DAEVID ALLEN GOT out of it this year. Out of the VAT-race, to be more precise – and let’s keep the double-entendres under control, eh? Countercultural excess has been severely curtailed and the natural high – yoga, meditation, a lot of swimming, a lot of wine (?) – is the order of the Deyan.
Allen is no longer a Gong, see. He’s a Deyan.
A Deyan is somebody who knocks around in the tumbling stack of white-walled houses straddling the perilously steep Moroccan terraces of Deya, an exotic Majorcan village wedged tight between the heights of the island’s northern mountains and the deeps of the increasingly polluted Mediterranean.
Deya, to paraphrase Frederic Brown, is a crazy place.
A small horseshoe valley funnels down into a tight defile at the foot of which is located an exclusive little cove where the Deyans hang loose while the sun’s on. When the sun’s on in these parts, the mere act of, standing up becomes an endeavour of epic implications – thus rendering the Siesta the basic Deyan cultural imperative.
Strange things happen to men’s minds here.
Every year, somebody (whether an indigenous local or one of the two hundred or so multi-national settlers) goes loco. Last year it was a Spanish rapist; before him it was an eccentric U.S. millionaire who allegedly acted as benefactor of the original Soft Machine.
Since the nearest policeman is in Soller, five miles up the coast, Deyan justice takes the form of atavistic retribution, Lex Talionis vintage.
Miscreants are stoned out of the village.
This summer’s Stoned Innocent Frankenstein, notes Allen amusedly, is already on the psychic slips. We sit in one of Deya’s two cafes and watch the gentleman in question running through a few warm-up aberrations while evening clouds come creeping down the nearby precipices and ruddy sunshine glows on the tower of the village church.
The small hill upon which the church is poised used to be employed by local devotees of the moon goddess and just up the road, overlooking the valley, perches the villa of scholar-poet Robert Graves, whose eightieth birthday party was recently celebrated by just about everybody.
The unnatural stillness of the atmosphere may be attributable to the after-effects of the winds Graves raised in celebration of the event.
Magicians live here. So do dozens of artists, craftsmen, musicians and multi-purpose mind-travellers from all over the world. The valley, they assure you, has power – an aetheric whirlpool which furthers creativity and sucks many a determined wanderer into the community for keeps.
Which is why Daevid Allen, after seven years on the road with Gong, has come here to live with his wife, poetess Gilli Smyth, and their children Tally and Orlando.
“To blow it is to know it,” Alien ruminates, stroking his wispy beard and acknowledging the secret signs of a passerby. Everyone in Deya knows everyone in Deya.
“I’ve spent far too long – in and out of Gong – blowing it in various ways… so I’ve come here to work on it.”
So have the Sinclair brothers, Richard (Hatfield and the North) and David (Caravan). They drop by for a drink or two, talking about a gig in the south of France prior to working their way back to Britain for a fresh start.
“Singles?” Allen nods. “I’d like to do some – if I can remember the rules. You need a hook, don’t you? Or two… Say, five – that ought to do it.”
“I’d have to watch my image though. It’d be a drag to be bagged as some kind of psychedelic Rolf Harris.”
“Hello, Daevid,” say three or four more people passing through.
The last he was in London – circa April – Allen dropped into Trojan Records to order “fourteen yards of reggae backing” for just such a projected TOTP-shot. They didn’t get it and nor did he – which is just as well since at 15ips you’d need just over a hundred yards to fill three minutes.
Rhumboid Lumbago And The Woeful Yodellers is one of the brand-names Daevid’s considering for this venture – but not seriously. The serious work is going into writing the Zero The Hero book, a Tolkien-scale history of the planet Gong conducted on numerous cunningly-synched corresponding levels – closer to a psychedelic Spike Milligan than anything connected with kangaroos in bondage.
It’ll feature words and pictures by several other Deyans and will be available for your reading pleasure (a) when it’s finished (which could be several years; and (b) if a publisher concedes its commercial worth (which, Allen sadly admits, might not actually occur).
More immediate a concern is getting his home studio into shape for the recording of his next album. Virgin Records have Allen on a two-year three-LP agreement to keep him in Bovril and garlic-drops (which he uses to cure all ills).
It’s a good number, he opines, and he’s right – although it probably wouldn’t be quite suitable for, say, The Blue Oyster Cult. Time passes slowly in a place like Deya and you gotta feel dem rhythms or you’ll wake up ten years later with nothing done.
Daevid Allen is a delicate man in the sense of being aware of fine tunings on the psycho-physiological long-wave. He hasn’t achieved a perfect balance of his own ingredients yet, but he’s a lot further into it than most; moods pass into other moods in a continuous quiet flux, only rarely interrupted by eddies of excitement.
He’s humorous, but not a wise-guy – thoughtful, but never solemn.
“Wisdom is something you learn without knowing it,” he reads from his Zero notes. “Hasten slowly and you will soon arrive. Would you like a cup of tea?”
The first album might turn out to be about the phenomenon of the middle-aged rock-star – suggestions for living techniques to those dementoids who somehow failed to blow their synapses before they turned thirty. Allen himself is a youthful 37.
Talking all night without the hindrance of a tape-recorder, the conversation occasionally gets blurred – chiefly around esoteric subjects (like Alice A. Bailey’s Arcane Society) and the Whole Earth Catalog brands of distant weirdness (such as the legendary Kilsner Screens – spectacles which allow the wearer to perceive other people’s “auras”).
Morning comes up and up, the mountains are still here and London’s rock industry is still 800 miles away. Daevid Allen turns the pages of his notebooks quietly, a faint smile on his face.
“Words are a forgotten language,” he reads. “Stand up for your writes.”
“I like that one…”
© Ian MacDonald, New Musical Express, 6 September 1975