planet gong archives

Pierre Moerlen


Pierre Moerlen died unexpectedly in his sleep in the early hours of Tuesday 3rd May 2005, aged 53, in the mountains near Strasbourg. He was in the middle of rehearsal sessions for a new "Pierre Moerlen's Gong" band, which were going well and with which he was very happy. Pierre's funeral took place on Monday 9th May, in Colmar, Alsace-Lorraine, the town of his birth.


I have received many, many emails from around the world, and postings on the Forum expressing love and support for Pierre's family and honouring the man and his music, which I will pass along. Thank you all. Here are just a few… Jonny

Pierre was a true friend and an awesome drummer. In the world of Musical Theater he also brought such an innovative, natural and and fresh groove to any production that he was a part of. We'll all miss you Pierre! - Dov Michael Schiller

i would like to offer my condolences to all his family, friends and colleagues - he was one of the finest percussionists of his time - i especially loved his inspired playing on angels egg, you and fish rising, respects - neil cottom

To me he was an integral part of Gong and I loved his solo albums, particularly Time Is The Key. May perpetual light shine upon him and may he rest in peace - Patrick MacColl

Please send my sincere condolences to the Gong family for me, as I am deeply saddened by the loss of Pierre. It is obviously a terrible loss of one of the finest percussionists in music. His contributions to the 'trio', Flying Teapots, Angels Egg and You were extraordinary, let alone the rest of his great work. God bless Pierre Moerlen! Sincerely - Robert Kramer

World, please wake up!! We are losing great spirits like Pierre Moerlen, who dies too early. I have seen him in the 80's with Gong and Tribute. Around that time he was also playing the hit with Mike Oldfield. I was 15 at that time and will never forget these concerts and the spirit that was in it. I am missing this music so much - and the life in it! I still have the same ride cymbal, that Pierre was playing in these days. He impressed so much!! I talked to him for just maybe 1 minute, remember being very afraid of doing that. I would have loved to know him.

The world has not gotten better since that time - People, stop listening to that bullshit that is surrounding us everyday and go back to listen to good music, support musicians that try to get a tour together, which is already a big fight against so many obstacles. These last years have destroyed so much - but… flowers still can grow!!!!

Pierre left us good music and so much more… it was his talent and the spirits that surrounded him. I am crying but I want to smile again - let's never forget the good things in life and in music - Wolfgang Roggenkamp, 12.Mai 2005

This was terrible and shocking news. Although Pierre Moerlen was a supreme technician, he created a magic that went beyond technique - and I don't use the word magic lightly. He was a joy and an inspiration to so many people, and I hope he knew it. My deepest sympathy to his family and friends - Simon Russell

We have lost one of the best drummers in the world… I remember seeing Mike Oldfield live in 1979, the Moerlen brothers ruled! I've never been so exited with the rhythm section ever. And his work with Gong. Love from all your friends in Sweden! - Hans-Peter Thorson

Expresso II gave me a greater impact than Mahavishnu or KC in the 80's. Just only rhythm sections, no front man, they generated kaleidoscopic, innovative but emotional tunes. Someone said that there's no rock drummer in the Chanson-melody-flowing country. He may be short of knowledge. Pierre was one of the gifted drummers in the world absolutely. J'adresse a sa famille et Benoit mes sinceres et respectueuses condoleances - Hatsuki NISHIO

Pierre Moerlen's tunes and his drumming on Expresso II are what moved me towards the Planet Gong. Being a drummer I always felt a special appreciation for him as a drummer, composer and as a performer with every sort of percussion. Music misses a real Master now. We have his music, and that's what will keep his memory alive. R.I.P. Pierre - gianmariaeluca

Recieve a big hug from Colombia. Sad news and we are with us about Pierre - Jacobo

Transmit all my friendly thoughts to his family and the gong members. I think to him, his masterpiece work, his talent, his vision of music, his contributions to the world. I wish also to thank him one last time to the good musical moments he gave to us through his career. Bye pierre… - geraud bec

Pierre Haut Lunaire, When you stroked your gong, Our middle eye came on. Love to everyone - Serge Dahane

Today i know that pierre is dead. today is a sad day for me. i remember the long days passed listened the magic touch and the magic times of pierre's drum. i can't believe that he is dead. one part of my music heart is broken. hi pierre, you are the magic in my music soul - Fabiano

I extend my heartfelt condolences to his family and dear friends: grief is brief; memories eternal. When challenged to summarize the man in one word, I look beyond his many accomplishments, and can only muster 'considerate'. You have your word, and that is mine - Allen

I luv you Pierre… you will always be in the music of the universe… the heartbeat of the pixie dreams… RIP good brother, you will be missed - catbootz

Please pass my condolences to his family and friends - Fabio Golfetti

Pierre's drumming is very inspirational, and his passing so early greatly diminishes the music on this planet. It's been a hard time on drummers--Jim Capaldi, Spencer Dryden, and now this - but I can only imagine the drum session they're having now!

