Before he became Patti Smith’s bass player, Lenny Kaye compiled the 2 album set, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era. Released in 1972, the two-LP set covered American garage rock and psychedelia from the years from 1965-1968, and was a major influence on punk rock. Rhino Records reissued an expanded version of the set in 1998, with 118 tracks in total. I’m profiling and rating each of these 118 tracks, working backwards.
Track 116: Blackout of Gretely by GONN
Release Date: 1966
From: Keokuk, Iowa
Aphoristical Rating: 7/10
Iowa teenager Craig Moore formed a high school band, The Pagans. The band’s bassist, he initially learned two songs – ‘Last Night’ by The Mar-Keys and ‘Steppin’ Out’ by Paul Revere and The Raiders. He added a third song to his repertoire -‘Gloria’ by Them – but inadvertently spent the first six months playing the three note riff backwards. Nicking some members from another local band, The Rogues, The Pagans changed their name to GONN. Why? Guitarist Rex Garrett’s mother didn’t approve of the name The Pagans.
As with many bands featured on Nuggets, the compilation features their signature song. The title was inspired by a 1942 mystery thriller by J. B. Priestley, The Blackout At Gretley. There’s a thrilling opening – Moore intones “The universe is permeated with the odor of kerosene” over creepy organ. The rest of the song doesn’t quite match the introduction, but it’s an enjoyable bluesy riff-rocker that recalls the mid-1960s Rolling Stones. The shaggy dog story of the lyrics is a nice touch.
GONN seemed destined to land in obscurity – a second single, ‘Doin’ Me In’, wasn’t released. They courted controversy by playing in front on a large Nazi flag, didn’t progress far beyond playing Iowa state fairs, and they broke up in 1969.
‘Blackout of Gretely’ belatedly gained a following, especially after it was featured on the CD reissue of Pebbles, Volume 1 in 1992. By the mid-1990s copies of the original single were selling for US$1,000. The band reunited in the 1990s, and recorded their only studio album, Gonn With the Wind, in 1996.