It was 15 years ago, in November 2006, when the entire Gong family came together for a weekend of wonderful music at the Melkweg in Amsterdam. For those of us lucky enough to have been there, the memories still linger on of inspired performances by the Hadouk Trio, Mother Gong, Here And Now, the Acid Mothers, House Of Thandoy, Kangaroo Moon, Tim Blake’s Crystal Machine, the Glissando Orchestra and the University of Errors.
There was joy in seeing Steve Hillage and Tim Blake back together in a Gong line-up for the first time in more than 30 years, and the return of the Submarine Captain centre-stage in The Steve Hillage Band.
But there was sadness, too, as we remembered two drummers who had been summoned to Planet Gong before their time – Pierre Moerlen, who died in 2005, and Pip Pyle, who passed away just a few months before the gathering.
The weekend climaxed with a jam-packed Gong line-up that also included Theo Travis, Gilli Smyth, Mike Howlett and Didier Malherbe – held together by the Pothead Pixie himself, Bert Camembert, Dingo Virgin, the Divided Alien, also known as Daevid Allen.
This was more than a music festival, it was a family gathering, almost a religious event – a warm, embracing experience helped along by (sniff, sniff) some exotic fumes in the air.
The entire Gong set, with excerpts from the other performances over the weekend, was initially only released on DVD (I accidentally bought two copies). Now it has been released on CD at the most reasonable and very accessible price of £10.99, and what you get is the entire two-and-a-quarter hours of some of the most idiosyncratic and joyous music ever to be pumped through a PA system.
The setlist is the basic Gong greatest hits, drawing from Camembert Electrique and the Planet Gong trilogy from the 1970s, with the added bonus of Magdelene from 2000’s Zero to Infinity. If you are a rabid Gong fan like me then you have heard it all many, many times before.
But this one is special – despite a subdued contribution from Hillage, who doesn’t really fire on all cylinders until the second CD, there’s so much joy and passion in this music that you will listen with a soppy grin on your face and a little ouch in your heart, because Allen himself was only eight years away from his own passing, in 2014 at the age of 77.
Highlights are a storming version of You Can’t Kill Me, an utterly deranged Dynamite/I Am Your Animal, a tremendous I Never Glid Before, an epic Zero the Hero and the Witch’s Spell with a surprisingly funky middle section, and the closing sequence of You tracks – A Sprinkling of Clouds, Master Builder, The Isle of Everywhere and You Never Blow Yr Trip Forever.
There are a few small fluffs – the occasional late vocal entry, a note that goes adrift – but overall this is an astonishingly tight performance considering all the hours of music the performers had already given us over the weekend.
Three cheers and a tiger must go to Chris Taylor, who holds everything together with pin-sharp drumming, seemingly carried along by the enthusiasm of the crowd. At the end, as the entire Melkweg is chanting ‘You are I and I am you’, it’s like being back there again, joining together as one with this unique band and its barmy yet irresistible music.
Gong are still going, now led by Kavus Torabi, and a live album from the new line-up is definitely overdue. But if they ever start to feel jaded I recommend they listen to this album again to remind themselves what it’s all about.
As for you, dear reader and listener, get yourself some Gong and put a little bit of pixie into your life.
01. You Can’t Kill Me (10:38)
02. Radio Gnome Invisible (7:10)
03. Tomorrow Afternoon (2:49)
04. Dynamite / I Am Your Animal (7:12)
05. Flute Salad (3:02)
06. Oily Way (3:34)
07. Outer Temple (2:03)
08. Inner Temple (3:04)
09. Zero the Hero and the Witch’s Spell (11:44)
10. I Am Your Pussy (5:18)
11. Tropical Fish (7:10)
12. Selene (3:55)
Time – 67:39
01. I Never Glid Before (6:28)
02. Prostitute Poem (6:25)
03. Magdalene (8:25)
04. A Sprinkling of Clouds (11:28)
05. She is the Great Goddess (1:18)
06. Master Builder (8:17)
07. The Isle of Everywhere (8:04)
08. You Never Blow Yr Trip Forever (17:49)
Time – 68:14
Total Time – 135:54
Daevid Allen – Guitar, Vocals
Chris Taylor – Drums
Mike Howlett – Bass
Gilli Smyth – Space Whisper
Theo Travis – Tenor Sax, Flute
Steve Hillage – Guitar
Miquette Giraudy – Synth
Didier Malherbe – Duduk, Flute, Soprano Sax
Tim Blake – Synths, Vocals
Record Label: G-Wave
Date of Release: 5th November 2021