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6 Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, Volume 23, No 1 (Fall 2008)

THE POT HEAD PIXIES:


DRUG UTOPIAS IN THE MUSIC
OF GONG, 1968-19741

JONATHYNE BRIGGS

Abstract. The work of musical group Gong illustrates the connection be-
tween drugs and utopian thought following the failure of the protests of
1968. In their lyrics and interviews, Gong suggested the transformative
and revolutionary power of drug use to overturn Western society. More
than a political statement, drug use was preached as a method of mental
liberation. The band’s promotion of psychedelics and marijuana connect-
ed with many of the ideas operating within the French counterculture, in-
cluding anti-psychiatry, science fiction, and personal liberation. For Gong,
the French counterculture could achieve success through drugs. While
personal enlightenment of everyone would have the proper psychology to
create a new society. The group’s recordings between 1972 and 1974 of-
fered their fullest vision of the new worlds available through drugs. How-
ever, the drug utopias painted in the music of Gong eventually faded as the
group abandoned its revolutionary project by the mid-1970s due to politi-
cal pressure in France and disillusionment within the group.

One of the most important voices in the French countercultural scene in the
wake of the failed student uprising in 1968 was an Australian-born iconoclast,
Daevid Allen. His progressive rock group Gong exalted drugs as a method of
providing spiritual enlightenment, revealing a utopian vision of the good soci-
ety to come. In 1968, young people throughout the world openly questioned
the assumptions of their respective societies. Whether in the so-called First,
Second or Third World, youths rose in protest throughout the year, taking
to the streets in Paris, Prague, Turin, Chicago, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro
and elsewhere. Historical studies have emphasized the “revolutionary” na-
ture of these actions, although not necessarily clarifying what revolutionaries
had hoped to achieve.2 Among many of these works the interpretation of
“1968” as a cultural revolution within various societies has become a given.
In France, youths briefly aligned with other social groups in an attempt to
re-imagine postwar society outside of consumerism and to protest against the
government of Charles de Gaulle.3 But similar to responses elsewhere, the
protests in France came to an abrupt end with the success of pro-Gaullist
supporters rallying to a government threatened by the debilitating strikes that
Jonathyne Briggs is an Assistant Professor of History at Indiana University North-
west.
SHAD (Fall 2008): 6-23
Briggs: Drug Utopias in the Music of Gong, 1968-1974 7

paralyzed the nation’s capital. The revolution promised by the momentum of


the student movement evaporated. Still, social and cultural ripples manifested
themselves in France during the 1970s as for many French young people “la
lutte continue [the struggle continues]” in the form of cultural challenges.4
The utopian currents that propelled much of the activity in France did not
ebb but rather reoriented themselves toward cultural autonomy and away from
the traditional concepts of class conflict, which had dominated much of the
rhetoric of the students in the Latin Quarter during May 1968.5 Rather than
attempting to overthrow society in its entirety, French activists after the events
of 1968 addressed more specific questions of social change in the realms of
second-wave feminism, homosexual rights, anti-nuclear movements, and en-
vironmental awareness campaigns.6 Such movements were energized by the
liberating impulses manifested in the utopian images of students’ actions and
words. Utopianism constitutes both the desire to reshape society by address-
ing the disparity “between experience and expectation” and the presence of
the possibility of doing so.7 The utopianism of ’68 – “Be realistic: Demand
the Impossible!” – continued to reverberate throughout the French countercul-
ture in the immediate aftermath of May.
The French counterculture, however, was neither monolithic nor in agree-
ment concerning the image of utopia that was to be created in the seventies. In
many ways, it was not specifically French in character either, as it was deeply
influenced by the ideas, activities and cultural expressions of other groups
elsewhere.8 Following the restoration of authority by President Charles de
Gaulle on May 30, when he dissolved the National Assembly and called for
new elections, the French counterculture took two main approaches to car-
rying on the struggle of ’68. One broad group heavily influenced by Mao-
ism rejected the “hedonism” of sixties’ culture and called for a purification
of Marxist thought. These people hoped to instigate a workers’ revolt, and
thereafter a revolution, by placing student activists in factories to reveal to
workers the exploitation taking place in industrial society.9 Another broad
group within the counterculture sought to challenge the norms of “bourgeois”
society through cultural transgressions, using music, sexuality and drugs to ar-
ticulate its hopes for the society to come. Examining the Dutch counterculture
of this period, Thomas Jørgensen notes the division between the reinvention
of traditional forms of politics (the New Left) and the reorientation to chal-
lenging traditional forms of aesthetics (the Freak Left).10 And in France, the
Freak Left was just as vibrant a movement as the New Left, as evidenced by
the appearance of Actuel Magazine in 1968.
Founded by Jean-François Bizot, Actuel focused on the politics of lifestyle,
covering music, philosophy, and politics and offering translations of Ameri-
can countercultural staples such as the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comic
or the works of the Beats.11 Actuel provided a guide for the French Freak
Left, helping to define its aspirations to be an alternative to the New Left:
“Traditional Leftism is in its last moments… experimentation has replaced the
8 Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, Volume 23, No 1 (Fall 2008)

strategy of certainty.”12 Drug use was one of the methods of experimentation


and political challenge advocated by the Freak Left,13 and through the efforts
of Actuel the French counterculture found a voice to articulate the value and
power of drugs in realizing the hopes of ’68: the musical group Gong.
Gong was a rotating cast of musicians led by Daevid Allen. Gilli Smith
(from Wales) and Didier Malharbe (from France) were also primary mem-
bers of Gong, with other musicians coming and going throughout the group’s
career. Allen chose to join the French countercultural scene in 1969 after a
vision came to him while in Spain. Gong became a cornerstone of the French
progressive rock scene of the early 1970s,14 but Gong provided a unique voice
in France due to their unabashed emphasis on drug use as an expression of
utopianism.15 Because of the cosmopolitan nature of the group, Gong brought
important outside influences into the French counterculture, specifically the
American Beat Poets, who had been less influential in France than elsewhere
in Western Europe, and the psychedelic scene of late sixties’ London.16 The
Beats were advocates of the transformative powers of drugs, to be used as a
method of changing the mental paralysis of postwar Western society.17 In their
recordings between 1969 and 1973, Gong focused on drug use in their lyrics,
especially those that made up the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, as a method
of creating a new society. In this sense, drugs were offered not just as a form
of cultural resistance but also as a pathway to enlightenment for all of soci-
ety. Gong also exemplified the playful spirit of the founders of Dutch Freak
Left, the Provos, as the group sang of a fantasia of alien worlds powered by
drugs and full of beings hoping to save mankind. Gong’s mirthful approach
to revolution contrasted sharply with the more serious efforts of other French
progressive groups such as Magma, Heldon, and Ange.18 It was this combina-
tion of playfulness and spirituality that allowed Gong’s utopianism to resonate
in French counterculture trying to create society that matched its desires.
But while the events of May inspired many young people to challenge the
French state and society, they also energized the French state and its response
to perceived threats to the social order. A prime example of disorder and
lawlessness, in the eyes of lawmakers and technocrats, was the proliferation
of drug use among young people, often conflated with the events of ’68.19
Legislation drawn up in the Assemblée Nationale in 1970 criminalized most
drug use and even the glorification of drugs.20 Gong did glorify drug use in
a not-so subtle manner in their work, seeing drugs as a part of a “revolution”
to create a new world, a sentiment that echoed May ’68. In preaching the use
of cannabis through metaphors of space travel and alien encounters, Gong
expanded on the utopianism of a French counterculture, as expressed by the
Freak Left, which desired to remake culture ultimately into something more
democratic and liberating.
Briggs: Drug Utopias in the Music of Gong, 1968-1974 9

