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Pierre Moerlen's Gong

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Pierre Moerlen's Gong Biography

Pierre Moerlen's Gong is a jazz fusion outfit which is very different from the first incarnation of Gong, the psychedelic space-rock act led by Daevid Allen. It is notable for the prominent use of mallet percussion, such as marimba, xylophone, and vibraphonefeatured in a rock/jazz context, making for a very distinctive and unusual sound that could have been classified as warmer and more melodic than most typical fusion could be, and is comparable to the sort of fusion-influenced output many bands on the Canterbury scene were producing at around this time.

Amid a flurry of line-up changes in the mid-1970s, including the departure of founding members Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth, Gong drummer Pierre Moerlen found himself in charge of the band and with two albums remaining on their Virgin recording contract.

Moerlen formed a new Gong line-up featuring his brother Benoit on mallet percussion, US-born bassist Hansford Rowe and a rotating cast of session guitarists, notably Allan Holdsworth, Mike Oldfield, ex-Rolling Stone Mick Taylor and Bon Lozaga.

They released two albums under the Gong moniker: Gazeuse! (called Expresso in North America) in 1976 and then Expresso II in 1978. Following the completion of the Virgin contract, Moerlen changed the name of the group to Pierre Moerlen's Gong. In early 1979, the group released Downwind, which was a more rock/pop flavoured album that featured occasional lead vocals by Moerlen himself and a cameo by Steve Winwood. Later in 1979 they released another album, Time is the Key, that took the band further into pop/rock territory. The live album Pierre Moerlen's Gong Live was released in 1980, followed later that year by another studio album Leave It Open. By this point, Pierre Moerlen's incarnation of Gong scaled back its activity greatly, not releasing another record until 1986's Scientology-inspired Breakthrough, featuring members of the Swedish band Tribute. The group quietly disbanded soon after.

Lozaga, Rowe and Benoit Moerlen went on to form Gongzilla in the early 1990s, releasing four albums to date, which are very much an extension of the percussive fusion that the original group brought to the fold, and they perform a mix of new and old live material going back to the Gazeuse/Expresso II period. Moerlen joined them for their 2002 European tour.

Pierre Moerlen died unexpectedly on 3 May 2005 of natural causes, while rehearsals for yet another line-up of Pierre Moerlen's Gong were underway.


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