cream of the crate cd review #3: bob dylan – biograph
cream of the crate cd review #1 : the fugs – the fugs first album
Fugs First Album CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

 

 

"That the second album reached number 75 on the sales chart with a roach clip and bullet, shocked me with success" - (Ed Sanders, The Fugs) _ "The first rock band forced to work as an underground music act because of their subject matter." - (TVtropes.com) _ "A classic. What we have here is not only a genuine artifact from the downtown 60s scene, but actually a pretty listenable record." - (therisingstorm.net)

Cream Of The Crate Reviews 1 to 50 were vinyl album reviews.  
The following fifty reviews (51 - 100) were originally marked as 
CD Reviews 1 - 50 and this numbering has been kept to keep consistency 
with the published CD reviews.

 

This is number one in the series of albums I’m featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of CD albums in my personal collection and number 51 in the overal serious of album reviews.

Following on from the series called, “Cream of The Crate” (vinyl), these CD’s are one’s that I believe are of significant musical value because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.

I will return to Cream of The Crate (Vinyl in due course. However due to a number of people contacting me in regard to discussing material available either only on CD, or released on CD because the vinyl is now almost impossible to source, I thought it would be appropriate to examine some of these ‘unusual’ or ‘artistically fantastic’ CD’s in my crate at home.

Now one of the most difficult choices I had to make was deciding on what was going to be the first CD, because the closer I looked the more I realised that there were some potentially really interesting CD’s to discuss.

The material ranges from the really well known, such as “Dylan“, to black material such as “Robert Johnson’s” complete works.

I have a fantastic boxed set released by the “Byrds“and the “Rolling Stones” boxed set of all their ‘Singles’ releases.

Then there is the really unusual such as the little known groups who had a profound effect on the future development of music. One such example is the embryonic rappers – “The Last Poets“.

The ‘bent’ side of me cried out, “Don’t be safe – go bizarre”!

So it is that the first “Cream of The Crate (CD) is “The Fugs“, also known as “The Village Fugs“.

The very first release by them was on vinyl, and was titled:
The Village Fugs Sing Ballads of Contemporary Protest, Point of Views [sic], and General Dissatisfaction” (1965).

I never had this album but I did have two copies, at various times, of their second vinyl release – “The Fugs” (1966).

However one vinyl copy after another was stolen and eventually I moved across to a CD version of their material!

Thus we come to this weeks CD, “The Fugs First Album” which is released on FUGS records (FCD-9668-2)

cream of the crate cd review #1 : the fugs – the fugs first album
Fugs First Album: CD details – [CLICK to enlarge]
It is in fact all the material (10 tracks) from that first vinyl album plus a series of an additional 11 tracks from previously unreleased material and 3 tracks from their live performance, “Napalm” (1965) and one more bonus track from the ‘Tuli Tapes‘.

cream of the crate cd review #1 : the fugs – the fugs first album
Rear Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

I guess one advantage that the CD media has (if I put aside my own preference for the sound of vinyl over CD), is that in addition to those original tracks that formed a given vinyl album, we often get bonus tracks that may never have otherwise been released!

So with this album/CD, we end up with 21 tracks that run for a total of 63:00 minutes and really, these tracks represent the ‘best’ and certainly the most hilarious and ‘off-the-planet’ tracks ever recorded by anyone!!!.

Who are The Fugs?

The Fugs (1966)

 

In the initial group were two poets, Szarbo and Al Fowler, who were good writers and that helped but according to The Fugs, the requirements to be a Fug, whilst minimal, had to be met. There were in fact three requirements.
1. A gift for writing.
2. A thirst for Bacchic rout.
3. The ability to turn up to gigs.

After only two rehearsals the Fugs did their first gigs in and around the East Village galleries and theatres. Incidentally, I guess for those of you being introduced to The Fugs for the first time, the guys were natives of the lower east side of New York City – “beat paradise”!

 
cream of the crate cd review #1 : the fugs – the fugs first album cream of the crate cd review #1 : the fugs – the fugs first album


One of their first gigs was on February 24 1956 at the Peace Eye Bookshop, for which Andy Warhol created wall banners of his famous silkscreen flowers.

