Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Fugs, Goodbye Tuli Kupferberg

The Fugs 1966 (Tuli w/tambourine)
Tuli Kupferberg near the end, he never lost his looks.
Tuli Kupeferberg of the Fugs died last Monday, age 86, he looked exactly the same as he did
46 years ago (full obit here). For someone who lived in the East Village and Lower East Side for over thirty years, the Fugs, even more than the Velvet Underground were what the streets of the neighborhood sounded like for white Bohemians. Salsa might have been the sound of the neighborhood streets blasting from the ghetto blasters and car radios, but the soundtrack for our lives sounded more like the Fugs. I remember the first time I heard the Fugs, I was eighteen and sitting on a stoop on East 9th Street with a gallon of Canadian Ace beer and passing a joint with some friends, we'd been up all night tripping on acid, and some hippy was blasting the first Fugs album in an apartment above us. It sounded so perfect. I mean who hasn't fallen for a Slum Goddess on a hot summer night in a Polish bar drinking .75 cent draft beers? Or done the Amphetamine Shriek in the middle of Tompkins Square Park after being up for four days? The Velvets moved among the beautiful people, the art fags, the rich and famous, but the Fugs were like us, ugly and frustrated, singing for the speedfreaks and glue sniffers, drinking in Polish bars and eating Challah french toast at 5 AM to soak up the booze. They had a long and glorious career, better documented in other places, they even reformed several times and were making records into the nineties. Co-founder Ed Saunders also wrote the two greatest books on the so called counter culture-- The Family (about the Manson family, easily the best book on the subject, look for the first edition with the chapter on the Process Church which was removed in subsequent editions) and Tales Of Beatnik Glory. While Ed Sanders and Ken Weaver may have been the main musical forces behind the original Fugs, they wouldn't have been what they were without Tuli Kupferberg. Probably best known as the character in Ginsberg's poem Howl who "jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and walked away.....", he edited small poetry zines like Birth (1958), wrote books like 101 Was To Beat The Draft (1966) and The War Against the Beats (1961), and was still active into the 21st century. He made two solo albums, No Deposit No Return (1966) and Tuli and Friends (1989), neither of which I own a copy of anymore (some things just disappear over the years). Anyway, I thought I put up a few of my favorite tunes as a memorial to Tuli who will be missed: Slum Goddess, Frenzy, Mutant Stomp, In The Middle Of Their First Recording Session The Fugs Sign The Worst Contract Since Leadbelly's, and probably Tuli's greatest musical contribution to the Fugs-- Carpe Diem.
Goodbye buddy, the neighborhood won't be the same without you.


Meyer Goretsky said...

I saw the Fugs in 1969 in Pittsburgh on a bill with the Velvet Underground and the Dead. They had this Ken sized doll of Richard Nixon and they kept pulling it's pants down.

The Hound said...

" They had this Ken sized doll of Richard Nixon and they kept pulling it's pants down."

A friend of mine who collects FBI files that were unearthed after the Freedom of Information act showed me Tuli Kupferberg and Ed Sanders files, which were blacked out almost completely! No doubt they were on Nixon's enemies list.

StephenX said...

Ahhhh,the Fugs!
I don't know what possessed me to buy
"Tenderness Junction" back in '68, but I'm glad I did. From the classic "Wet Dream" to the Danny Kootch riotous guitar and violin, I knew these guys were something else.

R.I.P ~~~Tuli

cavorting with nudists said...

Actually you dropped a zero there, Hound--the book was 1001 Ways to Beat the Draft. As a smart-ass 13-year-old I bought a copy of the 1967 Grove Press paperback on my first trip to New York (they didn't have it in the bookstores in rural Michigan)and its impassioned, acid humor was a real life changer. Wish I still had that book. There are excerpts in Ann Charters' Beat Reader and at
but I want to read the whole thing again, damn it. I also had his 1001 Ways to Live Without Working and that was a real yukfest too, though not as scary.

Ken K. said...

In the 60's my parents always tried thier best to be tolerant of all that Rock and Roll and Soul music I was listening to.

But when I brought home that first Fugs LP...Whooo boy.

Don said...

My first encounter with the Fugs was through Lee Crabtree. In 1970 Lee migrated to Portland Maine where I was in school and he had come to dry out or escape his demons. I saw him a number of times playing keyboards with various musicians around town. The hipper hippies of Portland were into the Fugs and looked up to Lee as one who had been in the trenches and lived through it all. In the end the demons won out and Lee took his own life in 1971 or so. Bit by bit eras come to an end.

cavorting with nudists said...

Synchronicity. I'm reading Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids, and just read about Lee Crabtree's help in getting her to move from poetry to music a half hour ago.

Thelma Blitz Knitz said...

Kenny Goldsmith has posted No Deposit No Return on UBUweb, so no need to regret the loss of vinyl:

Thanks for this inspiring blog. Every word rings true.

Tuli's remains were buried this morning instants before a great rainstorm. He's gonna RIP it up (and ball tonight?)

Scott C. said...

What a fine memorial, Hound. Thanks. I almost went out to a local coffee house's Open Mic night last Sunday and made my stage debut with a cover of Tuli's song "Nothing" as a tribute to him. I say almost, because in the end of course I did nothing.

It sounds like he was a friend of yours, too. My sympathies on your loss.

Thelma Blitz Knitz said...

Here's a slideshow I created for Tuli with a song you may dig which Tim McCarthy wrote for him . Also footage from his funeral-memorial:

Jumpy said...

He was contributing to the East Village Eye, too, if I remember correctly.

Doug Lynner said...

Memorial Tribute to Tuli Kupferberg on Doug Lynner's World of Noise Internet radio show. Go to for more information.

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