|a ticket for this event - provided by Gianmaria|
|an ad for this event|
|an ad for this event - Rock En Stock No. 4|
|Tour:||1977 Strontium 90 / The Elevators performances|
|Support acts:||Strontium 90, lots of others...|
|Ticket prices:||35,00 - 40,00 Francs|
At the GONG festival each member of GONG could also perform with his current project. At Virtual Earth Studio Mike Howlett rehearsed (and recorded) with Stewart Copeland, Sting and Andy Summers in May to play here under the band name Strontium 90. This is the first time that Sting, Stewart and Andy play a live gig together in public. The Police do not play.
After the concert Andy tells Sting and Stewart in a cheap Algerian restaurant that he's not interested in continuing with the Strontium 90 project. Instead he'd like to join The Police, but as a replacement for Henry Padovani.
Phil Sutcliffe's report about this festival was published in SOUNDS on June 11, 1977. This copyrighted piece of writing is presented here, but is not to be used elsewhere without the author's permission.
GOING, GOING, GONG
THE HIPPY WHO REFUSED TO TAKE OFF HIS HEADBAND, GENTLEMAN PHIL 'FAR OUT PEACE AND LOVE' SUTCLIFFE CROSSES THE CHANNEL AND COMES BACK BURBLING ABOUT GNOMES, PIXIES AND STRONTIUM 90. (Yeah, that's what we thought)
As we climbed aboard the coach outside Brighton station the skyline ahead was dominated by a huge, illuminated colour picture of Stonehenge. Far out eh? Exceppt that one of the mystical old stones has been replaced by a 20-packet of Benson and Hedges burnished in the golden Salisbury sunset.
It was 10 o'clock on Friday evening. Our charabanc shifted into gear and grumbled off down the road to Newhaven.
I was just thinking I'd got comfortable and might get some sleep when my right knee started to complain that there was an ashtray digging into it. So I pulled a foot out from where it was wedged behind a hold-all, put my left arm under my right ear, leant against Gaylee and...
As you can imagine people who will travel from all over England for the privilege of paying £21 to go to Paris by bus and watching a 10-hour Gong reunion concert while going about 60 hours without seeing a bed are a dedicated crew. The first pulse of the engine did not launch them into vigorous choruses from 'Rugby Songs Vols. 1-10'. Instead somebody slotted Hillage's 'Fish Rising' into a cassette player.
Some 50 souls were packed aboard, all pixie hats and crescent moons, gnome men and fairy ladies, velvet embroidered jackets, draped with blankets gaucho style.
Jim Sumerfield, the co-organiser, apologised for the increased price of the project. Originally they had intended to borrow a squatters community bus, then decided that arrival at the destination was a higher priority than cheapness and went to National - through this did have one serious drawback which I'll come to later.
...I was nearly dropping off when I realised that the blood supply to my right leg was completely cut off and paralysis imminent. I got my knees up and round under my chin until...
EARLY AFTERNOON in Paris. The huge circus marquee of the Hippodrome was nearly full to its 5,000 capacity already, airless and sweltering.
Some of the more materially-minded set up shop displaying baskets full of rings, beads, wooden pipes and sandwiches. The crowed were mainly in their mid to late twenties and not at all weird though maybe they used to be. A handful wore pointed hats three-feet high. So many of them were smoking dope you only had to breathe to get high.
One guy who maybe couldn't afford the elaborate pipes sported all round him had stuck an ordinary briar through the bottom of a plastic mineral water bottle and was gleefully inhaling through the nozzle - a litre at a time. I must have looked like somebody else because I kept on getting accosted with "C'est vous qui a beaucoup de shit?". Non, guv. Full of shit in one sense I may be but I've never even smoked Woodies.
There wasn't a gendarme in sight all day, by the grace of luck, Ra or the Coummunist Party who were involved in the promotion - I don't know.
...it felt almost right but then I got this searing pain in the small of my back...
Tim Blake opened the show. I'd never seen him before and was surprised by the flashiness of his white satin trousers and huge floppy multi-colour beret. Gaylee observed something else apparently large occupying a prominent place in said tight pants but I told her that was the sort of thing one recorded about Freddie Mercury, not about Gong persons.
He began to play his synths and most peaceful and relaxing it was, classical mainlines with a thrumming as of cellos and sometimes Jorge Pinchevsky on violin adding a more humane note of melancholy.
Tim, fluent in French like all the Gonglais, retired with a cheery "J'ai entendu que'n Angleterre on 'sniff le glue'. Moi je renifle les fleur" and walked off with a vase of irises from the front of the stage. "This is the greatest gig I've ever seen, man" he said.