So the Fugs were officially born and consisted of these fine gentlemen below.

cream of the crate cd review #1 : the fugs – the fugs first album
From the left (standing) – Steve Weber & Peter Stampfel, (seated): Ken Weaver, Tuli Kupferberg, Ed Sanders – [CLICK to enlarge]

From the left (standing) – Steve Weber & Peter Stampfel, (seated): Ken Weaver, Tuli Kupferberg, Ed Sanders

Now you will have noticed that there was no requirement to actually play an instrument in the requirements to be a Fug!

This meant that the Fugs were not limited by the boundaries created by wearing the label “musician”, and some would say this was a good thing. However others would just sit with mouths gaping and heads shaking. Ed Sanders wrote, “the fact that Tuli and I, and later Ken, had not been educated at the Juilliard School of Music did not create any problems, because we had already been fully trained in that very informal but exacting institution one could call the Beatnik Academy of the Outlandish Spectacle….”

Yet despite their unique approach to music, it needs to be pointed out that both Steve Weber and Peter Stampfel were members of the Group, “Holy Modal Rounders“.

This was in fact a group had a track that was used in the cult movie “Easy Rider”. That track was, “If You Wanna be A Bird”, from the album The Moray Eels Eat the Holy Modal Rounders (1969).

According to the Fugs, they drew inspiration from a variety of sources which included, but was not limited to, ‘prancing dances of Dionysus’, ‘Dadaism’, the ‘jazz-poetry of the Beats’, ‘Charlie Parker’, ‘John Cage’ (particularly his silences).

They tied all this up with cultural and religious traditions commingling beautiful Yiddish/Hebrew melodies with radical tunes of the New York Anarcho-Left.

If that was not enough they have been quoted as saying, that into all of this they blended three-chord hymns of the First Christian Church with Chuck Berry and Hank Williams.

Then they hit the audiences with it all, declaring that, “there was oodles of freedom guaranteed by the United States Constitution that was not being used.”

They used it regularly and they used it powerfully!

Now there is so much that can be said about The Fugs it is easy to forget that this is actually a retro-review of their first album. So it really is time top actually look at the music.

If you are interested in more history of the group, just click onto the picture below.

Back to to the music on this album.

Here we have a problem! I mean how could you be invited to review the art in the Louvre, and be limited to 4 or 5 pieces? This is the problem with this album.

It is absolutely one of those albums that you connect with in its entirety or you hate! It’s simple, either you get it, or you don’t. There is actually no right or wrong with how you listen to or process this album.

Conventionality is not the way the Fugs work.

Let’s start with a track listing.

1. “Slum Goddess” (Ken Weaver) – 1:58
2. “Ah, Sunflower, Weary of Time” (William Blake, Ed Sanders) – 2:15
3. “Supergirl” (Tuli Kupferberg) – 2:18
4. “Swinburne Stomp” (Sanders, A.C. Swinburne) – 2:50
5. “I Couldn’t Get High” (Weaver) – 2:06
6. “How Sweet I Roamed” (Blake, Sanders) – 2:11
7. “Carpe Diem” (Kupferberg) – 5:07
8. “My Baby Done Left Me” (Sanders) – 2:18
9. “Boobs a Lot” (Steve Weber) – 2:12
10. “Nothing” (Kupferberg) – 4:18


CD bonus tracks
11. “We’re the Fugs” (Sanders) – 1:25
12. “Defeated” (Kupferberg) – 3:25
13. “The Ten Commandments” (Kupferberg) – 2:59
14. “CIA Man” (Kupferberg) – 2:52
15. “In the Middle of Their First Recording Session the Fugs Sign the Worst Record
Contract since Leadbelly’s (Petitos) – 2:49

16. “I Saw the Best Minds of My Generation Rot” (Ginsberg, Sanders) – 4:51
17. “Spontaneous Salute to Andy Warhol (From Rehearsal at the Peace Eye Boo)” (Sanders) – 1:23
18. “War Kills Babies” – 1:41
19. “The Fugs National Anthem” (Kupferberg, Sanders) – 1:16
20. “The Fugs Spaghetti Death (No Redemption No Redemption) – A Glop of Spaghetti for Andy Warhol From
the Tuli Tapes” (Sanders) – 3:54

21. “The Rhapsody of Tuli” (Kupferberg, Sanders) – 8:35

In an effort to provide a decent cross-section of the music, I’ll start with track #1.

