Fugs, The

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Fugs, The

Fugs, The, archetypical N.Y. downtown proto-punk band of the 1960s. MEMBERSHIP: Ed Sanders, gtr., voc.(b. Kansas City, Mo., Aug. 17, 1939); Naphtali “Tuli” Kupferberg, voc. (b. N.Y, Sept. 28, 1928); Ken Weaver, voc., drm. (b. Galveston, Tex., Aug. 23, 1940).

Organized by two Beat-generation poets, The Fugs sought to stir 1960s audiences with outrageous and iconoclastic poetry, satire, and outright obscenity in their songs concerned with sex, drugs, and politics. One of the earliest rock satire groups and certainly the first “underground” group, The Fugs7 pioneering efforts paved the way for the premeditated offensiveness of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Alice Cooper, and the late 1970s “punk-rockers,” as well as the silliness of Flo & Eddie and Cheech & Chong.

Conceived by poets Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg near the end of 1964, The Fugs also included poet-drummer Ken Weaver and a host of guitarists, bassists, keyboard players, and other musicians. Sanders, a former classical languages major at N.Y.U., had published Poem from Jail in 1963 and served as editor of Fuck You and as owner-manager of the Peace Eye Bookstore in N.Y.’s Lower East Side. Kupferberg, an avowed anarchist, had published Snow Job: Poems: 1946–1959 in 1959.

Debuting at Greenwich Village’s Folklore Center, the ever-changing Fugs later occupied the Players Theater on MacDougal Street, logging some 900 consecutive performances there. Aided by multi-instrumentalist Peter Stampfel and guitarist Steve Weber of The Holy Modal Rounders (best known for “If You Want to Be a Bird” from the 1969 soundtrack Easy Rider), The Fugs’ debut album was recorded for the small Broadside label. It included songs such as “Slum Goddess,” “I Couldn’t Get High,” “Boobs a Lot,” and “Nothing.” Their second album, recorded for the avant-garde jazz label ESP, contained Sanders’s “Group Grope” and “Dirty Old Man,” Kupferberg’s antiwar “Kill for Peace,” and the uncommonly lyrical “Morning, Morning,” composed by Kupferberg and recorded by Richie Havens on his Mixed Bag album. The Virgin Fugs sported Fugs classics such as “Caca Rock,” “Coca Cola Douche,” and “New Amphetamine Shriek.”

Along with the MC5, The Fugs were one of the most politically active rock groups, appearing at demonstrations at the Pentagon and Democratic National Convention in 1968. Seemingly on the verge of a major break-through with their signing to the major label Reprise, The Fugs managed only modest sales. Their second album for the label featured “Johnny Pissoff Meets the Red Angel,” “Burial Waltz,” and “National Haiku Con-test.” By late 1969, The Fugs had disbanded. Ken Weaver returned to the Southwest, whereas Sanders recorded two obscure country albums for Reprise. Tuli Kupferberg recorded one album before compiling the book Listen to the Mockingbird: Satiric Songs to Tunes You Know, published in 1973. Ed Sanders returned to writing with 1971’s The Family, chronicling the story of the Charlie Manson commune, and Tales of Beatnik Glory, published in 1975. Moving to Woodstock, N.Y, where he involved himself in various social causes, he presented the irreverent two-hour “Karen Silkwood Cantata” locally in 1979. Sanders continued to write poetry in the 1980s and 1990s, and he and Kupferberg reformed The Fugs in the mid-1980s, recording for the New Rose and Gazell labels. In 1994, the two reunited to undermine the Woodstock II Festival at an alternative site in upstate N.Y. with Country Joe McDonald and Alan Ginsberg.


Ballads of Contemporary Protest, Point of Views, and General Dissatisfaction (1966); The Fugs (1966); The Virgin Fugs: For Adult Minds Only (1967); Tenderness Junction (1968); It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest (1968); Belle of Avenue A (1969); Golden Fifth (1970); Fugs Four, Rounder’s Score (1975); Refuse to Be Burnt Out (1985); Songs from a Portable Forest (1991); The Fugs (1993); Fugs (1995); The Real Woodstock Festival (1996). TULI KUPFERBERG : No Deposit, No Return (1967); Tuli and Friends (1989). EDSANDERS : Sanders’ Truckstop (1970); Beer Cans on the Moon Reprise (1972); Songs in Ancient Greek (1992).


Tuli Kupferberg: Snow Job: Poems: 1946–1959(N.Y, 1959); First Glance: Childhood Creations of the Famous (Maplewood, N.J., 1978); with Robert Bashlow, 1002 Ways to Beat the Draft (N.Y., 1965); with Sylvia Topp, As They Were: Celebrated People’s Pictures (N.Y, 1973). Ed Sanders: Poem from Jail (San Francisco, 1963); Peace Eye (Buffalo, 1965); Shards of God(N.Y, 1970); The Family: The Story of Charles Manson’s Dune Buggy Attack Battalion (N.Y, 1971); Tales of Beatnik Glory (N.Y, 1975); Investigative Poetry (San Francisco, 1976); 20,000 A.D. (Plainfield, Vt., 1976); Fame and Love in New York (Berkeley, Calif., 1980); The Z-D Generation (Barrytown, N.Y., 1981); Thirsting for Peace in a Raging Century: Selected Poems, 1960–985 (Minneapolis, 1987); The Family: The Manson Group and Its Aftermath (N.Y., 1989); Hymn to the Rebel Cafe (Santa Rosa, 1993).

—Brock Helander