IMPORTING DRUGS
The continued fear of youth unrest had led the Gaullist state, under the lead-
ership of President Georges Pompidou after 1969, to seek expanded powers
to control drug trafficking. Seeing youths as the primary consumers of illicit
drugs, the state had already used a number of existent laws to thwart the ability
of young people to assemble in large crowds by canceling several music festi-
vals between 1969 and 1972, often citing concerns of illegal activities.21 Prior
to 1970 drug possession had not been not a crime, but the 31 December law
explicitly defined legitimate medical uses of drugs and effectively outlawed
all other uses, allowing municipal authorities to crack down on youth unrest.22
While blocking the importation of drugs into France – an effort famously
dramatized in William Friedkin’s film The French Connection (1971) – was
the main idea of the 31 December 1970 law, drugs, whether alcohol, tobacco,
marijuana, heroin, and caffeine, already easily traversed the threshold between
the industrialized and developing world.23 The government of Georges Pom-
pidou hoped to use this measure to keep young people under greater control
under the rubric of “L’ordre moral,” which in turn strengthened the symbolic
value of drug use in the French underground’s anti-establishment campaign.
The increased prohibition of marijuana, opium, and hallucinogens forced drug
trade underground and linked it with Western counterculture.24
Although illegality further imbued drug use with the aura of rebellion for
Western youth, even in prior to drug prohibition, young people during the
sixties were interested in illicit substances – marijuana and LSD – as the so-
called hippie subculture in France grew.25 The musical analogue of hippie
culture – psychedelia – had also made inroads into French culture during the
1960s, evident in a number of examples from French pop music from the
period, including France Gall’s “Bébé requin [Baby shark]” and the 5 Gentle-
men’s “LSD-25,” as well as the mid-sixties’ work of Serge Gainsbourg, Mi-
chel Polnareff, and Antoine.26 Perhaps the most obvious sign of psychedelia’s
growing popularity was that the iconic French pop star Johnny Hallyday had
clothed himself in hippie fashions and recorded a French-language version of
Scott MacKenzie’s famous anthem “San Francisco” in 1967.27 Henri Laproux,
proprietor of the famous Golf Drouot nightclub in Paris, also noted the ap-
pearance of hippies in France: “They [hippies] did not need to travel to collect
their folkloric trinkets: the baba panoply can found at the Puces [the Paris flea
market]. Behind this naïve and touristic fantasy, there were drugs.”28 But
psychedelia was more than drugs and fashion. It sought to replicate and create
new modes of perception to represent the transformations in postwar Western
society and to promote even further changes.29 While the music went silent
during the events of 1968, the presence of psychedelia would be an important
aspect of the emergence of the French counterculture after May.
It was by an odd series of events that Daevid Allen found himself in Paris
during the eruption of student protests and workers’ strikes that threatened the
perceived stability of Gaullist France. Allen, an Australian who had been liv-
10 Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, Volume 23, No 1 (Fall 2008)

ing in Great Britain since 1961, had come to France to perform as a member
of the progressive rock group The Soft Machine, in which he played guitar.
The Soft Machine was part of the burgeoning progressive rock scene in Can-
terbury, which was growing in significance within British popular music by
1967.30 The Soft Machine had also become an integral part of the London
psychedelic scene centered at the UFO club, as the band served as a replace-
ment house band once the previous act, Pink Floyd, had achieved commercial
success.31 Part of the bill of a psychedelic festival held in St. Tropez, the Soft
Machine was touring in France in the summer of 1967. But Allen was refused
re-entry into Britain when the group attempted to return, due to the British ef-
forts to bar foreign “militants.” Exiled in France, Allen was an alien in Paris
at a dangerous time, as French authorities were seeking to remove all foreign-
ers who appeared to have any sympathy with the students creating havoc in
the French capital. He subsequently left the city to escape the French police,
ending up in the village of Deya in the south of Spain.32 Allen quickly settled
into a quiet, communal life typical of the hippie subculture of the late 1960s.33
But while there, Allen had a vision that he was to return to France and use
his music to articulate a new consciousness of which the events of May had
offered only a brief glimpse. In recounting his experiences and revelations,
Allen set forth the ideals of Gong:
I was living in a turning point in the history of world consciousness. That I was
one of the many human – and thus flawed – instruments creating a cultural and
spiritual revolution… Absurdity was the ideal shield. Behind a smoke screen
of silliness the cosmic joker could infiltrate anywhere wile [sic] teaching un-
hindered the “heresy” of gutsy spiritual transformation. Clearly this was a time
when LP records could be glad-wrapped in code… as an initial preparation for
survival throughout the approaching world changes.

The revolutionary rhetoric of the French underground was evident in his


vision, which was to be combined with the idea of humor emphasized by the
Freak Left. Allen also stressed the need “to open the potential in people for
self actualization,” which he postulated could be achieved through enlighten-
ment on several levels.34 Via popular music, Allen hoped to usher in a new
form of thinking. But he needed support to secure his place in the French
counterculture, and here was where Actuel helped. As part of its broader as-
sault on French cultural norms, Actuel was an important supporter of a record
label, Byg Actuel, which specialized in American experimental jazz exempli-
fied by artists such as the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Don Cherry and Archie
Shepp.35 When Allen returned to France, Byg released his first recordings as
the Banana Moon LP, a set that contained a number of songs that humorously
referenced Allen’s drug experiences. But Allen had not articulated the view of
drugs as a method of higher consciousness on this recording, nor had the group
formed yet, until Allen, Smyth, and Malherbe joined several French musicians
for a performance at a jazz festival in Amougies, sponsored by Actuel.36
Allen was also greatly inspired by the American Beat Poets, who had
Briggs: Drug Utopias in the Music of Gong, 1968-1974 11

