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Fuck obscenity!: Live footage of The Fugs performing at Cleveland free speech benefit,1967
09:48 am

I thought I’d seen every frame of Fugs’ film footage that exists on the worldwide web…but I guess not. Here’s something totally new to me: The Fugs performing in 1967 at a Cleveland, Ohio benefit for poet D.A. Levy and Jim Lowell.
Lowell and Levy had been busted for distributing obscene literature to minors. Lowell owned a Cleveland beatnik hang, The Asphodel Book Store, where one could buy books that, in 1967, were deemed profane, including some of Levy’s self-published books of poetry. They both endured a year of protracted legal hassles before the charges were dropped in 1968. But despite being not guilty of anything, Levy had to pay a $200 fine and was told by the judge to “no longer associate with juveniles or give them his poetry.” That’s a rather harsh sentence for someone whose biggest crime was writing some poems. It was particularly rough on Levy whose art was intended to inspire a new generation of young people to question authority and expand their consciousness. Levy was a mystic, a Buddhist, a bard on a mission to change the world through a process of opening up minds. Later that year Levy opened his mind once and for all when he blew out his brains with a shotgun. A sad end for a brilliant young poet. He was 26.
From D.A. Levy’s Suburban Monastery Death Poem:

the poets will be kept in line
like they are in cleveland
its so easy to convince poets
what poetry is
and what it isnt
& everyone knows
sleeping with the muse
is only for young poets
after you’ve been kept impotent
by style & form & words like “art”
after being published by the RIGHT publishers
and having all the right answers
after youve earned the right to call yrself
a poet     yr dead
& lying on yr back
drinking ceremonial wine, while
the muse, who is always a young girl
with old eyes into the universe
suddenly remembers necrophilia
is an experience shes had before
& shes not interested
in straddling corpses anymore


Beatniks were scary! Children were hidden behind suburban mother’s skirts. Fathers oiled their rifles as teenagers shimmied to a wild bongo beat.

The Fugs came to the rescue. This footage is 16mm film shot by Dennis Goulden. The audio is rough but the visuals are fine indeed. The benefit took place at the Case Institute of Technology campus. Cleveland was scarred forever. Poetry had left its festering tattoo upon the buttocks of civility.

More after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell
09:48 am
FUG YOU! The Fugs invade Cleveland, 1967
11:13 am

On May 14, 1967, a benefit was held in Cleveland to assist two local figures on the local literary scene, bookseller James Lowell and poet d. a. levy (who styled his name lower-case), who had been arrested for distributing obscenity. The venue of the concert was Strosacker Auditorium on Case Western campus in Cleveland’s East Side, an edifice that still stands today. The benefit featured free speech hard-liner Allen Ginsberg and New York City punk/folk weirdos The Fugs. In his book Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side, Fugs cofounder Ed Sanders called levy “one of the nation’s first Pot Martyrs, a Martyr of the Mimeograph Revolution, and a Martyr for the Right to Read Erotic Verse.” Sanders and legendary Beat figure Peter Orlovsky had both been involved in the distribution of the Marijuana Newsletter, which Sanders had sent to levy.

Lowell, levy, and Ginsberg
In November 1966 the police arrested levy at a reading at Cleveland’s Gate, a “a gathering place for college students founded by a Christian youth group,” according to a 2007 article in Cleveland Magazine, and a couple of weeks later, Lowell’s Asphodel Book Shop on Cleveland’s West 6th Street was raided by the police which seized “nine crates of d.a.‘s publications on the grounds that they advocated the legalization of hemp and a mimeograph machine,” according to Sanders.

The next day the following report appeared in the Cleveland Press, a daily newspaper (original typos preserved):

Benefit Boosts Fund for Levy and Lowell

A fund for the legal aid of poet D. A. Levy and bookstore owner James R. Lowell stood at $1000 today following a benefit performance by poet Alan Ginsburg and a folk-singing group from New York City.

Jasper Wood, chairman of the Lowell-Levy defense fund committee, said $3000 still is needed.

Levy is accused of disseminating and reading obscene poetry and Lowell is charged with selling obscene material.

Wood reported no police harassment at the session in Case Tech’s Strosacker auditorium. A capacity audience of 600 was on hand to hear the idols of New York’s Greenwich Village.

Ginsburg, who is probably the best known of the nation’s beat poets, read one of the poems for which Levy was arrested.

Levy read two poems.

Ginsburg, and the folk-rock group called the Fugs, donated their services. The Fugs, who flew here from Madison Wis., are on a national tour.

Wood said another poetry reading, by Robert Creeley, described as one of the top American contemporary poets, was scheduled for a later date.

Western Reserve University physics professor Paul Zilsel presided.

He told the audience: “I can go down Euclid Ave. and buy all the commercially produced literature I want.  As far as I am concerned, Mayor Locher’s callousness is obscene, the Hough riots are obscene, the war in Vietnam is obscene.

“I would rather listen to Ginsburg.”

Although Case officials had been subjected to some pressure to cancel the concert, no disturbances were reported. One student placed a sign in his dormitory window which said, “Draft Poets, Not Engineers.”


According to Cleveland Magazine, “In early 1968, the prosecutor agreed to drop the obscenity charges against levy and Lowell, citing liberal Supreme Court rulings. Levy’s lawyer convinced him to plead no contest to the juvenile charges to avoid a felony conviction, prison or an expensive legal fight. Levy agreed to pay a $200 fine and no longer associate with juveniles or give them his poetry. ... ‘We probably made a mistake in that case,” Gold says. “Even though there was no real sanction imposed, it was an inner sanction with him. I think it broke his spirit a lot.’”

On November 24, 1968, levy shot himself in his East Cleveland apartment. Lowell died in 2004.

Here’s a brief clip of The Fugs from the Cleveland benefit concert:

There is a second clip of levy from the same May 14, 1967, event reading from his works that is not embeddable.

Posted by Martin Schneider
11:13 am
Astral perverts: The Fugs, X-rated on Swedish TV, 1968
11:10 am

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.

Part II is here.

Posted by Richard Metzger
11:10 am
44th anniversary of the the exorcism of The Pentagon

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.”

Thanks to Reality Studio.

Posted by Marc Campbell
12:54 am
Tuli Kupferberg, Slum God Of The Lower East Side
04:15 pm

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.”

Originally posted on 07/12/10.

Posted by Marc Campbell
04:15 pm
Lee Harris - Foot Soldier for Counter Culture

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…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
06:27 pm