Gong – live at The Marquee Club – September 10, 1975 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Gong this weekend. Perennial favorites, exquisitely whacked-out, endlessly creative and a band that hasn’t aged all that badly in the almost 50 years since this gig at the famed Marquee Club was recorded. In short, they continue to be a pleasure to listen to.
If you followed Gong for any length of time you would know the band has had numerous incarnations, some including founder Daevid Allen and some not. Allen did add a loopy dimension to the proceedings with references to Pothead Pixies that sadly don’t age well. But if you work your way around the cringey bits, there’s more than enough music to keep your attention span locked-in.
Aside from Daevid Allen, the other name most mentioned as guiding light to Gong is Steve Hillage and from where much of the adventuresome content comes.
In January 1973, Hillage took part in the sessions for Flying Teapot, the first installment of the “Radio Gnome” trilogy, and soon after graduated to full-time membership with the departure of bassist/lead guitarist Christian Tritsch. The ‘classic’ line-up of Gong was now in place, with Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth, Didier Malherbe, Tim Blake, Mike Howlett and Pierre Moerlen, and recorded two further albums, Angels Egg and You (the latter also featuring Hillage’s longtime partner Miquette Giraudy).
In June 1973, Hillage (along with Pierre Moerlen) participated in the debut live performance of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Both Hillage & Moerlen also took part in a live-in-studio performance filmed for the BBC’s Second House series, filmed in November 1973.The BBC performance is available on Oldfield’s Elements DVD.
After Allen left Gong abruptly in April 1975 (five months before this weekend’s gig happened), Hillage stayed on as the band’s sole guitarist, but soon found this position increasingly uncomfortable, and by the year’s end had jumped ship himself to launch his solo career full-time, having performed as a guest (with Giraudy) on Gong’s first album without Allen, Shamal on only two of the album’s six tracks.
Hillage is still with us and still gigging, recording and being as vital as ever. Daevid Allen left the earth plane in 2015, followed a little less than a year later by Gong co-founder and longtime Allen partner Gilli Smyth.
There is a lot of live material on this band floating around – some sounding great and some sounding not-so great. Start here and work your way through the maze. It’s well worth it.