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Daevid Allen

+ {The Magick Brothers} + {Daevid Allen’s University Of Errors} + {Brainville} + {Micro Cosmic/Daevid Allen} + {Guru & Zero} + {Weird Biscuit Time}

Born Christopher David Allen, 13th January 1938, Melbourne, Australia, the singer/musician was better known as leader of Anglo/Franco avant-garde progsters, GONG; earlier attributes were his involvement with Canterbury stalwarts, The SOFT MACHINE (from 1967-68). If that wasn’t enough, ALLEN was also part of a decade-spanning (1998 to 2008) space-rock congregation, SPIRITS BURNING, who featured mainly HAWKWIND alumni.
Prior to his almost sliding-doors formation of GONG, Daevid hung-out with the great beatnik philosophers William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg at the famous Beat Hotel in Paris, cultivating his bohemian leanings and free-form poetry skills; the DAEVID ALLEN Trio got together in the mid-60s. He hitched back to England and soon met a young ROBERT WYATT while lodging at his parents’ house. Through drummer Wyatt, he was introduced to Mike Ratledge and Hugh Hopper, with whom he subsequently formed the jazz-influenced Wilde Flowers. While the others took another route with CARAVAN, The SOFT MACHINE were formed by Daevid, Robert, Mike and a young KEVIN AYERS, although ALLEN only remained for a one-off 45, `Love Makes Sweet Music’, early in 1967; he was subsequently refused re-entry into Britain after a gig in St. Tropez.
Along with his wife Gilli Smyth (on whispered vocals) and a guy they allegedly found living in a cave in Deia, Majorca, Didiere Malherbe, GONG released their debut LP, `Magick Brother’ (1970) on BYG Actuel, the same label that delivered 1971’s solo effort, BANANAMOON {*7}. Accompanied by a stellar cast of credited musicians and singers, from ROBERT WYATT, Archie Leggat and Gerry Fields, to MAGGIE BELL and Barry St. John, plus further guests GARY WRIGHT (on `Memories’), KEVIN AYERS (on `White Neck Blooze’) Christian Tritsch and Pip Pyle (on `It’s The Time Of Your Life’), Gilli Smyth completed the line-up on the whole of side two; it was only a hop, skip and jump to GONG’s ground-breaking `Camembert Electrique’, but this was a different kettle of “Tropical Fish”.
When ALLEN, Smyth, Uncle Tom Cobley and all (including STEVE HILLAGE) fixed their sights on other projects away from GONG, leaving drummer/percussionist PIERRE MOERLEN to take control in the mid-70s, a cosmic confusion led to fans drifting in their droves. Roping in several Spaniards to perform alongside, DAEVID ALLEN & EUTERPE were equally billed on GOOD MORNING! (1976) {*7}. Nothing to match GONG’s “Radio Gnome Invisible” trilogy, but very much in the mould of his Canterbury/Cambridge cousins (CARAVAN, MATCHING MOLE and SYD BARRETT), the cheerful insanity of Daevid and his “glissando” guitar were in fine fettle on the 11-minute `Wise Man In Your Heart’ and others such as `Spirit’ and finale `Euterpe Gratitude Piece’.
1977’s solo NOW IS THE HAPPIEST TIME OF YOUR LIFE {*7} was again Spanish backed; long-lost virtuoso tabla exponent SAM GOPAL and harpist Marianne Oberascher the exception to the rule on the cerebral `Why Do We Treat Ourselves Like We Do?’, `Only Make Love If You Want To’ and the lengthy `I Am’.
Meanwhile, Daevid was branching out into the punk-rock limelight with PLANET GONG and `Opium For The People’ 12” (from the `Live Floating Anarchy 77’ LP); he’d previously taken back the GONG moniker with the “Radio Gnome Invisible” line-up for a live reunion set in 1977, entitled `Gong Est Mort’.
Surrounding himself with Chris Cutler (percussion), George Bishop (sax/clarinet) and others including Pepe Milan, DAEVID ALLEN turned to his wife to pen the 1979-released N’EXISTE PAS! {*6}. In places as delicate as he’d ever been (example `It’s A Fine Air For Fliss’), the man excelled on `The Freedom Of The City In A Suitable Box’, `O Man You’ and `333’.
Toward the turn of the decade, Daevid moonlighted with NEW YORK GONG; namely Bill Laswell, Fred Maher, Bill Bacon, Cliff Cultreri and Michael Beinhorn, who would duly re-emerge as MATERIAL. The album `About Time’ (1980) – featuring his ode to punk-rock `Much Too Old’ – was again something frustratingly obvious for the man: that at 42 he was always regarded as a “prog dinosaur” no matter how young he felt inside. Performing with just about the same musicians from NYG, DIVIDEDALIENPLAYBAX80 (1982) {*6} highlighted poetry and music lifted from a series of 28 concerts and book-ended by two prog-length sequences/loops `When’ and `Smile’; the 12” `Alien In New York’ EP came up in ’83.
Something fresh from the same year was THE DEATH OF ROCK & OTHER ENTRANCES (1982) {*6}, another 12” EP that, when released by Voiceprint on CD a decade later, it’d turned into a full set with certain additions; the opening `Death Of Rock’ was, as it suggested, mourning every star on the planet who’d recently passed away; even JOY DIVISION!
