive tapeography