A Brief History of Gong after the 1970s

Gong foreman Daevid Allen retreated to Australia for much of the 1980s. Out of the ever-peering eye of the public, his self-imposed exile never kept him from being Daevid Allen; he just didn’t release records. Towards the end of the decade, he returned to the UK to restart his public career as a musician with renewed vigor and prolificity as a solo artist and a collaborator. Initially using the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet moniker, Gongmaison was first out of the dock. A band effort, it included Gong original Didier Malherbe, tablaist Shamal Maïtra, Allen’s partner Wandana, Graham Clark and Harry Williamson, all from IOCT. In 1990, Daevid and Gilli, with fellow Gong alumni Didier Malherbe and Pip Pyle, along with a few members of Here & Now band - Keith Bailey, Steffi Sharpstrings (Stephan Lewry) and Twink (Paul Noble) - performed a one-off concert recorded for Central TV’s “Bedrock” show. Bailey stayed on and the very acoustic Gongmaison eventually became the more electric Gong proper. Their 1992 album Shapeshifter for the French Celluloid label continued the journey of Zero the Hero from the 70s Radio Gnome trilogy. In 1994, Gong celebrated their 25th Anniversary with a big bash in London, reuniting with Sharpstrings, bassist Mike Howlett and, most poignantly, Gilli Smyth. Then, in 1996, with a lineup of Allen, Smyth, Malherbe, Howlett, Pyle and Sharpstrings, Gong began annual worldwide touring for the next five years, including their first dates in North America. Pyle split and Pierre Moerlen filled in but by the end of the decade, newcomers Chris Taylor on drums and second wind instrumentalist Theo Travis were incorporated for the new album Zero to Infinity. This was the final installment of Zero the Hero’s cosmic journey. When Howlett called Gong a “cozy old band” Allen pulled the plug and the whole retro-enterprise came crashing to an end in 2001. In retrospect, it was one of Allen’s better decisions. Next up was the criminally underrated Acid Motherhood album. Released in 2003, it included Daevid, Gilli, their son and drummer Orlando Allen, along with a couple members of Acid Mothers Temple - Kawabata Makoto and Cotton Casino - and University of Errors’ guitarist Josh Pollack. A contentious album to make, the results are truly stunning, interfusing Allen’s collaborators’ unique talents for a new take on Gong. Annual touring was replaced by annual conventions, with the annual ritual of Gong reunion band plus greater orbit of musical friends. It began in 2004 and culminated in Amsterdam 2006 with a full-fledged 70s Gong reunion complete with Tim Blake, Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy. A glorious life-affirming event, it spread over three days and included just about every lineup, permutation, side project, close neighbor and good friend of Gong, except for Gongzilla. The following year, as Gong Global Family, Allen took off for Brazil. With guitarist Pollack from UofErr they ventured beneath the equator for a series of concerts with Fabio Golfetti and his Violeta de Outono cohorts. In 2009, Gong were reconstituted in the UK for the Massive Attack-curated Meltdown festival in London where the classic 70s lineup (plus Travis) reunited. This led to a new Hillage-produced Gong album titled 2032, complete with hip-hop rhythm and magnificently brickwalled mastering. The band didn’t tour extensively to support it and gigs were mainly festival dates. New bassist Dave Sturt (ex-Jade Warrior) was deputized in 2009 as Howlett left for a new career in Australia. Lineups continued to shuffle: Ian East replaced Travis in 2010 while Orlando Allen replaced Taylor in 2012. This was also the last tour with Gilli Smyth. The following year Gong, now a lineup of Allen, Allen, Sturt, East, Golfetti plus another newcomer - Kavus Torabi from Knifeworld - released their new album I See You in 2014. But disaster had struck: Allen was stricken with cancer. Unable to tour, the rest of the members briefly hit the road in 2015 with new drummer Cheb Nettles as Orlando remained in Australia with his ailing father. Sadly, Gilli Smyth would pass away in 2016, a year after Daevid.

You got all that?
In 2016, this new “next generation” Gong, now consisting of bassist Dave Sturt, guitarists Fabio Golfetti and Kavus Torabi, drummer Cheb Nettles and Ian East on sax and flute, released the first Gong album without Daevid Allen. Sort of. Rejoice I’m Dead was billed as the return of “the multi-national psychedelic combo” yet did feature some posthumous contributions from Allen, and some guest playing from Hillage and Malherbe. But to the point, the record was indeed a triumph, and Gong - whomever was in the band - would live on, just as Papa Daevid wanted it to be:

"Can I just simply say that it is super clear to me that Kavus, you are the perfect fit with Dave, Ian and Fabio and that Cheb, you are the perfect fit with Kavus! I feel you are all equally on the brink of a whole new era of Gong, musically, lyrically and spiritually and that pretty much all you have each done until now has been a preparation for this time.
I want you to know I am 100% behind you with this project and I wish you huge success in every way you decide to measure that success. I am really proud of laying the foundation for the Gong tradition and have done my best to make it as multi layered, wide ranging and open ended as I possibly could so that almost anything was possible as a result.
At last I am free to let go of it so now it is up to you guys to carry it on into new unknown heights and depths far beyond anything I could ever imagine myself. Thank you for being there and going for it and may the rewards be unimaginably powerful for each!
Love and massive soulful hugs"
- daevid

In 2019, Gong released their second album of their new era, The Universe Also Collapses. Here’s what I wrote the album.

In November 2023, a new album, Unending Ascending was released, the third album from the new generation of Gong. I talked to Dave, Kavus and Fabio last month. Transcript coming soon.