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October 08, 1966 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1966-10-08
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I 4 * L '


' "

(the fugs)

Thre New Noise Scial
Commentary-Plus SeX

GUESS THE change came when I
realized that you don't reach the teen-
agers in the drive-ins by reading poetry
to a couple of your friends or going on
peace walks with a lot of church creeps
or vegetarians," said Ed Sanders. "Rock
and roll is the medium of the populace."
Sanders, leader of the Fugs, a poetic
new rock and roll sensation, tossed his
brown hair back over his shoulders,
wrinkled his handlebar mustache, and
then sipped his sloe gin fizz in the Min-
etta tavern on McDougal St. in New
York's Greenwich Village. Sanders and
his fellow Fugs had just finished another
sellout concert before hundreds of hip-
pies, baby hippies, college kids, teeny-
boppers and parents at the Players the-
atre next door.
The exciting new Fug sound ("It's like
a cross between the Rolling Stones and a
chain gang working a gravel pit," en-
thuses one critic) is thrilling crowds
across the country from Bohemian cav-
erns in San Francisco to New York's posh
Town Hall.
Despite the fact that their topical
records have been banned from radio
play, word of mouth has pushed their
album high onto the charts. They sing of
sex, war, perversion, love, pornography,
and narcotics. Listening to them is like
reading the Psychedelic Review in a foot-
ball locker room. Suddenly people every-
where are humming captivating Fug
tunes like "Nothing":
"Monday Nothing
Tuesday Nothing
Wednesday and Thursday, nothing
Friday for a change a little more
Saturday one more nothing"
IT'S HARD TO believe that less than
two years ago the Fugs were only, an
obscure group of poets on New York's
lower east side. Sanders who says he's
half Jewish ("my wife is Jewish")
was running the Peace Eye Bookstore and
editing Fug You magazine.
Sanders (M.A. in Greek at New York
University) tired of not reaching anyone

group decided to take its name from the
euphemism used for a four letter word-
by Norman Mailer in the Naked and the
Dead. (According to guitarist Vin Leary,
Fug was originally used by the Romans
as an abbreviation stamped on the bodies
of fugitives).
T GAIN AN audience the group used
an element basic to rock and roll suc-
cess-sex. They sing of it earnestly in
such ballads as "Super Girl" and "Slum
Goddess from the Lower East Side." Ex-
plains Sanders, "Sex is an easy way to get
through to people. Besides it feels good."
But the group also uses its podium
to prose ly t i z e crowds unreach-
ed by peace walks. Unlike many current
rock and roll groups they prefer a subtle
approach to their message songs. "We're
not trying to stand up and pound our
chest and say this is the message. We like
to feel it's implicit in our program," says
Last winter for. example the Fugs held
a "Night of Napalm," and devoted the
evening to satiric ballads like "Kill for
Peace" while throwing 50 pounds of red
spaghetti at themselves and their aud-
"Kill, Kill, Kill, for Peace
If you don't kill them the Chinese
If you don't want America to play
second bill.
Kill, Kill, Kill for Peace
If you let them live they might all
go Russian ...
Kill'em, Kill'em, strafe them gook
The only gook an American can
Is a gook that's got his yellow head
U NLIKE MANY current rock and roll
groups the Fugs don't just protest.
They offer constructive solutions to cur-
rent problems. Sanders suggests that the
problem of leadership in the State De-
partment can be remedied by "assigning
Dean Rusk to five years in a Buddhist
monastery." As for President Johnson he

But will the Fugs sell out? Aside from
hiring an arranger and cleaning up the
lyrics for their album recordings (Sand-
ers has a tendency to flat on the second
one. "He had laryngitis when we recorded
it," explains Vin Leary) the group is un-
"The key to our success was not having
any musical experience. We weren't re-
stricted by any of the current musical
forms," says Tuli Kupferberg.
Kupf'erberg thinks the group is destined
for even greater heights: "I think we'll be
invited to do a nude command perform-
ance at Luci Johnson's first wedding

DESPITE THEIR spectacular rise to
fame, the group remains the same
simple, honest, humble little band of
lower east side poets.
"Sure we want to sell millions of rec-
ords," says Sanders. "We want thousands
of screaming young maniacs to turn out
to hear us. We want a huge young aud-
ience to hear what we have to say, and
we want to make money doing it."
"Man by next summer we'll be playing
a sellout in Shea Stadium. We'll be send-
ing out pulsations, love freak beam vec-
tors, throb thrills; feelies . . . you know.
We'll be wearing red robes and shooting
bazookas full of flour into the audience."

