The Fugs: America’s First Radical Folk-Rockers


Co-founded by Tuli Kupferberg and Ed Sanders in Manhattan’s East Village, the Fugs invented hippie political activist folk-rock in 1965 with their grammatically incorrect Folkways debut, The Village Fugs Sing Ballads of Contemporary Protest, Point of Views, and General Dissatisfaction.

The group’s releases through the end of the decade combined protest music, English literature, and raucous cosmic odes to the various obscene delights newly available to young people nationwide. Their greatest hits include “Kill for Peace,” “Slum Goddess,” “Boobs a Lot,” “Group Grope,” “Coming Down,” “Exorcising the Evil Spirits from the Pentagon Oct. 21, 1967,” “Marijuana,” and “When the Mode of the Music Changes.”

The band broke up as the sixties ended but has regrouped occasionally over the decades. In fact, next month they’ll release Be Free: (The Fugs Final CD Part 2) with their latest backing musicians.

And if you’re lucky enough to be in New York on January 22, don’t miss “Nothing, A Benefit for Tuli Kupferberg.” This health-care fund raiser for the bedridden 76-year-old, who suffered two debilitating strokes last year, is curated by producer Hal Willner and promises performances by Lou Reed, Sonic Youth, Elliott Sharp, Peter Stampfel, Philip Glass, John Zorn, and the Fugs themselves.

Meanwhile, Jesse Jarnow caught up with Ed Sanders for Relix, and you can read his enlightening interview here.

“I still have a mimeograph machine,” Ed Sanders chuckles. “It’s out in my writing studio.” He sits in the cozy Woodstock home he shares with his wife of nearly 50 years, Miriam, amid ambiently humming fishtanks, chirping cockatoos, and many, many books. “If the power grid collapses and the fascists make their move, I can get leaflets out real quick.” At 70, his bushy hair remains combed raucously to the side.

Sanders—who wears a blazer, black jeans, and black Converse All-Stars—knows of what he speaks. As the co-founder of the Fugs, with Tuli Kupferburg, the ‘60s premier William Blake-loving politico-surrealist folk-bards, Sanders was a key connector in the counterculture, assigned his own plainclothes Federal surveillance agents during the riotous Democratic Convention of 1968. The previous year, the Fugs had exorcised—and attempted to levitate—the Pentagon during a massive war protest, chanting “Out, Demons, Out!” Self-publishing his radical proto-hippie journal, Fuck You/ A Magazine of the Arts (“I thought it was a grabby title”), which featured contributions from Allen Ginsberg and Andy Warhol, Sanders ran the Peace Eye Bookstore on New York’s Lower East Side, weathering obscenity busts and break-ins from junkies.

(Photograph by David Gahr)

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