Meanwhile we finished our album for Atlantic Records. We were
excited. We had quest appearances by Beat heroes Allen Ginsberg
and Gregory Corso singing on our world class rendition, with Jake
Jacobs on sitar, of the Hare Krishna chant.
Atlantic president Jerry Wexler had an idea for the cover shot--
we went to Joel Brodsky's studio-- took pictures. The Village
Voice somehow obtained a copy of the cover idea, and our idea
for a title, The Fugs Eat It. And ran it.
There was a meeting at Atlantic Records with the owners. We played
the album for them. At the end, one of them said, "Good production
A couple of days after the meeting with Atlantic officials, Jerry
Wexler called me at home on Avenue A and said they were not going
to release the album and we were off the label.
It was a brief, stunning call. It looked like the Fugs career
among major labels was over.
Three of the tunes from "Thrown off Atlantic" ("Carpe Diem," "Wide,
Wide River," and "Nameless Voices Crying for Kindness") we have
included on this compact disk.
Rejected as we were, we nevertheless surged ahead. It was just
too groovy a year to allow us to be addled by a mere phone call.
In the spring of 1967, after an eight month run, The Fugs closed
their show at the Players Theater and began to tour extensively.
It was the year of Love Fests and Be-Ins, beginning in San Francisco
and spreading across America, so that the Fugs found themselves
strolling rather zonked and hung over the mornings after concerts
carrying peacock feathers and wands of burning incense at Be-Ins
in the parks where we toured.
In the spirit of Flower Power, that spring I turned The Peace
Eye Bookstore over to the local "community" to be used as it saw
fit. Soon the back rooms were filled with mattresses and it became
what was called a "crash pad" for wandering proto-hippies. It
was in the spring of '67 that the public ceased calling us beatniks
and commenced naming us hippies. Off went the berets and on went
the tie-dyes and Afghan vests with gold braid.
We finished our record for Atlantic in April, and were having
photo sessions looking for a cover, when we were tossed off the
label. We immediately began negotiations with Reprise Records,
and signed a deal. We re-recorded much of the album we had done
for Atlantic and we were told that Reprise had to play it for
Frank Sinatra to get his approval. To our lasting gratitude, Frank
gave it his okay.
Researching the Turn-Down
We did some research on why we were thrown off Atlantic, and we
were were told by Albert Grossman that Warner Brothers was negotiating
to purchase Atlantic and the pooh bahs at Atlantic were afraid
having the Fugs aboard would lower the selling price. Learning
that, we surged forward and opened negotiations with Warner Brothers,
and Reprise signed us! Heh Heh Heh. There was a slight consolation
in being signed by the company that was purchasing the company
that had tossed us.
The president of Reprise Records told me that, before they could
sign the Fugs, they played the album tape to label founder Frank
Sinatra. Sinatra, to our lasting gratitude, okayed the deal! New
York, New York!
Exorcising the Pentagon
All through the history of the Fugs in the '60s, the war in Vietnam
throbbed like an ever-seething soul sore. However much we partied,
shouted our poetry and strutted around like images of Bacchus,
we could never quite get it out of our mind. It was like that
Dada poetry reading that Tristan Tzara gave in 1922 in Paris,
with an alarm clock constantly ringing during the reading. The
war was THE alarm clock of the late '60s.
It seemed as if the war might become permanent, so there were
big demonstrations planned for October of 1967 to surround the
nerve center of the war-- the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Somebody
came up with the idea of holding an Exorcism of this mystic pentagonal
citadel of napalm and incineration.
I agreed to write and create the actual Exorcism. Tuli and I rented
a flat bed truck and a sound system. The Fugs and a group of San
Francisco Diggers climbed aboard and joined the protest march
across the bridge from D.C. to the Pentagon. We positioned ourselves
on the edge of a parking lot a few hundred feet from our target,
while tens of thousands of marchers walked past, and I intoned
a sing-song litany of exorcism after which we all began to chant
"Out, Demons, Out!" over and over for about fifteen minutes. Filmmakers
Barbara Rubin and Shirley Clarke filmed the chanting, while magician/
filmmaker Kenneth Anger positioned himself beneath the truck and
performed his own ritual of exorcism. It was quite an afternoon.
When we had finished the exorcism, we walked onto the lawn in
front of the Pentagon where lines of armed soldiers with rifles
thrust forward stood guarding the entranceway. We were carrying
dozens of yellow daisies. We paused in front of the young and
obviously nervous soldiers and gently shoved some stems into some
rifle barrels, then glanced back over our shoulders as we walked
away, marveling at the vision of white petal jutting from dark
It was a famous thing we did, and people praised us for our audacity,
yet the Vietnam War went on for another seven years. So much for
"Out, Demons, Out!" You can learn more about the big demonstration
at the Pentagon in Norman Mailer's Armies of the Night.