arrived in Britain with the Beat Poetry reading at the Royal Albert Hall in
1965.37 Allen presaged the Beats’ effect on the European counterculture in his
collection of poetry from 1964, If Words Were Birds, which shares the playful
aesthetic of Beat poetry.38 Gong embraced the experimental attitudes of the
Beats concerning drugs, especially psychedelics. Ginsberg and other Beats
praised these as “truth drugs,” as a method of self-discovery.39 Acid ingestion
would help to move the revolution in France by forcing the counterculture into
self-examination, and for the Freak Left drug intake would help to create the
atmosphere that would allow new social order to germinate.40 Gong played an
important role in articulating these ideas within the framework of pop music,
which provided another “path of revolution” according to the band.41
The group’s initial recording, 1969’s Magick Brother/ Mystic Sister, reveals
Gong’s spiritual concerns and introduces critical elements of their mythology,
which would develop into a more sophisticated picture of utopianism. For
example, “Gong Song” presents for the first time the Pot Head Pixie, an alien
whose insights come from drug-induced visions:
Once upon a time on a far off planet
There was a little green man who came down by comet
I first met him in a London taxi
Told me his name was Mr. Pot Head Pixie
Told me he came from a planet called Gong
Sang me this small green song
Why do you feel so good?
Why do you feel so bad?
Why do you think you should?
Why do you ask your dad?
Because you never notice where you really really come from
You never noticed who you really really are
You never know just who’s been fooling you
You know I never thought that all that acid I brought
Would make it seem so strange in here42
The character of the Pot Head Pixie challenged the assumptions of Western
society and its methods of self discovery. The Pot Head Pixie’s alienation and
confusion echoed other psychedelic songs, and “Gong Song” questions the
modes of perception, a defining characteristic of 1960s psychedelia.43 “Gong
Song” asserts that the assumed reality of Western society can be easily (and
beneficially) disturbed through drug intake, and in the song the Pot Head Pixie
emphasizes this point to show how Allen (and the vicarious listener) should
not accept normality. Expressing the unusual nature that lay beneath quotid-
ian life was one of the major ideas of psychedelic music, a conclusion often
understood under the influence of hallucinogens.44 In the context of the song,
by altering one’s perception drugs played an important role in illuminating
what the groups believed to be the specific causes of alienation in modern cul-
ture, with the joke being that an alien is telling Allen this information. “Gong
Song” signaled the direction that Gong would take in referencing drugs in
their lyrics – from being a humorous detour to being a path to transcendence
– with the evocation of transcendence revealing the connection between drugs
12 Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, Volume 23, No 1 (Fall 2008)

and utopianism in the music of Gong.


While developing their own material, Gong was increasingly becoming
part of the French music scene, evidenced by their extensive touring and their
contributions to other musicians’ recordings. For example, Gong worked with
the French musician Dashiell Hedayat on his 1971 album Obsolete. Hedayat
bridged the divide between the chansonnier tradition of song poets and rock
music. He was also one of the first popular musicians in France to integrate
themes of drug use explicitly into his lyrics.45 The directions on the record
sleeve of Obsolete made his embrace of drug culture obvious: “Warning: This
record must be played as loud as possible, must be heard as stoned as impos-
sible.”46 The entire Gong collective at that juncture – Allen, Smyth, Malherbe,
drummer Pip Pyle, and bassist Christian Tritsch – served as Hedayat’s back-
ing band, providing their psychedelic sound. Hedayat, like Allen, drew great
influence from the Beat Poets, to the point of inviting William Burroughs to
“sing” on the track “Long Song for Zelda,” during which one of the voices in
the background asks repeatedly, “why are we so high?”47 However, Hedayat
left the question unanswered and sang only of the connection between drugs
and escapism in his music.
Obsolete solidified Gong’s musical association with the French under-
ground but marked a point of divergence in Gong’s approach to the meaning
of drugs.48 No longer satisfied with challenging the perception of society,
Gong sought to show how utopia was within reach, if the freaks could just
listen to the little green men.

ALIENS AND UTOPIA


In 1972, Gong released its second album, Camembert Electrique, a collection
of jazz-rock pieces that fully introduced the concept of the Radio Gnome In-
visible, the otherworldly voice of the Planet Gong. With static and feedback
in the background, a strange, phased voice intones the first transmission of
Radio Gnome to Earth: “Good evening/ Emitting from Planet Gong/ Radio
Gnome Invisible/ Direct from the Planet Gong.”49 Radio Gnome was the sig-
nal sent to Earth by the Pot Head Pixies and could only be received by certain
humans who had expanded their minds. The Pot Head Pixies were seeking
out enlightened humans in order to help them save their civilization. Allen
elaborated the story further in a 1971 interview in Actuel: “The planet Gong is
found in another galaxy and is very similar to Earth. It is menaced by destruc-
tion [from outside] so its inhabitants, who are more spiritually advanced than
humans, are going to come here.”50 The portrayal of aliens as compassionate
beings was common in the French counterculture; for example, Magma cre-
ated an elaborate mythology of an alien civilization known as Kobaïa rivaling
Gong’s in complexity and the 1973 Cannes Festival celebrated the animated
film La planète sauvage, which used an alien civilization, the Traags, to dis-
cuss the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia.51 In this case, the Pot Head
Pixies had come to Earth for help in exchange for spiritual enlightenment.
Briggs: Drug Utopias in the Music of Gong, 1968-1974 13

Although Camembert contained several songs directly and obviously ad-


dressing drugs – “I Bin Stoned Before” and “Fohat Digs Holes in Space”
“Radio Gnome” opened the band’s lyrical vista to a wider science fiction fan-
tasy that combined humor with utopian thought. In light of the work that
would follow, Allen’s lyrics on “I Bin Stoned” perhaps illustrate his growing
dissatisfaction with merely discussing his hallucinatory experiences: “I’ve
been stoned before/ In Saint John’s Wood crematorium/ I fell down with bore-
dom.”52 And on “Fohat” Allen reiterates the notion of drugs as a method of
interrogating reality:
I gotta take pills to kill ma pain
To kill my pleasure I blow ma brain
I get so high I fall down again
What’s happenin’ man?
You don’t know… I gotta smoke some grass to help me see…
Hallucinating freedom calls
What’s freedom babe?
You don’t know.
Yet in the group’s successive output, Gong sought to describe more than
just altered perceptions or even merely escapism. They preached of the al-
chemical potential of drugs to create an entirely new world, symbolized by
the benevolent aliens of Planet Gong. The record’s humorousness and Gong’s
recognition of “things going on in France” at the time were noted in reviews,
but reviewers tended focused on the music.53 But by closing Camembert Elec-
trique with a brief reprise of “Radio Gnome,” “Gnome the Second,” Gong set
up the narrative for its next three albums that would serve as the code Allen
had envisioned for rebuilding society.

