Like other long-standing indie labels such as SubPop, Touch and Go began as an underground music ’zine (or fanzine) that would go on to influence the cut ‘n’ paste, DIY punk and indie-rock aesthetic of ’zines and labels of the 1980s and 90s, before everything was digitized and blogged for instant consumption and gratification.
Penned in acid ink by Tesco Vee (later of The Meatmen, who just played The Conservatory) and Dave Stimson, Touch and Go set out to cover original punk and early new wave with wit, zeal, strong opinions, irreverent and often puerile humor, and keen intelligence.
This amazing, educational book includes verbatim issues 1 through 22 and adds brief appreciative essays by scene luminaries such as Ian McKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi, Discord Records) and Henry Rollins (S.O.A., Black Flag), forming a useful and entertaining history of that eras underground scenes.
Based in Lansing, Mich., the Midwestern ’zine covered and supported local and regional bands — such as Cleveland’s Pagans, Maumee, Ohio’s Necros, and Dayton, Ohio’s Toxic Reasons — but also covered fecund scenes such as Los Angeles, which produced X, Avengers, Wall of Voodoo, and Germs.
The ’zine was fairly Anglophile too, covering the development of Britain’s ’77-style punk, post-punk, art-punk, goth, and even second–wave ska for while.
The title emphasizes hardcore punk, but they lavished praise on dark, atmospheric bands from England’s famed 4AD (Modern English) and Factory (Joy Division, 24-Hour Party People) labels.
Reading their laudatory reviews of early 7-inch singles by beloved post-punk acts such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Wire, and 100 Flowers is pure joy. It’s fascinating to see their response to the first releases by bands who would become huge — they love U2’s debut “Boy” but fling doo-doo at singles by Depeche Mode and the Go-Go’s.
Though sometimes rough-edged and very much not politically correct, the duo’s prose sometimes reaches brilliant and creative heights such as when Tesco Vee attacks retro acts, asking: “Are the ‘new music’ acts to retain their ‘experimental’ labels forever while the contrived historicult mish-mashers adulate and over-ink these cyclical trendsetters?”
Beware offending the sensibilities of these passionate punks; their poison pen produces such memorable review closers as, “anyone who likes this is an asshole.” By the 90s Touch and Go had relocated to Chicago and established a formidable reputation in the underground, punk, and alternative rock scenes, issuing records by the likes of Big Black (led by Steve Albini), and Jesus Lizard, and later the first TV on the Radio studio album.
Touch and Go Records continues to this day, still run by Corey Rusk, who was in the first band to be released by the label, The Necros, releasing edgy indie-rock.