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Planet Gong - Floating Anarchy Live 1977

Anarchy by name and by nature. The ever more complicated convolutions wracking the never stable Gong mothership through the mid-'70s had, by 1977, settled down sufficiently to at least allow listeners to discern which version of the band they most enjoyed listening to -- the increasingly jazz-inflected lineup helmed by Pierre Moerlen or the free-form mad machine led by founder Daevid Allen. Floating Anarchy, as you might expect, is the latter.

Though it is difficult to see how flying teapots, pothead pixies, and the witch Yoni's pussy ever made their way into the realms of the British new wave, Allen had, in fact, been soundly embraced by the punk congnoscenti -- his Here and Now project toured heavily, frequently playing alongside the youthful Fall, while links between the collective mentalities of Gong and the Crass crew were never hard to discern. Floating Anarchy Live 77 offers up a taste of all that period audiences would have encountered should they have strayed into Allen's reach -- a wildly jamming, freakishly chanting, and extraordinarily exciting melange of riffs and rhythms, led by the ever-distinctive voices of Allen and Gilli Smyth, and appealing as much for the singalong subversion of the band as for any sense of musical collusion with the prevalent punk scene. The very spirit of Gong -- ferociously reanimated in this latest lineup -- remained as wildly unpredictable and delightfully sub-underground as it ever was in the band's so-called prime, ensuring that Floating Anarchy Live 77, while it surely will shock anybody entering from the perspective of the Hillage/Blake days, remains archetypal Gong all the same. --- Dave Thompson

Here & Now were the archetypical hippie/punk crossover band and stalwarts of the 70s free festival scene. Although originally formed in 1974 it was at the Watchfield Free Festival of August 1975 where the Here & Now band truly came into being. They regrouped in March of the following year and re-captured the spirit of their first encounter as the “Primal Tapes”; two tracks from this session appearing on the “Gospel Of Free” CD. The summer of ’76 was spent touring as many free festivals as possible in the UK before heading off to tour France. At the beginning of 1977 and the end of this first French tour the band recorded a studio and live session for Radio France, and a track from this also appears on “Gospel Of Free”.

The news that Daevid Allen of Gong had been inspired to track down Here & Now after reading a review in the N.M.E. prompted the band to regroup again in the Summer of 1977, playing street parties in ‘celebration’ of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee (see picture below) and, naturally, more free festivals. At this point Twink, the original keyboard player left the band and was replaced by roadie Gavin Da Blitz.

Here & Now teamed up with Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth of Gong in 1977 to form Planet Gong. With a political agenda based around ‘floating anarchy’, Planet Gong combined the improvisational style of the early Here & Now with the quirky nature of Gong. The first ‘Floating Anarchy’ tour saw the band playing a mix of revamped Here & Now compositions plus Gong and Daevid Allen songs. But shortly before the start of the second ‘Floating Anarchy Free Tour’ in the Spring of 1978 Allen quit and Planet Gong reverted back to the Here & Now band. Later that year Allen explained his departure;

 "I flourished again in Here & Now. Basically my role was to be helped by their honesty, their positive warmth, and at the same time to get them a wider audience. The moment the work on that level was done, and I found the pressures of the other 7 billion things I was doing were pushing me back here [Deya], I had this feeling that it was the right time to now let them do it on their own"

The fruits of Allen’s work with Here & Now were released as the “Live Floating Anarchy 1977″ album plus a single, “Opium For the People”. These were recorded during the short tour of France that Planet Gong undertook at the end of 1977. The single was recorded in a Paris studio in both English and French; as for the album, Keith The Missile Bass recalls;

"It was recorded in Toulouse at a rather – ahem – anarchic gig – a 3,000 seater which had sold out weeks in advance, and thus found itself in a very difficult situation when another 3-4,000 people showed up and couldn’t get in… they got – well – in that very French way – rather irritated… The riot police showed up a little later and joined in by showing everyone just how good their tear gas and water cannons were… meanwhile the show was going on… It was recorded on an 8 track Tascam machine and the engineers (who, it must be said, had been plonked in a corner at the back of the stage itself) did an absolutely crap job… "