INSANITY AS UTOPIA
While drugs provided a vehicle to transport people to a different mental space,
the ultimate goal in the advocacy of their usage was to reconstitute the idea of
normalcy. By undermining the cohesion of social norms, new social norms
could theoretically be introduced as part of the ongoing revolution in France.
Yet the French counterculture found another possible avenue for reconfig-
uring normalcy: the anti-psychiatry movement. Gong’s next album, Flying
Teapot, explicitly dealt with the theme of mental normalcy. The group was
interested in not only exploring the meaning of sanity, again a common theme
in psychedelia, but also in challenging the scientific notions of psychology as
a pathway to normative behavior. Instead, Gong asserted that drugs should
serve as the therapy for seventies’ France.
The relationship between psychotropic drugs, such as LSD, and mental
health was one of the initial focal points of research conducted by the United
States’ government in the 1950s, resulting in the mental health boom in the
postwar period.54 Drugs were believed to offer a form of treatment for men-
tal patients to create normative behavior to combat schizophrenia and other
disorders. However, for many leftist philosophers in France, the phenomenon
of schizophrenia became a framework for understanding society and the prob-
14 Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, Volume 23, No 1 (Fall 2008)

lems that arose from capitalism during the late 1960s. Intellectuals as diverse
as Jacques Lacan, Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze employed criticized psy-
choanalytic theory as a method of creating the so-called “natural” conditions
of the modern world.55 Indeed, Guattari’s and Deleuze’s 1972 work Anti-Oe-
dipus sketched out many of the themes concerning the vitality of schizophre-
nia as a method of dealing with the prohibitions of modern society and drew
connections between anti-psychiatry and the ideals of ’68, especially in their
emphasis on the importance of unfettered desire.56 These various philosophi-
cal strands coalesced into the anti-psychiatry movement of the early 1970s.
Centered on the experimental practices as the Clinique de la Borde, the anti-
psychiatry movement valorized the experience of mental patients as healthy
and normal responses to modern society. Many of the intellectuals of the
period – Jean-Paul Sartre, Foucault, and Guattari – saw the revolutionary ele-
ment of play at work in the experiences of mental patients, again reinforcing
the link between mental states and the utopian spirit of May.57 The cultural
underground embraced such views and sought to politicize the treatment of
mental patients in French institutions.58 In an interview, Allen and Malherbe
both challenged the classification of schizophrenia as a disease and instead
asserted that it was a form of awareness on a different psychic level: “When
one is conscious of one’s own duality and one’s own contradictions, one then
accepts them.”59
This perception of the relativism and duality of mental health was rein-
forced on many songs on Flying Teapot. On “The Pot Head Pixies,” the nar-
rator tells Zero,
Beware
Be Aware
Somebody somewhere has got to be high
I am
You are
We are crazy.60
And on “Radio Gnome Invisible,” the alien transmission tells Zero to explore
his inner world and listen to the voices there:
Everything you think shows
Hanging round your head
Underneath your long hair
Tell me what you feel there
What’s that in the sky now?
Teapots can fly now
Voices in your head
Tell me what they said61
In this context, the Radio Gnome not only evokes the central concerns of
much of psychedelic music – understanding the inner world and its relation to
the human experience – but also points to the importance of the inner world
in preparing one for enlightenment. The Flying Teapots, the mystical devices
that can transport Zero to the Planet Gong, serves as a device for personal
exploration. But the inner world cannot be understood normally, as Radio
Briggs: Drug Utopias in the Music of Gong, 1968-1974 15

Gnome says to Zero:


If you want to know about love
Ask the wee geezer [Pot Head Pixie]
He can use telepathy
He can read your mind backwards.62
Mental health was another field on which the challenge to society would
be fought and drugs would serve as an important weapon. Also implicit in
the song’s lyric is the concept of community, that others experience similar
sensations through drug use. As part of its rejection of Western norms, Gong
saw schizophrenia as an element of enlightenment and simultaneously (and
humorously) linking it to the paranoia commonly associated with cannabis
use, insanity as utopia.
Flying Teapot emphasized the relativity of normalcy through an investiga-
tion of various mental states. The next record in the trilogy, Angel’s Egg,
provided detailed images of the world visualized by Gong.63 Zero would ex-
perience a new form of consciousness as a result of his encounter with a witch
and he abandoned human society to travel to the Planet Gong. Angel’s Egg
opens with “The Other Side of the Sky”, which finds Zero the Hero experi-
encing transcendence and ego loss on the streets of London. An eruption of
spiritual energy sends Zero to Planet Gong to meet face-to-face with the Pot
Head Pixies. As he arrived on Planet Gong, Zero’s confusion and disorienta-
tion increased in a haze of pot smoke. This soon gave way to clarity as a Pot
Head Pixie provided Zero with a plan for enlightenment:
Down the Oily Way you slide
Through the inner space you ride
Lots and lots of Pot-Head Pixies
Ridin’ round in Teapot Taxies
On the Planet Gong they say
If everything goes wrong today
Fill your Teapot up with tea
Come and take a ride with me
Down the oily way64
Zero could alleviate his problems by participating in the rituals of the Pot
Head Pixies. On Planet Gong, drug intake was part of ritualized behavior,
evident in the songs “Inner Temple” and “Outer Temple.” Through a cup of
“tea,” the Pot Head Pixies offer Zero insights into the beauty of rejecting nor-
malcy, as he makes the discovery of,
A perfect world inside my mind
I want to take you there
Smiling through your hair
That is why I sing this song
And why there is a band called Gong
Voices in our head are calling
Ringing bells and singing tales
Of how this world could be
During his journey Zero has an epiphany about love and utopia and acknowl-
edges the turned-on community as his true brethren ready to receive his mes-
16 Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, Volume 23, No 1 (Fall 2008)

sage and change the world: “Give a little wink/ You know just who the Pot
Head Pixies are.”65 Awakened to the true meaning of the Planet Gong – to
provide Earth with the tools for building a new society – Zero leaves the Plan-
et Gong at the end of Angel’s Egg with lessons learned from “pixies green/ that
sends us kisses in the brain.”66
The “insanity” of Planet Gong is offered as a healthy mode of living, suit-
able for rebuilding a human society that has failed to evolve after May ’68.
Mental play and the rejection of a static inner life serve as the greatest meth-
ods of discovering the meaning of life. Angel’s Egg is the fullest expression
of Gong’s utopianism, combining drugs, aliens, and insanity in an effort that
suggests the possibility and importance of overthrowing the existing men-
tal order. The anti-psychiatry movement in France had pushed itself to the
logical point of seeing patients at La Borde as a new form of revolutionaries,
but this perception was encountering the stiff resistance of the real medical
problems experienced by the patients at the clinic, showing how “craziness is
a dead end.”67 And by the album’s release, Allen’s decision to come to France
to challenge Western thinking was encountering greater resistance. Problems
with the group’s French record company had led Gong to release Angel’s Egg
on a British record label, Virgin Records. During the recording of the final
album of the trilogy, Gong would leave France and abandon the utopian ideas
that characterized their previous work.

