Although not officially applied to a group until 1971, the name Gong had already appeared on several projects undertaken by guitarist Daevid Allen (Christopher David Allen, 13 January 1938, Melbourne, Australia), a founder member of the Soft Machine. After relocating to Paris, Allen recorded two idiosyncratic albums before establishing this anarchic, experimental ensemble. Gilli Smyth aka Shanti Yoni (vocals), Didier Malherbe aka Bloomdido Bad De Grasse (b. 22 January 1943, Paris, France; saxophone/flute), Christian Tritsch aka The Submarine Captain (bass) and Pip Pyle (b. 4 April 1950, Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, England, d. 28 August 2006, Paris, France; drums) had assisted Allen on his solo collection Banana Moon (1971), but Gong assumed a more permanent air when the musicians moved into a communal farmhouse in Sens, near Fontainbleu, France. Lauri Allen replaced Pyle as the band completed two exceptional albums, Continental Circus and Camembert Electrique. Musically, these sets expanded on the quirky, avant garde nature of the original Soft Machine, while the flights of fancy undertaken by their leader, involving science fiction, mysticism and pot-head pixies, emphasized their hippie-based surrealism.
Subsequent releases included the ambitious Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy; Flying Teapot, Angels Egg and You. This period (1973-1975) of the Gong story saw the band reach the peak of their commercial success with stunning, colourful live performances, plus the roles of newcomers Steve Hillage (b. Stephen Simpson Hillage, 2 August 1951, Walthamstow, London, England; guitar), Mike Howlett (b. 27 April 1950, Fiji; bass) and Tim Blake (synthesizer) emphasized the bands long-ignored, adept musicianship. During this period however, Allen had became estranged from his creation with Hillage becoming increasingly perceived as the band leader, resulting in the guitarist (and his partner Gilli Smyth) leaving the band in July 1975. They continued to pursue the Gong vision with a number of recordings under various names, including Planet Gong and Mother Gong, often in partnership with anarchic space/jazz rock group Here And Now.
The remaining members of Gong abandoned Allens original, experimental vision in favour of a tamer style. Within months Hillage, who had enjoyed great success with his solo album, Fish Rising, had begun a solo career, leaving Pierre Moerlen (b. 23 October 1952, Colmar, Alsace, France, d. 3 May 2005, Strasbourg, Alsace, France), prodigal drummer since 1973, in control of an increasingly tepid, jazz rock direction under the Pierre Moerlens Gong moniker. Mike Howlett left soon after to pursue a successful career in studio production and was replaced by Hanny Rowe. The guitarist role was filled by Allan Holdsworth (b. 6 August 1946, Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England; ex -Nucleus).
After a period of inaction, Allen and Didier Malherbe revived the Gong name in the early 90s. In doing so, the band returned to its roots appearing at free festivals, new age and neo-hippie gatherings. They released the fourth and fifth instalments in the Radio Gnome series, Shapeshifter (1992) and Zero To Infinity (2000), the latter also featuring Mike Howlett. In 2004, Allen and Smyth were joined by their drummer son Orlando Allen and Acid Mothers Temple guitarist Kawabata Makoto on the album Acid Motherhood. The first Gong Family Unconvention (Uncon) was held at the Glastonbury Assembly Rooms the same November. Subsequent events have played host to various Gong spin-off bands.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.