Slum Goddess” is one of the Fugs most popular songs!

The east side of New York, whilst known for its fantastic counterculture, was in fact in this period seen by most New Yorkers as indeed, a slum! This made it a perfect reason to become the focus of what the Fugs describe as, “a really hot song.”

“Sherry ran away, come to live in the slums
Her parents hired detectives, they were posing as bums
Taking acid in a crash pad again
Slum Goddess from the lower East Side
Slum Goddess won’t you please be my bride

She organized a commune on Avenue A
She swears the revolution’s just a pamphlet away
One Big Union with peacock feather dues
Dope sex revolution pretty paisley hues
Slum Goddess from the lower East Side
Slum Goddess won’t you please be my bride

It was the summer of love, 1967
She said, come lie with me and we’ll check into heaven
There were 16 mattresses, a candle-wax floor
And posters from the love-in on her day-glow door
All the poets want to be with her, Sherry
Dionysus wants to dance with her, Sherry
All the pacifists want to love her, Sherry
ooo Sherry Sherry Sherry
ooo Sherry Sherry Sherry
Slum Goddess from the lower East Side
Slum Goddess won’t you please be my bride

She walks through the park, all the hippie hearts melt
Her skirt’s not much wider than a farrison belt
She says history’s no mystery
Blast the past
It’s the hour of power for Blake’s sunflower
Slum Goddess from the lower East
Side Slum Goddess won’t you please be my bride
Slum Goddess from the lower East Side
I’m going to make her my bride”

 

Slum Goddess

I would have definitely added “I Couldn’t Get High” to list of tracks to play because it is absolutely brilliant!

However I was actually able to find a video of a live performance so that track is below in the video section.

Instead we move onto track #9 and “Boobs A Lot“.

This is a great song, a fun song. I even have a close female friend, who June (my wife) and I see regularly. Born in the States she remembers ‘discovering’ the Fugs in College and also remembers getting very stoned and heartily singing along with this track (and indeed most of the Fugs tracks).

You know what? she still sings along today!

Now if you are a ‘politically correct’ modern person, you won’t like this track, let alone sing along – so DON’T listen, i would hate to be the cause of your sensibilities being tested.

This is a ‘throw-back’ to the days when we didn’t watch our “ps”, and “q’s” and we had FUN!

Here are just some of the lyrics (so you can’t say you weren’t warned!).
“Do you like boobs a lot?
(Yes, I like boobs a lot.)
Boobs a lot, boobs a lot.
(You gotta like boobs a lot.)
Really like boobs a lot.
(You gotta like boobs a lot.)
Boobs a lot, boobs a lot.
(You gotta like boobs a lot.)

Down in the locker room,
Just three boys,
Beatin’ down the locker room
With all that noise,

Singin’ do you like boobs a lot?
(You gotta like boobs a lot.)
Boobs a lot, boobs a lot.
(You gotta like boobs a lot.)”

Just listen out for the plaintiff cry toward the end …. “I’ll tell you one thing, I sure do like boobs a lot!”

Boobs A Lot

Track # 10. “Nothing“!

Why would you sing about nothing? Well, you would if you believed in Nhilism?

It is a song about futility of life, when you have nothing and you live in the lower-east side of New York, and you see rampant capitalism all around you, and, you ARE the Fugs. 

Then it all suddenly makes sense. In fact the song was based upon an old Jewish song. According to Tuli, “Nothing” was taken from an old Jewish song called “Potatoes,” which went “Monday potatoes/Tuesday potatoes/Wednesday, Thursday, potatoes/Friday for a change, potato kugel/Saturday again it’s potatoes.

Now it does boarder on what might best be described as a ‘dirge’ but we look past this, because this is a deliberate ploy by the Fugs, to reinforce that life can be a dirge, that it all means nothing, unless you are having a ball, like the Fugs were.

