Considering what they were all about, The Fugs are one of those 60s groups you don’t expect to find many vintage clips of on YouTube. What TV station or network would have allowed THEM to be beamed into unsuspecting living rooms? Answer: A Swedish one! (Perhaps one where no one employed there spoke any English? Actually the clip is subtitled, so this wasn’t the case).
As you watch this clip from Swiiisch—especially the parts with Ed Sanders’ rap about being into “astral perversion” and getting sucked off by ring-tailed fruit bats, when they sing “Super Girl” or hell, any of it—try to picture what sort of conniption fit Richard Nixon or J. Edgar Hoover would have had if this had run on American television. I mean, there’s no way, but imagine if that did happen.
The Fugs would have been put in jail, probably. It would be interesting to read what their FBI file said about this television appearance.
The YouTube poster has the year as 1966, but that’s obviously incorrect as Tenderness Junction, which came out in 1968, is referred to as “our new album.” The also play “Crystal Liaison” which is from the album after that, It Crawled into My Hand, Honest.
Dig Tuli Kupferberg’s ultra rad(ical) go-go dancer moves.
Handbill written by Ed Sanders with instructions for Pentagon exorcism.
Next Friday, October 21, will be the 44th anniversary of the march on Washington, D.C. when 70,000 peaceful and very enthusiastic demonstrators gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the D.C. Mall to protest the war in Vietnam. Later that day, 50,000 marched across Memorial Bridge to the Pentagon. Among the demonstrators were Abbie Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg and The Fugs. In addition to protesting the war, the poets, pranksters and musicians had come to the Pentagon to levitate it. Fug member, wordslinger and alchemist Ed Sanders had prepared a magical incantation that would exorcise (exorgasm) the Pentagon and then lift it high into the air.
In the name of the amulets of touching, seeing, groping, hearing and loving, we call upon the powers of the cosmos to protect our ceremonies in the name of Zeus, in the name of Anubis, god of the dead, in the name of all those killed because they do not comprehend, in the name of the lives of the soldiers in Vietnam who were killed because of a bad karma, in the name of sea-born Aphrodite, in the name of Magna Mater, in the name of Dionysus, Zagreus, Jesus, Yahweh, the unnamable, the quintessent finality of the Zoroastrian fire, in the name of Hermes, in the name of the Beak of Sok, in the name of scarab, in the name, in the name, in the name of the Tyrone Power Pound Cake Society in the Sky, in the name of Rah, Osiris, Horus, Nepta, Isis, in the name of the flowing living universe, in the name of the mouth of the river, we call upon the spirit to raise the Pentagon from its destiny and preserve it.
Norman Mailer who attended the march summarized the exorcism ritual thusly:
Now, here, after several years of the blandest reports from the religious explorers of LSD, vague Tibetan lama goody-goodness auras of religiosity being the only publicly announced or even rumored fruit from all trips back from the buried Atlantis of LSD, now suddenly an entire generation of acid-heads seemed to have said goodbye to easy visions of heaven, no, now the witches were here, and rites of exorcism, and black terrors of the night – hippies being murdered. Yes, the hippies had gone from Tibet to Christ to the Middle Ages, now they were Revolutionary Alchemists.”
The Pentagon did not levitate, though some of us who were there may have seen it shudder a bit. As to whether the exorcism worked or not, I think it may have for the 50,000 ecstatic people in attendance - the vibes around the Pentagon would never ever be as sublime as on that afternoon.
In this rarely seen footage, Edward Folger shot some 16mm film during the march and created what he describes as an “impressionistic immersion in the experience of the march.”
Tuli Kupferberg - born September 28, 1923, died July 12, 2010
“You can have the men who make the laws/ Give me the music makers.” The Fugs.
I once bought a pair of sunglasses from Tuli Kupferberg, not because I needed them, but because I wanted to own something that belonged to a man who had changed my life.
When I was 15 (1966) I purchased The Fugs debut album at a People’s Drug Store in Fairfax, Virgina. I took it home, listened to it, and soon thereafter made my first pilgrimage to New York City’s Lower East Side. I wanted to be a part of the grime, squalor and divine decadence that the Fugs so poetically, mystically and hysterically evoked in their music. I wanted to walk among slum goddesses, dirty old men, Johnny Piss Off and the Belle of Avenue A. I wanted to join in on the ultimate group grope, to fill my brain with light and find my corner of bliss in a city that only a Fug could love. All because of a record album, all because of a band, all because of Tuli.
Tuli embodied the tattered and beautiful soul of NYC. He was the patron saint of the dark alleys and garbage strewn streets that lead to coldwater flats of wisdom and pleasure. In a town of cracked minds and bruised souls, Tuli was the wandering minstrel, the sage of the sewers, the calm presence in the maelstrom of sirens and sobs. He sang away the demons at the door and let his prose settle around us like a sweet cloak of tongue nectar.
