Gong – Rockenstock – September 18, 1973 –
Gong tonight. In a session done for the short film on Gong Rockenstock, from September 18, 1973. For most people who got into Progressive Rock in the early 1970s, it was a logical progression; Procol Harum, Nice, Soft Machine, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, Genesis and then on to exploring those bands which provided the backbone but didn’t necessarily receive all the acknowledgements the other bands got. And there were a lot, in fact it was an embarrassment of riches if you dug deep.
Gong wasn’t unknown and they didn’t just appear out of thin air. Daevid Allen (along with partner/girlfriend/muse Gili Smyth) formed Gong. Allen was one of the founding members of Soft Machine who left just as the band was getting noticed, especially by Jimi Hendrix who insisted the band join him on his 1968 U.S. tour. Allen ventured to France and, along with Smyth and Kevin Ayers (who was also a founding member of Soft Machine who left after Soft Machine 1 was released), put together the first incarnation of Gong.
There were several incarnations and membership in Gong was something of a revolving door. But what was consistent was the virtuosity of everyone who was involved. This session (from 1973) was a particularly eventful one – they were signed to Virgin Records and the period 1972-1974 saw a number of milestone albums released which, to fans of Progressive Rock, became Desert Island discs. The band now sported Steve Hillage as lead guitarist who was the perfect ingredient in the musical makeup of Gong.
This period of Gong is also one that many people, who are just hearing about the band, are introduced to. Gong was around for a substantial period, well into the 90s and early 2000’s, and was still active all the way up to Allen’s death in 2015 and Gili Smyth’s death in 2016.
There is no question that Gong were one of the cornerstone bands of the Prog movement – they were unique and all accomplished musicians. That they were at times considered “less than serious” belied the fact they were using their perceived goofiness to accomplish a lot. They are, for all intents and purposes, a band and a legacy that hasn’t aged and are still inspiring new musicians – they had a lot to say.
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