When Pete MacAulay was chosen to be one of about a dozen local singers to pay tribute to Teenage Head’s Frankie Venom at the 2009 memorial concert to mark Venom’s untimely passing, McAuley couldn’t have possible been aware of what he was letting himself in for.
“I was always there as a friend of Frankie’s so when he died I was honored to be one of those chosen to perform at his memorial,” noted MacAulay on the phone from his native Cambridge. “After my performance, people were telling guitarist Gord Lewis, ‘Well, there’s your new lead singer.”
Set to front Teenage Head during a rare appearance, Saturday November 2nd at Toronto’s Rockpile East venue, MacAulay claims he was flattered by the band’s resulting offer. “I never went into it with those intentions, it just happened. I believe it was supposed to happen.
Replacing such a mythical figure as Frankie Venom was never going to be easy and MacAulay immediately took the position that “I am replacing his space – but not his place.”
“Frankie and I have similar vocal styles,” continued MacAulay. “I suit the music and anyone who knows anything about the band, knows the situation. Frankie is deceased, he wasn’t dismissed and performing as Teenage Head is what (guitarist) Gord Lewis and (bassist) Steve Marshall and drummer Jack Pedlar do. It’s their life and they made the decision not to quit. And I’m sure Frankie would have wanted them to carry on.”
Historically, it’s always been tricky to replace the lead vocalist of a rock band. You only have to look at how the loss of Freddie Mercury affected Queen, how the suicide of Michael Hutchence messed up INXS but conversely how the death of Bon Scott sparked a revival of AC/DC with Brian Johnson assuming vocal duties.
“It’s a problem only if you get the wrong guy,” points out MacAulay who would never equate Teenage Head’s situation with that of Queen, INXS or AC/DC.” Those bands made concerted efforts to find replacements while I kind of stumbled into this gig.”
“I’ve seen Queen twice with Freddie Mercury and I’ve seen them once with Paul Rodgers fronting them, and as much as I respect Paul Rodgers, I couldn’t wait for their concert to be over. From their first song, I knew he was the wrong choice,” observed MacAulay. “But with Johnson and AC/DC, that was like putting a new engine in the car – he was an ideal replacement.”
MacAulay admits that many of the original Teenage Head fans had a hard time accepting him as Venom’s replacement. “They told me too my face that they resisted coming out to the shows because it wasn’t Frankie, but when they did check out the band, they enjoyed us for what we are, a bunch of guys who like to have fun on stage,” he explained. “Then there are people who have just discovered us over the past four years and just like what we do. And then there are people familiar with the band, but not the individual members who will come up to me and say `I remember when you did this and you did that’ and I’ll say sorry but that wasn’t me.”
[quote]“I am replacing his space – but not his place.”- Pete MacAulay [/quote]
An outfit that plays may be once or twice a month and rarely plays outside of the Greater Toronto/Hamilton region, MacAulay admits that Teenage Head don’t have any major aspirations of pursuing future recording projects or national tours. “We have no plans, absolutely no plans at all. There is no talk of recording anything or releasing anything. We’ve all got other jobs (he operates a successful Cambridge music store), families and other commitments. Just going out once or twice a month is the limit of our aspirations with this band,” he notes.
“I do write songs and it is possible we might write some original stuff in the future” continues MacAulay, “But the reality is that the band has such an extensive catalogue of great songs that we haven’t even come close to performing live yet,”
In the end, it’s about keeping Frankie’s legacy alive while having fun on stage. “There’s nothing pretentious about us,” concluded MacAulay. “It’s just us delivering a high energy performance, playing some great songs, and having fun doing it – it’s a guaranteed good time.”