Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine '79-'83: By Tesco Vee and Dave Stimson, Edited by Steve Miller, 546 pgs. By Jimmy

Nov 24, 2010

I’m warning you right up front, punk: if you’re looking for hard-hitting, in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers of the early U.S. punk scene, you’re barking up the wrong tree with this book. While there are, in fact, interviews with seminal groups like the Misfits, the Fix, Minor Threat, Negative Approach, Void, Black Flag, Artificial Peace, Modern Warfare(!), Necros, and many others, well, let’s just say that T&G’s strengths could be found elsewhere. Okay, where, you ask? Smack dab in the middle of the unbridled adoration Stimson and Vee had for the underground rock/punk records they were shelling out a small fortune to buy.

Like the myriad of music blogs and zines of today, the zines of punk’s formative years often had their own unique style, be it in the writing, the photography, the art, the coverage, whatever. What T&G did so damned well was to marry the punkerati snobbery of its primary influence, SlashMagazine, and a heaping dollop of the adolescent toilet humor Vee later put to good use with his band the Meatmen, with some serious attempts at critiquing what they were hearing.

Sure, they weren’t above whipping out a pert one-line dismissal (quick aside to anyone who’s ever gotten a bad review from me: be thankful these cats weren’t at the keyboard ’cause they could be downright eviscerating), but often they took the time to lay out some very astute criticisms of a particular release between all that talk of Godzilla-sized shits and dreams of blowjobs from Lisa De Leeuw. They were excited as hell about what was going on and it shows on every poorly Xeroxed page they produced.

In addition to the aforementioned music critiques and interviews, one finds packed in here a veritable blow by blow account of the formation of the Midwestern hardcore scene, told from inside by guys who were intimately involved in the goings-on rather than some stuff-shirt scholar prick poring over third-hand tales he doesn’t truly understand; examples of the helter-skelter layout style of the early fanzines; photos deftly thefted from some of the best punk photographers and magazines out at the time; and the two authors’ ability to craft some unabashedly biased, creatively crass metaphors into howlingly funny commentaries on punk, its scene, its bands and the suckdom of greater Midwest society as a whole.

With its full-sized reproductions, introductory reminiscences from fan and author alike, and even a copy of an earlier fanzine Vee created to extol the virtues of English punkers 999, one only hopes that if and when someone gets around to giving Pure Filth, Ink Disease, and the early years of Flipside the same treatment, that they will receive the same amount of care given here.

While calling this collection “complete” is inaccurate—it’s clear some things are missing, including the notorious “Meatmen Comics,” (according to the punker rumor mill, the original artist of the comics denied Tesco the right to reproduce them in the book)—it is indispensible as both a look into a too brief period of time when the monolithic rock world was handed its own ass by a bunch of mostly teenaged amateurs armed with shitty musical instruments and battered typewriters, and as a reminder that you don’t need a college or corporation to deem you qualified; all it takes is some chutzpah and an axe to grind. –Jimmy Alvarado (Bazillion Points, 61 Greenpoint Ave. #108, Brooklyn, NY11222)

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