March 13, 2015 – Daevid Allen, was born Christopher David Allen on 13 January 1938 in Melbourne, Australia.
In 1960, inspired by the Beat Generation writers he had discovered while working in a Melbourne bookshop, Allen traveled to Paris, where he stayed at the Beat Hotel, moving into a room recently vacated by Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. While selling the International Herald Tribune around Le Chat Qui Pêche and the Latin Quarter, he met Terry Riley and also gained free access to the jazz clubs in the area.
In 1961 Allen traveled to England and rented a room at Lydden, near Dover, where he soon began to look for work as a musician. He first replied to a newspaper advertisement for a guitar player to join Dover-based group the Rolling Stones (no connection with the later famous band of that name) who had lost singer/guitarist Neil Landon, but did not join them. After meeting up with William S. Burroughs, and inspired by philosophies of Sun Ra, he formed free jazz outfit the Daevid Allen Trio (‘Daevid’ having been adopted as an affectation of David), which included his landlord’s son, 16-year-old Robert Wyatt. They performed at Burroughs’ theatre pieces based on the novel The Ticket That Exploded.
In 1966, together with Kevin Ayers and Mike Ratledge, they formed the band Soft Machine, the name having come from the Burroughs novel The Soft Machine. Ayers and Wyatt had previously played in Wilde Flowers.
Following a tour of Europe, Allen was refused re-entry to the UK because he had overstayed his visa on a prior visit. He returned to Paris where he formed a relationship with Gilli Smyth, who was teaching at the Sorbonne. With Daevid playing guitar and Gilli reciting poetry, the couple formed Gong. He also took part in the 1968 Paris protests which swept the city. He handed out teddy bears to the police and recited poetry in pidgin French. He admitted that he was scorned by the other protesters for being a beatnik.
Fleeing the police, he made his way to Deià, Mallorca, with his partner Gilli Smyth. It was here that he met the poet Robert Graves. Here also, he recorded Magick Brother (released on BYG Actuel in 1969), the first album under the name Gong. They were joined by flautist Didier Malherbe, whom they claim to have found living in a cave on Robert Graves’ estate.
The band is best known for their Radio Gnome Trilogy, made up of the albums Flying Teapots, Angel’s Egg and You. In 1970 Allen recorded and released his first solo album, Banana Moon which featured Robert Wyatt, among others.
In 1971 Gong released Camembert Electrique and between 1972 and 1974 they formed a somewhat of an anarchist commune in rural France. In 1977 he performed and recorded as Planet Gong. Daevid separated from Gilli in 1979, but they continued to have a professional relationship. In 1980 Daevid lived in America with new partner Maggie Brown and he teamed up with Bill Laswell for the punk-influenced band New York Gong, before returning to Australia with Maggie, taking up residence in Byron Bay. For many years, Daevid was a member of the University of Errors, who released four albums, and performed with the jazz rock band Brainville 3. He also recorded with Spirits Burning and worked with the noise band Big City Orchestra.
In November 2006 a Gong Family Unconvention was held in Amsterdam, which included a reunion of many former Gong members and in November 2007, he held a series of concerts in Brazil, with a branch of Gong, which was called Daevid Allen and Gong Global Family.
In 2013 , Daevid performed solo material and poetry at a special event entitled “Up Close with Daevid Allen”. He also joined The Invisible Opera Company of Tibet (UK) on stage to perform songs including the classic Gong song “Tried So Hard”. Daevid revelled in being the court jester of hippie rock and through his long of music never lost his enthusiasm for the transcendent power of the psychedelic experience. Never attaining the riches and fame of many of his contemporaries, which he deserved, did not concern him.
He once remarked: “Psychedelia for me is a code for that profound spiritual experience where there is a direct link to the gods”.
Daevid performed his final gig in his home town, Byron Bay, just two weeks before his death, back as a beat poet, for one final curtain fall on March 13th, 2015.