My deepest sympathy to those who knew and loved him, especially the Gong family and Benoit. Play his spirit home! - Bear Some peoples have a special spit of light in their eyes. Pierre was one of them. Passion was his rule, rhythm was his world, he gave us both of them. Thanks Pierre, wherever you are… Look Pimplemaya

I am very sad to read that Pierre passed away monday night exactly six years (minus one day) after he played what turned out to be his very last gig with "classic" Gong in Fabrik, Hamburg. I happened to be there & remember being very impressed by Pierre's energy, technical surplus & good spirit. Much more powerful than any record I have heard. Life was not always that easy to Pierre but the music he gave us will live on forever. Now he has passed away to the next life - the "eternal jam-fields" I imagine - hopefully he will form a great band there. Love - Ulrik

Very sad news. I received your email at the same time as a photo of my mates showing a picture of their new baby. Thus the Great Wheel turns round. God bless Pierre and his family - Paul Williams

This is indeed sad news. My condolences to all - Craig

I have always spoken of him as the absolute best drummer in the world. I am deeply saddened by his passing - Don Williams

Mes condoléances à la famille de Pierre Moerlen et à la famille GONG. Pierre Moerlen nous avait remplit de joie et de plaisir avec ses EXPRESSOS…. Claude RICHARD

It's a sad news. I want to join you in remembering him and in sending love and blessings to his loved ones. Pierre est mort vive Pierre - Jean Luc LEFRANC

Sincerest condolences to the Moerlen/Gong family - Steve Hill

I went out of my way to see Gong play the Bataclan in Paris in 1998. I'm glad that I did because after seeing Pierre perform, I understood his reputation. A great musician, and phenomenal entertainer - Rich W

A great privilege to have worked with Pierre on the one Gong USA tour he accompanied in the late '90s… whether reserved offstage or illuminated in performance, his sincerity shone seamlessly throughout - wolfey

What can I say that has not already been said? Love, Hugs & Condolences to his family & friends. Peace - Kev

RIP Pierre the world should miss you. I will still keep playing your records and taking inspiration from you. Lets give pierre to the world. play a record to your family friends and anyone who will listen. let people know that pierre was a "GOD" among drummers - Scott Armstrong

Very sad news indeed, your beats live on in our hearts.

He'll be remembered every time we listen to his music. Merci beacoups, Pierre bon nuit - rob laurie

Pierre was one of the great drummers/percussionists. My condolences to his family and friends - Panananda

I'm very sad to hear about Pierre Moerlen's death. Pierre, I received a lot from your music. Thank you very much - Tommaso

I'm really stunned by this news. One of my all time fave drummers. Very sad news indeed - Daven

a true master drummer - Brian Zero

A sad day indeed, i have always believed Gong has some of the best musicians on the planet and now we are one less-a truly marvelous musician. thanks for the music Pierre the world was a better place for your sounds - Johnny H

My condolences to all of his family and loved ones. May they be comforted by the love which I'm sure he is sending out to them from the heaven world - Alan S

Sad news indeed. Super drummer and to think he was only in his early 20s when he performed so brilliantly on "You" - Ian Fraser

I never saw him play live but love his playing on Angels Egg and You- what an amazing drummer he was. He was one of the main reasons I started playing drums myself. I never got anywhere near his level of technical brilliance but always tried to play from the heart as an expression of joy which is how I hear his playing. Love and blessings to his loved ones and indeed to all you fabulous Gongsters - Duncan

First concert I ever went to… Gong at the Liverpool stadium with Pierre on drums….fantastic! please pass on my best wishes and sincere condolences to Pierre's family and friends - Alex Malone

I was very saddened to hear this news. He will be well remembered as one of the finest drummers on the planet - Pierce

Some more sand is pouring out of our hands…
And becomes sparkling ruby while approaching the ground!
Love to all the concerned ones.
A bientot
Walter & Michelle

As a drummer for over thirty years and a huge gong fan for over thirty years, I am devastated to hear of the passing of one of my "Drum God's". Although I had already started playing drums when I became aware of Flying Teapot and Angels Egg, I was then , and continue to be a huge fan of his style and technical expertise. His solos were as good , if not better than any I've ever heard.Unfortunately, I never had the honor of seeing him play live, but will always cherish the recordings I have. IT'S A SAD DAY FOR THE MUSICAL UNIVERSE - Ms. Jody Mallory

My thoughts are with him, and his loved ones. May he rest in peace - J Clague (the manxmann)



I was exploding
Gong was imploding
In walked the ginger boy
I'm yr new drummer said he

Out of the frying pan
Into the hot wires
Gong reinvented
We surfed the new co-ordinates
Virgin was a label
Our star was a blazing rock &
Phoenix was a gal from Sun City.

