Three years after the band’s front-man, Frankie (Venom) Kerr, passed away from throat cancer, Teenage Head is back at it with Pete MacAulay on vocals.
Teenage Head was a premier punk band during the 70’s and a legend in Canadian music. Formed in 1975 out of Westdale High school in Hamilton, they have had multiple hit singles including, ‘Picture My Face’, ‘Let’s Shake’ and ‘Some Kinda Fun’.
Their sound didn’t go unnoticed and they influenced many Canadian bands such as The Tragically Hip, Headstones and The Doughboys (who recently invited the band to the Air Canada Centre to watch them open for the Foo Fighters).
Pete is the owner of MacAulay’s music in Cambridge and has been friends with the band for decades.
I sat down with Pete, who was recovering from a recent motorcycle accident, and talked with him about the past, present and future of Teenage Head.
Pete began playing music at the age of 23 and was intrigued when the punk movement reached the bars and airwaves.
“The punk rock thing hit and I thought, ‘I can relate to that and I can probably do that’,” said Pete. “Within a year of picking up a bass, I was out playing in a bar and fronting my own band.”
Pete first saw Teenage Head over 30 years ago in Kitchener after a friend recommended he go see them; he was hooked from the start.
“I saw those guys thirty-some years ago and I thought, ‘that’s awesome’, those guys listen to the same things I do and that’s the same sound I have in my head, they just kinda beat me to it,” said Pete.
Pete became friends with the band members over the following few years as the band’s fame grew. They were getting frequent radio play and even supplied the soundtrack for a few beer commercials.
In 2008, the band was overcome by grief after Frankie passed away. They were concerned that the legacy of Teenage Head was over and that the band would have to put down their instruments.
Pete had a tragedy of his own around this time; his best friend and business partner Kenny Schoenau also passed away.
Kenny and Frankie passed away within six months of each other and left both Pete, and the remaining members of Teenage Head, feeling distraught.
A while later, Pete was in Hamilton on a business trip and decided to visit Gord Lewis, lead guitarist for Teenage Head. They were both missing their friends and Pete decided to ask Gord if he wanted to go out for a drink.
“Do you want to go for a beer sometime and talk about it?” asked Pete.
“I want to play music,” Gord responded. “What is it that you do?”
“Well, I sing and play guitar,” said Pete.
“Well, let’s do that,” replied Gord.
Shortly after, Gord started a residency at a punk bar called This Ain’t Hollywood. A Gord Lewis Songbook was put together and musicians from Hamilton amassed and played Teenage Head songs, as well as songs that influenced the band. This gave Pete his first opportunity to sing for them and the band realized that his style matched the band.
“I have a similar style to him (Frank) without sounding like I’m copying him,” said Pete. “I’m taking my friends space, not his place. No one could ever take Frank’s place, he was probably the most charismatic front-man in Canadian rock history.”
Pete is looking forward to the opportunity to write and record an album with the band. Song writing is one of Pete’s strong points and he’s excited to demonstrate that to the band. Both Frankie and Gord also had some songs that they were working on. Although there is not anything set in stone for an album yet, Pete believes that there is still more albums down the road for Teenage Head.
“It’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s a matter of ‘when’ it’s going to get done,” said Pete.
The band is still true to their punk roots- they haven’t had one rehearsal and they still sound just as tight as ever.
“The band sounds like it did in its heyday,” said Pete. “I do my homework at home. I sing along with their cd’s on the treadmill. I figure if I can do it while I’m walking or running then I can do it while I’m standing still.”
Teenage Head has played just under a dozen shows with Pete as their singer and have more lined up. They’re playing at the 515 in Hespeler on Sept. 17, 2011, and they are also headlining a festival in Barrie, Great Canadian Beaver Race and Festival on Sept, 24, 2011, with Platinum Blonde. They also have a show with April Wine in the near future.
The change of a front-man is not uncommon in the music industry; many bands such as, Journey, Foreigner, Sublime, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, Alice in Chains and AC/DC, have changed their singer and have still remained giants in music. Perhaps now we can add Teenage Head to that list.