Now is the happiest time of your life – remembering Daevid Allen in Deia
When I first started coming to Deia around 20 years ago, I would listen to the stories of the late 1960s and 70s in the village, those times of ragged, inspired art and lunacy, and be frankly envious.
These were the days, or daze, when poet, musician and magus Daevid Allen, who died of cancer aged 77 on March 13 of this year, lived in Deia and inspired much of the music and madness which occurred.
A vision in the mountains
If you’re a fan of 70s psychedelia and space-rock, you’ve probably heard of Gong, the band/collective over which Daevid presided. They may not have had a massive following but it was and is fanatical. Years later, their reputation continues to grow as restless young musicians look, as they always do, for far-out, free-spirited music.
Daevid had actually spent time in Deia in around 1964 with fellow musicians and Soft Machine co-founders Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers (the connection these two have with this place is a whole other story). But, it was after he returned to the village in 1969 with his partner Gilli Smyth, fleeing the clampdown which came in the aftermath of the 1968 Paris riots, that Daevid really brought his free spirit to Deia. While in Paris, Daevid and Gilli had perfected what they called “total space music” and this was to be fundamental to the Gong concept.
In Deia, Daevid and Gilli met flautist Didier Malherbe, who was working as a goat-herder for poet Robert Graves and reputedly living in a cave. They adopted the name Gong, inspired by an LSD vision Daevid had in the Tramontana mountains above Deia, and released an album called Magick Brother, Mystick Sister.
Holy fool and mountain goat
Daevid would live in Deia for the next ten years, as Gong created a devoted following drawn to Daevid’s idiosyncratic personal mythology. It was during that time that painter Fliss Templeton met him. I asked Fliss what her first impressions of Daevid were.
“At that time he wasn’t at all druggy. He’d cleaned up his act. My instant reaction was ‘where do I know you from?’ Over time, I began to understand that Daevid definitely saw himself as a magus and he was, although he willingly played the idiot. This is why he dressed in Fool’s clothing and used The Fool from the Tarot in his work. It’s where the Zero the Hero character in the Gong mythology comes from. Daevid identified with the Fool. He acted out but he was sincere most of the time.
“Also, Daevid had his vision for Gong in the mountains here. He knew them well and, part of his self image was being a mountain goat. In this, he was literally and figuratively following the footsteps of Robert Graves who drew much of his inspiration from walking in those high and wild places.”
Daevid’s Deia legacy
Next, I asked Fliss what she thought Daevid did for Deia.
“It’s all about music,” she said. “Daevid attracted many Gong freaks to Deia and if they were good musicians he’d invite them to play in the studio at Banana Moon, in his house down the Clot. He also organised Full Moon Concerts above the Cala at Deia near Jacov’s Tower and always invited anyone to play. I’d also say that Daevid is the reason Deia got its hippy reputation.”
When I asked Fliss if she had an abiding memory of Daevid, she told me this story.
“Many years after Daevid had left Deia, I was at a summer festival in England with him. He’d just performed with a band who admired him but the end of the show had fallen a bit flat. Daevid was disappointed. He felt it was no way to end a gig. So he pulled out a tiny harmonica – the kind of thing you’d find in a Christmas Cracker – and jumped back out on stage with it, puffing and blowing. The audience was on their feet and high as kites instantly. That was Daevid channelling the power of the Fool.”
A trip to Bananamoon
If you’d like to pay homage to the free spirit that was Daevid Allen in Deia, stroll down the Clot to number 24, the site of the original Bananamoon Observatory where so much music and magic was made. And, if you’re fascinated by those long-ago times in Deia, as I am, listen to the beautiful, wistful Deya Goddess a song Fliss is certain couldn’t have been written without the influence of Robert Graves.
Fliss Templeton is an artist who shows at the Residencia. One of her paintings hangs at the Village Cafe in Deia.
Daevid outside number 24 the Clot, site of the Bananamoon Observatory.
Useful links and further reading:
David Holzer is a freelance writer who has been coming to Deia for almost 20 years. Apart from loving the village, he is fascinated by the – without being too pretentious – cultural history and significance of Deia.