After the exorcism, The Fugs began their final series of performances
at The Players Theater in Greenwich Village. Personnel had changed.
We had assembled a very talented musical line-up: Charles Larkey
on bass, Ken Pine on guitar, Dan Kootch on guitar and violin,
and Ken Weaver on Drums. Richard Alderson recorded some of these
final shows of 1967, which closed on New Year's eve at the Players
I took part in a panel discussion on the New Journalism at Dartmouth
College in New Hampshire in late '67. On hand to discuss the new
techniques of presenting information were Jack Newfield, Richard
Goldstein, Ellen Willis, Robert Christgau and Paul Krassner. I
told Newfield that the Fugs were going to give a concert in a
few weeks in Appleton, Wisconsin, the hometown of Senator Joseph
McCarthy, the famous right wing redbaiting politician who had
wrecked careers through falsehoods. He was buried there. Jack
Newfield suggested that we exorcise McCarthy's grave. We thought
it was a great idea and made preparations. Our friend Allen Ginsberg
was also going to perform in Appleton and he agreed to help in
So, on February 19, 1968 we performed at the Cindarella (sic)
Ballroom in Appleton, and the next morning the Fugs, Allen Ginsberg
and about 75 friends gathered at McCarthy's headstone and performed
a witty ceremony, which we have included for your listening pleasure.
We asked those present at the Exorcism to place a gift on Mr.
McCarthy's stone. I looked back as we left and saw a very interesting
visual gestalt atop the granite: a bottle of Midol, a ticket to
the movie The War Game, a Spring Mobilization Against the War
leaflet, a stick of English Leather cologne, one stuffed parrot,
one candy bar, a chap stick, one dozen red roses, one dozen white
geraniums, one dozen yellow geraniums, one "Get Fugged" button,
some coins, sugar wafers, coat buttons and two seeds of marijuana.
"So long, Joe," Tuli said as we walked down the hill.
This was the mode of defiance in which the Fugs began 1968. Yet,
in some ways '68 was an American Nightmare. The My Lai massacre
happened in February; President Johnson abdicated under strange
circumstances in late March; Martin Luther King was assassinated
a few days later, and the next likely president, Robert Kennedy,
was killed next to an ice machine in a hotel in early June. August
saw the Chicago riots at the Democratic Convention and November
ushered in the years of Richard Nixon. Behind it all, the war
Ai-yi-yi. Nevertheless, the Fugs partied forth. There were dashes
of hope-- most notably the student rebellions in Paris and the
takeover of Columbia University in New York City. That spring,
The Fugs toured Scandinavia with Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac
and Ten Years After. One tune from this tour, "The Swedish Nada,"
from our concert in Lund, Sweden on May 13, is included on Fugs
Live from the '60s.
In June, we performed with Moby Grape at the newly opened Fillmore
West on Second Avenue in NYC. From that weekend of concerts, which
we recorded live, came our album, Golden Filth.
Tuli and I took part in the demonstrations in Chicago in August.
We were there with the thousands chanting "The Whole World is
Watching" while the police bashed their clubs on undeserving heads.
I was a supporter, at the time, of the notorious Yippies, and
could not resist including the demo tape of "Yodeling Yippie"
in this sequence of live takes.
To our gratitude, Mo Ostin, president of Reprise Records, never
censored the Fugs, and released every master we sent. First we
recorded, at Richard Alderson's studio, the album Tenderness
Junction, which was put forth to the public, with album design
and photos by Richard Avedon, in early 1968. We immediately began
work on the next album, our most expensive, costing something
like $25,000, a huge amount in the war-bucks year o' '68. We were
going to call it Rapture of the Deep, but finally settled
on It Crawled into My Hand, Honest. For back-up harmonies,
we used some fine singers who had worked as Harry Belafonte's
harmonists. You can hear them, say, on "Wide, Wide River," and
"When the Mode of the Music Changes," on It Crawled into My
High Quality Band
By late 1968 and early 1969 the Fugs had their best band of the
1960s. We had Bill Wolf on bass, who had a good harmony voice.
We had Ken Pine, truly an outstanding guitarist. We copied the
Mothers of Invention and had two drummers: Ken Weaver and the
excellent Bob Mason. Tuli toured with an assortment of costume
trunks and he was virtually a modern dance company as he pranced
and danced about the stage in extremely witty arpeggios of quick
costume changes and satiric routines.
