Before the advent of the magical entity we call the interwebs, the world of hardcore punk was a mysterious one, the black arts of which were passed on via the underground in a convoluted version of telephone. Radio played a big part in spreading the word, as did touring bands. But, as the touring circuit for punk rock in the late 1970s and early 1980s was hardly the replacement for backpacking through Europe that it has become today, the fanzine became the means by which the punk thirsty for knowledge discovered other, presumably more idyllic, scenes far from their maddening towns.
Early on in the punk movement, British fanzines like Mark Perry’s Sniffin Glue and Shane MacGowan’s Bondage served as mediums for spreading punk rock’s message. On this side of the pond, Legs McNeil and his Punk zine partners John Holmstrom and Ged Dunn spread the disease from the island stronghold of Manhattan, with L.A upstarts Flipside and Slash soon following suit on the West Coast. All these things codified punk rock for the average curious punter. With that regimentation came editorial opinion and the ushering in of the now time-honored debate as to what is truly “punk,” or at the very least “good.”
Fast-forward to the American Midwest: 1979. Three years in, punk rock had been around long enough Stateside to morph into an American subset deemed “hardcore punk,” a sect that could be argued to distill the movement down to a more music/less fashion driven entity. That is not to say that the players were King Crimson worshipping musos, but suburban Midwestern youth who didn’t have the luxury of dying their hair blue and ditching town for London or L.A. yet still wanted to purge their inner bile did so through menacing yet strangely everyman bands like The Fix, Negative Approach, and The Necros.
East Lansing, Michigan, punk Bob Vermuelen made his initial mark on the zine scene with 999 Times, appropriately enough completely about the London punk progenitors. Fellow Lansing homeboy Dave Stimson fell for punk in Michigan but upped stakes to New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he immersed himself in punk records and skewered sacred cows via Lehigh Valley punk rag Invasion.
Stimson eventually returned home to Lansing, where he took photography and art classes at the local community college. Vermeulen was paying the bills as an elementary schoolteacher. After a chance encounter with Stimson resulted in a prolonged spate of drinking, show-going, and record buying, the idea of doing a fanzine was posited, then undertaken. Dubbed Touch And Go, the zine was financed by Vermeuelen (now going by Tesco Vee to avoid issues with his day job) through his school salary and laid out by Stimson at the community college photo lab. Vee printed T&G #1 in a short run using the school Xerox machine and the rest was history.
Over the course of the four years and 21 issues that followed, Touch & Go documented the Midwestern scene. In doing so, they also talked a lot of shit and eventually fostered the record label of the same name. Touch & Go Records released early material by Midwestern hardcore stalwarts The Fix, The Freeze, and Vee’s band The Meatmen. The first T&G release was from Maumee, Ohio, juggernauts The Necros, whose bassist Corey Rusk was mentored both literally and figuratively as a wee punker by Stimson and Rusk. Rusk eventually paired with Vee to run the label from 1981 to 1983. When Vee and his wife relocated to the Washington, D.C., area, the label helm was passed to Rusk, who relocated the operations to Chicago and continues to run the label’s limited operation to this day.
Thirty years on from the initial production of entities called Touch & Go, The Fix vocalist Steve Miller (no relation to the Space Cowboy) has joined forces with Stimson and Vee to produce an amazing anthology of the complete 1979-1983 run of Touch and Go fanzine. Published in phone book sized form by music nerd wet dream come true Bazillion Points (itself an independent entity founded by renowned rock scribe Ian Christie), Touch And Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine ’79-’83 reproduces each of the issues in full, along with issues of 999 Times, essays, and 20 or so pages of period flyers and correspondence. Stimson, Vee, Miller, and Rusk all contribute remembrances, as do contemporaries John Brannon, Henry Rollins, and Ian MacKaye. Still others who have been influenced by Touch And Go pay tribute, including Chunklet publishing and design magnate Henry Owings, who will hopefully drop his long gestating tome on Amphetamine Reptile Records in this book’s wake.
Readers hoping for Christigau or Bangs-ian insight should be advised that these DIY journals are very much the product of the Midwestern scene and the two (young, drunken. loudmouthed) men who produced it. In other words, be prepared for scathing diatribes about clubs, labels, and, in some cases, obscure people who no longer exist and were hardly of influence then, backboned by a stiff sexual and scatological underpinning that may shake the average MRR reader to the core. Your potential issues aside, great interviews abound and there are scads of record and show reviews. Local pride has T&G championing the likes of Necros, Minor Threat, and The Freeze in their pages, but one can also scratch a chin to their admirable yet curious championing of Clock DVA and Big Country.
Those that are not of the mouth-breathing record collector set should fear not. Touch And Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine ’79-’83 is an entertaining read regardless. Scene drama rears its ugly head over the four years, as do the issues that arise from having an actual bank robber as a correspondent. Armchair punk historians will find such material engrossing, but Touch And Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine ’79-’83 is just as compelling for its collection of period artwork and photography. Raymond Pettibon, Pushead, and Naomi Petersen all appear in the pages, alongside DIY ads for then up-and-comers like Glen E. Friedman. Regardless of your angle of approach, Touch And Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine ’79-’83 is an amazing work that will appeal equally to the average fan or the total rock nerd. Respect due to all the parties involved in its initial publication and present day props are to be lauded on Bazillion Points for keeping DIY music publishing alive with amazing, high quality releases like these.Visit: Tesco Vee | Bazillion Points
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