Monday, October 20, 2008

Death of a Canadian Icon

This past weekend was a somewhat morbid one. I was shocked to learn of the death of the son of a local used bookstore owner. Fit and healthy looking, he died reputedly of a heart attack, but rumours persist that something more suspicious is afloat. He was only 52, and seemingly in good shape otherwise. Drugs could have been involved, a lifestyle I could associate with NDG, but not with a guy who was slim and rode a neat bike. I also learned of the death of another 52year old, Frank Kerr, A.K.A Frankie Venom, of the Canadian punk band, Teenage Head. I only saw them live once, at a Concordia University beer bash in the mid 80's, long after they had seemingly missed the boat to punk superstardom. I remember there being about fifty people left after five bands had performed on the sixth floor cafeteria, and I was likely nursing a warm beer and some sort of personal insecurity. For some odd reason I was also wearing a fedora, and our rather poor slam dancing skills(as moshing was known then) aroused the ire of the local Concordia press. Still, it was a great show, and Venom was the consumate performer, putting as much energy into a gig in front of a small bunch of posers as he would have on Queen St. in Toronto.

There were a lot of rumours surrounding Head's failure to break into a major market, but they could have been as much heresay as the stories I hear about the guy from the bookstore. One had them missing a big concert because of a major car accident, that would have exposed them to a larger audience. Another told of their reluctance to change their name to "The Teenage Heads" to avoid the sexual connotation of the original name and allow them to break into the American market. Both are likely apocryphal to a degree. Punk music was never mainstream in the late 1970's, even if aging vocal proponents of it talk endlessly about its influence on popular culture. Essentially, these are the young rock critics of student newspapers then who have grown up and still find music meaningful to them. I love it, and hope to send my son to an artsy elementary school with parents of kids just like this. Those who didn't care then, and bought albums by Foreigner and Michael Jackson, still don't care about music now and are hence, silent. You don't see them writing books or blogging about the relative merits of the Ramones minimalism or the world music perogatives of The Talking Heads. Besides, influences are much easier to see in retrospect, right? Still, the death of someone I would emulate in the privacy of my air guitar/vocalist fantasies is a reminder that time passes in the most obvious of ways. To be fair, the band was more "punk" in attitude than in style. The Chuck Berry guitar riffs and party hard lyrics were as common to a typical bar band as the long feathered hair of the guitarist and bass player. Pub Rock is more of an appropriate name, referring to the music from England that laid to rest the notion that fifty-seven musicians needed to appear on one track to make a song worth listening to.

Anyway, Enjoy:

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