(For a more extensive look at '68, see my book, 1968, A History
By glorious chance, one of the final Fugs concerts of the 1960s was at Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh on February 7, with the Velvet Underground and the Grateful Dead.
On February 20, we performed at Rice University in Houston, Texas in February, 1969. Thankfully, the concert was recorded,
showing the band at its full power in the 1960s. I included five
tunes from this concert, including the never-before-released "Homage
to Catherine and William Blake," in the Ace Records release,
Fugs Live from the '60s.
On February 21-22, 1969, the Fugs had their
final concerts of the 1960s at the Vulcan Gas Works in Austin, Texas. They were not to perform for the next 15 years.
By April we had finished our final album for Warner Brothers/ Reprise, The Belle of Avenue A, and I was ready to retire for a
few years as a band leader. We recorded The Belle of Avenue
A at Apostolic Studio, in Greenwich Village, with David Baker
the engineer. Our long-time producer, Richard Alderson, who had
co-produced Tenderness Junction and It Crawled into
My Hand, Honest, (our Reprise albums), had gone off to study
Mayan music in the Yucatan, and had closed his studio.
It had not been an easy time. We were very, very controversial.
We were always on the verge of getting arrested. We had bomb threats.
We were picketed by right wingers. Someone sent me a fake bomb
in the mail. Someone called once and said he was going to bomb,
first me, then Frank Zappa. We were investigated by the FBI, by
the Post Office, by the New York District Attorney. We were often
encouraged not to try to perform again at the same venue. We were
tossed off a major label. It took bites out of our spirit. I was
getting weary-- four years had seemed like forty, and I felt as
if I'd awakened inside a Samuel Beckett novel.
Running a rock band is a quick and hasty thing, and however much
long term planning you do, improper and impolite decisions are
sometimes made-- and they haunt a bandleader into midlife and
beyond. And so The Fugs of the 1960s were no more, and I put a
few boxes of live concert tapes into my archives and did not pay
attention to them for 25 years.
As everyone knows all too well, everything flows, frays, rots
and rinses. For instance, the building that once housed the Peace
Eye Bookstore on East Tenth Street is no more, so that the exact
spot where the Fugs shouted out "The Ten Commandments" and "Swinburne
Stomp" at the opening party was for years a summertime vegetable
garden. Tempus Fugorum fugit. (Now, the site of the "Swinburne
Stomp" is being turned into a housing project.)
The Fugs were lucky throughout those years in attracting quality.
The musicians that played with us: Lee Crabtree, Ken Pine, Bob
Mason, Dan Kootch, Jake Jacobs, Bill Wolf, Stefan Grossman, Jon
Kalb, Geof Outlaw, Charles Larkey, John Anderson, Pete Kearney,
Steve Weber and Peter Stampfel, were among the finest of their
era. We also attracted quality engineers: Richard Alderson, Chris
Huston and David Baker. We are lucky to have found Mo Ostin, then
the president of Reprise Records, who always supported and encouraged
us, and never censored us.
Our first manager, Nelson Barr, worked hard for us, as did our
final managers, Peter Edmiston and Charles Rothchild. We are grateful
for their help.
The 1970s & Early 1980s The 1970s and early
again showed some of the best and the worst of a great nation.
The war in Vietnam finally ended. Nixon was tossed out in 1974,
and the technical side of music made great advances. 4-track became
8-track became 16-track became 24-track on the way to digital,
and sound reproduction took giant strides towards excellence.
I wrote a book, The Family, about the Manson group, which
was published in 1971. During the 1970s I wrote several books
of poetry, and a manifesto called Investigative Poetry.
In addition a book of interconnected short stories, Tales of
Beatnik Glory, was published in 1975. (Since then Tales has grown to a four-volume work). In 1980, a satiric novel, Fame & Love in New York, was published.
Ken Weaver later went back to college, and wrote a successful
book, Texas Crude.
Tuli Kupferberg performed during these years with his group, Revolting
Theater, and did many solo song/poem recitals. He became known
for his witty, insightful political cartoons, which were published
in the Village Voice and many other places.
Then came the symbolic year, 1984.
ACTIVITIES IN THE 1980s & '90s
Refuse to Be Burnt-Out
1984 seemed like such a symbolic year, especially with an administration
in Washington determined to destroy as much of the New Deal social
legislation as it could get away with.
A career is often 50 or 60 years long, and why not extend the
voyage of the Fugs. We wanted to leave behind a complicated legacy
of poetry, melody, recordings and social stances that extended
beyond the 1965-'69 time-frame.
