Monday, June 14, 2010

Gettin' Real Gonn In Keokuk, Iowa

I’ve timed this so that the post occurs around the time when we will be passing through my hometown of Keokuk, Iowa.

Actually, that’s a lie-since my parents no longer live in K-town, I don’t think that I can technically call it my hometown any longer. Oh, and because they built this sweet bypass about twenty miles away from Keokuk called “The Avenue of the Saints” (it connects Saint Louis, Missouri to Saint Paul, Minnesota…get it?) that I don’t even need to go through town if I don’t want to.

And since we’re heading to Saint Louis on “The Avenue of the Saints,” cutting a half hour or so on the drive sounds like a better plan than driving down a few streets of nostalgia.

I’ll make it there again soon enough, I suppose.

And when I do, I still have a savings account at a local bank with a few hundred bucks, so I can buy a few drinks at Harrington’s or the Tee Pee Lounge.
Provided they’re still there.

K-town is weird. It’s a crumbling beauty-like a lot of river town’s-but there is so much ambivalence there that it’s overtaking any former sense of attractiveness.
One of the cool things about the town is it’s history, and part of it includes Keokuk’s only claim to rock and roll glory.

The band is called Gonn.

If you own the Nuggets box set, you’ll find their “Blackout of Gretely” on disc four, track twenty-eight.

I was blown away by Nuggets, to the point where I almost only exclusively listened to garage rock for a half-year after it was released. On the first listen, I read through the liner-notes like they were the Holy Word.

And then I came across the notes to “Blackout of Gretely.”

Glue sniffing. Nazi memorabilia. Keokuk, Iowa.

How did I live my entire life in that town and never once heard the band name Gonn.
I had heard of Greg Ginn’s Gone, but not one based in my backyard with a double-n at the end.

I called my old man, but he had never heard of them either.

He told me to call another guy that I vaguely knew. He was a lifelong resident of K-town since forever and he helped set up the local blues festival. I gave him a call, and he knew exactly who I was talking about.

He explained that Craig Moore, the main guy that speaks in the interview video below, owned a record store in Peoria and occasionally did a Gonn reunion with all of the original members. In fact, there was one about a year before their Nuggets inclusion.

And I missed it.

Understanding the significance of having a song on Nuggets-one of rock’s greatest albums of all time-I knew that I had to write Mr. Moore to let him know how proud I was of his and the rest of the band’s accomplishments.

He wrote me back-on tie-died paper with the record store’s logo-and thanked me on the kind words, and like a good salesman, he included his record store’s current catalog.

I think his store-Younger Than Yesterday-is still around and breathing in this non-brick and mortal music world.
I did eventually visit it and it was more of a hippie revival merchant than what I was expecting. But whatever pays the bills.

Gonn may not have paid many bills, but it did get them into a recording studio with one overhead microphone, which ended up capturing a raw piece of fuzzed-out menace.

What’s cool is how even some forty years after the fact, they’re still able to catch that feeling and sound.

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