Photo and Tribute for the loss of Teenage Head guitarist posted on Facebook, August 8th, 2022
“We are heartbroken and still trying to process the loss of our friend, bandmate and brother Gord Lewis Our hearts are with his family, and all that knew and loved him. Gord was a force and an inspiration to many. You were taken from us far too soon.”
By Keith Sharp
Canada’s music industry is reeling from the shocking news that Teenage Head guitarist and group founder 65-year-old Gord Lewis was found dead in his Hamilton Apartment Thursday, a victim of multiple stab wounds.
His son, Jonathan, 41, who alerted various Hamilton media to Lewis’s death, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Formed in 1975 by Lewis, lead vocalist Frankie (Venom) Kerr, bassist Steve McMahon and drummer Nick Stipanitz, all students at Hamilton’s Westdale Secondary School, and heavily influenced by the U.S punk scene headed by The New York Dolls and The Ramones, the band’s breakthrough single; “Picture My Face” led to a recording contract with Toronto-based Attic Records which triggered gold record sales for their 1979 debut release, their 1980 `Frantic City’ album and 1982 disc `Some Kinda Fun’ which prompted serious attention by major U.S labels.
As documented in Douglas Arrowsmith’s excellent 86-minute “Picture My Face” a TVO documentary, Teenage Head was one of the most influential Canadian bands in the late 1970s and early 1980s. An appearance at The Horseshoe Tavern on December 1st, 1978, sparked the infamous Last Pogo riot; another riot was triggered at an Ontario Place Forum concert on July 2nd, 1980 when gates were closed early due to capacity crowds which led to a mass of people swimming across the lagoon to sneak into the show. And then, Teenage Head was one of the opening bands at the Heatwave Concert on August 23rd, 1980, staged at Mosport Racetrack in Bowmanville before a crowd estimated at 80,000 on a bill which included the likes of The Pretenders, B52s, Talking Heads and Elvis Costello.
The attention allowed their label Attic Records to set up a number of New York showcase dates for other labels. Unfortunately, just days before that first showcase, Lewis badly hurt his back during a serious car crash and was out of action for almost a year. And by the time he had made a sufficient recovery to perform and record again, the punk rock movement had dissolved, and the labels had moved on to a more tech-rock sound.
Teenage Head did get an EP deal for ‘Tornado’ with MCA in 1983, but the label wanted to change the band’s name to Teenage Heads and did little to promote the release.
With the incentive lost, Teenage Head carried on domestically, releasing ‘Trouble In The Jungle’ in 1986, but Venom left to start his own band Frankie Venom and the Vipers, to be replaced by Dave (Rave) Desroches and later Peter McAuley. Venom did make a short return to the band, but on October 15th, 2008, he succumbed to a battle with throat cancer, and as Arrowsmith’s documentary graphically shows, Lewis never fully recovered from the loss of Venom.
Although the band has continued to struggle on – with Desroches, Mahon and drummer Gene Champagne, Lewis battled several health issues, including crippling depression, but to have his life ended in such a tragic fashion is not the way things were supposed to play out. A sad ending for an artist who was revered in his native Hamilton and whose band is credited with creating a punk legacy in Canada.