Archive for the ‘Gong’ Category

Steve Hillage Newcastle University 23 March 2023

hillage tix1 is, in his own quiet way, a guitar innovator. His pedigree is strong and impressive and last night, reminded me just what a great guitarist the man is. As usual, and no apologies, the night brought back many memories of the man himself and of the venue. Steve Hillage currently has two identities (in fact, probably more): (1) as a reborn trance hero in the band System 7 and (2) he is now out on the road fronting a new Steve Hillage band, drawing from his classic mid – 1970s albums, such as my favourite L.

hillage adFirstly, memories of the venue came flooding back partly as I tried to work out in my head where Newcastle University Students Union Ballroom (or equivalent) might be these days. The last time I frequented said venue was during the 1980s witnessing great performances by bands such as Rip, Rig and Panic (featuring a fledgling Neneh Cherry, who had just left the Slits, and sometimes her father Don), Haircut 100 and The Cure. All of those concerts took place in the larger upstairs ballroom; a venue where I witnessed some great punk gigs during the 1970s including the Clash White Riot tour. (Tour advert from Steves site)

hillage picSome of the concerts including Sandie Shaw (rejuvenated by a collaboration with Morrissey at the time as I recall), Punishment of Luxury and the Au Pairs took place in a lower, smaller, hall named “The Canteen” (because that is exactly what it was during the day!). I was told that wheelchair access was via a lift through the students union building and the Co-op shop! Actually, those directions worked well and some helpful students directed me and my carer Jackie towards a lift which took us downstairs to the venue; I half recognised the hall, it may have been what I once knew as the Canteen. Anyway, sorry for going around the houses to say that we managed to get to the concert okay. However, by the time we arrived the hall was full and the best vantage point we could find was at the side of the stage. (picture of Steve from my ticket)

hillage 4Secondly, Steve Hillage, psychedelic guitar wizard and inventor of the “glissando guitar” as exemplified by Steve’s wonderful soloing on his reinvention of the Donovan classic “Hurdy-Gurdy Glissando”. I have seen Steve Hillage several times over the years and he always strikes me as a quiet unassuming guy, and yet he has in his own quiet way achieved so much and forged a rich career along the way. I first came across Steve Hillage when he was a member of Khan, an early psychedelic band who I think I saw supporting Caravan in the early 1970s. I then saw him as a member of Gong and as part of Kevin Ayres band.

He soon ventured out on his own and released a clutch of great albums including the aforementioned L. During this period, I saw him headlining Newcastle City Hall on a couple of occasions, supporting Queen at their free concert in Hyde Park and somewhat bizarrely, joining Sham 69 on stage at the Reading Festival, a concert that was marred by fights in the crowd, although Steve’s performance with Jimmy Pursey of Sham was meant to signify that progressive rock and punk/skinhead music can stand together (“If the Kids Are United”).

hillage 3Roll forward to the Steve Hillage band 2023 in concert. Shortly after we arrived the band took to the stage, with lots of colourful lighting, wailing saxophone and electronica/psych keyboard wizardry courtesy of Steve’s long-term partner Miquette Giraudy. I am unsure who the rest of the band were, but I suspect they consisted of some current members of Gong, who continue to perform without any original members but with the blessing of Hillage and founder member, the late great Daevid Allen. After some wonderful twirling, swirling sounds the music soon took shape and morphed into Steve’s cover of the Beatles “It’s All Too Much” from L.

hillage blueAn excellent start to an evening of great music mixing tracks from throughout the band leader’s career. Some I recognised, several not, but they all featured great guitar dexterity from Mr Hillage. One he introduced as a Kevin Ayres song, in tribute to his former band leader. I suspect there was also a Gong track or two in the mix. Steve stood quietly centre stage sporting a short haircut (very unlike the 1970s proto-hippie Hillage we all know and love) and an intriguing looking guitar with no top stock. Soon we were at the end which featured further excellent guitar on “Hurdy-Gurdy Glissando”. The first encore started with some techno psych leading into The Move’s “I Can Hear the Grass Grow”.

hillage 5As we left, the band came back for a second encore (I think from reports of other shows on the tour this may have been Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?”). The lift we came down on didn’t seem to work anymore, however a friendly guy soon took us to another much smaller lift, which we squeezed into, arriving at a different part of the University. We followed a few ramps and soon found our taxi, waiting to take us home.

