Interview by Jason Setnyk | Photo courtesy of Chipster PR
Toronto, Ontario — Teenage Head, the iconic Canadian proto-punk band, has released a seminal piece of their storied history with ‘Performance: Live at Heatwave,’ a combination of a vinyl LP and DVD documentary film. This release marks the first time the performance has been made available, capturing a pivotal moment in the band’s history and the Canadian punk scene at the time.
In the summer of 1977, as the punk scene was burgeoning in Toronto, Teenage Head, hailing from Hamilton, Ontario, emerged as the area’s answer to influential acts like the Ramones, New York Dolls, and Stooges. The band, comprised of Frankie Venom (vocals), Gord Lewis (guitar), Steve Mahon (bass), and Nick Stipanitz (drums), quickly rose to prominence, backed by albums such as their 1979 self-titled debut, 1980’s platinum-certified ‘Frantic City,’ and 1982’s gold-certified ‘Some Kinda Fun.’
However, it was their live performances that truly defined Teenage Head. Now, with ‘Performance: Live at Heatwave,’ fans can experience a high-quality version of one of their most popular shows, recorded in 1980.
The band’s bassist, Stephen Mahon reminisces about the unexpected opportunity to play at Heatwave. “We were never booked to play the Heatwave Festival. After our sell-out show at Ontario Place, we were set to headline another festival, but it was canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. Luckily, John Brower, the promoter of Heatwave, offered us a slot,” he recalls.
This release is not just a nostalgic trip for long-time fans but also serves as a historical document of a crucial era in punk music. Mahon reflects on the band’s dominance in the punk scene. “The local punk scene in Toronto in 1977 was very healthy. There were lots of bands and even more fans that knew how to party. Lots of bands, but not much talent, not that we were the next Beatles, but we’d been practicing relentlessly since 1974. We had the jump on those bands who probably only formed that year.”
The recording process of the show was a complex yet crucial undertaking, as Mahon explains. “The show was recorded on a half-track tape, that’s half an inch, twice as wide as a cassette tape, on a TEAC 80-8, the 8 signifying eight separate tracks. You have to give Doug credit for engineering the recording. It’s obviously a crucial part of the process. Those 8 tracks had to be mixed down to two separate tracks, a stereo mix was done a couple of weeks later in Toronto at Amber Sound. That’s the tape we always had in the vaults. It’s the one we had transferred from analog to digital to use in our documentary film “Picture My Face The Story Of Teenage Head.” The final step in creating the “Vastly Sonically Improved” version was all thanks to the skill of Mr. Peter Moore, who did the final Mastering at The E Room, his mastering studio in Toronto. Every step of the way was all done by people who knew what they we’re doing. That’s why when you turn it up to eleven, it sounds so good.”
Mahon’s memories of the Heatwave performance are vivid and filled with a sense of grandeur. “Heatwave memories have to include riding in a helicopter from a field beside The Holiday Inn in Bowmanville where all the bands and crew stayed to the backstage area at Mosport Park. This was something big like Ritchie Havens did in the Woodstock movie. We left the festival probably around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and this time had to DRIVE back to the hotel. We had another gig that night in Kitchener, Ontario. I remember one of our roadies ordering a dozen Heinekens from room service. Knowing we’d never have to pay the bill, we should have ordered Black Russians. Timing is everything, and on Saturday, August 23, 1980, we were at the top of our game. The fact that Doug McClement had his Mobile recording studio up and running backstage was something we took for granted at the time, but we were very lucky to have that show recorded that day,” Mahon added.”
The release is a testament to the band’s enduring legacy and its impact on Canadian music. “Long-time fans will love this recording. The band played an almost perfect show. If they love Rock and Roll, then new generations of fans who didn’t get to experience our music back in the day will also love it, as long as they have good taste,” Mahon asserts confidently.
The deluxe package of ‘Performance: Live at Heatwave’ includes a splatter vinyl LP, a CD, a full-color poster, a sticker, and exclusive DVD content with never-before-seen features. “Along with the Splatter Vinyl LP, and the CD, a full colour 24 by 36-inch poster, and a 4-inch square sticker of the album cover, The SING Deluxe package is the only way to purchase the DVD version of the film, which will include never before seen bonus features, outtakes from the making of the film, I haven’t even seen them yet. It’s also the only way to get two vintage reproduction 8 by 10’s, a beautiful full-size reproduction of an actual HEATWAVE ticket, and a Golden Ticket enabling one lucky winner to walk away with a brand new (autographed) Fender Precision Bass! Gene Simmons would be proud of this one,” Mahon concluded.
With ‘Performance: Live at Heatwave,’ Teenage Head revisits its past glory and cements its place in the annals of punk history.