Tuli and I had both kept writing music. During the 1970s I began
inventing musical instruments, including The Talking Tie, the
Pulse Lyre and the Light Lyre, all of which appear on "Refuse
to be Burnt-Out," our reunion album of '84.
In 1983 Kupferberg and I were involved in a movie project that
ultimately was not filmed, but we worked together and talked seriously
about a reunion.
I had met Steve Taylor, who for years had been touring and singing
with Allen Ginsberg. He had a beautiful voice. I met percussionist/songwriter
Coby Batty, who also had a beautiful voice. Mark Kramer joined
us as bass player for our first concerts in 15 years, since the
gig with the Grateful Dead in Hershey Arena in 1969. (I had met
Kramer when he was a student at the Creative Music Studio in the
1970s). Tuli and I invited Vinny Leary, who had performed on the
first and second albums, to join us for the reunions, which occurred,
in great triumph and praise, in early June of 1984.
Ken Weaver declined to perform in the reunion.
I approached Richard Alderson, as a co-producer of a live album.
We decided to divide the repertoire almost evenly between new
songs and old and we updated some lyrics Tuli rewrote CIA
man, for instance.
It was so much fun doing the reunion at NYC's Bottom Line, that
we resolved to get together every year or so all the way to the
Golden Wheelchair in the Sky.included additional live songs from
our concerts in 1986 and 1987.
After the Bottom Line performances we toured Europe, playing Berlin,
Copenhagen, Oslo, Zurich, Helsinki and other venues. Mr. Kramer
departed the Fugs during that tour.
A Band for the Next 40 Years
By 1985, the Fugs had formed a band that would sing and perform
together for the next 15 years and beyond: Sanders, Kupferberg,
Taylor, Scott Petito, Coby Batty. It featured fine instrumentation,
strong vocals and messages that stayed new.
No More Slavery
The reconstituted Fugs very much wanted to do a studio album.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s I had very carefully studied
the recording techniques of the rock band, The Eagles, whose history
I traced in a 800-page book I wrote. I learned many new things
about state-of-the-art studio recording during a number of sessions
observing the Eagles record their album, The Long Run.
In 1985, Patrick Mathé of New Rose Records in Paris and Peter
Olufsen of Olufsen Records in Copenhagen made it possible for
us to record No More Slavery at a studio near Woodstock,
Scott Petito, a composer and multitalented musician who played
a perfectly-timed blazing-fingered bass as well as piano and banks
of synthesizers. Petito operated a fully-equipped recording studio,
NRS, located on the edge of a corn field on a farm in Hurley,
New York, about 8 miles from my home in Woodstock.
During 1985, I had two basic plans for the Fugs. One was to record
No More Slavery, and another was to create an anti-war opera,
Star Peace, and find places to perform it. During the year, Steve
Taylor and I, plus various singers, recorded several demo tapes
for Star Peace, two of which, the satiric "Technology is Going
to Set Us Free," and "Hymn to America," are included on this compact
We recorded the Star Peace demos during the spring of '85 at the
Woodstock home of singer Robbie Dupuis, who performs under the
name Dupree. Around that time Robbie took me over to NRS studios
to be introduced to Scott Petito. I liked the fact that you could
see tall corn plants outside NRS' window by the 24-track console.
After that, there were several months of mailing demo tapes back
and forth among band members, so that by the late fall, the Fugs
were ready to record. Steve Taylor and I had written "Technology
is Going to Set Us Free" early in the year. I also sent lyrics
for "South Africa," a tune I had worked on earlier with Happy
Traum, to Steve, who was living in New York City, and he came
up with a melody and arrangement. Tuli Kupferberg worked on tunes
in his 6th Avenue loft, and mailed me some excellent songs, among
them "Here Come The Levellers," "Working for the Yankee Dollar,"
"Just Like a Jail," and the antismoking anthem, "Smoking Kills."
We decided also to record "Dover Beach," Tuli's aching threnody
set to Matthew Arnold's wedding poem from 1851. During my morning
writing periods, I was struggling to complete a complex multi-part
work titled "Dreams of Sexual Perfection."
On November 22 and 23 the Fugs met at Steve Taylor's apartment
in Washington Heights in NYC for rehearsals. Coby Batty came up
from Richmond, Virginia, his home base. Then we were ready to
The recording sessions for No More Slavery were spread over eight
days, often split into long daytime sessions, followed by dinner,
then an evening of work. After the eight days of recording, there
were three days of mixing and editing, with the entire album taking
almost exactly one month to complete.
