planet gong archives

gilli smyth

1977 : Mother
Daevid Allen, Sam Gopal, Juan Biblioni, Pepsi Milan, Vera Blum, Gilli Smyth, Rafael Aguilo, Patrick Meadows, Toni Pascual
1977 : Planet Gong
Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth, Keith Dobson (Kif-Kif), Suze da Bluze, Anno Wombat, Steffe Lewry (Steffy Sharpstrings), Keith Bailey, Gavin da Blitz : Live Floating Anarchy '77, Opium for the People
1978-1979 : The Radio Actors
Harry Williamson, Sting, Gilli Smyth, Steve Hillage, Nik Turner, Mike Howlett, Steve Broughton, Nuclear Waste
Mother Gong
Goddess Trance
Orlando Allen, Dr Tone, Nick Spacetree, Kavi, Gilli Smyth; Daevid Allen, Taliesin Allen : AGASCD‑011
2003 February : <you'N'gong>
Daevid Allen, Kawabata Makoto, Cotton Casino, Gilli Smyth, Josh Pollock, Dharmawan Bradbridge, Orlando Allen : existed for one month, one gig in Australia, some recording (Chinese year of the Black Sheep)
2003 : Acid Mothers Gong
Daevid Allen, Kawabata Makoto, Cotton Casino, Gilli Smyth, Josh Pollock : one explosive gig at the Royal Festival Hall, London, 21/10/2003
Politico, Historico, Spirito (VP185)
We Who Were Raging
The Mind Book

born London, England 1933-06-01

An 'awkward' and 'difficult' child, Gilli learned to live in her imagination in reaction to being punished for her acting abilities. he was subsequently expelled from her Catholic convent school at the age of 12, for writing 'heretical' and erotic poetry Inspired by Simone de Beauvoir she edited her university magazine writing such radical anti-sexist and anti-racist articles that it prompted the Daily Mirror and Daily Express to a vitriolic attack upon 'girls like this, who should not be funded by the government to go to university'. Nevertheless acheived an MA.

Had a dughter Tasmin out of a brief marriage. Decamped to Paris with her child where she slept under bridges until rescued by an old 'clochard' who sold her an old boat for twenty quid. Six months later she was teaching NATO generals english whilst working as a proffessor at La Sorbonne. Eventually sold the boat to one Daevid Allen. Ayear later they began living together in a small apartement in Rue Beauborg and subsequetly moved to Deya in Majorca.

In 1966 Gilli published Nitrogen Dreams of a Wide Girl and travelled with Soft Machine in the spring, creating Pop Poets with Daevid which incorporated the band, notably at Deptford Boxing Ring and as a duo at Paris Bienniale in '67.

Gilli started doing performance poetry with Soft Machine on their occasional poetry/music gigs, and then more intensively with Daevid Allen and the first Gong band after it was founded in Paris in 1968. This ran for a colourful season in an old Theatre Restaurant in the Latin Quarter, with many visiting poets and musicians passing through including American beat poets Laurence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso, and jazz musician Don Cherry, who sat in with this Gong band at the concert at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. The Stockholm concert, attained after days of travelling through silent frozen forests, was held in conjunction with an Andy Warhol exhibition of enormous cornflake packets, and widely publicised as contemporary music.

Gilli developed the concept of Space Whisper as her own, unique singing style, rather than be coerced into siging 'girlie' backing vocals. It wanders across modes, keys and pitches to find the resonances that touch our deep instincts. It is the sound of emotions, a sound that moves us to cry, laugh, dance, and also a search to sing the music of grass-growing, spheres moving, and the deep humming of outer space. Despite a classical music training Gilli's sound has moved into unchartered areas which seem to some impossibly anarchistic and to others instinctively harmonious. Even though it may break established rules, it does have very strict rules of its own in the resonances it chooses. It is a constant experimentation to find the sound of the event and cannot be written down. This became part of the unique sound of Gong as part of the concept of Total Space Music that they had heard in their mind's ears. Gilli played a central role in the creation of the Gong mythology, being responsible for muchof the radical political inerity of the band and was often credited as being the 'invisible' leader.