A reborn headhunter,
He burned too ferociously;
Stoked by Howlett
Enflamed by Hillage
Crazed when erased by glissando space creatures
with synthi sized ears & rhythms of lace,
Bewildered by angels whispering in space
& the intentions of aliens from
altered dimensions.

Too perfect his Chalice,
Percussion his solace.
He burned at both ends
& ejected
free falling
landed in a snow drift
tried to time shift
but accidentally sniffed
the stained fiver
with a lover snuffed on former stuff
nuff to
make you shiver
it's a consummate buzz
I bet you that fiver that there's
no accidents in show biz

then down the back stage tunnel
to the bedsit under the graveyard watch.

a tunnel channel
taken by the many
emprisoned by imperatives
& short-rent money.

They dance with the shadows of an ancient alchemy
head office in a high rise on the Costa Plenti.
Surrendering their skins to a chemical sun that
will bring you undone
from the final first flash
til yr walking stunned,
loading the gun,
looking down over the balcony…

But now my brother
you've crossed the sands
deflated the lungs
collapsed the glands
popped your clogs
& dropped off the clay
hey… you always were the first to leave the band

I bet yr playing with
someone groovy now eh…


"I have uploaded an updated version of my retrospective article on Pierre from 1995 (in French) on the Big Bang website: I hope it serves as a fitting tribute to this great musician." - Aymeric

Hugely detailed and almost certainly definitive overview of Pierre's wide-ranging career. [archive]

Mike Howlett : Pierre was the most technically skilful drummer I ever played with. At his peak - probably around the 'You' album period - there was none finer. I am very grateful that we were able to revisit our creative marriage when he returned to Gong in 1997 through 1999. A lot of old ghosts were laid to rest. I will miss him.

Didier Malherbe : Ô cher Pierre, après ta vie de grand rythmicien, écourtée là si soudainement, souhaitons à ton âme de voyager (c'est un symbole) sur un tempo aussi bon, aussi huilé, que fut le tien! Les disques gravés et les souvenirs engravés dans nos mémoires de gongs, autant d'éléments pour te faire un grandiose éloge, Ô Pierre…

Steve Hillage & Miquette Giraudy : Dear Pierre - we knew you and we loved you and we shared with you many of the most precious musical moments of our life. You also introduced us to the wider world of percussion including the gamelans of Bali. With you in supreme control of the holy rhythms the band Gong was at a creative peak. You and Mike were without doubt the best rhythm section we have ever had the thrill to work with. And now as you move on we can feel your soul synchronising with the heartbeat of the universe.

Tim Blake : At the end of the Flying Teapot Sessions, Gong fell to pieces, and I returned to Sens, with Didier and a highly enthusiastic Steve. There were gigs to be played, and no band left… We arrived at the house, a little glum, when at the the music room door we saw a guy lifting drum cases from his car.

"Hello", he said I'm Pierre, the New Drummer! "I've just driven down from Strasbourg…"
The band took off again meeting a variety of bassists before Mike came to join. It was a golden age of Gong, and most of the "feel" of Angels Egg & "You" grew from this time together. It was a time of real friendship, real sharing, real music … real Gong, & not so 'Para'. Salut Pierre!

Gilli Smyth : I guess we were all greatly saddened by the death of Pierre, a longtime friend since the balmy days at Sens in the early 7O's; it's losing a family member and all the memories that go with it. In those intense times, living in that big old house in the forest, we got to know each other pretty well, and despite the odd gremlins who tended to hang around Pierre, what came through was the essential kindness of his nature, his generosity, and his sense of fun. And, of course, his incredible drumming and the passion he put into it. My deep sympathy to Benoit and the family.

Venux DeLuxe : Benoit Moerlen called to tell me, I'm crying since.

daevid allen

farewell old brother
well done & a happy afterdeath to yer
in 1973 you were the best drummer in the world
in 1999 you played yr last gong gig
but you were always the first to leave the band
& the first to really get out of it
thank you for teaching me
how to play with you
enjoy your peace!

Percy Jones : RIP Pierre, it was a pleasure to know and work with him.

David Id : The most unique and special drummer I ever worked with.

