GONG : the legendary psychedelic space rock collective formed in 1969
Australian beatnik poet Daevid Allen (ex-Soft Machine) began making music with his partner Gilli Smyth in the late 1960s, along with a constantly evolving community of creative musicians. Albums from this period include Magick Brother, Mystic Sister (1969) and the influential Bananamoon (1971) – one of David Bowie’s favourite 20 albums. A stable line-up of the band, now named Gong, eventually materialised featuring Didier Malherbe (sax and reeds), Christian Tritsch (bass), and Pip Pyle (drums), along with Allen (glissando guitar, vocals) and Smyth (space whisper, vocals). This band released the album Camembert Electrique in late 1971, as well as providing the soundtrack to the iconic biker film Continental Circus and music for the album Obsolete by French poet Dashiel Hedayat.
Gong’s next three albums, released on Virgin Records, became known as the known as the Radio Gnome Trilogy, consisting of Flying Teapot (1973), Angel’s Egg (1974), and You (1975). Over the course of the Trilogy, Tritsch and Pyle left and were replaced by Mike Howlett (bass) and Pierre Moerlen (drums). New members Steve Hillage (guitar) and Tim Blake (synthesizers) also joined.
After You , Allen, Hillage, Blake and Smyth left the group, guitarist Allan Holdsworth joined, and the band moved into a virtuosic jazz fusion style. Nevertheless the trilogy lineup reunited for a few one-off concerts including a 1977 French concert, documented on the Gong Est Mort, Vive Gong album. Allen also reunited with Malherbe and Pyle for 1992’s Shapeshifter album and the Gong 25th Birthday Party in 1994.
A great gathering of the Gong family took place in Amsterdam at the Unconvention in 2006 featuring many previous members and related bands. This event reinvigorated the band, leading to the release of the album 2032 in 2009 and the subsequent tour saw the arrival of Dave Sturt (bass) and Ian East (saxophone).
In 2012, Daevid Allen also enlisted Fabio Golfetti (guitar) and Orlando Allen (drums) for a tour of Europe, UK, Japan and Brazil. By 2013 Kavus Torabi (guitar) had also joined the group and the line-up of Allen, Sturt, East, Golfetti, Allen and Torabi then recorded the album I See You (2014). That year, Daevid Allen was diagnosed with cancer and was unable to perform whilst undergoing treatment. Fulfilling his wishes, the band continued the Gong tradition without him and toured to promote the album, bringing in Cheb Nettles (drums).
In 2015, Daevid Allen passed away. His influence and legacy were honoured on the band’s subsequent album, Rejoice! I’m Dead! (2016).
The band have continued to tour internationally since that time including visits to China, Scandinavia, Japan and Canada. They are also currently writing for their next album, scheduled for release on Madfish records in May 2019.