Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll Rewind – Picture His Face

Cam Profile Pic

This week we re-wind to October 15, 2008.

It was a very sad day for Canadian rock’n’roll and especially those of us who grew up in the Ontario punk rock scene, Frankie Venom had died.

Don BernsThe local scene lost another giant this week with the passing of DJ, actor, music-lover and all around good guy Don Berns. Depending on your age you will best remember Don as a voice and Program and Music Director on CFNY, when it was still “the spirit of radio” or, as rave and house innovator Dr. Trance. My life is a little richer as I was lucky enough to consider both of these men friends.

This story appeared in Gasoline Magazine back in November 2008.

frankie-venom“He was deceptively agile. He was fast, aggressive and tenacious. He didn’t like to lose and rarely did-Frankie Venom was one of the best table hockey players that I ever experienced. He wasn’t too bad on stage either.

The first time I remember seeing Teenage Head was downstairs at the old Colonial Tavern on Yonge Street. It was 1977. The band still had some early New York Dolls in their repertoire and were joined most nights by harp player Slash Booze on stage-if memory serves, he broke his ankle jumping from the Colonial balcony one night. Later that summer, they played the infamous (and very short-lived) Crash’n’Burn and also represented the local Toronto punk scene, along with The Diodes and Viletones, for three nights at CBGB’s in New York. The band soon became stalwarts on the local scene, playing the legendary Club David (“Locker Room” anyone?), Larry’s Hideaway, and a host of other rock dives.

Teenage Head LP

With the release of their eponymous debut album, things started to pick-up for the high-school pals from Hamilton. Although they were part of the punk scene, their sound was more rooted in rockabilly, and the punk all came from Frank. You never knew what he was going to do onstage, on the monitors, in the lighting rig, or in the crowd.

You also never knew what he was going to wear. Style was important. From a Mickey Mouse T-shirt to a 50’s sharkskin suit, Frankie covered all the bases.


ontario-place-riotThe band released their second album Frantic City in 1980, and things were looking up. On Frankie’s 24th birthday (June 2, 1980) the band played the Ontario Place Forum and the ensuing riot caused the cancellation of rock shows at the venue for the rest of the summer. Over 15,000 fans tried to cram into the 10,000 capacity venue, then going to war with the cops. Just a week earlier, a mini-riot erupted outside the venue after a show by Goddo and Nash the Slash, and security was beefed up for the Teenage Head show.


In 1980, I had been fired from Quality Records and took the job of road managing The Models from Edmonton. While playing exotic locations like The ModelsWeyburn, Castlegar and Lethbridge, we would cross paths with the “Best Head in the West Tour,” where the boys brought the green monster PA system which was better suited to Maple Leaf Gardens than the Alec Arms Hotel. In the bigger cities they were feted by their local label reps with parties and free booze, and in the smaller towns they were fired after the first set of a three-night stand. Seeing them on the road back then gave me a sense of home. Wish I still had the T-shirt.


Frantic City was going to be the album that broke the band wide open. Although it went gold in Canada and won them “Album of the Year” and “Group of the Year” at the inaugural CASBY Awards, the van crash that sidelined guitarist Gord Lewis for two years just prior to their showcase in the US, pretty well stopped the bands in its tracks. When a US deal was finally offered a few years later, MCA forced the band to change its name to Teenage Heads, and shelved them after an EP. When I later worked at MCA I signed a menacing young rock band because they (especially their lead singer) reminded me so much of Teenage Head. Say hello to Hugh Dillon and The Headstones.

Head and Ramone

After many a troubled time, things were looking up for Frankie again in 2008. The band had finally released Teenage Head with Marky Ramone (a must-have one CD history lesson), been chosen to play a show at the 2008 Grey Cup festivities, and been honoured with an induction in to the Hamilton Music Hall of Fame.

FrankieVenom RIP

When I heard of his death from cancer at the age of 52 on October 15th, I was stunned. I had just watched a video from a recent performance, and although he was no picture of health, he was still Frankie. We hung out with a lot of the same people, grew up in the same scene, loved The Honeymooners  and Popeye, could argue Ti-Cats versus Argos, and knew how to drink and play table hockey. Thanks to Gord and Steve for being there at the start and the end.”

Ramones + Frankie

Frankie, Cam, The Ramones, and Others

Have a pint and hear Cam spin cool retro tunes every Wednesday night beginning at 5 PM at The Kensington Lodge


Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59.

Contact us at:

DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, and New Canadian Music.

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