Touch and Go Records

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Touch and Go Records
Touch and go records logo.svg
Founded1981 (1981)
FounderTesco Vee, Dave Stimson, Corey Rusk
Distributor(s)BWSCD, Inc. (While this company was distributed in US, as BWSCD is a division of ADA)
PIAS (Europe)
GenrePunk rock, hardcore punk, indie rock, noise rock, alternative rock, experimental
Country of originU.S.
LocationChicago, Illinois

Touch and Go Records is an American independent record label based in Chicago. After its genesis as a handmade fanzine in 1979, it grew into one of the key record labels in the American 1980s underground and alternative rock scenes. Touch & Go carved out a reputation for releasing adventurous noise rock by the likes of Big Black, the Butthole Surfers, and The Jesus Lizard. Touch & Go helped to spearhead the nationwide network of underground bands that formed the pre-Nirvana indie rock scene,[1] and helped preside over the shift from the hardcore punk that then dominated the American underground scene to the more diverse styles of alternative rock emerging at the time.[2]


The zine was formed in 1979 in East Lansing, Michigan as Touch and Go magazine, a self-printed fanzine written and produced by Tesco Vee and Dave Stimson. It wasn't until 1981 that it grew into an independent record label. Vee (later front man of The Meatmen) was bored with the punk sounds of the day, and captivated by the emerging hardcore movement in America. Inspired, he put out records by the Necros, The Fix, the Meatmen, and Negative Approach. In 1981, Necros bassist Corey Rusk joined with Tesco to run the label. In 1983, Tesco handed Touch and Go over to Rusk and his wife Lisa when he left Michigan for Washington, D.C. With the label under their ownership, the Rusks hired Terry Tolkin who signed the Butthole Surfers and Virgin Prunes to the label, and also produced the Gods Favorite Dog compilation. Soon the Rusks relocated the label to Chicago, and Touch and Go released material in the mid-'80s to mid-'90s by bands such as the Butthole Surfers, Big Black, the Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid, the Didjits, Slint, Girls Against Boys and Killdozer, and continued into the new millennium with artists on its roster including Shellac, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, Arcwelder, CocoRosie, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, and the Black Heart Procession. Lisa Rusk left the label after she and Corey divorced. Corey Rusk continues to run the label.[3]

Similarly to some other alternative music labels, Touch and Go pursued a relaxed approach to recording contracts, characterized sometimes by handshake deals providing for a 50–50 split of profits between artist and label after promotion and production costs. In this way, the label built a respected catalog of influential punk and alternative artists, who in turn, appreciated the commitment of Touch and Go.[4] However, following a 1999 legal dispute with the Butthole Surfers, Touch and Go began asking bands to sign a 1-2 page memorandum of intent.

In 2006, Touch and Go celebrated its 25th anniversary. To commemorate this occasion, the label held a three-day block party event at Chicago's Hideout venue on September 8–10, 2006. Several seminal bands, including Big Black, Scratch Acid, the Didjits, Killdozer, Negative Approach, and Man or Astro-man? reunited and performed at the Chicago event.

On February 18, 2009, Corey Rusk announced that Touch and Go would downsize itself. He cited the "current state of the economy" as the reason for shutting down manufacturing and distribution services for many independent labels like Jade Tree, Kill Rock Stars, and Merge Records.[5]

A 576-page book, Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine '79–'83, compiling all issues of the Touch and Go fanzine was released June 30, 2010 by Bazillion Points.[6]


Touch and Go's approach to contracts was challenged in a court case started in 1999 by the Butthole Surfers, who purported that Touch and Go was not marketing its previously released material effectively. The band argued that because its contract with the label was of an unspecified duration, the contract could be terminated. Touch and Go argued that according to existing US copyright law, it controlled the copyright to the band's recordings for a minimum of 35 years, based on sec. 203 of the Copyright Act of 1976.

The US Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the band, determining that "when a contract is silent as to its length, it is implicit that it can be terminated by either side," and that "allowing terminations under Illinois law does not conflict with sec. 203, but rather is, in fact, in keeping with the intent of sec. 203."[7]


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  1. ^ Dolan, Jon (January 2005), "The Revival of Indie Rock", Spin, p. 53, retrieved 19 April 2015
  2. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2006). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-1-1012-0105-3.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 July 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Josh Goldfein, "Touch and Go v. The Buttholes," Archived 2004-08-03 at the Wayback Machine Chicago Reader, April 16, 1999.
  5. ^ "Theater Loop - Chicago Theater News & Reviews - Chicago Tribune".
  6. ^ "TOUCH AND GO: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine '79–'83, by Tesco Vee and Dave Stimson, Edited by Steve Miller » Bazillion Points Books". Archived from the original on 2014-04-03. Retrieved 2014-04-02.
  7. ^ U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, 172 F.3d 481. Paul L. Walthal, Gibson J. Haynes, and Jeffrey S. Coffey v. Corey Rusk d/b/a Touch and Go Records. Argued Dec. 7, 1998, decided March 26, 1999. Retrieved from on Oct. 4, 2008. Also see the 3/26/99 Chicago Reader article (earlier note and External links) for case summary and background.

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