Under cover of night in 1979, Bob Vermeulen crept into the school where he taught, and Xeroxed several hundred copies of a hand-typed, cut-and-paste fanzine called Touch and Go. His students wouldn't have suspected he would soon be the infamous Tesco Vee, frontman of The Meatmen and Hate Police, nor that those reams of copy paper would yield a seminal influence in the history of American underground music.
Recently, all the issues from 1979-83 have been reprinted in a 575-page book called Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine (Bazillion Points). The Hate Police stop by the 31st Street Pub this Thu., Aug. 26, to celebrate that voluminous tome and Why Be Something You're Not?, a history of Detroit hardcore by Tony Rettman, for whom Vee wrote the foreword.
In 1976, Vee felt the prevailing winds of punk start to blow. "I jumped ship on progressive rock and started to buy as much punk as I could." The concept of the music fanzine arose in the late '60s, so Vee had Search & Destroy, Zigzag and Punk to draw upon, and joined forces with friend Dave Stimson, whose model was the Los Angeles-based zine Slash.
"'Ambivalence be damned' was our credo. We were pretty cocky, but that's OK when you're trying to enlighten others about music," Vee says. "Looking back 30 years, we did OK in the taste department, with some minor exceptions."
With intros by Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat), Henry Rollins (Black Flag) and John Brannon (Negative Approach), the story emerges how the zine birthed the monumental indie label Touch and Go Records. "It started out in my bedroom in Lansing as a favor to The Necros and The Fix, who were bands I liked," recalls Vee.
The label was passed off to Necros bassist Corey Rusk, who relocated it to Chicago, where it lasted another three decades during a fertile period of American independent music: from Big Black and Butthole Surfers down to TV on the Radio. Meanwhile, Touch and Go inspired a generation of zines, including Forced Exposure, Your Flesh and Chunklet.
Vee says that the main thing that astounds the younger generation about the Touch and Go book is how heavy it is. "I tell them you need to hold this phone book in your hands, because it's not going to be on your iPhone. It's a good toilet read while you're doing your business -- you could skim a couple pages at a time, and there's nothing you have to put a bookmark in."
Tesco Vee's Hate Police with Hellmouth and Plastered Bastards. 10 p.m. Thu., Aug. 26. 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. $10. 412-391-8334 or www.31stpub.com
- "Ambivalence be damned": The newly reprinted Touch and Go collection.