Daevid Allen

A Homage to Daevid Allen (Co Founder of Soft Machine and GONG)

Text by Bruce Gallanter (Downtown Music Gallery, February 25th, 2022)

“Atlantis” Written & Recorded by Donavon
Released as a single & on LP in 1968

The continent of Atlantis was an island
Which lay before the Great Flood
In the area we now call the Atlantic Ocean
So great an area of land
That from her western shores
Those beautiful sailors journeyed
To the South and the North Americas with ease

In their ships with painted sails
To the East, Africa was a neighbour
Across a short strait of sea miles
The great Egyptian age is but a remnant
Of The Atlantian culture
The antediluvian kings colonized the world
All the Gods who play in the mythological dramas
In all legends, from all lands, were from fair Atlantis

Knowing her fate
Atlantis sent out ships to all corners of the Earth
On board were the Twelve
The poet, the physician, the farmer, the scientist, the magician
And the other so-called Gods of our legends
Though Gods they were
And as the elders of our time choose to remain blind
Let us rejoice, and let us sing, and dance
And ring in the new Hail, Atlantis!

Way down below the ocean
Where I wanna be, she may be
Way down below the ocean
Where I wanna be, she may be
Way down below the ocean
Where I wanna be, she may be

My antediluvian baby
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I wanna see you someday
My antediluvian baby
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
My antediluvian baby

Way down below the ocean
Where I wanna be, she may be
My antediluvian baby, I love you, girl
I wanna see you someday
My antediluvian baby, oh, yeah
I wanna see you someday
Oh, my antediluvian baby

   I was very fortunate to have been selected to do an exchange semester in London from September 1975 to January 1976, while I was attending Glassboro State College in south Jersey (from 1972-1976). When the school selection committee interviewed me & asked why I wanted to do this exchange, I said that it was my goal to go to London to interview members of a certain music scene for future music magazines or a book on the Canterbury Scene. They could tell that I was determined to go. While in London, I attended many concerts almost every other night and did a number of interviews: Mike Ratledge, Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper, John Marshall, Elton Dean, Keith Tippett, Roy Babbington, Dave Stewart, Phil Miller and Steve Hillage. I also met with & spoke to Fred Frith, Chris Cutler, Lol Coxhill, Gerry Fitzgerald and others. I wanted to interview Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers & Karl Jenkins, but didn’t have the opportunity to do so then. A few years later, Daevid Allen (with NY Gong), Fred Frith, Chris Cutler & Peter Blegvad all played at the Zu Manifestival in September of 1978 at Intermedia Theatre in NY. This was their time on stage in the USA for many of the aforementioned musicians. A couple of weeks after that festival, I finally interviewed Daevid Allen at the Zu Loft, the interview lasted several hours. It was then that I learned quite a bit about the early history of Soft Machine.

   Daevid Allen told me that he was a stowaway on a banana boat from Australia (1963?), hoping to get to England to become part of the British Beat Poetry Scene. He was caught as a stowaway, thrown off the boat & ended up in Majorca, an island off the coast of Spain. This is also where Robert Wyatt’s mother had a summer home, where Robert stayed as well as the author/philosopher Robert Graves, who was also a tutor to Mr. Wyatt.

Mr. Allen & Robert Wyatt became good friends and started to collaborate. Daevid Allen was a fine poet, singer & had a large collection of modern jazz LP’s which he played for the early members of the Softs. Out of the ashes of a Canterbury band called the Wilde Flowers, Soft Machine was born around 1966 with Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers, Mike Ratledge & Robert Wyatt.

The original quartet recorded two singles in 1967 and toured Europe, and became popular in England, France and Spain. Soft Machine were managed by Chas Chandler, former bassist of the Animals, who also discovered Jimi Hendrix, brought him to England and managed him. In 1968, Soft Machine were about to tour in the US, opening for the Jimi Hendrix Experience and also record their first album while they were there.

When returning from Europe, Daevid Allen was denied entry to the UK because he had no Visa and also because he talked in interviews about the positive aspects of doing LSD (or acid as it was then known), thus was unwanted by the powers that be. Soft Machine became a trio and toured the US without Mr. Allen, with Allen ending up back in Majorca, as well as in Paris during the student riots era of 1968.

Mr. Allen moved to his new home which was called the Bananamoon Observatory, doing acid and experimenting at length, writing songs. He had a vision during one of his trips where he met the descendants of Atlantis who told him about a secret place, later known as the Planet GONG. They also taught him about the Cosmic Drone which was created by rubbing a thin piece of metal on a guitar string, which came to be known as “glissando” playing.

The ideas that Daevid Allen learned from his/our Atlantis ancestors evolved over time and became a Cosmic Philosophy which was the center of the Gong Mythology and mostly everything else that Daevid did throughout his long, wild, free-form, ultra-creative life.

   Whenever I hear the above song, “Atlantis”, I think about this long lost civilization buried beneath the ocean and wonder how much of their influence is still with any of us earthlings or landlubbers today. I find this song to be joyous and a great way to set our imaginations free to consider what is true and what is not, where certain ideas come from. “Whose Myth are you..?” is what the Prophet Sun Ra used to say. Think about it. Whose myth are you?