DRUGS AND THE LIMITS OF UTOPIA


By the mid-seventies, the relationship between drugs and the European coun-
terculture had dramatically changed. The introduction of hard drugs, such
as heroin, transformed the nature of drug use from a communal to an indi-
vidualistic habit. In response, the counterculture fragmented and the earlier
responses of New Leftists calling for a rejection of drugs appeared prescient.68
Within the Gong community, a similar disenchantment was developing con-
cerning the relationship between drugs and a utopian community.
In the closing movement of the trilogy, Gong’s vision began to blur. While
Allen, Smyth, and Malherbe remained in the band, other group members
– guitarist Steve Hillage and percussionist Pierre Moerlen – asserted their
own aesthetic ideas for Gong, and as a result the album You consisted main-
ly of long instrumental passages between brief lyrical fragments of the Ra-
dio Gnome narrative. Moreover, the conclusion of the story illustrated the
group’s ambivalence towards the redemptive nature of drugs. The band had
increased its drug use during recording, which led to a rejection of the shorter,
pop song structures that had characterized the other parts of the trilogy. In-
stead, the group used more free-time rhythms and improvisation. In the story
Zero, renewed by the knowledge of peace and love that the Pixies gave him,
wished to broadcast his message through the most obvious means of seven-
ties culture: pop music. Again, this harkened back to Allen’s vision in Deya
in 1969, when he asserted importance of music in carrying the message of
Briggs: Drug Utopias in the Music of Gong, 1968-1974 17

revolution and change. But he was nagged with questions of existence and
truth, which paralyzed him. Again the Pot Head Pixies provided Zero with
the pathway to answers:
Question number one
If you’re a believer
what do you believe?
Why do you believe it?
Doncha [sic] ever wonder...
If it’s really true...
Do you? Question number two
Really... that’s the mystery
Let a pothead pixie tell you what to do
And this is what he’ll tell you...
If you gotta [sic] problem
to know who you are
Here now
this is what you do
Remember you are me
I am you
all of us together69
Allen’s lyric explored the meaning of truth, one of the fundamental spiri-
tual questions that Timothy Leary postulated in his work. Leary linked these
questions – What is life? Who is man? Who am I? How do I escape? – to the
religious potential of drugs in so much as he equated this search for answers
both as part of religious dogma and as a by-product of psychotropic experi-
ences. He mapped the ability of certain drugs to bring one to different states of
consciousness, which was precisely what Gong’s work implied.70 Leary was
influential in Britain with the establishment of the World Psychedelic Centre
in Chelsea, and Gong would bring his ideas into French music. Through the
character of the Pot Head Pixie, Gong argued that a new type of community
was needed to bring harmony to society and that drugs could quickly create
the proper environment.
Nevertheless, in the story Zero fails to spread the Pixies’ gospel to Earth.
Distracted in a pub, he misses the aliens’ signal that would have brought man-
kind together in harmony through Flying Anarchy. Downtrodden, Zero ques-
tions his revelations, and Radio Gnome tries to reassure him:
And if things don’t change for
better or worse
well man you must be dead
but cha don’t have to give up hope
and ya [sic] don’t have to give up dope
you just have to
be what you are my friends
today
that’s what the Octave Doctor says71
The failure to bring Flying Anarchy to Earth was not the end of Zero’s
visions of Planet Gong, but the group did close the trilogy here. Allen’s fi-
nal reference to dope obfuscated his own changing position on the potential
of drugs for creating a better society. The increased drug use among Gong
18 Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, Volume 23, No 1 (Fall 2008)

members eventually broke the group up shortly after the release of You in
1974. As Allen noted in a later interview, the slapstick ending of Zero missing
his opportunity because he is too stoned reflected his own changed stance on
drugs. When asked why he left Gong, Allen replied, “I wanted to stop smok-
ing dope and find a band who didn’t smoke [dope].”72 Despite the recognition
of Gong as a French analog to the American group the Grateful Dead,73 Gong
by this point had already left France due to its conservative atmosphere, which
continued after the 1974 election of the right-wing candidate Valéry Giscard
d’Estaing. Allen subsequently retired from music for a number of years, per-
forming sporadically during the late 1970s. The members who continued as
Gong moved away from the drug fantasia of the Radio Gnome narrative to-
wards instrumental jazz-rock, abandoning the utopianism of drugs.

The story of Gong’s French period between 1969 and 1974 illuminates a
nexus between utopian thought, the various intellectual strands of the French
counterculture, pop music, and above all the centrality of drugs in achieving
the ideas of ’68. The turn away from drugs in the music of Gong suggests
the abandonment of the utopianism of the early 1970s, which was a common
occurrence throughout the French left. Drugs had failed to light the path to
freedom or liberation in France despite the efforts of Gong to inject them
with greater social and political meanings. Although drug usage continued in
French popular music after the breakup of Gong in 1974, it lacked the ideal-
ism displayed in the lyrics of the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy. Drugs were
still a challenge to the system – French punks favored amphetamines – but
their usage was no longer linked to the creation of a better world.

Indiana University Northwest


jwbriggs@iun.edu

ENDNOTES
1. The author would like to thank David Courtwright for his comments and advice on early
drafts of this article, James B. Lane for sharing his knowledge of the American counterculture
and his editing skills, the readers of the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs for their critiques of
previous drafts, and W. Scott Haine for his suggestion to write it in the first place. All translations
from the French (unless otherwise stated) are by the author. Any and all errors belong solely to
him.
2. The works on the events of 1968 range from autobiographical observations that emphasize
the importance of particular groups or cultural milieus to sociological analyses that focus on
how the events of 1968 (however defined) reveal the shift in the meaning of culture in specific
national contexts. The quasi-violent reaction of students representing a generation operating
against specific national issues has been a dominant interpretation of the various protests. For
some examples, see Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York: Ban-
tam, 1989); Michael Long, Making History: Czech Voices of Dissent and the Revolution of 1989
(Lanham: Rowan and Littlefield, 2005); Michael Seidman, The Imaginary Revolution: Parisian
Students and Worker in 1968 (New York: Berghahn, 2004); Eric Zolof, Refried Elvis: The Mak-
ing of a Counterculture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); Hervé Hamon and Pat-
rick Rotman, Génération, 2 vols (Paris: Seuil, 1987 and 1988); Luisa Passerini, Autobiography
Briggs: Drug Utopias in the Music of Gong, 1968-1974 19

