On an unusually crisp autumn eve one year ago, a random gathering of some of the best musicians from Canada’s greatest musical berg (that’s Hamilton, Ontario, by the way) threw themselves onstage as part of the city’s annual Locke Street Festival. Spearheaded by the one and only Tom Wilson, said ad-hoc combo was busy r’n’r-ing things all the way up that street as the sun slid down when suddenly, a most familiar figure was spotted nearby. The lead singer of the one, the only, Teenage Head.
As would later be reported in the press, “I asked Frankie, ‘Frankie, fuck man, you’ve got to come up here and sing,'” Wilson says. “He said, ‘You got to give me a hundred bucks.’ So I reached into my pocket and I only had fifty, so I asked Dave Rave for the other half. I said, ‘Dave, fifty bucks for Frankie.’
“And this was the kind of love they had for Frankie. Dave didn’t ask me, ‘What for? What does Frankie need fifty bucks for?’ He was just pulling it out of his pocket. And Frankie got up and did ‘Let’s Shake’.”
It turned out to be the last-ever public appearance of Frank Kerr, much better known – and most rightfully so – as Frankie Venom, who along with his high school pals thirty-four years ago decided to form a band in between spins of Dolls, Stooges and, yes, Flamin’ Groovies records. Remarkably, that little band that could went on to garner two gold and one platinum twelve-inchers of their very own; in fact, their most recent release, available from the fine folk over at Sonic Unyon Recordings, actually features Marky Ramone on the drums. Terrifically high praise indeed.
In a scar-studded career that admittedly held more bumps than most bands’, Teenage Head never turned (or toned) things down, never towed anyone’s line, and never ever made a bad record or gave a bad show that I, or anyone else for that matter, should care to recall. And whether slithering across the heat pipes of Toronto’s legendary Crash and Burn club, opening for the Pretenders, Talking Heads and Elvis Costello in front of fifty-thousand at Canada’s Heatwave festival – or belting ‘Let’s Shake’ for and with some old friends on Locke Street on a warm late eve – Frankie Venom was every single inch the Head above all others.
He succumbed to throat cancer on October 15, 2008, aged fifty-two. Your record collection has never been the same since.