Day One November 24, 1985
set up drums, and worked on their various sounds through the mixing
console, always a long process in beginning an album. Then we
began the search for a good sound for Steve's 12-string guitar
as we began work on the title tune, "No More Slavery." He had
fashioned an arrangement, which we recorded, and I added a scratch
vocal to help the timing and placement of the overdubs which we
would lay down in days to come. Then we joined the modern movement
for perfect time by laying down a synth-throb track for "Cold
War," consisting of a Linn Drum triggering a Pro-One synth. We
lay down a quick vocal, then Petito, Taylor and Batty put bass/guitar/drums
tracks on top, in a trio performance. At the end of the day, we
made a cassette of the two tunes, to take home for the phenomenon
known as the "first night 'noids," listening to the tentative
work of the first day of a studio album.
Day Two November 25
We continued work on "Cold War," with Steve Taylor adding fuzz
guitar through a Rockman. Then we created a Linn drum track for
"South Africa," after which we added guitars, and Taylor a rough
vocal, to help Petito's recording of the bass part. Then we added
drums, and the basic tracks for "South Africa" were done. We decided
to recut "No More Slavery," to get more of a live feel.
Composer Artie Traum, who was also working on an album at NRS,
loaned us a guitar to work on "No More Slavery." We next recorded
some serious vocals, so that by the end of the second session
we had rough versions of "No More Slavery," "Cold War," and "South
Africa." I took home a cassette copy to sweat through late-night
listenings, making notes on improvements and touch-ups to the
Day Three November 26
First we did vocal overdubs, the high harmony "oooo's," and punched
in micro-insertions in the lead and harmony vocals on "No More
Slavery," and synth overdubs on an Emulator II. Then we did those
fast-moving three part vocals for "Cold War." Nothing was complete,
after three days in the studio, and I was beginning to worry.
It was snowing badly, and I took Steve and Coby to the bus to
New York just before midnight. Thus ended the first period of
recording of No More Slavery.
Day Four December 3
I went to NRS for an afternoon session to repair the lead vocal
on "No More Slavery;" and listened carefully to the three roughed-out
tunes we had done, making extensive notes on what had to be fixed.
Day Five December 9
Steve, Coby and Tuli came up on the bus for the second round of
sessions at NRS. We rented drums again, and went through the hours
of setting them up. We had trouble getting all the drum stuff
we needed, being a rural area, but our friend Robbie Dupuis came
through, and got for us some cymbals and kick drum pedal, and
then we were ready to magnetize a few miles of oxide-dappled tape.
We did "What Would Tom Paine Do." We had a typical Fugs squabble
over tempo, usually the only times of tension in our sessions.
Taylor cut a beautiful lead vocal for "Tom Paine." Then we did
section by section instrumentals, without a click track, for "Dreams
of Sexual Perfection," sections I, II, IV and VI. In the evening,
after a reinvigorating visit to the nearby Gateway Diner, we finished
the instrumentals for sections III, V, VIII, and put down some
Day Six December 10
We were scorching. We were at that point in an album when the
band is tight, reading one another like good poetry, and recording
as if in Universal Dreamtime. We created instrumentals for "Here
Come the Levellers," "Working for the Yankee Dollar," "The Smoking
Gun," and "Dover Beach." We did work on vocals for the above tunes,
and also for "South Africa." Next, Steve Taylor performed a haunting
a cappella vocal on Tuli's antimilitary "Just Like a Jail." At
the end of day six, I made a long list of small things we had
to do-- vocal tidbits to patch, plus we had all the vocals to
do on the 12-minute "Dreams of Sexual Perfection."
In the afternoon, Charles Gatewood came to take photos by a barn
across from the driveway at NRS studios.
Day Seven December 12
Worked on "ooooo's" on "No More Slavery," and rerecording tiny
segments of the vocal. Then we repaired 23 little pronunciation
problems in "What Would Tom Paine Do?"
Day Eight December 13
We recorded all the vocals to parts IV, V, VI, VII of "Dreams
of Sexual Perfection;" and finished vocals on "What Would Tom
Paine Do." It was a day in which we did 8 and 1/2 hours of singing.
No More Slavery was virtually done. We decided to let it stand
for a few days, and scheduled mixing sessions for the following
Day Nine December 19
Steve and Coby came from NYC, and we mixed the record. First "No
More Slavery," then "Cold War," then "Yankee Dollar," after which
Coby did his fine vocal for "The Smoking Gun." Happy Traum came
in at night and did a harmony part at the end of "South Africa."
Day Ten December 20
We mixed the seven sections of "Dreams of Sexual Perfection."