Synthesis of styles and a repudiation of criticism, exci


TO GAIN ani audience

the group used an element

basic to rock and roll success-sex. . . . But the
group also uses its podium to proselytize crowds
unreachable by peace walks. Unlike many current
rock and roll groups they prefer a subtle approach
to their message songs. "We're not trying to stand up

and pound our chest and

say this is the message."

with his poetry. 'This generation is a
rock generation. They'll take poetry all
right, but mainly if it has a sound and a
beat," he explains. So Sanders, now 28,
rounded up friends Tuli Kupferberg, Ken
Weaver and two guitarists to form an
electrified poetry group in January 1965.
The group had a depth of musical and
lyrical experience going for them. Weaver,
who is 26, had played drums for a year
in the El Campo, Texas, high school band.
Such noted critics as the New York City
police department couldn't get enough
of Lyricist Sanders' poetry. In fact just
before the group formed, the police
smashed into Sanders' bookstore, confis-
cated all copies of his magazine, and
charged him with obsceiity.
Sanders did the natural thing. He put
his poetry to music and found a ready
market. Too poor to buy drums, Weaver
played a Kransdale peach box. Mean-
while, 42-year-old Kupferberg learned to
play the kazoo and tambourine while
Sanders taught himself how to carry a
tune. The guitarists borrowed instruments
from the Holy Model Rounders. The

says, "I've never believed in capital pun-
ishment, but I think life imprisonment
might be appropriate."
As part of what Sanders calls the
"Zionist Marijuanaconspiracy" the group
also sings about psychedelics. "Pot is a
miracle drug, a great curative ranking
with penicillin and the Salk vaccine,"
claims Sanders. But drummer Weaver
(now playing a set of shiny Slingerlands)
proves an exception when he sings, "I
couldn't get high:"
"I whipped out my pipe
and I stuffed it full of grass
and I gave myself a light
I huffed and I puffed,
I smoked and I choked and
after while my heart nearly broke
because I couldn't get high, no no
I couldn't get high."*
THE FUGS HARD work seems to be
paying off. Weaver notes that during
the group's cross-country tour the crowds
were uniformly enthusiastic. "Even the
cops in San Francisco dug our show, he

"I like to think ...
that movies should delight the eye and
rearrange the senses . . .
that movies are changing the art of
that movies are an illusion,
that seeing is believing."
-Stan Vanderbeek
(American Scholar, Spring, 1966)
IN ART, .nothing is really new. Always
the newness is no more than a develop-
ment or synthesis of what has gone be-
fore. Nowhere is this more true than with
the 'new" American Cinema.
Outside a historical context, the new
avant=garde films may seem to be obs-
cure, foreboding and far-out. Within such
a historical context, however, they are
more easily understood.
Two strains of thought have been pres-
ent in all film controversies ever since
two of the first film-makers, Mesquish,
who was Lumiere's cameraman, and
Melies began way back in the 1890's an
Mesquish, whose film technique is ex-
emplified by "The Arrival in a Train," in
which the simple scene of passengers dis-
embarking is the only subject and theme
of the film, argued for objective photo-
Melies, whose films exhibit conjurer's
stunts and strange stage tricks, argued for
a more subjective film.
AROUND THESE early, little shows,
Mesquish and Melies developed aes-
thetic philosophies which were later to
combine or, at least, co-exist:
Melies-Films should deal with 'fan--
tastic or artistic scenes."
Mesquish-Films should deal with "the
dynamism of life, of nature and of its
manifestations, of the crowd and its
Mesquish suggested that photography
is strictly objective and, therefore, that
film must be rooted in physical reality.
Perhaps the Mesquish doctrine of real-
ism and objectivity stems from the fact

