Gods Of the Hammer: The Teenage Head Story
Coach House Press
My past keeps coming back to haunt me: you can take the guy out of the
Hammer - Hamilton, ON. - but you can't take the Hammer out of the guy. Not without forceps, anyway...
Case in point: this wee book (136 pages) which landed in my distant outpost, tells the story of Hamilton's most notorious
musical export to date. . Teenage Head was
the most successful band to come out of the Toronto punk milieu of the late
'70s, possibly because a) they were from Hamilton and b) there was more to it than "punk" per se. The
Head mixed rockabilly, punk, garage-rock and pop sensibilities in a way that
has never been successfully replicated. Moreover, they evangelized their
efforts by touring across the country repeatedly over a period of 30+
years, until the death of lead singer, Francis Hannah Kerr, aka Frankie Venom,
on Oct. 15th, 2008. With the addition of new singer, Pete MacAuley,
they may very well continue for another 30 years.
The book is written from the vantage point of a fan, and objectivity be damned,
Think of the book as a very big fanzine, comparable in heft to an
old print issue of Next Big Thing. Which is not to say
it's lacking in analysis: there is a very good breakdown of the Head process.
Pevere, who is best known for his writing in The Globe & Mail, concentrates
mainly on the Glory Years (roughly, 1977 to 1982). He does, however, articulate how, - in the band's infancy - the
combination of the individual members musical and social
backgrounds merged into one collective Head. An advantage Hamilton,
ON. had at that particular point in time was that it was NOT a major media
centre: you could woodshed and hone your craft before getting distracted by
Image and the neighbours. By the time the Head hit Toronto, it had the extra
edge of said experience. These days, I don't think that would be possible: you would have to hail from, oh say, Grande Prairie, Alberta, to produce a similar sitch.
Conversely, Pevere does a good , if cursory, job of how and why the Head unraveled,
and re-raveled (is that a word? It is now..) in the 1980's. You get an
insider's take on the management woes, the car accident in 1980 that put the
brakes on the band's momentum, and the internal dynamics that saw the band
split into competing organisms and then recombine at the end of the 1980's,
like some chemistry project gone awry. You also get a front-row seat to the
group's most infamous performance: the June 2nd , 1980 Ontario Place show,
which made front page news in Canadian newspapers when the fans who got
turned away from the show started overturning cop cars and such.
Pevere gets points for giving the Head's long-suffering original
manager, Paul "Kash" Kobak, his due in print. Points
are deducted, however, for leaving out a mention of Brian Baird
aka "Slash Booze" the band's "Inspiration”; name-checked
on virtually every Teenage Head LP sleeve. Where does Slash fit in the
book? Come in Ralph Alfonso Pg. 59: "Whoever was feeding Teenage
Head...their choice of covers was brilliant;" That would be Slash...a paragraph or two would have sufficed.
Had it been my tome, I would've added an entire chapter about the gallery of
misfits, colourful characters, and technicolourful hanger-ons surrounding the Head. Their lighting tech, Stewart
Pollock, for example, runs a well-known Toronto art gallery
now. Rob Sikora of Volume
should've been in there: he did the original, hand-crafted picture sleeves
for the Picture My Face 45 and has a whack of great photos from those early days. And
yes, Virginia, there really was (and still is? she was last spotted in Caledonia, ON...) a "Lucy Potato".
I can't complain too much, though: it's a decent enough tome, and worthy of
a few bucks.
The e-Mail Diaries: Letters From Hell
By “D” & “P”
The electronic age has brought us many mixed blessings. E-Publishing, for
instance. The good news is anyone can now write and publish a book. The bad
news is anyone can now write and publish a book. This e-book is a testimony to
that two-edged sword of truth.
This is a longer book than the first book reviewed. Technically, it is 256
pages, but a few of those are pages with pictures and those epigrammatic pages
,you know, like one paragraph for the
It reads like a barfly’s feckless rambling, unedited, unfettered correspondence
to his buddy back home: a dive bar raconteur recalling his low-life exploits in
the Philippines, Hong Kong, Mainland China. Brothels, bars, STDs, tropical diseases, Immigration
woes, and gold-hued fecal matter play major roles here. Suffice to say, it's not for the squeamish.
. The ultimate objective here…who knows? For $1.68 – that’s less than a
half-pint of suds in a Canuck dive bar – you get to share the authors advanced
state of degeneracy and possible brain rot.
( P.S. I can’t find locate it anymore on the Smashwords site)
An aside: teenagehead.ca is NOT what you think it is....
Next issue: we review more good, good offerings from Bill Shute and Kendra Steiner Editions