Turn it Down!: A look at The Gories

Detroit’s most primitive punk band

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A little blues, a little punk, a little Mod and a little sloppy. Combine all of those elements and you have the primitive sounds of The Gories. Formed back in 1986, they were outsiders from the jump. All in their early 20s at the time, the Detroiters were still new to their instruments — but their brilliance shined through in their primal passion for music.

From its earliest days, the group was destined to baffle audiences and turn heads at both tiny clubs and big garage-rock festivals. Comprising Mick Collins and Dan Kroha on guitar/vocals and Peggy O’Neill behind the stripped-down drum kit, The Gories created a nascent sound that ultimately inspired mainstream blues-punk bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys.

“We all met because we were mods. We all had suits. I just stuck with the one suit all the time,” Collins recalled. “I got a suit jacket I liked and there was a dry cleaner nearby that didn’t mind taking care of it. We’d go out and play a show Friday night and I’d show up Monday morning at the dry cleaners with the thing covered in sweat and the guy would take care of it. I just kept wearing it and it became kind of a trademark.”

When the band hit the stage in the mid-’80s, it was fittingly alongside a Michigan rock icon: Rob Tyner of the MC5.

“Our first show was at St. Andrew’s Church down on the campus of Wayne State,” Collins said. “I have no idea how the show went, but the act immediately before us was Rob Tyner. This was, again, a kind of community concert series. Basically, you come in and sign up, and he went on before us, that’s all. It wasn’t like he opened for us. He was just there, he got to the sign-up sheet before we did.”

From then on, Collins said the band had its ups and downs — and plenty of personality conflicts. Of course, the group also simultaneously released a pile of acclaimed LPs and singles, as well.

“We didn’t get along, that’s why we broke up when we did,” Collins recalled. “We actually broke up four times total. During the six-year run of the band, we broke up three times. They were serious, full-on breakups. We broke up in March of 1990 after we’d cut a bunch of singles for all these people. We did a Sub Pop single, and an Estrus single. We cut all of those singles and we broke up. About six months later, the labels started calling and saying, ‘Where is our record?’ We were like, ‘Oh, yeah. We forgot about that. Didn’t you hear that we broke up?’ Then we had to go back in and mix them. I think we mixed all four of those singles in an hour and a half.”

“We stopped liking each other,” he added. “That was all. Like every other band, you stop liking each other. The European tour was in ’92, after that we broke up for the final time.”

In 2009, the band surprisingly reunited and has toured the world periodically. Aside from their work in The Gories, two of the members also went on to form other legendary Detroit bands. Collins fronts his long-time band, The Dirtbombs, while Kroha co-founded his long-time outfit, The Demolition Doll Rods. Looking back, Collins is baffled that the band ever made it out of the garage.

“We figured we’d have a 45 record before the whole thing was over and that would have been our musical legacy,” he said. “I don’t know how it kept going from there.”

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