It involved hundreds of tiny adjustments of many knobs and levels
Then it was time for the Jubilation Chorus at the end of "South
Africa." This was done by Dan Uttendorfer, Mikhail Horowitz and
Amy Fradon, plus Coby on tambourine. Amy completed the baklavah
of harmony with a final high soprano overdub; after which we mixed
We strengthened the "Tom Paine" track, with Scott Petito laying
down a DX7/Emulator overdub, which gave the tune more of an anthem
quality. As a final adornment, Coby overdubbed, with deep trembling
voice, the single word "Peace" to give the low G to the harmony,
and thus to empower the sound of that all-important word, after
which we mixed "What Would Tom Paine Do."
Day 11 December 23
We mixed "Just Like a Jail," then edited and sequenced the album;
made two master copies to send to Peter Olufsen of Olufsen Records
and Patrick Mathˇ at New Rose. We also rented a then new-fangled
digital 2-track and copied the master mix to it.
Thus ended a month in late 1985, during which the Fugs and their
friends created the recordings called No More Slavery.
A Band for the Ages
During the next 15 years, the Fugs consisted of Sanders, Kupferberg,
Taylor, Petito and Batty.
In 1986 and 1987, the Fugs recorded an anti-space-war opera called
Star Peace. Star Peace was produced at the Syracuse
Stage in Syracuse, and at the Oslo International Poetry Festival.
The two-album version of it was released by Olufsen Records in
Copenhagen and New Rose in Paris in 1987.
In 1986 the Fugs performed at the Socialist Scholars Conference
in New York City, and did concerts at the Bottom Line in NYC.
In 1987, we regrouped with some thrilling Summer of Love (1967-1987)
concerts with Allen Ginsberg, again at the Bottom Line. In 1988,
they performed in Woodstock, NY, at the Byrdcliffe Art Colony.
In early 1989, they regrouped for a concert with Allen Ginsberg
at the AWP convention in Philadelphia. In the late spring of '89
the Fugs sang at the Abbie Hoffman Memorial at the Palladium.
That August they performed a series of concerts in Woodstock,
again at the Byrdcliffe Art Colony, on the weekend of the 20th
anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock Festival..
The Real Woodstock Festival
In the fall of 1993 The Fugs decided to do concerts the following
summer in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the '69 Woodstock
Festival. 1994 was also the 30th anniversary of the founding of
the Fugs at the Peace Eye Bookstore in New York's Lower East Side.
It seemed a very appropriate moment to do some singing and partying.
Then, at the end of '93 I heard that the original promoters of
the '69 Festival had banded together to put on something called
Woodstock II, a huge weekend of concerts in August '94.
They had chosen a farm in Saugerties, a town of 20,000 just 8
miles from Woodstock, as the site for Woodstock II. The farm had
been previously marked out as the location for a large trash dump.
and local environmentalists were happy about Woodstock II, hoping
that its success would banish plans for a "megadump."
Woodstock II immediately took on an air of excess commerciality.
It was as if the promoters were gritting their teeth and determined
to make the money in '94 that had slipped out of their hands in
'69, when most got in free in the chaos of trampled fences and
huge crowds. We learned that the entertainment conglomerate PolyGram
was behind Woodstock II, and if all went well, revenues from the
movie, from CDs, and from world wide pay-for-view would go beyond
a billion dollars.
That's when The Fugs decided to title their reunion concerts "The
Real Woodstock Festival."
The Town of Woodstock
I had lived in Woodstock for 20 years. It's a town of 6,000, which
swells to about 15,000 during the summer. It rests in the Catskill
mountains, and is famous for its beautiful forests, tumbling streams
and good light for painters. Although the Festival actually occurred
50 miles away in Bethel, Woodstock had made many millions of dollars
from tourists during the 25 years since Woodstock I because of
the world wide mystique of the Festival.
In a way, I wanted to organize The Real Woodstock Festival in
my home town as much because of the way Woodstock reacted in 1969
to the original concerts as for the glory of '94.
Woodstock had been a "colony of the arts" for most of this century.
Painters, writers, musicians and craft-creators began arriving
in 1903. The town had always had a troubled economy-- farmland
was poor quality, and the native forests were cut down over a
hundred years ago.
'69 was the year of the Moon Landing, of the Manson Family, of
the first year of President Nixon, of the Altamont festival, and
of the continuing Vietnam War. Richard Nixon was president. During
previous years, more and more musicians had moved to Woodstock.
Bob Dylan had lived there through much of the 1960s. It was where
he had his famous motorcycle accident, where he lived when the
"went electric" at the '65 Newport Folk Festival, and where other
rockers lived, such as Tim Hardin, Paul Butterfield, and The Band.