Support came from Utopia Strong featuring none other than Steve Davis snooker star (thanks to Terriersfan for pointing this out to me: see comment below)

The Reading Festival 27 – 29 August 1976

The Reading Festival 27 – 29 August 1976
readingprog It was August Bank Holiday 1976 and I was back at Reading for the annual festival. By now a group of us went every year, usually traveling down in the back of a hired transit van. The line-up for this festival wasn’t as strong as previous years, and included a mix of reggae, classic rock, underground and heavy metal bands. Punk was on the horizon, but yet to break through. The other memories I have are of rain (some, but not lots in 1976, as I recall), mud, lots of drunkenness (by us, and every one else as I remember), and lots (and I mean lots) of can fights, which seemed fun at the time, but were probably actually pretty dangerous. If you got a half-full can of Watney’s Red Barrel on the back of your head, you really knew about it, and several people must have come home from the festival with pretty nasty cuts and scars. The festival was moving from a friendly, hippy vibe to a drunken, laddish, almost aggro vibe. This also matched the way the line-up and the music would develop, as it moved more to heavy metal in the late ’70s. The main attraction for us this year was Rory, who was the man, and a hero to us all.
Friday’s line-up consisted of Stallion (don’t recall who they were), Roy St John (American pub rock), U Roy (reggae), Supercharge (a Liverpool band fronted by singer and sax player Albie Donnelly, who had quite a bit of success in the mid-70s and played a lot up and down the country; I remember seeing them several times), Mighty Diamonds (reggae), Mallard (Cpt Beefheart’s original Magic Band, and pretty good too) and headliners the hippy, trippy and quite weird Gong. I remember watching Mallard and Gong, who were both pretty good.
reading76Saturday had Nick Pickett (a folk singer, who I’d seen supporting Curved Air a few years earlier), Eddie & The Hot Rods (classed as pub rock as much as punk at this stage), Moon, Pat Travers (ace guitarist), Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum, Sadista Sisters, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Van Der Graaf Generator, Phil Manzanera and the 801 band, Camel and Rory Gallagher. Stand outs for me were Van Der Graaf who played an amazing extended version of Killer (John Peel: “Bloody marvellous, Van der Graaf Generator. Come on let’s here it for them”), Manfred Mann, and Phil Manzanera and the 801 band, which was seen as a pretty big deal at the time as Phil had assembled a stella line-up of himself (guitar), ex-Roxy compatriot Brian Eno (keyboards, synthesizers, vocals), Bill MacCormick (bass, vocals), Simon Phillips (drums), Francis Monkman (ex-Curved Air, piano and clavinet) and Lloyd Watson (ace slide-guitar, vocals). The 801 band released one album, and a live lp which was recorded at one of three gigs that they played, at the Festival Hall. They played a great version of the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows. But Rory was the highlight of the weekend. We were all massive fans, and made our way to the front of the crowd for his set, which was just amazing. A recording of Rory’s set that night exist which shows that he played: Take What I Want; Bought and Sold; Everybody Wants To Know; Drinkin’ Muddy Water; Tattoo’d Lady; Calling Card; Secret Agent; Pistol Slapper Blues; Too Much Alcohol; Souped-Up Ford and Bullfrog Blues. The Rory Gallagher band was Rory (guitar, vocals), Lou Martin (keyboards), the great Gerry McAvoy (bass) and Rod de’Ath (drums).
reading76Sunday featured: Howard Bragen; Aft; The Enid (who got the crowd singing along with Land Of Hope And Glory and became a festival favourite), A Band Called ‘O’; Back Door (very jazzy); Sassafras; Brand X (featured Phil Collins on drums); AC/DC (one of their early UK appearances, and just blew everyone away; Angus and Bon Scott on top form); Sutherland Bros & Quiver; Ted Nugent (had some arguments with the crowd who were throwing cans at him); Black Oak Arkansas (Jim Dandy to the Rescue 🙂 ) and Osibisa (who were billed as special mystery guests, which seemed a bit of a let down, but got the crowd going and went down well).
Another fun time had by all 🙂
Note; for the first time there was an official glossy programme, as well as the newspaper programme, produced by the local Evening Post. Both are pictured here.

