Where Was I On Jan. 27? A Cryptic Diary Offers Clues*


The Fugs album cover, courtesy of undergroundalbums.com


The Fugs First Album cover, courtesy of espdisk.com

Group practice at Walters.

2 (indecipherable . . . man? mean? mom?) R&B Workshop

Bought Spasm Band & Fugs 1st

Jan. 27, 1968

Ah, The Fugs . . . might as well say “Language Alert” right here. After all, this magnificent NYC bohemian ensemble of the 1960s & beyond took their name from Norman Mailer’s coinage “fug” .  . . which in turn led to a priceless greeting from Dorothy Parker.

Here is a bit of a 2010 Howard Mandel post from nodepression.com on the background:

“I picked the name Fugs, out of Norman Mailer’s ‘Naked and the Dead,’” says (Tuli) Kupferberg, referring to the post-WW II best-seller which used an innocent “g” to stand for the salacious “ck” of the Anglo-Saxon word for the deed essential to life. “Do you know that when Dorothy Parker met Norman Mailer at a party,” he continues, “she’s supposed to have said, ‘Oh, you’re the young man who doesn’t know how to spell “Fuck.”‘ Actually, I think it was his publisher that didn’t know how to spell it.”

The album I recall buying 44 years ago today had the The Fugs cover. The songs I remember playing somewhat defiantly around my amused, tolerant poets themselves parents were from the one with the up against the wall cover. The aforementioned Tuli, then a Beat poet and later the world’s oldest rock star, is standing at left. (If memory serves).

Anyway, the songs my buddies & I enjoyed were Boobs a Lot and My Baby Done Left (& I Feel Like Homemade Shit), a C&W weeper parody. It strikes me now the canny Fugs put in such frat boy friendly items to pay for their real material . . . Tuli & Ed’s poetry set to wild, rootsy slabs of Americana.

What my dad noticed was their use or misuse of British poets William Blake (one of his heroes) & Algernon Swinburne (not a hero). I think dad was always disappointed the Blake lyrics, How Sweet I Roamed from Field to Field among them, were given the Fug drunken C&W treatment. Undeniable & prophetic words, Lower East Side country parody music. It didn’t really work for me either.

The Swinburne Stomp had one of Algernon’s delicate efforts given a ferocious beat & yowl . . . now that was funny & it worked. Dad thought so, too. One of his stage directions proves it.

When wild children are being raised on Pelee Island by some fool of a progressive educator in dad’s Ignoramus, they chant Blake’s The Tyger. The stage direction is: “a la The Fugs?” Now, dad was not thinking of the Fugs’s misplacement of Blake as a country boy. He must have had their Swinburne stomping in mind. Tygertygerburningbright. Chant & stomp. Chant & stomp.

So there it is — the surprising influence of literature loving NYC bohemians on a Canadian children’s theatre classic. Thank you, dad & mom, for putting up with me playing the Fugs & so many other irritating musics back in the day.

Thank you, Fugs, for keeping the faith all the way into the 21st-century & for representing the greatness of America along with Willie Nelson, Emily Dickinson, Dorothy Parker & so many others. If there is any justice, you will find your way into a Mad Men episode & the agency will never be the same. Or maybe it will just be funnier.

PS: You may have noticed JBNBlog also bought the first Nihilist Spasm Band album on the same day. Once again,  my father had his own insight into the joyous bohemian din. “Oriental  . . . restful,” dad would say as the London noise-meisters shook up the house.


*An occasional series based on a v. cryptic diary kept as a pen&ink forerunner to JBNBlog during the late 1960s, when our family lived in London, Stratford (parts of summers of 1966 & 1967), Victoria, B.C. (July 4, 1968-July 4, 1969) and then London again until June, 1970 when I was in Grade 13.

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Source : http://blogs.canoe.com/brandnewblog/entertainment/where-was-i-on-jan-27-a-cryptic-diary-offers-clues/

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