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Started by The Mollusk, May 20, 2022, 11:09:24 PM

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The Mollusk

File under: Where the fuck has this band been my whole life, or... why have I wasted the last 20 years knowing who Gong were but casting them aside as "probably a load of hippy dippy wank that could have only been appreciated on LSD in the '70s"?

Fucking hell.

Currently hooked on Camembert Electrique. I know Flying Teapot is good, I've listened to that as well, and I know the following two albums are great too, but let me have this. I've played Camembert through about six times in the last two days and it's absolutely remarkable.

"You Can't Kill Me" is a Barrettesque brain twister of daft humour and sinister yet infectious grooves and it drags you right into the album whether you're kicking and screaming/raving and cheering.

Once you're in, "I've Bin Stone Before", despite its idiosyncrasies, is oddly spacey and deep and orchestral and majestic, and that's it, suddenly you turn around and you can't see any way out of this thing.

"Mister Long Shanks" plays a similar hand to "You Can't Kill Me" before drifting into the second half which is like Amon Duul II meets Sigur Ros, floating down a fathomless creaking corridor while your limbs get stretched out like long strings of cheese. What the FUCK IS THIS DOING COMING OUT IN 1971?????

"Fohat Digs Holes in Space", hahaha, surely this band is taking the piss now. These grooves are so deep and thick, the atmosphere is aching to be spread over crackers with a butter knife. And THEN the saxophones come in and the hilariously cool lyrics melt through all pretence and it becomes the most shit-kicking jam, such an effortless transition, AMAZING.

By the time I get to "Tried So Hard" and "Tropical Fish: Selene" I have given up all hope of ever returning to Earth. I should disclose that I have taken magic mushrooms once (it was great) but otherwise have never indulged any psychedelic drugs (except COPIOUS MOUNTAINS OF WEED from age 17-28) and yet I am completely enamoured by this music. This is some fucking miraculously bonkers and brilliant shit right here. The second half of "Selene" is transcendent almost. The female vocals that pierce over the top of the mix with the intent of speaking directly to the front of your brain, the band knows they've taken you right to the brink and now they're ready to lift one headphone off your ear and literally whisper into your soul. I AM LISTENING!

I would say this is almost precisely the most perfect psychedelic rock album, one of the best ever made.

Hey, do you like Gong?

The Mollusk

Haha, I just listened to "Selene" again and the female vocals that cut through are so asserting. I was writing a message to someone and I had to stop and stare at the sofa like a robot awaiting command, like a fucking Scooby Doo character entering a cartoonish trance. This music is the epitome of bizarre hypnotic psychedelia.

Spirit of the moon
Spirit of the moon
My mind is made of you
Tell me what to do

Mate, I'm all yours.


I've been walking around South London all day today and then caught a train home and had to walk some more miles to get home as there were no cabs available (who'da thought so at 11pm Friday night?) Anyway, just subscribing to this tonight, before I go to bed, so I can get back to you over the weekend. Camembert's a very good place to start but you have struck the mother* lode (literally).

*Mother: great solo album by that female vocalist (Gilli Smyth).

The Mollusk

Oh! Nige, it's always so lovely to see you sprout back up here (in Oscillations).

Just winding down for the night listening to Flying Teapot - again, my thoughts turn to wandering on Amon Duul II's Yeti where psychedelic meandering manifests itself not in kooky neanderthal naval gazing but in forever outward reaching spacey jazzy excursions which fear no bounds. You can quite clearly see how this influenced artists like George Clinton and maybe a lot of jazz fusion stuff? If not, they absolutely occupy the same orbit.

(I am quite drunk at the time of typing this so happy to be guided on whatever timeline lead to the creation of this stuff.)

Wow, man, the way Flying Teapot just clunks down from a psych groove to a sluggish halt right at the very end, it's so unceremonious like the record suddenly sounds "tired" and can't be arsed any more. What the fuck's that? It's like they figured out the perfect formula for an album length and decided against stretching it to a double LP and just collapsed at the end. And it sounds fantastic!

It still freaks my nut out to this day that Virgin sold Camembert Electrique (and The Faust Tapes!) for 59p. Must have introduced a lot of unsuspecting people to experimental music.

Pink Gregory

The one I'm more familiar with is 'You', because I was introduced to Steve Hillage's Glorious Om riff about 12 years ago

Psychedelia isn't really my jam n cream but I've got a place for ol' Daevid.  Why Gong over any others?  No idea.

The Mollusk

Robyn Hitchcock's irreverent yet insightful psychedelic humour has always been pegged to a big Syd Barrett influence but listening to Gong I feel like it's so much more closely attributed to them. I can almost literally hear Hitchcock in this music, especially the nocturnal and stripped back I Often Dream of Trains which is simultaneously dark and odd yet playful and endearing.

Dirty Boy

Camembert is likely my favourite Gong album, but You wouldn't be far behind. They were a huge influence on Tim Smith which i think is impossible not to hear once you know.

Actually, try as i might i can't get into the last few records despite Kavus Torabi being a delightful chap (and the story of him joining the band is mad as fuck. See his and Steve Davis' book).


You might also want to try Daevid Allen's Banana Moon, recorded around the same time but not released in the UK til a few years later. It has some great songs on it (including one of my favourite Daevid tracks, Stoned Innocent Frankenstein) and features Robert Wyatt on drums, and vocals on one track. It shares a lot of the energy, humour and incendiary guitar work of Camembert, but in a more concentrated, if less focused, form. I seem to remember reading that they were drinking and smoking loads of black hash when they made it, and it shows!

Quote from: The Mollusk on May 21, 2022, 12:45:13 AMYou can quite clearly see how this influenced artists like George Clinton and maybe a lot of jazz fusion stuff? If not, they absolutely occupy the same orbit.