Gong, Hatfield and the North & Tubular Bells film Newcastle City Hall 1974

Gong, Hatfield and the North, Tubular Bells Newcastle City Hall 25th April 1974
Virgin Records Crisis Concert
Ticket price 44p
As I’ve just seen Gong, and blogged about them yesterday, I thought I would have have a little break from covering bands beginning with the letter F and cover the only other time I saw the crazy Gong guys in concert. It was in 1974 as part of the Virgin Records Crisis (can’t remember what the crisis was at the time!) tour, which featured Gong, Hatfield and the North, and a film of Mike Oldfield performing Tubular Bells. To be honest, my friends and I went along largely to see the Tubular Bells film, as it was the only chance at the time to see a performance of this great album. We were also attracted by the very reasonable 44p ticket price! Although Mike Olfield did tour a few years later, at that time he was resisting offers to take his masterpiece on the road. The film was very good, and featured footage of Mike performing the entire album as I recall, in the studio I think. I also recall Viv Stanshall being part of it. The sound wasn’t great and the film was projected onto a small screen, which wasn’t too woderful, but I still recall enjoying it. I wonder if you can get a DVD of this? Gong and Hatfield and the North rotated headlining status on the tour; I don’t remember who closed the gig at Newcastle. I do remember finding both bands quite hard going, but that we enjoyed Gong’s silliness, and loved Squeezing Sponges Over Policemen’s Heads, from Camembert Electrique, which I am pretty sure they played. There were lots of wooly tea cosey hats and flying teapots in evidence.

Gong Alston Town Hall 11th November 2012

Gong Alston Town Hall 11th November 2012
Laura and I went to see Gong at Alston Town Hall last night. This was the first time I have seen Gong for almost 40 years, the last time being at Newcastle City Hall in 1974. This gig was originally scheduled to take place at Newcastle Academy, but low advance ticket sakes caused the promoter to cancel the gig. Not wanting to miss out on the chance to see Gong play in the North, a group of people from Alston decided to promote the gig themselves at Alston Town Hall. Alston is a small town in Cumbria and it is one of the highest towns in the country, at about 1,000 feet above sea level. So this meant a drive past Hexham and up a very windy road across the moors for Laura and I. The venue was, as we expected in the centre of the town, and was small, holding 200 people. This must be one of the smallest crowds that Gong have played to in some time. The gig had been sold out for some time, everyone tickets through a facebook page, and people had come from far and wide for this special Gong show. I’d spent some time on Sunday reading through the Gong mythology with Laura, so we knew a little of the story of Planet Gong, Radio Gnome and the PotHead Pixies. The band is fronted by founder Daevid Allen who looks great, and is as crazy as ever. Sadly the other founding member Gilli Smyth is not so well at the moment so couldn’t be with the band. Daevid encouraged us to all cry Miaow for Gilli, which he assured us would make her feel much better. Gong music still sounds very weird to me, and I can’t pretend to know the songs, although I do possess a copy of Camembert Electrique. The light show was fantastic, with various characters from the Gong story flying around the backdrop. The crowd loved it; lots of dancing and crowd reaction. Many congratulations to Janet and the rest of the crowd from Alston for putting this on. I wonder what their next project is?