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Gong

March 14, 2015

I disapprove of having music playing during RPG sessions. When I’m writing and prepping adventures it’s fine and dandy (though I choose carefully to create or enhance whatever mood I’m striving for) but I find it intrusive and distracting when I’m actually playing a game.

Not everyone feels this way. Luckily for me, one of the people who didn’t was Dave, GM of perhaps the most enjoyable campaign I’ve been involved with. In 1986-87, Dave ran a Stormbringer campaign called “Sundial”, inspired by this Rodney Matthews painting:

Safe_and_Sound_on_the_Sundial

Dave played background music while Exendar the merchant, Lemi the barbarian and Yokraith of Melniboné, sorcerer and all-round bastard, pursued their exploits in the Young Kingdoms. His tastes ran to Boston and Styx, as I recall, then one evening he put on something that made me sit up and take notice. (See, I told you music was distracting.) Floaty, trippy avant-jazz-rock with shout-out-loud awesome drumming. Male and female vocals intoning incomprehensible lyrics about Radio Gnome and “love projectors”. Whimsical spoken sections. Prostitute poems. Curiouser and curiouser. “Would you like some tea?”

It was the album Angel’s Egg – my introduction to the green/invisible planet Gong, its mythology and its Earthly emissaries the Pot-Head Pixies. I hitched a ride aboard a flying teapot, took a trip along the Oily Way and never looked back.

Some years later, after seeing Dances With Wolves, my friend Rob (who played Yokraith in that campaign) bestowed upon me my “Sioux name” – Listens To Gong. I bear it (and a small Gong badge) with pride to this day.

Chief among those musical visitors from a happier sphere was poet, composer, singer and glissando guitarist Daevid Allen, who died of cancer yesterday, aged 77 but retaining to the end that child-like, playful-profound, optimistic outlook that informed and enhanced all his work. Obituary here.

Given that Gong’s most significant and enduring work – the Radio Gnome “trilogy” consisting of the albums Flying Teapot, Angel’s Egg and You – was recorded and released in 1973-74, I wouldn’t mind betting that some early D&D campaigns (in the UK at least) were influenced by the saga of Zero the Hero, Captain Capricorn, et al. Surely somewhere, buried in old files and faded jotters, someone has game stats for the Octave Doctors and their Crystal Machine. I know one game designer at least who, somewhat later, was inspired by the mythos; here’s part of the map from Garry Robson’s Faerie Wood RPG:

faerieteapot

If any of this means anything to you, then I urge you to put a flying teapot (“green as an emerald in the blue”) in your next game session. You can even have your characters feed fish and chips to a witch’s pussy if you like; I don’t know how your games work.

I don’t have much more to say. Farewell to Daevid Allen (aka Bert Camembert, Dingo Virgin, Divided Alien, etc.) – countercultural prankster, creative artist, psychedelic troubadour, founding member of Soft Machine, father and figurehead of the extended Gong family, a man who made the world a more interesting, colourful, joyful place.

Have a cup of tea. Have another one. Have a cup of tea.

gong-002

Daevid Allen (1938-2015)

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 3, 2015 3:41 pm

    Thanks for the mention of Faerie Wood! The Flying Teapot also cropped up in one of our open day games, A Midsummer Night’s Drink, where it gets shot down by an errant firework. (It was that kind of night…)

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