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TOUCH AND GO. The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine ’79-’83. (Bazillion Points Books, USA, 2010)

“Touch and Go” is not only the name of one of the most exciting and important underground labels (The Fix, Necros, Negative Approach etc.). “Touch and Go” was also a legendary Hardcore Punk fanzine that lasted from 1979 to 1983. In fact, the fanzine came first, founded by the provocative and anus tooling mastermind Tesco Vee (Meatmen singer) and Dave Stimson, before in 1981, they started releasing records together with Corey Rusk. Now we all know the music that the “Touch and Go” label has put out (and continues to release) and we all have heard of the fanzine and saw clippings and pieces from it over the years. With the very small press run and the rather regional Midwest rooting, it remained to be pretty obscure though and hard to get hold of. When Ian Christe of the excellent Bazillion Points publishing house announced the reprint of “Touch and Go”, I could hardly wait to see the book. Now, not too many moons later, it is here. And it is fantastic!

The vast majority of this blog’s readers (including the writer) were too young or too far away or both to really have witnessed the formative years of Hardcore (and by Hardcore, I mean american Hardcore, because Hardcore was american). Sure, you might say, you bought this and that record or fanzine then and then, but honestly, what do you understand, overview, realize when you’re a teenager still, making your first experiences with so many things, including that of being a “music fan” (how despicable this sounds now!).
«The internet in all its immediacy will see to it», says Tesco Vee in his introduction, «that neither an idea, nor a fanzine will ever be allowed to percolate, fungate, and grow to fruition in this modern age. The web will see to it that said idea is co-opted, bastardized, and rendered passé within 24 hours. I know this all reeks of an old buzzard ranting about the good old days of independent music, and for that you must forgive me. No, PISS OFF!!!» He continues: «If I could only make you feel it made us feel as we watched it unfurl, listened o it, wrote about it and chronicled it all in our little fanzine». Then Tesco adds a little etymology: The root word of fanzine is «fan».
The makers of “Touch and Go” didn’t grow up on Hardcore Punk. And, they weren’t old enough to disappear with the first wave of Punk, like so many did. But most importantly, they were just completely into the exploding Hardcore scene. They loved the music, the energy and in the best sense of the word, they were fans. Fans and not consumers. Do you remember the time when being a “fan” was per se something a bit out of the ordinary and being a “fan”, regardless of the specific musical context, also meant that you felt enthusiastic about something and you wanted to take part in shaping that something? In the later 70s (that’s how I recall it), you had the choice still of being a “fan” or being a “normal guy”, whereas now, everybody is a “fan” of this or that. So first and foremost, “Touch and Go” was a fanzine. But of course, it was much more than that. Tesco Vee and Dave Stimson were not just following, they were creating by following. Tesco Vee calls it the “poison pen”: As music fans with strong views, harsh judgments,  a clear vision and a zine, they had power, even if the press run of “Touch and Go” started with 100 copies only and never really got big. That’s one of the first subtexts you will notice when going through the “Touch and Go”-book: The authors don’t simply pass shallow judgment. They’re holding the assizes. What they love, they love with power and what they hate and detest (and that’s a lot, actually), they hate and detest with a passion. In regard to Hunter S. Thompson, you could say that the makers of “Touch and Go” shared the same credo: Gonzo. Hardcore, the way they saw it, was all about Gonzo. It was not correct, it wasn’t nice, it wasn’t political in that sense that actually means ideological – it was wild! Every word is written in acid. “Wake up! This ain’t the peacelovin’ 60’s anymore. Times change, and if you want to sit back and play dead that’s your business. Just don’t do it around me – it’s too fucking depressing.” (Dave Stimson in issue 4, 1980).

Flipping through the 550 pages is not like a journey back in time. Of course you’re constantly bombarded with the yesterdays, but in the end, it will make you only realize that we all live in the 2010s now. We’ve had this discussion before and we’ll have it again: Times change, as Stimson said when he attacked the lame local punk scene in the above quote and of course, times have changed in the past 30 years. I tend to believe that the discontinuity between, say, 1980 and now is more distinctive then the one Stimson refers to (between the 60s and the emerging Hardcore scene). It’s a paradox, really, because on the other hand, the way music changed between 1975 and 1980 is much more drastic than it changed from 1980 to 2010. It’s a very complex and interesting phenomenon we’re talking about and when you realize this, it will shatter your cheap identity politics. “Touch and Go” remains to be dynamite. Just read it, look at it!
The retro garbage of today makes me sick and people who are stuck in their 1980s identities make me just as sick. Wake up! This ain’t the hateful 80s anymore! They all have family now, are married, have kids, steady jobs, they grew fat and ugly. Some have mellowed out, gotten real soft while others make try to make a living as re-enactors. But don’t fool yourself. When you listen to that aggressive 1980s record today, it feels so much different than it did back then. You take the needle off the vinyl, or stop iTunes with a fingertip and it’s not 1980. Can’t you see it?! You listen to some fancy retro Hardcore band, perfectly styled in every detail, and you immediately hear, right from the first second on, that this is just a product of today. Disposable. Boring. Lame. And that’s not all: That “sounds just like an 80s band” will never mean the same to the new generation like that real 80s band meant back then, in the times before the last musical wilderness got mapped and mainstreamed.
I recently had a little conversation with one of the editors of a very well known (Metal) music magazine. I asked him, a bright man in his mid twenties, to talk frankly, just between us, how we felt about the journalistic qualities of the magazine he works for. What quality?, he responded and started his lament. How they all were on drip-feed from the dominating labels who with their advertisements were a major financial backbone in these days. People don’t buy magazines anymore, just like they don’t buy records; the role of the industry in the print business is now even more dominant than it has ever been. I laughed. Bizarre, I said, so the magazines neat concept of portraying a sometimes socially deviant subcultural scene is corrupting its own standards by being little more than a big, glossy promotion tool for the music industry? So it is, he said – and even worse: By printing totally irrelevant and superficial garbage, we actually form our own readership. «You know», he said, «when I read blog like yours or old fanzines, I feel very sentimental. You guys do what you want to do and you’re so full of enthusiasm. And enthusiasm, real enthusiasm, is something that has totally vanished in the 21st century media overkill.»

Fanzine editions like this monumental “Touch and Go” book are invaluable. Whether it’s the instant-art of the typewriter and xerox machines days that appeals to you or the record reviews that have encapsulated the novelty factor they once had to the reviewer: You may say see all of this as tree rings or a melancholic ghost of the past. And you will laugh your ass off reading!

Buy “Touch and Go” from Bazillion Points or order it from your bookstore. The first 100 copies come with the extras you see in the photos above. In the meantime, listen to The Fix or the “Process of Elimination” comp.