I think Gong and P-Funk sort of arrived in the same area independently of each other, having come from different directions. Just amazing musicians, spaced out on acid and gazing up at the stars. There's something intensely magical about this music.

I keep thinking I need to listen to Mother Gong. never got round to it.

Speaking of Daevid Allen, "Wise Man In Your Heart" is worth a listen. Ithink Massive Attack might have heard this

Famous Mortimer

I've wanted to like them, and I've tried (thanks to NoSleep in times gone by) but I just don't hear what you all hear.


Saw them at Glastonbury in 2009 and they blew my head off.

Because I'm lazy I've only really listened to a handful of their albums but like those I have investigated. I'm fond of the 1977 live album.


If you get a chance to see Gong with Kavus live you really should - a great mix of old and new and the versions of the early stuff they do are awesome


Quote from: The Mollusk on May 21, 2022, 12:45:13 AMYou can quite clearly see how this influenced artists like George Clinton and maybe a lot of jazz fusion stuff? If not, they absolutely occupy the same orbit.

They're both influenced by Sun Ra. After hearing Sun Ra in '58 Daevid Allen (living in Australia) decided the direction of his life required his moving to Europe in 1960 (Paris first; meeting and learning much from Terry Riley, including much about the use of tape recorders to create music and effects) and then on to Canterbury in 1961, where he met the future members of Soft Machine (his landlord's son was Robert Wyatt). Daevid was already a full-blown psychedelic-taking beatnik in those early days and started Robert and his mates (Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper & Kevin Ayers) on the path to the late 60's all the way back before the Beatles had even recorded their first single.

I spent the whole of the 70's wondering why there were so many similarites between Gong and Parliament, only discovering Sun Ra in the early 80's, when the penny dropped. Sun Ra's their granddaddy.

I bought Flying Teapot when it came out as I was already a big Soft Machine fan and immediately started going to see them live as much as possible. At that point they were playing material that would be on the two following albums; Angel's Egg and You, both of which were good, but somehow missing something from the live experience. Flying Teapot and Camembert Electrique work much better in this respect.

I was also a big fan of Hawkwind at the time and loved that Gong took a similar approach to working with synths but eschewed the grungy metal thud that anchored Hawkwind from flying off into deep space. Instead they replaced this with a more jazzy and at times funky approach.

There's a big boxed set that came out a couple of years back which features the set that Gong played at Hyde Park in 1974, several months before they went in the studio to record You. I was at this gig and the album confirms for me why they were much better live. There's a freedom in the live playing that is curtailed somewhat in the production of the later studio album (they play the three major tracks from You) that is mostly evident in the rhythm section, especially Pierre Moerlen's phenomenal and unique drumming style. Moerlen has stated that this gig was the best one that he played with the band. It's also the one that was the beginning of the end for Daevid Allen's membership of his own band (the next album after You (Shamal) does not feature him).

After Daevid left the band he made Good Morning (with Spanish band, Euterpe) and Now Is The Happiest Time Of Your Life which two of my favourite albums, along with Gilli Smyth's Mother which is a kind of sister album to NiTHToYL.

I think it's worth mentioning that what he learnt from Terry Riley enabled him as one of the earliest home studio recordists. He created a half-hour electro-acoustic piece ('65-'66) for Radio 3 (I think it was still called BBC Radio Third back then) without the usual requirement of requiring access to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Throughout the Gong albums are examples of his skill with the manipulation of loops and collages of spoken word. This culminated in his album Dividedalienplaybax80 where the backing tracks are elaborately made from creating loops from the album he did with New York Gong; it sounds way ahead of its time, given that there are no samplers used. This example isn't one of the more elaborate ones but I picked it because of the way he's using a simple loop in a way very similar to how others would use such a loop some years later:

I would guess (as Bill Laswell was a member of New York Gong, along with other future members of Material) that Daevid may have been introduced to the infant Hip Hop scene.

(There's a track on Good Morning where he uses a loop of Gong from You as his backing track)

And, of course, the other signature thing that Daevid Allen brought us was a unique way to play guitar, AKA Glissando Guitar; That ethereal orchestral string sound that pervades the music of Daevid Allen & Gong.

I learned to play with this technique using a bit of copper pipe. You first need to slightly roughen the entire surface of the pipe with some not-too-fine emery cloth to facilitate a stronger vibration of the strings (this needs to be redone every now and then, as playing wears it back to smooth). A screwdriver is good, too, especially if it has an eggshell finish (or, once again, sand it with some emery cloth, rotating the screwdriver to create a fine "thread"). I've used frosted glass tubes, too.

You make sound by rubbing the tube/screwdriver on the string at the point where you would normally fret, and put your left hand behind to mute the back of the string (it kind of screams if you don't; but even that has its place).

Adding a bit of delay to the sound you make finishes the job.

The Mollusk

Thanks so much for all this! I've got some listening to do 😁


If you're fond of Camembert Electrique, make sure to check out Continental Circus, which the is the same line-up on a soundtrack for a film about motorcycle racing (starring Giacomo Agostini & Jack Findlay) that was recorded a month before.

Another good live album is Live in Sheffield '74 (actually recorded ion 8th October '73). Has the Angel's Egg/You line-up playing Camembert and Flying Teapot tunes.

The Mollusk

Quote from: NoSleep on May 23, 2022, 10:11:50 AMThere's a big boxed set that came out a couple of years back which features the set that Gong played at Hyde Park in 1974, several months before they went in the studio to record You. I was at this gig and the album confirms for me why they were much better live.

Picked up a deluxe reissue of You today which has this concert footage as the bonus disc, gonna be slapping that mother on the stereo while I cook imminently!