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Teenage Head causes teenage riot: an interview with Frankie Venom

In 1977, a new form of underground music emerged from Canadian basements and garages. Journalists called it punk rock. It was kids with boot polish in their hair, playing out-of-tune guitars and questioning anything established — parents, government, The Beatles. Decades later, critics praised the once-criticized scene for starting a tradition of do-it-yourself indie rebel music.

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It's one of the oldest stories in popular music: four high school friends get together to start a band. Hailing from Hamilton, Ont., Frankie Venom, Gordie Lewis, Steve Mahon and Nick Stipanitz adopted their name -- Teenage Head -- from a Flamin' Groovies song in 1975 and found themselves at the vanguard of the punk music scene in Canada. Years later, in 1992, Venom tells CBC Radio's Geoff Pevere about Teenage Head's relentless work ethic and the riot they caused but never witnessed.
• According to the book Hand Me Down World: The Canadian Pop-Rock Paradox by Greg Potter, Teenage Head can be credited with "...more or less instituting the concept of one-night stands at a time when bands were booked for a week at a time. 'They were so popular they could do it,' [said Chris Houston of fellow Hamilton band the Forgotten Rebels.] 'It changed how the whole business operated and suddenly a lot of bands were able to work... I was greeted by other musicians in Hamilton who were very bitter that they could no longer have a full week at some bar because of 'stupid fuckin' punk rockers.''"

• The day following the Ontario Place show and riot, Alan Niester of the Toronto Star wrote: "All this for Teenage Head? Six months ago I wouldn't have believed it. The band was, and is, still another local new wave outfit... really no better or worse than a spate of bands playing the Yonge Street strip at any given time."

• Frankie Venom (born Frankie Kerr in Glasgow in 1956) died of throat cancer in 2008 at the age of 52.

• In 2014 Coach House Books released Geoff Pevere's book Gods of the Hammer: The Teenage Head Story.
Medium: Radio
Program: Prime Time
Broadcast Date; Jan. 14, 1992
Host: Geoff Pevere
Guest: Frankie Venom
Duration: 18:25
Photo courtesy Teenage Head / Nick Stipanitz

Last updated: May 1, 2014

Page consulted on May 1, 2014

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