Teenage Head’s Gord Lewis Recalls His ‘Fierce’ Guitar Skills As The Band Continues

TORONTO — Gord Lewis played a “fierce” guitar in Hamilton punk rock band Teenage Head and his bandmates plan to honor him with a series of upcoming concerts.

The members of Teenage Head say they made the “difficult decision” to complete three booked gigs before the 65-year-old guitarist was found dead last Sunday at his Hamilton apartment.

In a message posted on the band’s Facebook page and co-signed by the Lewis family, they say the shows will be a way “to honor our deceased brother and begin the healing process”.

Teenage Head will play in Winnipeg on Thursday, Saskatoon on August 20 and Oakville, Ont., on September 10.

On Wednesday, Hamilton police confirmed that Lewis was the city’s third homicide this year. Jonathan Lewis, the musician’s 41-year-old son, is charged with second degree murder.

Police did not release the exact cause of death or say when Lewis died.

Teenage Head was formed in a Hamilton high school and rose to prominence in the early 1980s as the punk rock movement evolved from being led by the Ramones, New York Dolls and Sex Pistols. These groups often became tied to anti-establishment messages, while the Canadian quartet found their motivations elsewhere.

Their self-titled debut album included their lead single, “Picture My Face,” a rambling breakup song driven by Lewis’ gritty guitar.

“Teenage Head sang about girls, cars and fun times,” said longtime fan and friend Lou Molinaro.

“(They) never sang about political issues, conflicts or international issues.”

Molinaro discovered Teenage Head as a teenager in the summer of 1980 when he attended their now-notorious concert at Ontario Place in Toronto, which sparked a riot and made headlines as bullies. notorious problems.

As a fan, he was blown away by the gig experience, but Molinaro says the more he listened, the more he was drawn to Lewis’ unique guitar skills.

“It was thick and full and raunchy, but it was a signature sound that only Gordie could play,” he said.

“There have been a lot of guitarists over the years who have tried to imitate him, but they haven’t.”

After the riot, Teenage Head was on the rise, but just as momentum was building for an American breakthrough, Lewis was seriously injured in a car accident. The accident derailed plans for an American run for fame and forced Lewis into recovery for the better part of a year – virtually a lifetime in music.

“In 1981, record labels were rapidly moving away from local rock ‘n’ roll and setting their eyes on the UK,” said Eric Alper, rock music publicist and analyst.

“(Attention went to) help develop Duran Duran, Eurythmics and Culture Club. By then, Teenage Head was no longer a priority in the United States for anyone to work with.

After scuffles with their US label, the band eventually began to fall apart, and by the mid-1980s vocalist Frankie Venom had left to start a new project. The group would reform in various iterations in the years that followed.

It was a decade later, in 1996, when teenage fan Molinaro connected with his idol, guitarist Lewis, while launching his radio show at Mohawk College. He asked Lewis for an interview that covered the Teenage Head story and the conversation led to the two becoming fast friends.

Concerned about Lewis’s disconnect from the music industry, Molinaro considered ways to allow Lewis to shine with his own platform. As co-owner of Hamilton’s bar This Ain’t Hollywood, he began booking the guitarist as a regular guest.

“I was upset because I thought Gord had never done anything but be a rock ‘n’ roll guitarist,” he said.

“I had this idea of ​​starting a weekly open stage with Gord Lewis. We called it the Gord Lewis Songbook. And it was basically local Hamiltonians (who) had the chance to get on stage and sing a Teenage Head song or accompany Gord on guitar.

Molinaro said that around this time he learned more about the “two-sided coin” that defined Lewis’ personality.

“There’s the rock ‘n’ roll guitarist with that fierce sound, and then there’s a quiet, mellow Gord,” he said.

“Gord’s guitar playing was very therapeutic for him. There were many times when we all knew Gord was struggling. And every time he went on stage, he was always very nervous,” he added.

“But once he got up and started playing those first chords, that step was his.”

The surviving members of Teenage Head say they hope their future shows honor Lewis’ legacy, as the guitarist “wanted his music to be heard and wanted it to endure.”

“We are hurting, his family is hurting, our town is hurting,” they wrote.

“Gordie fans around the world are hurting. He loved you all.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 12, 2022.

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