Sometime in 1978 journalist Geoff Pevere saw a band of young punks from Hamilton, Ontario in a basement bar and now 36 years later he has decided that their story needs to be told.
If you grew up in Canada in the late 70s and early 80s it would have been impossible to not come across Teenage Head. Somehow among the soft rock of Dan Hill, radio friendly rockers Loverboy, Streeheart, Trooper, and Prism as well as heavy weights like Rush – this band of long haired, Monkees–glam-50s influenced rock and rollers managed to turn Canadian music on its ear. In his new book – Gods of the Hammer – The Teenage Head Story – Pevere, a self-proclaimed, lifelong fan, chronicles the rise and fall (more of a sputter), of one of Canada’s most influential acts.
Pevere begins with the infamous Teenage Head Ontario Place Riot show in 1980. I was there, not quite 14, dying to see the band that sounded like nothing else on the radio. I was way too young to get into the clubs and even though the Head played high schools extensively, I hadn’t even started high school yet. The eagerness and anticipation that I felt times 15,000 was what led to the riot – a burgeoning fan base looking to see this great new band at a free all-ages show and a venue that wasn’t prepared. However, that’s how legends are born, and I remember my father constantly sharing his dislike of the “talent-less trouble-making punks from Hamilton”. This only made me like the Head even more.
Looking back Teenage Head released seven studio albums, a live album and an EP over 29 years. However the glory years were 1979 – 1983 and during that time it seemed the Head was destined for the big time. Pevere expertly chronicles how the band was a victim of circumstance – how small acts of fate and perhaps a few poor decisions and questionable management cost them a shot at super-stardom, and the gold ring: an American record deal. In retrospect Pevere spins a sad tale of what could have been, four great friends making music and becoming stars. However, an untimely car accident, band in-fighting, singer Frankie Venom’s struggle with substances, and ultimately his death in 2008 after a battle with cancer would change their legacy. But Gods of the Hammer is also a celebration of what was, and Pevere makes a strong case for his take on what the Teenage Head story is all about: a ground-breaking run from a band playing simple but perfect rock and roll that cut through the manufactured crap on the radio.
Gods of the Hammer is a quick read but essential to anyone interested in the early Canadian punk scene. Although these days it’s questionable to tag Teenage Head as punk, they did travel in the same circles as the Viletones, the Diodes, and the Forgotten Rebels. Pevere delivers an important addition to the documented history of the Canadian punk scene and Gods of the Hammer rightly deserves its place alongside Liz Worth’s Treat Me Like Dirt, Don Pyle’s Trouble At the Camera Club and Sam Sutherland’s Perfect Youth.
Geoff Pevere, author of Gods of the Hammer: The Teenage Head Story, has curated a playlist of sixteen songs containing essential tracks by Teenage Head as well as by bands that influenced their high-energy style. Read Geoff’s annotations while you listen and (re)discover how Teenage Head is ‘capable of sweetening and shredding your eardrums at the same time.’