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.