of a Generation: Italy 1968, trans. Lisa Erdburg (Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press,
1996); David Burner, Making Peace with the ’60s (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996);
Keith Reader, The May 1968 Events in France: Reproductions and Interpretations (New York:
Routledge, 1993); Daniel Singer, Prelude to Revolution: France in May 1968 (Cambridge, MA:
South End Press, 1971); Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Obsolete Communism: The Left-Wing Alternative,
trans. Arnold Pomerans (Edinburgh: AK Press, 2000); Angelo Quattocchi and Tom Nairn, The
Beginning of the End: France, May 1968 (London: Panther Books, 1968); and Charles Reich,
The Greening of America (New York: Bantam Books, 1972) among others. For critiques of this
approach, see Kristin Ross, May ’68 and its Afterlives (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
2002); and Scott MacFarland, The Hippie Narrative: A Literary Perspective on the Countercul-
ture (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 2007). Other scholars have examined the phenomena
of protest in 1968 within a broader, international context; some examples include Martin Klimke
and Joachim Schlaroth, eds., 1968 in Europe: A History of Protest and Activism, 1956-1977 (New
York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008); Arthur Marwick, The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain,
France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998);
Carole Fink, Philipp Gassert, and Detlef Junker, eds., 1968: The World Transformed (Washington
D.C.: German Historical Institute, 1998); Mark Kurlansky, 1968: The Year that Rocked the World
(New York: Ballantine Books, 2004); Ronald Frazier, 1968: A Student Generation in Revolt (New
York: Pantheon Books, 1988) and Theodore Roszak The Making of a Counterculture: Reflections
on the Technocratic Society and its Youthful Opposition (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969)
among others. For the purpose of this article, May ’68 will act as shorthand for the events in
France between March and June, 1968.
3. See Cohn-Bendit, Obsolete Communism; and Alain Touraine, The May Movement: May
1968 – The Student Rebellion and Workers’ Strikes – the Birth of a Social Movement, trans.
Leonard F.X. Mayhew (New York: Random House, 1971), 55. However, workers united in Italy
during 1969 in the “Hot Autumn” strikes; Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
(New York: Penguin Books, 2006), 415-16.
4. This slogan comes from one of May more iconic posters; for a collection of the various post-
ers and graffiti found in Paris during the student revolts, see Writing on the Wall, May 1968: A
Documentary Anthology, ed. Vladimir Fišera, trans. Nicholas Ainsworth (New York: St. Martin’s
Press, 1979).
5. Vincent Geoghean, Marxism and Utopianism (New York: Routledge Press, 1987), 136. For
a contemporary report concerning the relationship between Marxism and the events of 1968 in
France, see Henri Lefebvre, The Explosion: Marxism and the French Upheaval, trans. Alfred
Ehrenfeld (New York: Modern Reader Library, 1969).
6. Frederic Martel, The Pink and the Black: Homosexuals in France since 1968, trans. Jane
Marie Todd (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), 13-47; and Michael Bess, The Light-
Green Society: Ecology and Technological Modernity in France, 1960-2000 (Chicago: Univer-
sity of Chicago Press, 2003), 76-92.
7. Jay Winter, Dreams of Peace and Freedom: Utopian Moments in the Twentieth Century
(New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), 7-8; and Frank E. Manuel and Fritze P. Manuel,
Utopian Thought in the Western World (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1979), 805. Winter ar-
gues that a molecular revolution is just another form of utopianism, albeit operating on a smaller
scale than the failed grand projects of the twentieth century. Focusing on the phenomenon of
minor utopias in the twentieth century, of which 1968 was an example, Winter posits that utopian
thought was deeply embedded in the reality of the present while seeking to fashion a future based
on the realization of expectations.
8. Seidman, Imaginary Revolution, 7-8. A defining feature of May 1968 in France was the
activities of groupuscules, small political organizations of a few members dedicated to specific
goals, which again emphasizes the fragmentary nature of the counterculture.
9. The most notable examples of Maoist groupuscules would be Vive La Révolution and
Gauche Prolétarienne. Their efforts of GP would end tragically with the death of Pierre Overney
in 1972; Kristin Ross, Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and The Reordering of French
Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995), 17.
10. Thomas Ekman Jørgensen, “Utopia and Disillusion: Shattered Hopes of the Copenhagen
20 Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, Volume 23, No 1 (Fall 2008)

