Teenage Head ’81 WESTROCK HOTEL
Teenage Head is a Canadian rock group from Hamilton, Ontario and was a popular Canadian punk rock band during the early 1980s.
The group was formed in Hamilton by Frankie Venom (Frank Kerr), Gord Lewis, Steve Mahon and Nick Stipanitz. Stipanitz has since been replaced, and Venom died on October 15, 2008. He is survived by his two kids Samuel and Anjel-joe.
The band’s name is a reference to The Flaming Groovies’ album Teenage Head, which Gord Lewis had seen advertised in a music magazine, but not heard, and decided that he, one day, would form a band with that name.
Their first gig was on October 17, 1975 in the Westdale Secondary School cafeteria. The band’s first professional gigs happened in February 1976 with a few shows at the Town Casino at Main and Walnut streets in Hamilton.
By May 1978, they released their first single “Picture My Face” on Epic Records, and their self-titled debut, Teenage Head, followed a year later, which went gold. The band’s performance at The Last Pogo concert on December 1, 1978 at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, ended in a riot and was shut down by the police. The concert was made into a short film by Colin Brunton, The Last Pogo. In 2006, Brunton began a feature-length documentary film about the concert, including additional interviews and footage of Teenage Head. It was released on DVD in 2008 as a tribute to the late Frankie Venom.
1980’s gold-selling Frantic City was the band’s breakthrough album, making them stars across Canada with the hit singles “Let’s Shake” and “Somethin’ On My Mind”. They toured to support that album, including opening the major Heatwave festival in August. In June 1980 their performance at Toronto’s Ontario Place sparked a riot. The incident made headlines across the country, and led Ontario Place to ban rock concerts for several years afterward.
In September 1980, riding high on the success of Frantic City and the band’s unintended notoriety, Attic Records, their Canadian label, set up a series of showcase gigs in New York City, hoping to attract a U.S. record deal. Only a few days before their scheduled departure, Lewis was seriously injured in a car accident and the showcase was cancelled. Lewis was temporarily replaced by David Bendeth, although he was able to return in time to play on the 1982 album Some Kinda Fun, which was another success reaching gold status.
Their 1983 record Tornado was marked by controversy, with the band’s new American label MCA Records demanding that they change their name to ‘Teenage Heads’ to placate the more conservative American audience. The title track was the band’s last big hit in Canada.
During this time the band appeared, as themselves, in the film Class of 1984 (starring fellow Canadian Michael J. Fox) and performed “Ain’t Got No Sense”.
In 1986, one year after the release of Trouble in the Jungle, Venom left the band to form a new group, Frankie Venom and The Vipers. Nick Stipanitz joined the Vipers as well. Venom was replaced by Dave Desroches, aka Dave Rave, who led the band for three years before departing to form his own band, The Dave Rave Conspiracy. Nick later left The Vipers and did a stint with The Tennessee Rockets for a while. Frank and Nick came back to Teenage Head when the group reformed in 1988, but Stipanitz left Teenage Head shortly after the reformation and went into a professional career in drafting and engineering. He was first replaced by Blair Richard Martin of The Raving Mojos, then Mark Lockerbie, who played on the 1996 album “Head Disorder”. Lockerbie was in turn replaced by Jack Pedler.
In 2003, the band recorded a host of previously released material with Ramones drummer Marky Ramone at Catherine North Studios in Hamilton and Metalworks Studios in Toronto with Ramones producer, Daniel Rey. The resulting album was released in Canada on April 22, 2008, titled Teenage Head with Marky Ramone.
In the spring of 2007, Teenage Head played in Alberta and British Columbia for the first time in more than ten years. They returned again in the spring of 2008.
On October 15, 2008, Gord Lewis announced that Frankie Venom had died following a battle with throat cancer.
The remaining members of the bands continued to perform after Venom’s death playing a tribute show for him, and performing at the 2008 Hamilton Music Awards.
In 2009, longtime fan and friend of the band, Pete MacAulay joined as the new singer, to in his words “take Frankie’s space, not his place”. 2014 saw Canadian born internationally accredited writer/reviewer Geoff Pevere write the book Gods of the Hammer: The Teenage Head Story (Coach House Books).
In his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario a memorial statue of Frankie Venom had been planned but has been stalled because of criticism of public funds being spent to commemorate a man who used illegal drugs and was once convicted for domestic assault. 2015 marked the band’s 40th anniversary with a series of high-profile, well-received shows.
In November 2016, Teenage Head announced the return of Dave “Rave” Desroches as lead singer.
Jack Pedler, due to illness was replaced by Gene Champagne, also of the Un-Teens and The Killjoys.
In late 2017, Teenage Head began performing record release parties throughout Ontario for their new remix and remastered compilation