Back-stage there was no security and no security problem, no dividing line between performers and fans and no inconsiderate abuse of that freedom. Good vibes - you remember them?
SOME THOUGHTFUL soul unlaced the roof of the big top, a breeze sucked the foul air out and Didier came on to play one long song of unique strangeness, letting the flute float then breaking off into incantations in his own bizarre variants on French, English and Gnome. My attention wavered but whenever it returned there was Steve Hillage playing this astonishing jazzy rhythm acoustic. He was driving, Didier was wandering. Lord knows what the Bloom will do now he's no longer with Gong but, whatever, he will be loved for his eccentric charm, a musical Marcel Marceau.
...so I sat upright and Gaylee tried laying down across me which would have been fine except that I gradually became aware of her shoulder digging into my hip-bone like a chisel...
Avver art, this is seven bands I'm trying to cover here. A bit of News In Brief is called for: the fine Gong 'Shamal' band were hot, even raunchy; the fine Pierre Moerlin's new band played dlassy and rather disappointing MOR. Rapturous response to both by the home crowd.
But in the middle of all that the most inappropriate set of the day introduced the world to what might just be a GREAT rock band, Strontium 90.
Stewart Copeland, ex-Curved Air, still of Police, checked out the crowd and remarked in amiable mockery "Hey, it's the real brown rice scene man, far out." Tim Blake, who is quite partial to brown rice I imagine, introduced Strontium 90 to a friend this way: "C'est le rock'n'roll Anglais tres fort. Mais on n'est pas ici pour critiquer." Just as well.
Mike Howlett is Strontium's Gong connection and he has obviously decided on the direct approach this time round. Like grab them by the hair, ears, throat and goolies all at once. Even some committed Teapot freaks were shaking their heads.
The WOW is the dynamic double (no hyphen) bass from Mike and Sting (vibrant singer and writer also moonlighting from Police, ex-Last Exit). An idea I've been craving to see tried out and it works like a manpowered earthquake.
In horseracing terms I feel like the trainer who discovered Red Rum. It's only rock'n'roll, it's just another nag, but then again sometimes you find a thoroughbred.
Mike said cockily to the delighted / puzzled crowd: "C'est autre chose huh? Ca bouge."
..."Gaylee" I said, "Could you just move your shoulder over a bit. Aargh! NOT that way..."
WHICH BRINGS me back to the hippiest event of all: Mr Daevid Allen and Euterpe. Very tall, bearded, robed, stoop-shouldered, with whimsicality in every aspect of his demeanour he seemed an Old Testament prophet who defied the fire and brimstone rules and got into fun. The electric guitar slung round his neck was the craziest anachronism.
But his 'banana' monologue and song showed there's more to daftness than meets the eye. The 'Je ne fumes jamais des banannes' speech was a superb send-up of a morality which indulges freely in drugs such as alcohol and rampant greed for money and possessions yet is so unselfcritical that it can base its self esteem on condemning 'degenerates' who smoke bananas (i.e. pot etc).
The way he swooped off from this heaviness into a reggae version of 'Banana Moon' was a brilliant piece of balancing between hard satire and whimsy. "A lovely little number, " said 'Gaylee who had her hand down the front of my jockey shorts at this stage so I wasn't disposed to argue.
WELL IT should have been Gong but that's where the difficulty with the National bus company arose. they insisted we should leave at 11:45 to catch the boat. The fact that the original Gong, the ultimate purpose of our coming, were not even on stage by then did not move them at all.
And so it was that I heard Steve Hillage's ever more magnificent guitar playing the rich red chords of 'Lunar Musick Suite' from the street outside the Hippodrome. I made one last dash inside and saw that Daevid, Didier, Tim , Steve, Mike and Pierre were indeed on stage playing 'Camembert Electrique' but with the threat of being lost in France hanging over me I had to run for it. All but two of the pilgrims made it back to the coach.
For the record these are the available plans of the Gong people. Steve and Miquette are heading for the States to record with the Tonto synthesiser wizards. Daevid is expected to do some work with English free festival regulars Here And Now ('They make Hawkwind look like the Halle' - a Critic). Pierre Moerlin will keep the name of Gong alive with his new line-up, including Mireille Bauer and Jorge (in fact they had a gig at Colmar the next day with Police as support). Howlett hopes to develop Strontium 90. Tim Blake will continue to play solo gigs like the Stonehenge festival and wait for a deal.
"...and not there, that's my gammy knee, oiuch! and that's my funny bone, and don't touch me there, and - oh no we're back to that bloody Benson and Hedges advert again..."
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