planet gong archives

Harry Williamson

1977 Sphynx : Nik Turner, Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy, Andy Anderson, Mike Howlett, Harry Williamson, Paul Francis, Tim Blake, Morris Pert : Xitintoday (Charisma CDS 4011); 1978 : Nik Turner, Steve Broughton, Mike Howlett, Harry Williamson, David O'List, Corinna
1978-1979 : The Radio Actors : Harry Williamson, Sting, Gilli Smyth, Steve Hillage, Nik Turner, Mike Howlett, Steve Broughton, Nuclear Waste

born Devon, England

Son of Henry Williamson, the author of Tarka the Otter. Harry began his musical life as a choir boy at Exeter Cathedral, after having spent a bohemian childhood living with his eccentric writer father, mostly in a caravan in a field in Devon. He later took guitar lessons from his brother in law, guitar virtuoso Julian Bream, playing in various jazz and rock bands at Millfield School (despite the disapproval of the music department) and played in various Big Bands, jazz combos and rock groups whilst studying physics at Imperial College, London University.

Harry became stage manager at that famed psychedelic hang-out, the Rainbow Theatre, where he mixed bands like The Byrds and Pink Floyd. He was also involved with the early Glastonbury festivals and with many of the progressive/alternative performances that were part of the London 70s music scene. He became part of an explosion of creativity that took place in the late sixties and early seventies.

Met Anthony Phillips? in the early 70s, with whom he wrote Gypsy Suite and Tarka Music(approve sites). Recorded demos with country-rock band Ark which included Harvey Bainbridge (Hawkwind). He also lived in a multi-coloured bus for two years in the 70s, while involved in building stages and crewing (he toured Europe with the Rolling Stones), and built recording studios for a time (unfortunately even helping to build one in Sweden for ABBA).

Harry first met Gong the day Daevid Allen left the band. He was working for a wholefood delivery service and had been given their address by the guy who was cooking for them that night. He struck up a rapport with Steve Hillage, and got involved in writing material, parts of which surfaced on Nik Turner's Sphynx.

Nik Turner invited Harry to join the Sphynx project the day Harry's father Henry died. Harry designed Nik's portable pyramid stage, centerpiece of many a Stonehenge festival.

Harry's strong environmental concerns led to the organisation of an anti-nuclear benefit group, The Radio Actors, which featured Sting, Harry and various other musicians sympathetic to the anti-nuclear cause, including Nik Turner?, Steve Hillage and Mike Howlett. A single, Nuclear Waste(approve sites), written by Harry and sung by Sting, was released by Virgin to raise money for nuclear disarmament.

Daevid brought Planet Gong around to rehearse at Harry's Devon home - the band nearly got Harry banned from his local by dancing on the gravestones in the local cemetary after a bit of a drinking session.

Daevid suggested that Harry should help Gilli with the recording of her forthcoming Fairytales album. Harry went to Deya and they promptly fell passionately in love, thus Harry found himself drawn in to the Gong Family and touring in the States.

Harry's involvement in Mother Gong began in 1979. Working with Gilli Smyth, formerly of Gong and known for her 'space whisper', and also with brilliant saxophonist Robert Calvert?, percussionist Rob George and various others - including, in the early Mother Gong years, Didier Malherbe - Harry created a vast catalogue of musical explorations to accompany Gilli Smyth's poems and invocations.

Music grew out of spontaneous composition sessions, where Gilli would present the group with some poetic ideas and images, and after a short discussion which would establish the parameters for the evening, tape would roll and the music would be created.

Harry's classical affinity produced structures not usually associated with jazz. It was a new way of working that Harry particularly appreciated. It enabled his musical boundaries to expand to yet another level and the result is some very intriguing music.

Wild Child(approve sites) (available in the USA as a separate edition) is perhaps the epitome of this elegant and emotionally moving process, recorded in a few wild full-moon days in a studio in Wales prior to the 1989 UK tour. Magenta/She Made the World also highlights this style. Music from this CD is available on the Cerberus Digital Jukebox.

Harry Williamson was part of the Gongmaison incarnation of Gong (Gongmaison(approve sites) Live at Glastonbury CD) engineered and produced releases for Daevid Allen (12 Selves and Australia Aquaria(approve sites)), was behind the Australian Invisible Opera Company of Tibet self-titled CD (Voiceprint), and for 12 years was the main musical mind behind Mother Gong, releasing a great deal of material via Charly, Shanghai, Demi-Monde and Voiceprint.

Harry moved to Australia in 1982, but continues to journey back to England and occasionally considers returning to live there at some stage in the future. (But then he remembers British winters…) Harry's involvement with Mother Gong ended in 1991, but a reunion is always a possibility.