This is the first in a series on avant-garde art which
will- be run in the Michigan Daily MAGAZINE. Other
articles will include discussiOns of the modern, the pop,
and the experimental as they appear in drama, prose
fiction and poet rv, iusic, etc.

that the french word for lens is objectif.
The usual argument against the photo-
realists is that tie film-maker can con-
struct his scenes as he wishes, can shoot
from any camera angle, can superimpose
images and can even scratch or paint the
film; hence, he must exercise selectivity
and Mesquish's objectivity is actually
THE OTHER school, Melies' school,
bases itself on this view. Melies saw
himself as a magician. He was intent on
establishing the paradoxical nature of
film (the illusion of motion, the reduc-
tion and magnification of images, etc.)
From Melies stems the abstractionists
who are so important to today's cinema.
Roughly paralleling this "truth in re-
ality" and photo-realism versus "truth

scriptive and subjective) are not mutually
exlusive. However, there is a tendency
for films which are functional to be
photo-realist and to emphasize story or
some other sort of narrative form; and
for which are personal or subjective to
be abstract.
- When Maurice Dennis, the French
painter said, "It must be recalled that a
painting, before it is a picture of a bat-
tlehorse, nude woman, (before) it is some
anecdote-is essentially a plane surface
covered by colors arranged in a certain
order." ("Definition du Neo-traditional-
isme," 1890) he was making a comment
which is relevant to cinema today.
LUST AS THE painter has been liber-
ated from the realist tradition and has
complete license in subject matter, so

erable. They hav
ious formal style
and, further, tl
combined or j ux
These film-ma
over America, bu
in San Francisco
there are small
devotees of the
willing to financi
avant-garde film
the larger and m
New York group.
selected to discu
group and are ge
the New America
A number of
appear in their
poulos and Char:
stance, are inte
Greek and Amer
astrology, myth
wilier in dance
Jack Smith in er
Stan Brakhage i
Stan Vanderbeek
Andy Warhol in
struction of art a
These classific
fast, nor are th
within their wort
shows the remai
film-makers. The
cannot be consid
movement. They
the Film-Makers
butive body) and
zine) to insure fi:
films and-more
ticle-they all sh
the films of E
others would be
which of the filn
which were abst
*r^ Darticular ae
cri4,c to evaluate

in illusion" and abstractionism argu-
ment is another argument concerning
Jean Luc-Goddard, the French film-
maker, expressed it when he said, con-
cerning Michaelangelo Antonioni's "The
Red Desert:" ". . . the color in it was
completely different from what I have
done: in "Le Mepris" the color was before
the camera but in his (Antonioni's' film,
it was inside the camera."
Color, he was saying, may be used
functionally to emphasize the description
of an event or it may be used as a direct
appeal to the emotions of the audience.
GODDARD'S REMARK may be extend-
tended to include line, tone. shape.
movement, light, balance and space: i.e..
all the factors which fill the film space
and which give it its plasticity.
Quite clearly these formal modes (de-

also our film-makers can use any method
of filling the film-space that appeals to
A movie is first and foremost a piece
of exposed film!
There is no- reason for us to praise
the realistic over the illusory, the figura-
tive over the abstract.
There is no reason for an emphasis on
either descriptive or subjective techniques.
The ontology of the film art has been
established. There is no such thing as the
essence of film. No motif or technique is
better than another. Mesquish is as right
as-Melies, Antonioni as right as Goddard.
The Scene
'-'O MUCH FOR the aesthetic. What has
" been achieved in practice?
There is a small group of film-makers
'n America who have made the pro-
nouncements of the aestheticians intol-


-r tr- a atf^i it1 A wi r-.A Of 1/ ILA A/^A'?'i;AIC

Page Six


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