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Gong and daevid allen releases on…
Steve Gay and Jonny Greene - Jul 2011Magick Brother | Bananamoon | Camembert Electrique | Flying Teapot | Est-ce-que Je Suis | Compilations
Of the many labels on which Gong have released albums over the past forty years, the French BYG label, named after the 3 original founders Fernand Boruso, Jean-Luc Young and Jean Georgakarakos, (Boruso quit early on to be replaced by Jacques Bisceglia, who's surname luckily also began with B), has proved the hardest one to catalogue and organise with any reliable degree of accuracy. There is little easily accessible documentation on the finer details of this obscure and short-lived label which specialised in issuing albums by relatively unknown, predominantly American free-jazz musicians in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Gong were one of a small number of non jazz artists signed to the label.
In all four Gong related albums and one 7" single were released by BYG, Magick Brother, Bananamoon, Camembert Electrique, Flying Teapot, and the first Gong single, Est-ce-que Je Suis. All of these releases have several variations of label and sleeve design, To date we have noted an unbelievable 29 of these. Working out which are early or later pressings has proved a complicated task involving far more time than was first anticipated when we started our attempt to compile the ultimate illustrated Gong Family discography. This article contains details on the main Gong and daevid allen BYG releases although we have also included a list of BYG compilations on which Gong or daevid tracks appear. We have not covered the 5 or 6 albums released on BYG which contained the Soft Machine 'demo' tracks recorded when daevid was a member. In the future Ww will expand this page to cover those releases.
BYG released Gong and related albums only in three different countries, France, Germany and Japan, with the French releases naturally being the most prolific and the Japanese ones generally the most rare. The pressing quality on the Japanese albums appears to be far better than the French versions. It is a common belief that the French BYG pressings were often made from recycling old unsold albums, re-melting them for use in new albums. If you look closely at many of the French releases, especially the later pressings, small bubbles and imperfections are visible on the album's surface. In many cases this leads to a high level of background noise and loss of sound quality when the record is played. This however does not detract from their desirability to collectors, and they remain perhaps the most prized of all albums among Gong aficionados for being the true first releases the band's early recordings. When asked daevid remembers BYG always scrambling to save costs on pressing and mentioned early releases being made by, "pig-farmers in the French countryside somewhere", and he wasn't being completely ironic.
There are several variations of pressings in both label and sleeve design for at least three of the BYG releases and after much research and years of hunting down copies it would appear that the earliest of all pressings have a black label with the word "BIEM" in a small box on the label. The letters "BIEM" (Bureau International de l'Edition Mecanique) appear on French record pressings until 1971/72, after which date the letters "SACEM" (Société des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique) appear. "BIEM and "SACEM" are French publishing royalty collection organisations, serving a similar purpose to the "M.C.P.S" in the UK. So it therefore follows that French copies of any album with "BIEM" on the label pre-date those with "SACEM" and are earlier pressings.
MAGICK BROTHER with black labels and the "BIEM" box is the first pressing of this album. Both the outside and inside of the sleeve of this first pressing are laminated, and there are two slightly different versions of the sleeve for this first pressing. One version has "IDN Made in France" and the other has "Distribution DISCODIS" on the inside of the sleeve - the labels remain identical for both versions. On later pressings the inside of the sleeve is not laminated, just the outside.
There is also black labelled Spanish pressing (S-21.206) marked "B.I.E.M", as with the early French issues, but not in a box this time. It's even possible this issue may have been pressed at the same time as the first French release. There are two main differences to the gatefold sleeve from the French issues. Firstly the album is sub-titled, "Actual 4", whereas all the French releases and one of the Japanese issues are "Actual 5". Secondly the photograph of daevid and Gilli on the back of the sleeve is in black and white not colour as all other issues. The back cover also states that the album was, "Fabricado y distribuido en Espana y Portugal por Discos MOVIEPLAY, S.A.". The gatefold sleeve is only laminated on the outside. This seems to be one of the most rare BYG Magick Brother album variations, we have only seen one copy, something that is not true of any of the other issues.
The second pressing of Magick Brother has yellow and orange labels with a large BYG buddha logo and the word "SACEM" in a small box. There are two label variations for this release, one credited to "Magick Brother", the other credited to "daevid allen's Gong Magick Brother". The sleeve remains the same for both of these second pressing releases, both having "Distribution DISCODIS" on the inside of the sleeve. We do not know for certain which of these second orange and yellow labeled versions were released first, but would suspect that the version credited to 'David Allen's Gong' may be the earlier one as this is how the band were generally known and publicised in the early days. There is a third even later version of Magick Brother on BYG with a different catalogue number (BYG 529 029) and all orange labels with a small BYG buddha logo. On this version the front cover photograph of daevid reaches fully from one side of the sleeve to the other, rather than the previous centred 'framed' version which was used on the earlier pressings. At the time of writing this article it is not known if a black label version of Magick Brother exists with "SACEM" on it's labels, nor has any non gatefold, single sleeve version of the album on BYG come to light - it now seems almost certain that these items do not exist.