The idea for the Woodstock Festival had come from a series of
summer festivals in Woodstock in the mid-60s called Sound-In's
and Woodstock Saugerties Sound Festivals, which were held just
across the Woodstock border in a field in Saugerties. Some locals
hated the music and the ambience of the out-door celebrations
of thrill. A long hair was attacked as he put up posters for one
of the Woodstock Sound-In's.
The '69 Festival promoters initially hoped it could be held in
Woodstock, but the town government quickly forbade it. Nevertheless,
during the spring and summer of '69, as word about the Festival
spread through the counterculture, hippies and transients began
flocking to Woodstock.
A hippie in curve-toed Merlin shoes hitching into town carrying
a bedroll with a damozel wearing nothing beneath her tie-dyed
gown was viewed with disgust, fear, hatred and disdain by crusty
locals. When a store selling hippie leathers opened in town, it
was viewed, by some, as evidence of pre-New Age satanic permissiveness
There were a few public meetings and antihippie grouse-klatches
in private homes where rightists could vent their dislike. At
one public meeting an anonymous letter was read railing that the
hippies were "overrunning the town like maggots." One rightist
confronted the Woodstock town judge and accused him of practicing
"lace panty justice" by refusing to deal harshly with hippies
arrested camping out on private property.
A handful of local right wing nuts proposed forcibly shaving the
heads of longhairs and calling on the New York State governor
to declare Woodstock a disaster area so that soldiers could be
called in to deal with the hair heads. Others wanted to meet the
buses arriving in Woodstock and force hippies to stay on board
and depart. It was the same type of mind that previously had not
allowed boxing champion Joe Louis to play golf at the Woodstock
That year, 1969, the town government closed all its properties
to swimming and camping. Before the "Fear of the Festival," Woodstock
always invited visitors to camp on town-owned forested property.
From all over the world came inquiries about the Woodstock festival.
In response the town prepared a post card which it mailed out
in response. It posted signs telling visitors the gig was in Bethel,
50 miles away. All summer long, the constables arrested campers
and hippies. One hippie commune was burned down and ransacked
in Woodstock not long before the Festival.
The Festival in Bethel was a big success, and thrilled an entire
generation with its celebration of music, love, nudity, free food
and communality. Out of that weekend came the concept of a "Woodstock
Nation," a term coined by writer Abbie Hoffman. It was a nation
of free food, free medical care, free music, great personal freedom,
clean air and protection of the beautiful American outdoors. It
was a place filled with oodles of art, love, music and wild times.
It danced to its own new mode and ignored the millennia-long warrior
threnody of Western Civilization.
This is the dream The Fugs wanted to celebrate.
Woodstock in 1994
During the 25 years since Woodstock '69, the town had gradually
become more liberal. By 1994 over one-third of the homes were
owned by weekenders whose primary residences were in New York
City, 100 miles to the south. The Woodstock of 1994 was more worldly,
more proud of itself as a world-famous town, though riven with
very self-important factions of all persuasions. To quote Anton
Chekhov, "It is as easy to guard from burns in hell as from the
troubles and bothers of a village."
The right wing had receded and New Age entrepreneurs had joined
forces with conservative business types to welcome Woodstock II
in the name of Pepsi, expensive tennis shoes, fast food, CD-sales,
movie rights, tourism and memorabilia. Business interests knew
full well that the young generation of '94, the children of the
Me Generation, was more interested in introspective complaints
than in rebellion or hope of social change. In addition, there
was one fundamental difference between the tie dyed young person
with a back pack in 1994 and the one in '69. Somewhere down in
the recesses of the '94 pack, between the CD Walkman and the prayer
wand, was a credit card.
Therefore, in the days before the Festival there were tall stacks
of special edition "Woodstock II" Pepsi cans lining the walkways
by the all night convenience store on Woodstock's main drag..
Even so, a great anxiety began to bubble forth. Although the county
government was hoping for over $1 million in sales tax revenues
from Woodstock II, there was great concern over the thought of
First there was Deadphobia. It was reported that the Grateful
Dead might perform, and 25 years after the "Fear of '69" came
the "Fear of '94," that hundreds of thousands of Dead Heads, their
foreheads dripping blood from moshing and headbanging, would march
and stumble the 8 miles from Saugerties to Woodstock at dawn,
starved for organic oatmeal cookies and orange cooler spiked with
A group of police chiefs from towns near Saugerties held a press
conference to warn of weirdness. They were afraid of "synthetic
drugs," with unpredetermined and order-threatening effects, that
might spread from Woodstock II. One chief was worried about Guns
N' Roses, which was rumored to be bound for the festival. The
concern was that if Guns should play the fest, then the region
could well be the victim of "guns and drugs, stealing and killing."
