Teenage Head's "Tornado" at Tiger-Cat's Half TIme Show

“We signed to MCA in Los Angeles because Attic Records in Canada wasn’t able to get our music around the world,” says Mahon

The last two years may have been the most hectic for the Teenage Head camp. A double vinyl compilation greatest hits package, Fun Comes Fast, was so well received that the band followed up with the re–release of their self titled debut. Following the recent trend of high end, perk driven packages, the band has had fans clamoring for this re–released product. This weekend, the next installment of Teenage Head re–issues happens with a split coloured vinyl full length release for Tornado and it coincides with the band’s first performance for the Hamilton Tiger Cats Labour Day Classic.

Tornado, originally a mini-album/EP  of six tracks released on May 3, 1983, featured the last recordings with the original lineup of Gordie Lewis, Frankie Venom, Nick Stipanitz, and Stephen Mahon. The new version — dubbed the Revved Up Edition — is a 14 track full split green/yellow vinyl along with a 21 track CD that contains all new 2019 mixes, the original 1983 mixes plus demos and rarities, a Teenage Head Family Tree dating back to 1971, rare photos and flyers, essays from Stephen Mahon and Ralph Alfonso with tons of goodies. Tornado was a hall mark recording for the band marking their major label debut after six years of growth out of Canada’s punk scene. But the career altering release meant a name change, a firing and even the loss of one of their members. 

“We signed to MCA in Los Angeles because Attic Records in Canada wasn’t able to get our music around the world,” says Mahon. “We were excited to think we’d get our music into the States but then we got word from management that they thought we had to change the name and it was laughable. It’s one thing to pick singles and have a say on the artwork but to say your band name is offensive? We laughed it off and we weren’t going to blow the deal over the band name. But as the story goes, the bottom fell out of the deal almost as quickly as we signed it. The story is in the booklet for Tornado re–release but basically Irving Azoff took control of MCA came in as the new sheriff in town and looked at the roster and cut a lot of bands. 

“The album came out in Canada with a couple of singles and a 12–inch of one of the songs,” adds Mahon. “The tapes were still at the recording studio and when we received notice from MCA USA, we went and got the tapes but I don’t think that anyone at MCA cared at the time. The band was kind of disillusioned with everything and we thought we should have our music released in the States and we wanted to play there. It took its toll on the band, especially Frankie and Nick. Nick had always helped with songwriting and didn't feel he wasn't being listened to. After all of those years of plugging away across Canada, Nick felt he had enough. He’s still one of my best friends and he’s done very well for himself. Nick was a real archivist for the band and acquired a lot of negatives for images and more. He’s been very accommodating in helping out with the re–releases.”

Stipanitz works in real–estate management these days with most people not knowing of his punk history but he’s definitely helped out remembering the Head milestones with his archive material. The re–release corrects the band name change that was demanded by the major label and Teenage Head’s Tornado now has a proper release some 36 years later with original number of records autographed by Mahon, Lewis and even Stipanitz. It even includes old, unused tickets from the time period so the whole package has been lovingly assembled.

“I originally called up an old buddy named Ivar Hamilton at Universal Music about licencing the music from Tornado for the streaming services,” recalls Mahon. “He said, ‘I’ll do one better and we’d like to re–release the album on coloured vinyl and more’. I almost dropped the phone. We quickly started making a plan but I always thought a mini–album was kind of cheesy. We were a band that wanted to make an album and I found a cassette in the archives I have. There are a hundred cassettes I sifted through and I found one labeled “Fourth Album Songbook”. Tornado was our fourth album and there were all of our songs in demo form. It was not the Dave Bendeth or Daniel Lanois mixes you heard with the release but Peter J. Moore cleaned up the tracks that could have been included if we had the chance to do a full album.”

The six songs that appeared on the initial mini LP will be included alongside 2019 versions remixed by music producer Mark Berry (David Bowie, Headstones, Billy Idol, Joan Jett) and the never–before–released demos that some found their way onto Head Disorder but that’s a nother story. With the album complete, Mahon and Teenage Head are doing one of the biggest live gigs to promote Tornado one more time.

“I can honestly say this Tornado package is worth it,” beams Mahon. “We finally got around to spelling our name properly, after over 35 years, Universal Music Canada has gone all out on this beautiful deluxe reissue. It’s been remixed, it’s been remastered, it’s pressed on split yellow and lime green vinyl, it’s got a sixteen page colour booklet with tons of memorabilia. It comes out officially August 30 and the same weekend we play for the Cats. 

“We’ve always been sports fans and we’ve beel loyal to our Tiger Cats,” adds Mahon. “We actually put out a Teenage Head shirt in conjunction with the Cats. Word is it might be sold out now but we hope they have some for the game after the Cats win and you will be able to buy the album as well. I think we might have an autograph session as well. We have our good friends Dave Rave on vocals and Gene Champagne on drums who’ve been with us for years now and we made sure to include a photo with them in the package. I think Tim Horton’s holds closer to twenty thousand people so it’s kind of a blast to do that big of a show. The show, we’re hoping to squeeze in as many songs as we can but we only get ten minutes and then you’re back to the game. We don’t get to do these kind of shows all the time so it’s definitely an exciting time for us and we’re hoping for a great game and we’re going do Hamilton proud with a great half time show from Teenage Head.” 

Teenage Head play Labour Day, Monday, September 2, for the Tiger Cats half time show in Hamilton at Tim Horton's Field. Click on teenagehead

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