However, the balmy days at the Theatre Restaurant were abruptly shattered by the 1968 Revolution. Gilli had to flee Paris, considered a dangerous revolutionary by the right wing authorities, as did many other musicians, television crews, writers, etc.

Gilli returned to France in 1969, a return politically expedited by a film maker, Jerome La Perrousaz, who wanted music for films, and made available his haunted Normandy Chateau, where the group of musicians who were to form the second Gong band under the musical leadership of Daevid Allen gathered together. This time, however, the dreamy contemporary music was augmented by sizzling jazz rock, which combined with absurdist stories and lyrics and lifestyle extremism. This was to catch the imagination of the alternative culture and shoot the band up to being, as Actuel magazine put it, "the leading underground band in France".

Gilli was the only female voice in the line-up of brilliant musicians, including Steve Hillage, Pierre Moerlen and Didier Malherbe. She portrayed the prostitute, the witch, the old woman, the many voices of women, and this became part of the cult. Mythology was written in the sixteen albums that were produced, and mythology was abroad in the air, and it was as if "we were all sailing off in a huge white boat that accommodated thousands of people". The band were not the captains, they simply got on the boat first, and the people who joined became part of a world wide network that exists today

Gilli struggled with the age-old question of how to continue working while having two babies (in 1972 and 1974). As the success of the band in worldly terms grew and grew, so did her agony at being parted from the babies, so she ran away to Spain with them in 1974 to try and forget the band which had meant so much. in 1978 four years of thinking and writing about this emerged as a solo album Mother (Charly CRL 5007?) produced and recorded by Daevid Allen. Following this the stresses and strains became too great and their relationship broke up in 1979, whereupon to her great surprise and despite the extraordinary depth of her attachment to Daevid, Gilli fell immediately into a deep relationship with Harry Williamson. Together they have made several albums, Fairy Tales (Charly CRL 5018?) '79, Robot Woman, (Butt 003) '81, Robot Woman 2 (Shanghai HAI 100?) '82, and Robot Woman 3 (Shanghai HAI 109?), the Owl and the Tree (Demi-Monde CDTB 118) '90 and Wildchild (Demi-Monde DMCD 1026?) '92, as well as numerous cassettes. They ran a poetry and music program on 3CR community radio for five years, called People in Performance. During this time they met Tom the Poet, an extraordinary improviser who for years has breathed fire into the renowned Street Poetry of Melbourne. Tom toured with Gongmaison in 1990 and Mother Gong in 1991.

Ottersongs have released two sixty minute cassettes, Buddha's Birthday (OT 011) '88, and Fish in the Sky (OT 012) recorded during 1987 and 1988 in Melbourne, and Demi-Monde Records the album Owl and the Tree recorded during the same time. Wild Child recorded in Wales has been released on CD in America.

Gilli went to England in May 1990 courtesy of Central TV to film a one hour program in the Bedrock series, which was some of the original members of the Gong band playing together once more with some members of Here & Now. This was a big buzz, but to Gilli, the present Mother Gong band is more relevant: "A consummation of all have ever tried to or wanted to do musically, lyrically, stage-wise".

In the '90's Mother Gong established their own following and audience among other groups such as the ecologically minded, witches and healers. Magenta (Voiceprint VP 134 CD?) has been much used for group rebirthing and meditations. Mother Gong gigs generally turn into a celebration of the whole audience dancing. There is a feeling of recognition among the so called bad children who were often the black sheep at home or at school, for challenging the stereotyped moulds; and who became artists, dreamers, experimenters, pioneers, outcasts. Now we see these people as pioneers in a different world-order, non-military, based on permaculture economies and the gender role change revolution.