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Members include John Alder, (a.k.a. Twink, bandmember c. 1994), synthesizers;Daevid Allen, (a.k.a. Bert Camembert, The Dingo Virgin born January, 1938 in Melbourne, Australia), vocals, glissando guitar;Kevin Ayers, (born 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, born 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, born August 2, 1951 in London, England, bandmember c. 1973-6), guitar, vocals;Rachid Houari, (born in Morocco, bandmember c. 1969-70), drums;Mike Howlett, (a.k.a. Mr. T. Being, born April 27, year unknown, Lautoka, Fiji, bandmember c. 1972-6, rejoined c. 1994), bass, vocals;Shyamal Maïtra , (a.k.a. Banana Ananda, bandmember c. 1992), tablas, percussion; Didier Malherbe, (a.k.a. Bloomdido Bad de Grass, born 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, born October 23, 1952, Colmar, France, bandmember c. 1973-9, rejoined c. 1995), drums, percussion;Pip Pyle (a.k.a. Pip The Heap, born 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. Addresses: Record company--Cleopatra Records, 13428 Maxella Ave., Suite 251, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292.

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, Allen emigrated to England with wife Gilli Smyth. The room he rented in London was part of a mansion owned by the Wyatt family. 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 songwriting 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 that the planet Earth could attain was similar to 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 Teapot and 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 Pothead 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 were more instrumentals, as Allen 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, afterwhich 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 solo albums of the 1970s, including the punk influenced About Time, belied Daevid Allen's 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 early19 90s, 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.

by Jim Powers

Gong's Career

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 Shapeshifter on Celluloid Records, c. 1992; toured Europe, United States, Japan, c. 1994-8.

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