Counterculture,” in Between Marx and Coca-Cola: Youth Cultures in Changing European So-
cieties, 1960-1980, ed. Axel Schildt and Detlef Siegfried (New York: Berghahn Books, 2006),
334-38.
11. Actuel par Actuel: Chronique d’un journal et de ses lecteurs, 1970-1975, (Paris: Dire/
Stock, 1977).
12. “La Revolution pour le plaisir,” Actuel 7 (April 1971): 3.
13. “La Drogue,” Actuel 20 (May 1972): 2-4.
14. French progressive rock encompasses a broad category of bands but all share the desire
to combine the electric power of rock music with the sophistication of jazz and classical com-
position. Different groups would combine these musical traditions in different ways, but all
French groups operated from these aesthetic bases. See Jonathyne Briggs, “Anarchie en France:
Hypermodernity and French Popular Music, 1958-1981” (Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 2006),
chapter 4.
15. Norman Cohn recognizes the connection between the promotion of drug intake during the
1960s and the millenarian mystics of the medieval period, again reinforcing the utopian aspect
present in the work of Gong. See Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary
Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (New York: Oxford University Press,
1970), 286.
16. Jaap van der Bent, “‘Holy Amsterdam Holy Paris’: The Beat Generation in Europe,” in
Beat Culture: The 1950s and Beyond, ed. Cornelis A. van Minnen, Jaap van der Bent, and Mel
van Elteren (Amsterdam: VU University Press, 1999), 55.
17. Ginsburg provides a critique of Western consciousness in the face of its inability to recon-
cile itself with altered states of being, which the Beats often invoked in their poetry and prose;
Allen Ginsburg, “Gnostic Consciousness,” in Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Con-
sciousness, ed. Gordon Ball (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974). For a broader discussion of the
Beats’ relationship to drugs, see Jay Stevens Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream
(New York: Grove Press, 1987) and Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain, Acid Dreams: The CIA,
LSD, and the Sixties Rebellion (New York: Grove Press, 1985).
18. These groups instead sought to emphasize the seriousness of rock music as a method of
creating a new type of culture. In their music, the attempted to make cultural connections with
the modernist composers and jazz pioneers, in turn creating complex musical forms (which music
critics and historians have dubbed “progressive rock”). While utopian in a sense, as they sought
to undermine class divisions through musical transgressions, their approach offered little humor
and in many ways serves as a musical example of the New Left in France. See Briggs, “Anarchie
en France,” chapter 4.
19. For many French policymakers, the “outbreak” of drug usage was a public health concern
rather than a threat to the political structures of the Fifth Republic, and much of the legal frame-
work created by the developing drug laws operated on this premise. See Pierre G. Coslin, Les
adolescents devant les déviances (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1996), chapter 4.
20. Tim Boekhout van Solinge, Dealing with Drugs in Europe: An Investigation of European
Drug Control Experiences: France, the Netherlands and Sweden (The Hague: BJu Legal, 2004),
43 and 68; and Marie Jauffret-Roustide, Les drogues: Approche sociologique, économique et
politique (Paris: La Documentation française, 2004), 49-50. While the focus in this particular
work is on Gong and their early recording output, the connection between drugs and French
music remains an open question for exploration, especially in consideration of the peculiar con-
text created by anti-drug legislation. I hope that the police records of this period, often attained
through the lengthy derogation process, will attract scholarly interest.
21. Briggs, “Anarchie en France,” 141-43.
22. “Loi no 70-1320 31 Decembre 1970” at http://cafdes2004.free.fr/dwld/toxicomanie/
loi%20de%2070.htm [accessed March 20, 2006]. Tim Boekhout van Solinge argues that the in-
tensification of French drug policy was a direct response to ’68; Tim Boekhout van Solinge, “Can-
nabis in France,” in Cannabis Science. From Prohibition to Human Right, ed. Lorenz Böllinger
(Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang GmbH, 1997), at http://www.cedro-uva.org/lib/boekhout.france.
html [accessed January 31, 2008].
23. David Courtwright, Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World (Cam-
Briggs: Drug Utopias in the Music of Gong, 1968-1974 21

bridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001).


24. “L’ordre moral,” Actuel 4 (January 1971): 2-3; Jock Young, The Drugtakers: The Social
Meaning of Drug Use (London: Paladin, 1971), 148. Young noted the international nature of
drug use, particularly among the hippie subculture. A Gallup poll conducted in 1971 revealed
how French society viewed drugs, as French respondents overwhelmingly perceived drug use as
merely a form of escapism and not one of protest, pointing to the limits of the ideas of the coun-
terculture in the mainstream; George H. Gallup, The Gallup International Public Opinion Polls:
France 1939, 1944-1975 (New York: Random House, 1976), II: 872.
25. Young people were not alone in experimenting with the mind-altering effects of drugs dur-
ing the 1960s. Michel Lancelot, journalist and host of the “Campus” radio program on Europe 1
between 1968 and 1973, wrote extensively about the hippie phenomena in America and France,
noting the strong connections between the two. He also recounted his own experiences with
LSD while listening to, perhaps revealing a generational difference, Anton Bruckner’s Seventh
Symphony: “I now understand – LSD, as Leary affirmed, is truly a psychic atomic bomb. It’s the
Hiroshima of the mind. Only the temptation of a mystical test in the future could again pique my
curiosity and dispel my fears. After all, who has not dreamed of one day looking God in face?”
Michel Lancelot, Je veux regarder Dieu en face: Vie, mort et resurrection des Hippies (Paris:
Albin Michel, 1968), 219.
26. See their individual entries in the still encyclopedic Christian Victor and Julien Regoli,
Vingt ans de rock français (Paris: Albin Michel/ Rock & Folk, 1978).
27. Hallyday’s version charted in the French hit parades in tandem with MacKenzie’s in No-
vember 1967; see Daniel Lesueur, Hit parades, 1950-1998 (Paris: Alternatives et Parallèles,
1999), 67. Hallyday had a later hit in France, “Jesus Christ est un hippie.”
28. Henri Leproux, Golf Drouot: Le temple du rock (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1982), 163.
29. Jonathan Harris, “Introduction: Abstraction and Empathy: Psychedelic Distortion and the
Meanings of the 1960s,” in Summer of Love: Psychedelic Art, Social Crisis and Counterculture
in the 1960s, ed. Christoph Grunenberg and Jonathan Harris (Liverpool, England: Liverpool Uni-
versity Press, 2006), 11. On general scholarship concerning psychedelia, see Nick Bromwell,
Tomorrow Never Knows: Rock and Psychedelics in the 1960s (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 2000); Simon Reynolds, Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture
(New York: Routledge, 1999); James Miller, Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll
(New York, 1999); Jim DeRogatis, Kaleidoscope Eyes: Psychedelic Rock From the ‘60s to the
‘90s (Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1996); and Harry Shapiro, Waiting for the Man: The Story of
Drugs and Popular Music (New York: William Morris and Company, Inc., 1988). However,
much of this literature focuses on the specifics of the American context in terms of the meaning
of psychedelia, despite the international nature of hippie culture.
30. Graham Bennett, Out-bloody-rageous: Soft Machine (London: SAF, 2005) chapters 3 and
4. British progressive rock shared many of the ideas with the French counterculture, including
the hope to use cultural transgressions to create a new society; see Edward Macan, Rocking the
Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture (New York: Oxford University Press,
1997); and Bill Martin, Listening to the Future: The Time of Progressive Rock, 1968-1978 (Chi-
cago: Open Court Publishing, 1998).
31. Jonathon Green, Days in the Life: Voices from the English Underground (London: Heine-
mann, 1988), 134.
32. Daevid Allen, Gong Dreaming 1: From Soft Machine to the Birth of Gong (London: SAF
Publishing, 2007), 91.
33. Jean-Pierre Bouyxou and Pierre Delannoy, L’aventure hippie (Paris: Plon, 1992), x.
34. Allen, Gong Dreaming, 114-15.
35. See various advertisements for Byg Records in issues of Actuel from 1970 and 1971 and
the Byg discography at http://www.jazzdiscography.com/Labels/byg.htm [accessed March 12,
2008].
36. “L’Eur-Rock est né,” Actuel 12 (September 1971): 12.
37. Barry Miles, Hippie (New York: Sterling Company, 2004), 76.
38. Daevid Allen, If Words Were Birds (London: Outposts Publications, 1964). The copy ref-
erenced for this work was previously owned by the Beat writer Laurence Ferlinghetti and is now
22 Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, Volume 23, No 1 (Fall 2008)

in the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University.


