The Fugs, Greatest Hits- The Olufsen Years

Lenny Kaye

By Lenny Kaye

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The Fugs were among the first to realize that literature and rock were more than kissin 'cousins — in fact, they were Fuggin'. An incestuous relationship between beatnik factions, with Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg representing the poets and a host of characters (like Peter Stampfel — see Holy Modal Rounders) adding askew folk and jug band sensibilities, at once old-timey and beyond their time. The Fugs made music scatological and divine, cosmic jesters. They not only put Blake and William Burroughs to melody, but mixed politics with morality ("Kill for Peace") and local beauty contests ("Slum Goddess of the Lower East Side").

The Beats’ favorite folkies, live at the Bottom Line in the mid-’80s, as unrepentant as ever.

They would ultimately split apart over their poles, a run that took them from the mid '60s through a decade later, but not before their "smutabilly" made them a must-see at Pentagon-levitating demonstrations and theatrical presentations (their run at the Player's Theater in New York City circa 66 is the harbinger of many cultural streams), weathering outraged record companies and the kamikaze run of the counterculture. Sanders felt their revolutionary message could be broadened by working within traditional forms; Tuli felt "we should've stayed buffoons." In between is a great band, whose music is often overlooked because of their shock value, their Rabelaisian cross-breeding of high and low art.

Ed and Tuli and Friends have reunited many a time over the years, and this "Greatest Hits" captures them in the mid '80s, live at New York club the Bottom Line, where they update their classics ("Nova Slum Goddess," "Frenzy," "How Sweet I Roamed"), and adds the best of a surprisingly sleek album of originals recorded in Woodstock in 1985. The highlight of this set is Sanders 'six-part "Dreams of Sexual Perfection," which captures the Fugs 'romanticism, their outrageous sense of humor and their belief in the power of poetry as it becomes the metaphor of music.