Reclusive thereafter when he returned to Australia (where he’d share records with Ex-/David Tolley and The Invisible Opera), by the late 80s GONG had ceased to be. In the event, two sets were commissioned by Demi-Monde Records, the ecology-driven THE OWL & THE TREE (1989) {*6} with wife Gilli and Harry Williamson (from MOTHER GONG) and short-lived off-shoot GONGMAISON, alongside Didier Malherbe, Graham Clark, Wandana Bruce, Shyamal Maitra, Conrad Henderson and Williamson; Daevid had (predictably!) set up home in Glastonbury.
The early 90s had DAEVID ALLEN working under numerous banners: with Gilli and Harry on the similarly-patterned 1987-recorded `Stroking The Tail Of The Bird’ (1990), also the winding-up of a re-formed New York Gong and Gongmaison (to let him again lead out a fully-functioning GONG), 1987’s Oz combo INVISIBLE OPERA COMPANY OF TIBET (in support of a free Tibet!) and several solo sets.
AUSTRALIA AQUARIA / SHE (1990) {*6} was recorded with his Gongmaison team and very much in the mould of his former colleague ROBERT WYATT. While the official follow-up SEVEN DRONES (1991) {*5} might’ve stemmed from his period in Oz (albeit with Gilli, Harry and Didier in tow), the minimalist Indian Chakra sound was not for everyone – just ENO disciples.
A couple of low-key independent live sets with The MAGICK BROTHERS (Graham Clark and Mark Robson) were overshadowed by ALLEN’s return to East Coast America; New Jersey to be exact, for his Shimmy Disc collaboration (WHO’S AFRAID? (1992) {*7}) with BONGWATER’s MARK KRAMER; a second set, HIT MEN {*7} surfaced in ’96. In the meantime, a couple of solo DAEVID ALLEN CDs materialized: TWELVE SELVES (1993) {*6} and DREAMIN’ A DREAM (1995) {*6}.
Turning 60 years of age, the esteemed Aussie wizard found time to unearth his boyhood roots a la “sings jazz” CD EAT ME BABY, I’M A JELLYBEAN (1999) {*5}; covering Rodgers-Hart and Gershwin to MILES DAVIS. Later in the year, Daevid Allen & Harry Williamson “glissed-out” on the 46-minute TWENTY TWO MEANINGS: the art of glissando guitar vol.1 {*5}.
Always part of the acid-rock scene, but never as noisy or political than with his co-billed University Of Errors (San Franciscans Josh Pollock, Michael Clare and Pat Thomas), DAEVID ALLEN unleashed four sets that dealt with capitalism: MONEY DOESN’T MAKE IT (1999) {*5}, e2x10 = TENURE (2001) {*4} and UGLYMUSIC.4.MONICA (2003) {*7}; the latter – featuring ex-PERE UBU keyboardist Tony Maimone – dusting off and dressing up `The Pot Head Pixies’ (as `PHP 2032’) and KEVIN AYERS’ `Clarence In Wonderland’. Concluding the series with the beginning of time for the former SOFT MACHINE man, they resurrect and tribute the early days of that said band on JET PROPELLED PHOTOGRAPHS (2004) {*7} – `Shooting At The Moon’, `Love Makes Sweet Music’, `Memories’ et al.
Together with Hugh Hopper, Mark Kramer and Pip Pyle, the workaholic ethos of Daevid continued to show no signs of dissipating for BRAINVILLE. All but American Kramer blossomed out of the Canterbury scene (SOFT MACHINE, HATFIELD + THE NORTH, et al); Kramer’s Shimmy Disc were behind the quartet-cum-trio’s debut set, THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE (1999) {*6}. With MK already committed to other projects, 2004’s LIVE IN THE UK {*5} preceded the untimely death of Pip a few years later. As a tribute to the jazz-rock drummer, the equally experienced Chris Cutler filled in for BRAINVILLE 3’s final outing TRIAL BY HEADLINE (2008) {*6}, slightly easier on the ear than Daevid’s ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE/GONG collaborations going back to 2004.
Aside from his aforementioned SPIRITS BURNING connections on several sets (a massive ensemble founded by Don Falcone and reaching out to space rockers everywhere from their San Francisco base), DAEVID ALLEN just seemed to ooze out albums by the bucket-load. Catching up on the man was going to cost a small fortune, especially if one added all his interspersed exploitation/compilation sets, his work with GONG, GILLI SMYTH, RUSSELL HIBBS, Guru & Zero, Weird Biscuit Time et al and, more recently, his fresh material with Micro Cosmic/Mikrokosmik: namely the SACRED GEOMETRY series I, II, III & IV.
As ever in experimental mode, 2011’s SOUNDBITES 4 THA REVELATION {*6} was exactly what it said on the tin, a sample-delic extravaganza of poetry and other VIVIAN STANSHALL-esque shenanigans. Following on with You Me & Us (alongside Chris Cutler and Yumi Hara-Cawkwell), POESY AT PLAY (2014) {*5} was to be ALLEN’s swansong set, as he died of cancer on 13th March 2015.
© MC Strong/MCS Mar2015

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