Pip Pyle : So sad to hear that Pierre has left us and the Planet Gong. While of course we were never in the group together, we did do a tour with Gong sharing the bill with Hatfield and the North in England in 1973/74 and was always a very affable guy. Total respect for his work with Gong, which in the 1973 - 75 period with Mike Howlett and then later Francis Moze made up the tightest and cleanest rhythm section Gong ever had. Some of the tuned percussion parts he wrote later for Pierre Moerlan's Gong like Gongzilla with musicians of the caliber of Alan Holdworth, Mireille Bauer and his brother Benoit were very impressive. They and Gong fans everywhere will surely miss him very much.

Keith tha bass : Ah… Well… Another sad day's news… What a lovely guy he was, though - we shared a few grins, he and I - I'll remember those moments as much as his stupendous drummage… Well, not merely stupendous, more galactically awe-inspiring - the tightest fastest crunchiest crispiest raunchiest drummer I never (to my now permanent regret) played with… Which made having to stand in for him in 2000 all the more fraught… But Hey! We made our peace a long time ago on that little episode - I forgave him whole-heartedly because he was, when all is said and done, such a lovely guy… Enjoy the wild gig in the sky, Pierre, wish I could hear it! Love, and I'll miss you.

shyamal maitra and michel : Epitaphe Pour Pierre

Un grand batteur ne meurt jamais. Il eteint la lumiere, coupe le son,tire sa reverence et s'en va pour un voyage sans retour dans la nuit des rythmes, vers d'autres vibrations.

Pierre, o grand forgeron des sons, tes baguettes aujourd'hui orphelines cingleront encore nos coeurs endoloris… et nos memoires te reverront toujours assis derriere tes futs, chevauchant des tempos haletants, courbant l'echine en martelant des galops, en cravachant tes peaux, mettant au pas des cymbales rugissantes.

Deja loin de la planete verte, te voila parti vers l'ether endeuille, ou les astres ne cesseront de briller en myriades de gongs scintillants.

Jonny Greene : I first met Pierre in 1990 when he came to stay at the house I shared with daevid in Somerset. The three of us went out to eat at a local café, The Blue Note, which as it's name implies often had live music in the evenings. Two very good local jazz musicians, John Cartwright & Jackie Whitren were playing, and as a happy Pierre got into what they were doing he started to play along using just his hands on the table top. In fact he got so into it that after a while, on the appreciative nod of John Cartwright at the electric piano, he even took a solo. And when he came to the end of the solo the whole, full café, who had no idea who he was, burst into loud, prolonged spontaneous applause - he'd been that good! He was always that good. I'll remember him and the times we had on tour with much fondness.

Dess : I have no words! Tears goes out my heart and cracks all in there. First time I heard his music at 1981. I was 13 years old and his Earthrise gently touch my soul. Have I think about sometime I see him myself?! I got his hand Spring 2001 at SKIF festival. On that time we with Misha (keyboard player and producer) told about possible new recordings. His eyes burned. And we done it! Now there is a great holes in our hearts! Go with peace. Pierre!

jean-herve peron : pierre moerlen passed away. gong and faust have often shared the same stage. i remember pierre as an impressive percussionist. he went through the demanding and highly selective conservatoire de strasbourg and thus brought to the planet gong his academical competence: without effort, all the elaborate, intricate parts he developed became smooth and elegant ….i feel a "twitch" in my heart about the news of his departure. like daevid, i wish to pierre moerlen: enjoy the peace.

Patrice Meyer : One of the best drummers I ever played with. Big loss, big grief. My kindest thoughts to Benoit and family.

Mark Hewins : Pierre was and is a great, great drummer. Just listen, and you can hear!

Graham Clark : Au revoir Pierre! Your grooves helped build my concept of time: you and Mike together. I only want to show my respect here for a master musician, and I can say no more.

Stephen Budd : Very sad, always liked him, we knew each other in london the early eighties. great guy and the best drummer I ever saw. You never blow yr trip forever!

Ian MacIntosh : I was greatly saddened to hear of Pierre's passing. Making contact with Dingo here in Oz recently reawakened much of the 'Gongfrisson' I was part of in the early 70's. Pierre answered the door at Middlefield Farm in Oxfordshire when I first knocked, and invited me to stay for dinner. 'Ze pigs 'ere are 'eavy non?' was his first comment to me, I'll never forget it. Liggers were tolerated as fellow travelers in those days, and lots of us who came through the late sixties gravitated to Gong for warmth and comradeship. Pierre, Didier and Steve were unstintingly welcoming, making me responsible for the Farm when they were away on tour. I sat at Pierre's and Mireille's feet during full-blown rehearsals when they swapped senses- stunning percussion and marimba solos, and got to jam along on occasion. He was so sweet, as was Jorges Pinchevski, the violinist. Somehow, in spirit, they were Gong, and now they are both gone. O Pierre!