Originally forming as either a joke or experiment, TEENAGE LOVE played its first show in November of 1984. Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, the band was founded by vocalist Rus Harper and bassist John Sewell, the two constant members of the band for the entirety of their obscure but infamous career.
Teenage Love quickly established itself as a mainstay of Knoxville’s fabled punk/hardcore scene of 1984-1986. During this period, the band made its presence known by opening for many of the more important acts of the burgeoning hardcore scene including the Dead Kennedys, the Descendents, Suicidal Tendencies, Toxic Reasons, Scream, Marginal Man, and many more. While the band’s original incarnation occurred in amid the hardcore movement, its influences were rooted in the older, protopunk sounds of bands such as the Stooges, New York Dolls, T-Rex, the Heartbreakers, and the Dead Boys. True to form, the band’s “lifestyle choices” mirrored those of their heroes—a condition which ensured that their shows would be raucous affairs, teetering on the brink between abandon and musical disaster.
The band lasted for around 7 years, an era that saw a couple of drummers and several guitarists. During this time the band toured the Southeast often, sharing stages with the Melvins, Flaming Lips, the Adolescents, and more. The band was an established presence in Nashville and Atlanta, where they played often. This seven year reign of terror was marked a glut of self-destructive behaviors including (but not limited to) onstage nudity, too many fights (during shows) to keep track of, several arrests, car crashes, wild parties, unsafe sex practices, evictions, and drug overdoses. The band finally reached its limit in early 1991 when John Sewell fell two stories off a roof (while drunk, of course), fracturing his skull and bruising his brain in the process. At this point the band had become, well, too much fun. After the demise of Teenage Love mach I, Harper and Sewell both somehow managed to regain a semblance of control in their lives, finishing college, playing in other bands, and maintaining a façade of sanity.
Cut to 2004. Metro Pulse Magazine, releases Cumberland Avenue Revisited, a book celebrating Knoxville’s rock history. To coincide with the release of the book, the magazine hosts an outdoor concert on the town square which was attended by around 10,000 people. Teenage Love had declined several reunion offers before, but the offer to headline this event was too tempting.
As fate would have it, some overzealous fans attempted to remove Rus Harper’s pants during the show—and he didn’t exactly try to stop them. Rus was immediately arrested for public indecency at the end of the set. With their first show in over 13 years, the band was again controversial.
With yet another high point in their illustrious career, the band decided to reunite on a part-time basis. Recorded by Knoxville-based mad computer scientist, Seva, the No Excuses album (released in March 2009) features the same lineup the band had at its 1991 breakup, including Jay Martin on drums and Jeff Cregger on guitar.
So, after almost 25 years of self-destructing at every turn, the band finally recorded an album, which you hold in your hands. No Excuses continues the band’s unreserved embrace of pathetic rock’n’roll clichés: The album, largely composed of the group’s “classic” hits, also features new material that no one really wants to hear, not even their six surviving fans.
Since the release of No Excuses, Teenage Love has become more active as a performing entity. The band has since added drummer Rodney Cash, a mainstay of the Knoxville music scene who has served in umpteen bands including 30 Amp Fuse, Whitey, and The Clintons as a permanent member. The group is slated to record a new e.p., again with Seva, in August of 2010.