"Daevid Allen mixed and jiggery-poked his way through it in Deia – nursing (amongst other things) the bass sound from the crackling cellophane it originally was on tape to the relatively realistic sound on the album. Other miracles were not in short supply… "

The album was first released on BYG Records in France and Charly Records in the UK, the advances being used to fund the purchase of a PA and musicical equipment. Original copies of the album urged buyers to pay no more than £1.50 or better still to steal it, and had a black and white drawing on the cover with the suggestion that the owner coloured it in. The version issued by Charly saw the price increased to £2.25 – though the extra 75p did mean the cover came in colour. Since it’s release, “Live Floating Anarchy 1977″ has sold tens of thousands of copies, but the band members have never received any royalties.

Here & Now continued with a series of free tours in 1978 and 1979. No entrance fee was charged; concert goers were instead encouraged to make an appropriate donation to cover the costs of the show, feeding the band, and petrol money for the tour bus. £50 was the target for each nights collection. The second free tour, in the Summer of 1978, resulted in an album jointly issued with Alternative TV, one of the support bands, titled “What You See… Is What You Are”. Each band had one side of the LP, featuring tracks recorded on the tour. It was sold at gigs for £1.00 or could be bought in shops for £1.75. Although the sound quality is not great, it is well worth a listen not least because this is the only recording that features saxophonist Jack Neat who joined the band for a few months in early 1978.

Towards the end of 1978 Here & Now’s first studio album was released, “Give And Take”, plus an EP, recorded at the same time, “Dog In Hell”. Again, the advances on the album from Charly Records were used to fund a new tour bus, and a truck for equipment. The band then kicked off another free tour to promote the album, the fourth of that year, playing over 30 shows all over the UK. Just prior to the start of the tour they recorded a John Peel radio session following a chance encounter with him at an open air gig at Meanwhile Gardens. The Peel session captures the essence of Here & Now well. Two songs are from the “Give And Take” album and the ‘space punk’ style is much more in evidence than on the “Floating Anarchy” album, yet the importance of trying to capture the moment, the ‘here and now’, meant that two of the tracks were jammed ‘there and then’ in the Maida Vale studios – much to the surprise of the BBC engineers.

The intense touring schedule continued in 1979, resulting in a live album, “All Over The Show” and another studio single, “End Of The Beginning”. By this time the pressure of extensive touring in both the UK and Europe was beginning to take its toll. In the spring of 1979 the “choir of angels” also known as singers Suze Da Blooze and Annie Wombat, who had joined when Planet Gong was formed, left the band along with founder and drummer Kif Kif Le Batter. They were followed by another founder and guitarist Steffe Sharpstrings at the beginning of 1980. This left Keith Th‘ Bass and keyboardist Gavin Da Blitz as the remaining veterans of the Here & Now band of the 1970s – a band that probably played more free gigs than any band in history, that fused free-form psychedelic hippy rock with the attitude and raw sound of punk, and crossed paths with the ultimate pot head pixie, Daevid Allen of Gong.

Perhaps most importantly of all the Here & Now of the 70s challenged the music biz establishment by cutting out the ‘middle man’ between musicians and their fans. By selling albums to record companies they funded their own musical equipment, PA, and tour bus. This allowed them to do free tours with collections each night to cover running costs. The albums were then sold at gigs and through shops at roughly half the price of normal releases. Their ultimate goal was to establish an alternative free gig circuit run on a co-operative basis with a shared equipment pool – but this never happened. The politics of free tours and determination to challenge the music industry status quo connected with the punk ethos of the time, and Here & Now tours were typically accompanied with a host of punk bands on the bill. Many of these bands, such as The Fall and Mark Perry, went on to become the standard bearers and media darlings of the ‘alternative’ music scene of the early 80s. But Here & Now were never able to shake off the hippie tag to become anything more than the “crusties concert party”, garnering at best media indifference. (Kill Your Pet Puppy)

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