Tesco Vee Presents Touch And Go

by | Aug 27, 2010 | MUSIC

Tesco Vee is probably best known as the lead vocalist in the long-running, hilariously controversial anti-PC punk band The Meatmen. However, while he will be playing some music during his visit to Richmond on Monday, for once, music is not the main purpose of his visit. No, Tesco is on tour supporting a reissue of his original claim to fame: the complete archives of Touch And Go fanzine. Most people only know of Touch And Go as one of the best and longest-running independent record labels in the American punk/hardcore/alternative rock scene. Few are aware of the fact that the record label was merely an offshoot of the zine that started it all. Bazillion Points is hoping to correct this lapse in awareness with their recent reissue of all 22 issues of Touch And Go in one gigantic volume, and it is this hefty tome that Tesco Vee comes to Richmond to support. To that end, he’ll be appearing at Chop Suey Books in Carytown from 6 to 8 PM on Monday for a signing and discussion.

Touch And Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine 79-83 runs to nearly 550 pages and includes a great deal besides reprints of the original zines. A collection of introductory essays–from Vee, zine co-author Dave Stimson, book editor Steve Miller (former vocalist for early Touch And Go signees The Fix), former Necros bassist Corey Rusk (who took over the Touch And Go record label in the early 80s and has run it ever since), Negative Approach vocalist John Brannon, Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, and many other luminaries of American hardcore punk in the 80s and beyond–makes clear just how important Touch And Go was to the development of the American hardcore scene.

Tesco Vee is probably best known as the lead vocalist in the long-running, hilariously controversial anti-PC punk band The Meatmen. However, while he will be playing some music during his visit to Richmond on Monday, for once, music is not the main purpose of his visit. No, Tesco is on tour supporting a reissue of his original claim to fame: the complete archives of Touch And Go fanzine. Most people only know of Touch And Go as one of the best and longest-running independent record labels in the American punk/hardcore/alternative rock scene. Few are aware of the fact that the record label was merely an offshoot of the zine that started it all. Bazillion Points is hoping to correct this lapse in awareness with their recent reissue of all 22 issues of Touch And Go in one gigantic volume, and it is this hefty tome that Tesco Vee comes to Richmond to support. To that end, he’ll be appearing at Chop Suey Books in Carytown from 6 to 8 PM on Monday for a signing and discussion.

Touch And Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine 79-83 runs to nearly 550 pages and includes a great deal besides reprints of the original zines. A collection of introductory essays–from Vee, zine co-author Dave Stimson, book editor Steve Miller (former vocalist for early Touch And Go signees The Fix), former Necros bassist Corey Rusk (who took over the Touch And Go record label in the early 80s and has run it ever since), Negative Approach vocalist John Brannon, Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, and many other luminaries of American hardcore punk in the 80s and beyond–makes clear just how important Touch And Go was to the development of the American hardcore scene.

For two and a half years, between November 1979 and May 1982, Tesco and DS (as Stimson was referred to in the zine) cranked out issues of Touch and Go on a bimonthly schedule, sometimes even managing to release one each month. At the end of its first 30 months of existence, Touch And Go had published 19 issues. However, just before the end of this incredible run, Tesco Vee moved from East Lansing, Michigan to Washington, DC. He released a few more issues from the nation’s capital without the involvement of Stimson, but by the end of 1983, Touch And Go had ceased to exist as a fanzine. So much had happened over this short period of time, though, that despite its short life, Touch And Go is an indispensable resource to all who are interested in understanding the history and evolution of hardcore, punk, and underground music over the course of the past 30 years.

Reading through the magazine now, it’s hard to credit the writing with being good in any conventional sense. Tesco’s erstwhile job as a grade-school teacher allowed him easy access to cheap photocopies, but didn’t necessarily improve his writing skills. However, both he and DS were so inflamed with passion for the new sounds they were constantly discovering that this passion makes their typewritten rambles compulsively readable, even if their grammar is not perfect. Early issues make clear that, at the dawn of the 80s, Michigan was isolated enough from the punk scenes that existed in America (mostly on the coasts, far from Touch And Go’s midwestern homebase) to leave Touch And Go’s editors feeling like lone voices crying out in the wildnerness, ignored and scorned by all who heard them. DS’s rants about the weak, deceptively promoted “New Wave” radio shows airing on Michigan FM rock stations at the time are classic examples of tilting at windmills, and it’d surprise me to learn that the FM DJs he bemoans were even aware of his frustrations. And yet, if they weren’t hearing what Touch And Go had to say, others did, and as early as the second issue, T&G were receiving fan letters and promotional copies of independently pressed records. They printed the letters and reviewed the records with great enthusiasm, even if that enthusiasm was directed toward condemnation; indeed, the poison pen skills of both Tesco and DS were some of the most noteworthy elements of T&G’s earliest issues.

