[Teenage Head is one of Canada’s historical alt-rock treasures, a band which played its first gig before the Sex Pistols. But thanks to a calamitous series of circumstances, it’s been difficult to acquire much of the band’s catalogue. Until now. Intern-in-residence Dorothy Lee looks at a new collection entitled Fun Comes Fast from Warner Music. – AC]
Back in 1975, when four Westdale High School students in Hamilton decided to form a band, little did they know that they would become perhaps the most important punk band in Canadian music history. Gord Lewis had seen an advertisement in a music magazine for the Flamin’ Groovies’ album Teenage Head, and he decided he would form a band with that name one day. At the time when the band was formed, the members didn’t consider themselves to be a “punk” band because the term didn’t really exist yet.
The original lineup of Teenage Head consisted of Gord Lewis on guitar, Steve Park on drums, Frank Kerr, aka Frankie Venom, also on drums, and Dave Desroches, aka Dave Rave, on vocals. Frankie Venom soon took over on vocals, and Lewis brought in his friends Steve Mahon to play bass, and Nick Stipanitz to play drums while Desroches and Park went on to work on other musical projects.
Mahon says they were influenced by the sounds of Alice Cooper, The Stooges, MC5, and The New York Dolls.
They were not looking for the “best” players when forming the band, rather they recognized the importance of looking for the “right” players. Steve again: “In Bruce Springsteen’s latest book, he mentions how the members of bands like The Sex Pistols, The Dolls, and even U2, may not have had the “best” players, but they were the “right” players. I knew we had the right players, right from the beginning, including myself.”
The band members also knew exactly the kind of sound they wanted to create. This is Steve again: “It was this mutual love that determined what Teenage Head would become. If you didn’t absolutely love the “Funhouse” album by the Stooges, then you were out. You were not going to be in this band.”
The band’s live shows have become “infamous for inciting apocalyptic reaction from audiences across the country” according to Warner Music Canada, and both their 1978 show at The Horseshoe Tavern which was shut down by police (and was captured in a documentary called The Last Pogo) and their 1980 show at Ontario Place (which led to the banning of rock concerts at Ontario Place for several years afterwards) ended up in a riot.
The band’s original lineup has gone through several reincarnations. Frankie Venom passed away from throat cancer on October 15, 2008. DesRoches rejoined the band for three years in the 1980’s and again in 2016 as the band’s vocalist. The current lineup also includes Gene Champagne on drums, who took over for previous drummer Jack Pedler who became ill.
On November 24, Warner Music Canada will be releasing Fun Comes Fast, a 20 track double album of Teenage Head’s greatest songs throughout their 42 year career. In total, the band has released eight studio albums and one live album.
Steve Kane, President of Warner Music Canada, has commented: “C’mon, it’s Teenage Head! Their contribution to the Canadian music scene should not go unsung. We’re thrilled to be able to make sure that important bands like Teenage Head remain visible on our musical landscape.”
Mahon also stated: “Now, after 40 plus years, we’ve finally dug through the vaults, and with the help of Warner Music Canada, are set to release a 20 song collection of what I feel is our best work. If you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss about Teenage Head has been about, now you can finally hear it for yourself, for the first time, all on one amazingly remastered package. This is the one.”
Here is the full track-listing of the Fun Comes Fast collection:
- TOP DOWN – Released as a Single – 1978
- AIN’T GOT NO SENSE – Teenage Head – 1979
- PICTURE MY FACE – early demo – 1978
- SEND A LETTER – Head Disorder – 1996
- TEENAGE BEER DRINKING PARTY – Teenage Head With Markey Ramone – 2008
- CURTAIN JUMPER – Teenage Head – 1979
- DOWN TO THE UNDERGROUND – 1996
- GET OFF MY BACK – Teenage Head – 1979
- YOU’RE TEARIN’ ME APART – Teenage Head With Markey Ramone – 2008
- WALKIN’ ALONE – Head Disorder – 1996
- LET’S SHAKE – Teenage Head with Markey Ramone – 2008
- LITTLE BOXES – Teenage Head – 1979
- TORNADO – Tornado EP – 1983
- DRIVIN’ WILD (MY INVADER) – Endless Party – 1984
- PARASITE – Trouble In The Jungle – 1985
- FULL TIME FOOL – Teenage Head with Markey Ramone – 2008
- MY MOMMIES POT – Head Disorder – 1996
- BLOOD BOOGIE – Tornado EP – 1983
- SO LONG. GOODBYE – Head Disorder – 1996
- DISGUSTEEN – Endless Party – 1984