Last weekend at a garage sale, while picking through some collections of sentimental east coast folk songs, I came across the classic Canadian punk album, Frantic City by Teenage Head. Head singer Frank Venon still lives here in Steeltown, and, though no longer a teenager, both he and the band are still part of the local music scene. A older guy was walking past the house wearing a TH shirt the other day. When I complimented him on his attire he started telling me about the various members of the band and what they were up to. Partying mostly, it seems.
Last night I went to a friend's housewarming party and was talking about records with a woman. She told me she had a large collection of Ramones albums and t-shirts, and I was delighted to find that she also liked and collected albums by the Forgotten Rebels, another southern Ontario early punk band whose songs fueled the skateboarding of my friends and I, back in the day.
Like Teenage Head, the Rebels are still rocking after almost thirty years. Lead singer Mickey deSadist can allegedly still sometimes be seen walking these Steeltown streets--when he isn't busy touring Europe with his band. I tried, but was unsuccessful to get a Rebels song nominated for the list of the 50 essential Canadian tracks recently composed by the CBC national radio corporation. While the classic Vancouver punksters D.O.A. did make the list, others like Teenage Head, Forgotten Rebels and the Dayglo Abortions were absent.
The streets, clubs and record stores of Steeltown are heavily laced with the spirit of Punk. When we moved in to this house, I found a gnarley old Metallica flag in the basement (featuring a Pushead illustration from the pre-Enter Sandman era). When our neighbour moved out--a friendly, older lady who, it turns out, had a metallic blue pet tarantula living in a terrarium in the kitchen--I inherited a collection of Ramones cassettes from her. I'm not actually that crazy about the Ramones, being more of a Velvet Underground sort of guy when it comes to the early punk sound, so I sold the albums.
A couple years ago, the local label Sonic Unyon re-released the classic proto-punk album Cyborg Revisited by Simply Saucer. This band was a Canadian version of The Velvet Underground, lacking only an Andy Warhol, and a sympathetic audience to champion their sound.
homemade t-shirt c.1988
I'm still an undercover punkster, and I was heartened to meet someone who knew some of the same, obscure Forgotten Rebel tunes that still delight me when I give them a spin. Steeltown may be lacking in decent bookstores (any bookstore larger than the sickly Coles chain would be nice), but where else are you going to run into people with ears corroded enough to appreciate the adrenaline and drug fueled punk dirges of the seventies and eighties, the likes of which seem to have died with Kurt Cobain in the nineties?