In 1967, I marched with The Fugs and 70,000 people in Washington D.C to protest the Vietnam War. Tuli and Ginsberg led us in a mantric chant (Om Mani Padme Hum) in an effort to levitate The Pentagon, a building that my father, a military man, was inside of. What gave me this courage, if not the music and poetry of my heroes? Ginsberg, Leary, Kerouac, The Fugs, The Beatles.
Tuli was a peace activist, a holy warrior, who believed that when pamphlets and protests stop working, it’s time to invoke the Gods and Goddesses of loving kindness. If you can’t beat the death merchants with bullhorns and speeches, bring out the heavy artillery, call upon the armies of the astral plane to lay some Blakean magic on the motherfuckers.
Regarding Tuli’s contribution to the music scene over the past 5 decades, his influence on rock provocateurs, from Country Joe’s Fish Cheer to punks like the Meatmen, The Frogs and The Circle Jerks, I’ll leave that to those among us who care more about the specifics than I do. Yes, The Fugs inspired me to start a band called The Pits Of Passion and to write songs about getting my first blow job. I’m sure that without Tuli and The Fugs, I’d probably have never written my best known tune, “88 Lines About 44 Women.” There is no question The Fugs opened the field for all of us to spew our darkest deepest and filthiest thoughts, knowing that we weren’t alone in the flesh frenzy and fuck fest of absolute reality. The Fugs were arguably the first punk band. All good.
But, what I most want to remember about Tuli Kupferberg is the sweetness of the man, his humility and kindness and that, yes, it is possible to change the world with a guitar, a good hook, a few dozen dirty words and a whole lot of soul.
Ted Berrigan writing about Tuli:
I asked Tuli Kupferberg once, “Did you really jump off of The Manhattan Bridge?”
“Yeah,” he said, “I really did.” “How come?” I said.
“I thought that I had lost the ability to love,” Tuli said. “So, I figured I might as well be dead. So, I went one night to the top of The Manhattan Bridge, & after a few minutes, I jumped off.”
“That’s amazing,” I said.
“Yeah,” Tuli said, “but nothing happened. I landed in the water & I wasn’t dead. So I swam ashore, & went home, & took a bath, & went to bed. Nobody even noticed.”
Lee Harris is a playwright, poet, publisher and “foot soldier” of the UK’s counter culture. Born in Johannesburg in 1936, Harris was one of the few whites on the African National Congress, opposing segregation during the time of Apartheid, and was involved with the Congress of the People rally in Soweto in 1955.
Harris arrived in the UK in 1956, to study drama, after college, he had a small part in Orson Welles’ film Chimes at Midnight and later worked in theater.
A major turning point for Harris came on the 11 June 1965, when he first heard Allen Ginsberg at the decade defining International Poetry Reading at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
We turned up in our thousands to hear some of the best poets of the Beat Generation. When Allen Ginsberg stood up to read his poems you could feel an electric charge in the air. There he was, like an Old Testament prophet, with his long dark hair and bushy beard, his voice reverberating with emotional intensity. Never before in that hallowed hall had such outrageous and colorful language been heard…..Hearing Allen that first time was a revelatory and illuminating experience.
That event and his presence in London that summer, helped kindle the spark that set the underground movement alight in the mid-sixties.
Harris began to write plays with Buzz Buzz and then wrote the critically acclaimed Love Play, which was performed at the Arts Lab in 1967 - a highly important venue for alternative arts, founded by Jim Haynes, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono exhibited and David Bowie performed. It was during this time Harris became acquainted with William Burroughs, Frank Zappa, Ken Kesey and toured with The Fugs.
Harris wrote for the International Times and in 1972 established the first “head shop” Alchemy in London on the Portobello Road, where he sold “paraphenalia” brought back from India and counter culture books.
“I’d started off in the West End before as an anarchist trader selling psychedelic posters in the late sixties you see because I did not know how to make a living. I ended up in the Portobello Road, making chokers, selling chillums, first because that was the in thing with beads.
I had traded at many festivals so it was natural for me and I started to be a sort of medicine head, with Tiger Balm, Herbs and I believed in cannabis as the ‘healing herb’.
It was here that Harris was famously prosecuted for selling cigarette papers. The shop was a focus for alternative culture, and it was here Harris began publishing underground ‘zines, including Jim Haynes, infamous drug-smuggler Howard Marks, and artist, journalist and activist Caroline Coon.
Part two of ‘Life and Works of Lee Harris’ plus bonus Lee Harris and the Beat Hotel, after the jump…