I just heard the news that in addition to the loss of Harvey Pekar, founding member of the Fugs, Tuli Kupferberg has passed away at the age of 86.
I’ve always had a soft spot in my ears (and heart) for the music of the Fugs as a link between the Beat era and the freak scene of the 1960s.
Here’s a clip of the band from 1968, and a repost from earlier this year.
Listen – The Fugs – Group Grope – MP3
Originally posted January 2010
Last week I was wandering around the interwebs somewhat aimlessly and I happened upon the announcement for a benefit to help the ailing Tuli Kupferberg.
If that name is unknown (or only vaguely familiar) to you, allow me to mention the group of which he was a founding member, The Fugs.
Kupferberg, now an unbelievable 86 years old has suffered two strokes recently that have left him blind. There will be a concert for his benefit on January 22nd St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, featuring performances by Ed Sanders, Lou Reed, Philip Glass, Sonic Youth, John Zorn and others (further details below).
Back in the day, Kupferberg, and his fellow just-post-Beat poet Sanders (also known as the author of ‘Tales of Beatnik Glory’ and ‘The Family’) formed the Fugs as a kind of rock/poetry/performance art/provocation/general nuisance in Greenwich Village. They succeeded on all levels, crafting a number of cool albums, including a couple for the storied New York alternative label ESP-Disk, of which ‘The Fugs’ from 1966 was their second.
Though I certainly knew who the Fugs were, I didn’t actually hear any of their music until the late 80s, when I picked up their first two albums on CD. I wasn’t sure what to expect, since long-term ingestion of 60s/70s rockcrit spew seemed to indicate that the Fugs were punk (in the truest sense), offensive (though that is certainly a matter of perspective, since their lyrics wouldn’t raise many eyebrows today) and completely insane.
I had arrived at a time where I had investigated all the obvious 60s garage/psyche avenues and was peeking down every back alley I could find. When I took a turn down Fugs St I was pleasantly surprised to find it lined with many of the usual 1965/66 type sounds, whipped into a crazed meringue, closer in spirit to Little Richard than William S Burroughs.
The tune I bring you today, ‘Group Grope’ hails from that 1966 album and sounds like Sanders and Kupferberg hijacked Dylan’s ‘Highway 61’ band and stuffed them full of LSD. The vocalists spend just over three and a half minutes going buck wild over a foundation of guitar, electric piano, bass and drums.
It’s all about…
“Dope, peace, magic gods in the tree trunks and GROUP GROPE BAY-BEEEE!!!!”
…as well as other, similar sentiments.
It’s a great sound, and if it were just a little stoopid-er and a little younger and a little less urban it might pass for garage punk.
If you dig it – or were hopefully already hep to the Fugs – and you’re in the area, go to that benefit and hobnob with some of the giants of New York underground history, and help Tuli pay his medical bills. Surely that man that helped created something as solid as ‘Group Grope’ deserves a little peace in his golden years.
I hope you dig the song, and I’ll be back later in the week.