39. Lee and Schlain, Acid Dreams, 60.
40. Julien Vladimir, “Nouvelle culture: l’utopie ou la mort,” Actuel 10/11 (July-August 1971):
7-8.
41. Paul Alessandrini, “Gong comme la lune,” Rock and Folk 57 (October 1971): 40.
42. Gong [as Daevid Allen/ Gilli Smyth], “Gong Song,” Magick Brother/ Mystic Sister, Byg/
Actuel Records 529305 (1969), LP.
43. Nick Bromwell observes, psychedelic music was an expression of drug consciousness
(what Jimi Hendrix called “experienced”) compounded with a music consciousness. In the haze
of the connection between these two states of mind, new worlds developed. Bromell, Tomorrow
Never Knows, 6.
44. While some researchers of the effects of drugs on musical perception reject the notion of
users achieving higher consciousness, they do posit the appearance of a form of hyperconscious-
ness, an awareness of specific experiences, which is referenced within “Gong Song.” Jörg Fach-
ner, “Music and Drug-Induced Altered States of Consciousness,” in Music and Altered States:
Consciousness, Transcendence, Therapy and Addiction, eds. David Aldridge and Jörg Fachner
(London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006), 90-1.
45. See the liner notes for 30 ans d’agitation musicale en France, Spalax Box 14711 (1997),
Compact Disc.
46. Dashiell Hedayat, Obsolete, Mantra 075 (1992 [1971]), Compact disc.
47. Dashiell Hedayat, “Long Song for Zelda,” Obsolete.
48. Actuel par Actuel: Chronique d’un journal et de ses lecteurs, 1970-1975, (Paris: Dire/
Stock, 1977), 121; and the regular “Mozik” column in Actuel.
49. Gong, “Radio Gnome,” Camembert Électrique, Byg 529353 (1971), LP.
50. Herve Muller, “David [sic] Allen: Le Gong est une planète verte,” Actuel 7 (April 1971):
50.
51. Magma, Univeria Zekt, Philips 6395 (1970), LP; and La planète sauvage, René Laloux
(dir.) 1973. Science fiction in general was embraced by the French as a way of cultural critique
and as an expression of “a new dimension for our selves and an extension of our understanding
of reality itself”; Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff, L’Effet science-fiction, quoted in Bouyxou and
Delannoy, L’aventure hippie, 172. As Neil Badmington argues, this vision of alien civilization as
helping mankind was a shift away from earlier conceptions of alien life as a threat to humankind
but that was important in defining human values; Neil Badmington, Alien Chic: Posthumanism
and the Other Within (New York: Routledge, 2004), 10. However, Badmington does date this
shift in American culture as later in the 1970s. The French case reveals that this shift occurred
slightly earlier in European countercultures.
52. Gong, “I Bin Stoned Before,” Camembert Électrique.
53. Alain Dister, “Gong: Camembert Électrique,” Rock and Folk 63 (April 1972): 80-1; and
Jean-Pierre Lentin, “Mozik,” Actuel 18 (March 1972): 59.
54. David Farber, “The Intoxicated State/ Illegal Ration: Drugs and the Sixties Countercul-
ture,” in Imagine Nation: The American Counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s, eds. Peter Braun-
stein and Michael William Doyle (New York: Routledge, 2002), 21.
55. Jacques Lacan, Ecrits, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton, 1977); and Gilles Deleuze
and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi
(Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1987). Similarly, Michel Foucault, perhaps the
most famous of the seventies’ intellectuals, had already posited in his Madness and Civilization
(1961) similar views of psychology, which he saw as a discourse that marginalized and controlled
elements of society through the use of science; Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A His-
tory of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1988).
56. Julian Bourg, From Revolution to Ethics: May 1968 and Contemporary French Thought
(Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007), 112.
57. Gary Genosko, Deleuze and Guattari: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers (New
York: Routledge, 2001), 530.
58. Schizo, “Le Voyageur,” 30 ans d’agitation musicale.
59. Muller, “Le Gong est une planète,” 51. See also Herve Muller, “Gong,” Rock and Folk 94
Briggs: Drug Utopias in the Music of Gong, 1968-1974 23

(November 1974): 35.


60. Gong, “The Pot Head Pixies,” Flying Teapot Virgin OVED14 (1972), LP.
61. Gong, “Radio Gnome Invisible,” Flying Teapot.
62. Gong, “Flying Teapot,” Flying Teapot.
63. Jonny Greene observes in his liner notes for a recent reissue of Angel’s Egg that the story
of Radio Gnome Invisible developed as part of an ongoing conversation between the band mem-
bers, who all contributed to the creation of the Gong mythos. See the liner notes of the reissue of
Angel’s Egg, Virgin Records 7243 8 66556 2 2 (2004 [1973]), Compact disc.
64. Gong, “Oily Way,” Angel’s Egg.
65. Gong, “Love Is How You Make It,” Angel’s Egg.
66. Gong, “I Never Gild Before,” Angel’s Egg.
67. Bourg, From Revolution to Ethics, chapter 14. The quotation is the chapter’s title.
68. Klaus Weinhauer, “The End of Certainties: Drug Consumption and Youth Delinquency in
West Germany,” in Between Marx and Coca-Cola, 384. Weinhauer notes elsewhere the emer-
gence of an anti-drug campaign in Britain and West Germany at the beginning of the 1970s,
with mixed results; Klaus Weinhauer, “Drug Consumption in London and Western Berlin dur-
ing the 1960s and 1970s: Local and Transnational Perspectives,” The Social History of Alcohol
and Drugs 20 (Spring 2006), 201, 203. In France, the anti-drug legislation of 1970 included a
detoxification program, spearheaded by the influential medical technocrat Claude Olievenstein,
who convinced the French government of the unique problem of drug addiction. In response to
his claims, the French government opened the specialized treatment center at Marmottan, which
was influenced in many ways by the anti-psychiatry movement of the early 1970s; Boekhout van
Solinge, Dealing with Drugs in Europe, 85-6. Yet as Marie Jauffret-Roustide notes, within the
context of anti-drug activities the image of the drug user in French society was shifting, from a
“hero of the marginal” to a “looser [sic]”; Jauffret-Roustide, Les drogues, 118.
69. Gong, “A Pot Head Pixie’s Advice,” You, Virgin Records 13-113 (1974), LP.
70. Timothy Leary, The Politics of Ecstasy (London: Paladin Books, 1970), 38-39.
71. Gong, “You Never Blow Yr Trip Forever,” You.
72. GAS, “Interview with Daevid Allen: Being a Musician, volume 2,” Planet Gong Archives
at http://www.planetgong.co.uk [accessed March 14, 2008].
73. Alain Dister, “Le Tour de Gong,” Rock and Folk 95 (December 1974): 52.

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