Nothing

“Monday, nothing
Tuesday, nothing
Wednesday and Thursday nothing
Friday, for a change
a little more nothing
Saturday once more nothing

Sunday nothing
Monday nothing
Tuesday and Wednesday nothing
Thursday, for a change
a little more nothing
Friday once more nothing

Montik gornisht,
Dinstik Gornisht
Midwoch an Donnerstik gornisht
Fritik, far a noveneh gornisht pikveleh
Shabas nach a mool gornisht

Lunes nada
Martes nada
Miercoles y Jueves nada
Viernes, por cambia
un poco mas nada
Sabado otra vez nada

January nothing
February nothing
March and April nothing
May and June
a lot more nothing
July nothing

’29 nothing
’32 nothing
’39, ’45 nothing
1965 a whole lot of nothing
1966 nothing

reading nothing
writing nothing
even arithmetic nothing
geography, philosophy, history, nothing
social anthropology a lot of nothing

oh, Village Voice nothing
New Yorker nothing
Sing Out and Folkways nothing
Harry Smith and Allen Ginsberg
nothing, nothing, nothing

poetry nothing
music nothing
painting and dancing nothing
The world’s great books
a great set of nothing
Audy and Foudy nothing

fucking nothing
sucking nothing
flesh and sex nothing
Church and Times Square
all a lot of nothing
nothing, nothing, nothing

Stevenson nothing
Humphrey nothing
Averell Harriman nothing
John Stuart Mill nil, nil
Franklin Delano nothing

Karlos Marx nothing
Engels nothing
Bakunin and Kropotkin nothing
Leon Trotsky lots of nothing
Stalin less than nothing

nothing nothing nothing nothing
lots and lots of nothing
nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing
lots of it
nothing!
Not a God damn thing”

Finally I have chosen a track that wasn’t on the original album, but is one of the bonus tracks.

I was really, really tempted to choose track # 15, I mean a track titled “In the Middle of Their First Recording Session The Fugs Sign the Worse Contract Since Leadbelly’s“.

It just begs listening to. In fact they signed for 3% of Royalties – basically ‘pissing’ away their music for nothing!

But I didn’t choose that track, I have chosen track # 14.

Being an old hippy-activist from way back, I couldn’t go past “CIA Man“.

Now on radio I would have to give you a warning about the use language’ – but hell you would be expecting it by now and this isn’t radio.

This is certainly a great recording! There is a (good) attempt to sing two part harmonies and I utterly love the guitar work. “Fucking – A Man!” (CIA Man!)

CIA Man

Oh hell, I usually only review a maximum of 4 tracks per review, but I can’t finish off this album review without going to a REAL rocker, and that is track # 16 – “I Saw The Best My Generation Rock“.

Possible the most ‘coherent’ musical track on the album but please don’t let that put you off, coherence is a relative word! It is still very worthy of inclusion.

I Saw The Best Minds Of My Generation Rock

So we come to the end of the review.

Amazingly The Fugs are still playing today.

However with the death of Tuli in 2010 the group admitted his death left a hole hard to fill.

In fact there have been no less than 10 line-up changes of the history of the Fugs with Tuli, Ed and Ken being the mainstay of the eight changes between 1963 and 1969 and Tuli and Ed being the mainstays between 1986 and 2010.

cream of the crate cd review #1 : the fugs – the fugs first album
A Promotional photograph from 1966

Anyone who is a serious collector of music, particularly from the 1960’s, must have a copy of either a vinyl or CD of the first or second Fugs album.

They are so seriously different while exemplifying the wondrously rich ‘counter-culture’ music of the day.

Their albums are available on eBay and many on-line stores, both original and re-releases, vinyl and CD.


 

VIDEOS:

There are very, very few live clips of the Fugs from the early days. Not surprising when the mainstream press, radio stations, television, promoters, record companies, venue owners (and even audiences), didn’t know what to make of them.

However, here are two clips that do show some of the wonderful anarchic and brilliant talent of The Fugs!

 

I Couldn’t Get High

 

Kill For Peace


 

Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings