Gong – In Session for Marc Riley – BBC 6 Music – May 8, 2019 – BBC 6 Music –
I suspect a lot of you may have thought the legendary 60s/70s Psych/Experimental/Prog/free-for-all aggregation Gong had been a thing of the past for years now. True – there are no founding members of the band left, as there hadn’t been for a few years – and with the passing of Daevid Allen and Gili Smyth and Steve Hillage off to a solo career, you would naturally assume Gong had taken its place in the musical history books.
But no – seems that in 2015, when Allen had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of Cancer, he left specific instructions that Gong continue on in its present form after his demise; with the lineup of (mostly) the 2014 incarnation of the band; Fabio Golfetti, Dave Sturt, Ian East, Kavus Torabi and Cheb Nettles. And it’s this incarnation who are on this 2019 session for Marc Riley at BBC 6 Music from May 8th.
And even though the personnel have changed, the core intention of the band hasn’t. Gong were never anywhere near being a mainstream group – they were always considered to be on the fringe – even after Allen dropped out of Soft Machine to form the first installment of Gong, it wasn’t seen as a really commercial endeavor – which was probably why Virgin became their label throughout the 1970s and got the most exposure and wider-spread interest than they had previously or since. Virgin was good at that for a long time.
Gong have never been an easy band to swallow – laced with a considerable amount of stoner humor and mythical characters who were, at times, cringeworthy, they nonetheless established a solid fan base and were one of the primary components of the Progrock movement. They were a band consisting of musicians other musicians had great respect for. And listening to their music some years on, you begin to realize they were a very influential lot, for all the loopyness and theatrics they weren’t playing around – they were good and they were tight.
Luckily, much of their previous material has been reissued in one form or another over the years. A box set of material from the pivotal 1973-1975 Virgin Records period came out in September. In addition to the albums which came out at the time are also concerts the band had recorded. It’s a lavish 12-CD box set that is the be-all/end-all for Gong aficionados.
If you aren’t familiar with Gong or the Gong legacy (which is pretty extensive), check this session out while you’re here and go exploring. They may not have been “broad-stroke band” as many of the bigger names were, but they were the solid backbone of a movement that was important and continues to influence up-and-comers.
They are essential listening.