Japanese releases of Magick Brother exist in at least three different versions. The first pressing, released in 1970, was produced by Nippon Columbia and would seem to have only received a promo release. This issue, in a gatefold sleeve, uses for the front, back and inside artwork the correct layout as originally intended - all the artwork being identical to the French BYG release. Rather than having the usual separate insert this pressing has a sheet of paper with one edge glued to the spine of the inside of the sleeve making it more book like in presentation. This sheet contains the album information in Japanese as well as pictures of other Japanese BYG releases of the time. The label is quite plain being white with black text describing only very basic track information. We have not seen an obi for this release.
The second Japanese pressing, released in 1971 and also produced by Nippon Columbia, we now consider to be the first one officially released to the public. The label is black with the BYG logo in blue and the lettering in red. But the artwork of the gatefold sleeve, instead of being as expected like the earlier promo issue is completely different, it's a bit of a oddity to say the least. We have called this cover the 'Wrong side' cover. On this version the right hand side of daevid's "inside the gatefold" drawing, the side with the track listing and the musician credits, is used as the cover, with the left-hand side of daevid's drawing appearing on the back cover. A straight-forward mistake perhaps, producing the gatefold album artwork in effect 'inside-out'? But no, the section of daevid's drawing used as the cover appears yet again, this time inside the gatefold on the left-hand side, the right-hand side being filled with album info in Japanese. In short you could hardly have messed up a cover more. This pressing came with a separate insert which advertised other Japanese BYG releases. We have not seen an obi for this release.
The third Japanese pressing , released in 1973 by Toho not Nippon Columbia, has a black and white label with the BYG logo and is also a gatefold, but it still has not used the usual 'daevid in the Studio' photograph BYG cover, as used on the first Japanese 'promo' pressing, this release once again uses daevid's "inside the gatefold" drawings, but in a more logical manner than the previous release. We have called this issue the 'Correct side' cover, as it uses the most obvious part of daevid's drawing as the album cover, that part containing the centered word 'Gong' and much more pleasing design elements. To make sure there was no mistake who this album was by the Japanese, roughly copying daevid's style, have added and incorporated into his original drawing, the words "daevid allen Gilli Smyth - Magick Brother" in black lettering, and "Gong" in a bold orange. The second part of daevid's drawing, the part with the track listing and musicians, appears, again logically, on the back of the album cover. Inside the gatefold, which is all in black and white, we find on the left the photograph of daevid and Gilli which appears on the back cover the European BYG cover and the first Japanese promo pressing and on the right the Japanese album info. There is no separate insert sheet with this pressing. This album came with a black and white obi.
Both of the Nippon Columbia produced sleeves are fully laminated outside and inside, whereas the Toho release is only laminated outside, the Toho Sleeve was been produced using a different technique compared to the Nippon Columbia Sleeves. The manufacturing method of that sleeve uses very thick card and with the inside of the gatefold pasted-in paper.
The German version of Magick Brother was a collaborative, licensed release between BYG and the Metronome label and has the distinction of having a completely different sleeve to any of the other Magick Brother BYG releases. It's commonly known in collecting circles as the "Top Hat" sleeve, as this is what the cover depicts. Although this release is not strictly a full BYG release it is included in this article being co-credited to BYG. It has the label bearing the usual BYG buddha logo, but with a different label design with a blue background.
BANANAMOON with black labels and gatefold cover is the most common French BYG release of any of the daevid allen/Gong albums, it is certainly the one that is most often seen for sale. It is not known if a black "BIEM" label version exists although it now seems very unlikely, therefore unless a "BIEM" version turns up the earliest pressing of this album has a gatefold sleeve and black "SACEM" labels. The second pressing, which is much rarer than the black label first pressing, has the yellow/orange buddha "SACEM" labels. daevid's coloured concentric circles/moon design is used on both the black label version and the yellow/orange label versions. The sleeves for the black label and the orange label pressings are almost identical, the only difference being that on the second orange label version the words "I.D.N MADE IN FRANCE" replace "imprimerie de saint michel - MADE IN FRANCE".