Another element that is far more noteworthy in retrospect is the wide variety of sounds that were reviewed alongside each other and with equal interest. In our modern estimation, it often seems that the New Wave scene of the early 80s and the American hardcore scene of the same era had nothing to do with each other. And yet, here in Touch And Go, we find rave reviews of bands like Black Flag and The Avengers pasted right alongside equally positive reviews of Echo And The Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, even U2. Sounds that seem miles away from each other to us now were lumped together in the minds of Touch And Go’s editors in the early 80s. What they were seeking was not a particular style, but anything new and fresh, anything that challenged the boring corporate rock hegemony that had settled over the FM airwaves of the era, burying frustrated punks in a morass of Styx, Supertramp, REO Speedwagon, and other worthless garbage. Anything that could be an antidote to that frustration was welcomed by Tesco and DS, whether it was Negative Approach, Public Image Ltd, or The Specials (all of whom graced the cover of Touch And Go at one time or another).

As you work your way through this chronological archive of Touch And Go, a theme slowly starts to emerge. By the time the magazine entered its second year of existence, a scene was slowly coalescing around them, not just in the tiny college town of East Lansing but in America as a whole. Networks were being formed, as Tesco and DS formed local bonds with Detroit’s Negative Approach and the Toledo-area crew of high school kids that would eventually become the Necros. Through record-trading, they also made contacts with other pockets of hardcore/punk-related activity around the country, from the Dischord crew on the East Coast to Bad Religion and the Circle Jerks on the West. Where the content of the early issues mostly consisted of reviews, and a good many of those focused on bands from overseas, later issues were filled with interviews with American bands, interspersed with first-person accounts of now-historical events. Issue #14 contains a live review by Necros vocalist Barry Henssler, in which he talks about going with some friends from DC to see Black Flag play in New York. He mentions Henry from SOA singing “Clocked In” with the band, which shocked me the first time I read it, as I realized that he was mentioning the incident which directly led to Henry Rollins joining Black Flag. In issue #17, Tesco Vee tells his version of the events that went down in history as the “Fear SNL riot.” Tesco blames the incident on the NY punks in attendance, whom he describes as “fuckheads that should eat my dung and go die downwind,” calling out members of the Cro-Mags by name in the process. The trademark Touch And Go vitriol is no longer just directed against unresponsive institutions barely aware of the zine’s existence–now it’s being aimed at punks on the same level of the underground as Tesco himself, and the juicy drama that results is fascinating even at the remove of nearly 30 years.

Less controversial but just as interesting are interviews from the period, which capture both the famous and the forgotten at early levels of their musical and philosophical development. In an interview in Touch And Go #15, Ian MacKaye describes the way the early development of the DC hardcore scene happened in complete isolation. “We [Teen Idles] played fast as shit, totally noise. Not like bullshit noise, but songs with a really rough edge. Alec [Ian’s brother, then singing in The Untouchables] was just crazy. He did the wildest shit you could imagine. He was doing stage dives and fucking himself up. All of this was happening before we’d heard any of the LA stuff. The first band we heard from LA was Black Flag and I thought, ‘This is really great–a little slow, but really great’.” The Misfits interview in issue #16 features plenty of hilarious bickering between Glenn Danzig and drummer Arthur Googy, who was only a few months from being kicked out of the band. At one point Glenn tells the interviewer that their new album (Walk Among Us) would have 13 songs on it. “It wasn’t planned, though,” Googy chimes in, to which Glenn responds, “Bullshit it wasn’t planned!” Later in the interview Danzig gives the address for the Misfits Fiend Club and says that fans should cut the heads off any dead animals they find and mail them to him. You want to believe that he’s joking, but the way he words the comment leaves plenty of room for doubt.

Not everything reprinted in the Touch And Go book is essential reading; some of it is silly, and some is bad enough to be totally pointless. However, it’s good to have the entire archive preserved, and it’ll certainly make a worthwhile addition to the library of any punkhouse. Like many zines, it’ll probably end up on the back of the toilet, though its weight and size may make it hard to keep balanced. It’s certainly not the sort of book that you can read one-handed (though there are enough random pictures of porn stars scattered throughout its pages that you may be tempted to try).

In addition to Tesco Vee’s signing and discussion at Chop Suey on Monday, he will also be performing with his band, Tesco Vee’s Hate Police, at Banditos after the signing. The show starts at 8 PM, and Point Blank and Bloody Crackdown are also on the bill. Like The Meatmen, the Hate Police focus their vitriol on a variety of controversial subjects, and since the currently-active incarnation of the Hate Police split their set between Meatmen and Hate Police tunes, there’s a good chance you’ll get to hear all of your un-PC faves–“Crippled Children Suck,” “Toolin’ For Anus,” “Vegetarian On A Sitck,” etc.–in a single loud, snotty performance. The book, the signing, and the performance all promise to be wildly entertaining, and you’d be ill-advised to miss out on any of them.

Chop Suey Books is located at 2913 W. Cary St. in Carytown. For more information, call (804)422-8066.
Banditos Burrito Lounge is located at 2905 Patterson Ave., two blocks west of Boulevard. For more information, call (804)354-9999.

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.




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