The local sheriff predicted around 2,500 arrests for drugs.
An auxiliary police was put together and the town established
a public disaster-type traffic plan to handle the expected throngs
of thrill-batty invaders. People stocked up on food in a survivalist
In America, a nation built on land taken from Indians, what are
called "property rights" are taken very, very seriously. There
must have been 100,000 "No Trespass" signs purchased and tacked
on trees in the towns and villages surrounding the Woodstock II
In response to the public anxiety, Woodstock II organizers announced
a ban on tent poles, apparently fearing that Pepsi-disturbed youth
would hack each other while moshing. They banned beer, a drink
that goes all the way back to ancient Egypt; and they banned the
importation of food, hoping to lure the festival attendees to
expensive pizza and veggie burgers.
All of these bans were, in a way, a celebration of American rock
and roll hypocrisy. Everyone knew hundreds of thousands were waiting
all over America to storm the gates and get in free, and had their
beer and pot already hidden in their packs.
A Real Festival
The Fugs viewed the groveling for money, the hypocrisy, the banning
of tent poles and beer, with nods of joy. We decided to offer
free tickets to the first ten people who arrived at our Real Woodstock
Festival with tent poles.
For the various reunions we had held in the 1980s and now in the
'90s, the Fugs had brought together some fine musicians and singers.
We had Steve Taylor on vocals and guitars; Coby Batty on vocals
and percussion and Scott Petito on bass and synthesizers. In addition,
we had harmony help from our friends Amy Fradon and Leslie Ritter
on such tunes as "Ramses II," "When the Mode of the Music Changes,"
and "Woodstock Nation." This was the band that you will hear on
"The Real Woodstock Festival."
We were in an "idealistic partying mood," even though our country
was swinging to the right. We composed a bunch of new tunes, including
a long piece in honor of Janis Joplin, and Tuli Kupferberg's "Einstein
Never Wore Socks" and his classic update, "The Ten Commandments
(Together with the Ten Amendments)."
We stitched together a Festival that combined, as best we could,
a mix of fun, poetry, humor, satire, good music and hope for a
better world. We were going to "go out in a blaze of leaflets."
We invited our friend Allen Ginsberg, which whom the Fugs have
had many adventures, to perform with us at The Real Woodstock
Festival. Amy Fradon and Leslie Ritter sang one of their tunes
also. We learned that Country Joe MacDonald was going to sing
at a smaller festival that was being put on at the original site
in Bethel, New York. We asked Joe to sing at The Real Woodstock
Festival, and he performed with Stephen Barsotti a marvelous set
on August 13.
The Byrdcliffe Barn was packed both nights, and so passed onto
tape, poster, photo and memory the "Real Woodstock Festival."
After the concerts in Woodstock, the Fugs toured Italy, Sweden
Continuing their long pattern of getting together approximately
every year or so, in the summer of 1997 the Fugs again toured
Italy. In the fall they performed at a salute to Harry Smith at
Wolf Trap near Washington, DC. In the spring of '97 our hero Allen
Ginsberg passed away, and in May of 1998 they took part in a Memorial
to Ginsberg at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC with
Patti Smith, Philip Glass, Natalie Merchant, and others.
In 1999, the Fugs got together again to play in Woodstock the
weekend of the 30th anniversary of the '69 Festival. We recorded
the concerts the recordings are some of our best live performances,
and hopefully a CD will be released.
The Fugs will be known as a 60-year phenomenon, and the band of
its past 15 years Sanders, Kupferberg, Taylor, Petito, Batty
will have carried on its finest tradition. Ultimately the Fugs
legacy will be all the tapes, footage, photos, and memories from
1965 to the present. Some Fugs albums and CDs will likely not
see the light for decades, but they'll be there, ready to show
listeners the Fugs were not afraid to be part of the history of
In 2002, the Fugs recorded The Fugs Final CD (Part 1); and in 2005-2009 we recorded Be Free, the Fugs Final CD (Part 2).
The passing of Fugs co-founder Tuli Kupferberg in July of 2010 has punched a mighty hole in the Fugs; though the remaining Fugs: founder Ed Sanders, Steve Taylor, Coby Batty, and Scott Petito, are seriously considering further performances.
Dum spiro, spero, the Latin adage goes while we breathe,
History of the Fugs © 2000-2010 Edward Sanders
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