Giorgio Gomelsky, producer of the Dragon and Hypothesis shares his memories on how these banned releases came to be.
Two of the most confusing albums that always feature in the Vangelis discographies are the "Hypothesis" and "The Dragon" releases. Both were recorded as jam sessions in the early seventies, and released outside of Vangelis' knowledge under his name when he became more successful in the late seventies and early eighties. The matter was taken to court and the case was either won by Vangelis or settled, various sources compete over the details. In any case, the LPs were discontinued (although it seems none were destroyed as they were sold cheaply all over the world in great quantities shortly after the proceedings). The music never appeared on CD (except for a counterfeit release in Hungary and some bootlegs) and has since then reached fans and collectors as scratchy 2nd hand LPs, witnesses of an earlier era.
Both recordings had been produced by legendary producer/manager Giorgio Gomelsky, who had made a name in both the British and French music scenes for working with bands like the Yardbirds, T-Bones, GONG! and Soft Machine while he only just missed out on contracting the then still rather unknown Rolling Stones.
Gomelsky also worked on Aphrodite's Child's ground breaking progressive rock album "666" where he was credited on the sleeve for "Passing by", another mystery that can keep one wondering. Thankfully Mr. Gomelsky was kind enough to share his memories about his work with Vangelis in a little Q&A.
How did you get to work with Vangelis?
"I was managing Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity and we were touring in France. Our agent, Jean-Pierre Rawson, told me to check out a band he was helping who had been stranded in France on their way to London due to the events of May '68."
"They were playing at a club in Valbonne (near Cannes) and since Julie and the band were going to perform there too, I went to check out the place. The band was Aphrodite's Child and I liked them a lot. An interesting mixture of influences, I particularly liked Vangelis' interest in ancient Byzantine music and we became buddies."
"Two years later, after 15 years of England, I moved from London to Paris - my mother was French so I spoke he language - and got involved with MAGMA, a very avant garde and original band with whom I produced some 10 albums. You might gather that I do like "originality", essential to make music progress. By that time AC had become a huge success in France and were on the point of breaking up. I met with Vangelis a couple of times and we renewed our friendship."
"He told me about the "666" project, and although I was very busy with MAGMA (and GONG!), I decided to contribute whatever I could to the project and whenever possible I "passed by the studio". It actually got quite involved and for practical purposes I ended up being a sort of "acting producer". I had no ambition however to get full credit, because, first of all, I respected very much what Vangelis and Costas had already done (wasn't in from the start), and secondly, I'm not suffering from excessive vanity, I was glad to help along a worthwhile musical project."
The "Dragon" and "Hypothesis" albums were released as Vangelis works.
How was his role in the recordings? Did he join in jam sessions or
did he in some way lead the "band" musically?
How was his role in the recordings? Did he join in jam sessions or did he in some way lead the "band" musically?
"Vangelis' original intension in 1968 was to reach London where there was a very strong musical (and more 'serious' than in Paris) scene he was interested in exploring. I thought that now that he had the time - AC had broken up after "666" - it would be a good idea. I could introduce him to the very best musicians (I worked there for 15 years and obviously knew the scene) and put together an interesting collaborative project. A guy called Karakos (who had founded BYG Records and later Celluloid) decided to back the project with the intention of eventually releasing the tapes on his label in Paris. He dealt directly with Vangelis and the Marquee Studio. I was paid a flat fee ($2000 if I remember correctly!) for producing, but since it was partly my initiative, I didn't mind. I was very excited about the project and what it could do for Vangelis and progressive rock music."
"Well, as you must surely know, good ol' Vangelis doesn't much like traveling, so it took a while to get to London..."
How did the band work together?
"The sessions were actually very enjoyable. The idea was to find "grooves" that could lead into long, (sufi)trance-like but evolving rhythmic patterns with a lot of improvisation on top. Vangelis hardly spoke English, but there was a good, natural, understanding between all concerned. Music, when intelligently perceived, IS a universal language."
"We had a few technical problems with all of Vangelis' "gear" (equipment), some of which was custom-made and unknown to the technicians there, so we didn't have all the time we wished for the "performances", or for overdubs."
"The guys would come in and we would talk to them about general outlines and after establishing a few basic riffs and an acceptable "balance", we would jump right into it."
What inspired the recordings?
"For my part, and I think V agreed, it was finding that "trance"!"
When Charly records released Hypothesis and the Dragon the release was disputed and records where withdrawn from sale. How do you look back on those times?
"After the original sessions in London, we returned to Paris. The idea here was to get the masters and study what overdubs and additions were fruitful in order to complete the production. Karakos had agreed not to release anything until finished and approved by Vangelis and myself. What happened then would indeed make a great movie about the muck and muddle and tortuousness of the music business."
"Karakos' company went bankrupt and his ex-partner Jean Luc Young took over the catalogue (don't ask me how!) and started CHARLY RECORDS. Of course he knew of these sessions and wanted to release them. The problem was, the studio in London was owed money and they wouldn't release the tapes. Somehow, Jean Luc got the Marquee people to bring the tapes to Paris and once in his possession, pretending a visit to the toilet, actually left them empty-handed (no payment) in the restaurant where they had met!!"
"Frankly I forgot all about these sessions until some time later when I heard CHARLY had released them without approval or completion. Of course I was flabbergasted, but I knew Jean Luc had done that to some of my tapes too and I had never succeeded at stopping him. By that time I was living in New York too and totally out of touch with Vangelis, Paris or London."
"To my surprise (I didn't think he would ever brave crossing the Atlantic!) V. turned up in New York some time later and I met him. He had a very good lawyer with him and asked me to sign some papers outlining what the original agreement with Karakos was, which I did. His lawyer, when informed of my own difficulties with CHARLY, had promised to help me too but I never again heard from him or from Vangelis! I understand he came to some agreement with CHARLY but I had no part in it. I've never even received a copy of the recordings, on cassette tape or cd and I have no idea what, if anything, Vangelis did with them. Of course I'm sad this project which promised so much, ended up so poorly. It certainly was a lesson as to how NOT to trust what people agree to!"
Thank you Mr. Gomelsky for your time, and for the interesting anecdotes!