There is also a single sleeve version of Bananamoon with a different green sleeve, the photograph of the musicians found inside the gatefold of the coloured concentric circles/moon version is used as the front cover. This version has black "SACEM" labels and credits "Gong" as the artist rather than "daevid allen". We assume that this single sleeve release is a later third version (cashing in on Gong growing reputation), although this is not certain. The labels on both the orange version and the single sleeve green version miss-spell "daevid" as "Deavid". Other differences to note on the green single sleeve version are, as with the labels, "Gong" is given as the album artist on the cover, also on the record's run-out groove "a arlacem" has been stamped into the vinyl, this tiny stamp is not seen on the other two releases - does anyone know what that means?. There is also a extremely rare Japanese BYG version of Bananamoon released in 1973 and produced by Toho. This has a single sleeve with the regular coloured concentric circles/moon design and contains an insert and has a tan coloured obi. There does not appear to have been a German pressing of Bananamoon on the BYG label.
CAMEMBERT ELECTRIQUE has never been found with BYG black "BIEM" labels, probably because it's release date post dates the "BIEM"/"SACEM" changeover, but it was produced with both the yellow/orange, and black "SACEM" labels. The first pressing is the black label version. We accepted this when a copy was found containing an original 1971 press kit. Both issues are laminated gatefold sleeves and if complete should contain the album lyric inserts drawn by daevid and printed on two LP-sized pieces of blue card that are intended to be folded into an 8 page booklet. There is also a later single sleeve version of Camembert with a different catalogue number (BYG 529 030) which also should contain the booklet inserts. The single sleeve version has the same small BYG buddha logo orange labels as the later third version of Magick Brother and has a consecutive catalogue number, indicating a common release date and can therefore be safely assumed to be a later pressing than the other releases. The single sleeve pressing seems to be the most scarce of the French BYG Camembert releases, but most rare of all is the Japanese gatefold version of Camembert. This contains the same Gong band photograph as used inside the French gatefold version, but in blue and on pasted-in paper. It contains daevid's drawn lyrics on a 4-page black on white paper insert. The obi for this release is red and white.
FLYING TEAPOT dates from a later period than all the other BYG Gong/daevid allen releases, having a release date somewhere around 1976. Unlike the other BYG releases it is NOT the first, original and band sanctioned release of this album, which is the Virgin Records edition (V2002). Besides a different, inferior cover illustration the BYG versions have a different mix of the title track. The label had been out of business for some time but it briefly resurfaced just long enough to produce this release in the wake of Gong's rising popularity and success on the Virgin label. French versions have a black "SACEM" label and gatefold sleeve, no other variation has ever been found. An almost identical looking issue was made for the German market with a different catalogue number and instead of the word "SACEM" it has "GEMA" (a German royalty collection agency) on the label. There is also a Japanese gatefold version of this album. Copies of Flying Teapot on BYG are generally quite hard to find, perhaps due to there only being one pressing of the album in each country before the label once more disappeared.
EST-CE-QUE JE SUIS This 7" single is the earliest Gong release on BYG and has only ever been found with a black "BIEM" label, indicating that there was only ever one pressing of this record. It should come housed in a blue and white card picture sleeve, the basic design of which it has in common with a few of the BYG 7" releases from this time. Complete copies should have a small perforated tab or 'langue' (tongue in French) folded into the inside of the sleeve with the catalogue number, BYG 129 021 and daevid allen printed on it. This was used by shops for re-ordering stock and is often missing.
Compilations There are at least 7 known compilation and promo sampler albums produced by BYG featuring tracks by either daevid allen or Gong, or both. Full details of these releases will be found in the main illustrated discography when it is eventually published in some form, either on the web, on disc, or as a book, but the basic details are below. The discography will include images of every aspect of each release, an unbelievable repository of Gongishness.
We have devised a scheme to give an estimate of rarity, a score out of one hundred, that each release will be given in the main discography. As for the value in monetary terms of each release, which is not necessarily in line with rarity, it is very hard to put an accurate figure on any of the BYG releases. Prices range anywhere from £20 to £100 and may well rise with the resurgence in collecting rare vinyl that has occurred over the past few years.
This information is based on years of research and many, sometimes intense, conversations, however it is quite probable there are BYG Gong related vinyl items out there still to be found. We have done our best but the accuracy of this article cannot be guaranteed to be 100%, so if you know of anything here which is inaccurate, or if you know of a Gong related BYG release we have not mentioned please let us know via Jonny at www.planetgong.co.uk, or email Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org A scan of a label, sleeve or some other form of proof would be helpful. Hopefully together with your help we can make this the most accurate Gong discography possible.
Magick Brother LP
Camembert Electrique LP
Flying Teapot LP
Est-ce-que Je Suis 7"