(35 points; see the complete list)
It’s impossible to tell from the voting whether respondents are most fond of Teenage Love’s first incarnation—which enjoyed a clamorous seven-year run beginning in 1984—or its revival, which came together in 2004 at Metro Fest and resulted in Rus Harper’s bare ass which resulted in charges of indecent exposure. But it doesn’t matter. Punk rock is now, no matter when you heard it, no matter when you hear it, no matter how many gray hairs you may have.
“It’s of a genre,” says TL frontman and lyricist Harper. “But it’s our interpretation of it. It’s really, really basic rock.”
Asked if he started Teenage Love, Harper is adamant about the opposite. “Teenage Love started me,” he says. “[Bassist] John Sewell said, ‘We’re starting a band and you’re out front.’ As far as it being enduring, I guess it’s because we gave 300 percent. We kept it together enough to play the songs. It’s part of the reason I’ve stayed in Knoxville, just having a blast with all the freaks.”
Drummer Joey McPeak and guitarist Dale Ashe rounded out the initial lineup. Jay Martin replaced McPeak in the early ’90s, and plays with the band now. TL has been through more guitarists than Spinal Tap has spontaneously combusted drummers, including Chick Graning (who’s currently in the band), Bill Irwin, Paul Wise, and Jeff Cregger. The early repertoire ranged from KISS covers to impromptu potty-talk interludes to Harper’s angry poetry ranted over Sewell’s riffs. Teenage Love became something like the house band at Vic & Bill’s back in the day, opening for locals like Smokin’ Dave but also A-list passers-through like Suicidal Tendencies and the Dead Kennedys.
“Knoxville might have had its own sound, but it was kind of a stew,” Harper recalls. “We were more influenced by that CBGB’s sound and the Dead Boys.”
Teenage Love has a disc of 10 new songs currently being packaged, titled No Excuses. It was recorded in an Oak Ridge basement by Seva, the producer who’s helped make digital so many of the bands you’re reading about here. With regard to the longevity that surprises even him, Harper sums up the lasting appeal of Teenage Love and others like them: “There’s still a place for angst-driven rock ’n’ roll. It is the music of rebellion.”
They literally scared me the first time I saw them live. I’m pretty sure that was the intention and it ended up being a good thing since I went back for more. Rus Harper=K-town’s answer to Iggy Pop. Play “Corndog” again, dammit!
Every show is still one small irrational decision away from a new arrest.