Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Fugs - Golden Filth (Live at the Fillmore East 1968)

The Fugs (like those other East Village outlaws, the amazing Holy Modal Rounders) played a big part in the birth of New York's '60s counterculture. Formed in 1965, they provided a riotous folk accompaniment to the anti-Vietnam movement, playing in the clubs and cafes. By the time this album was recorded, they'd developed a fried psychedelic punk sound to accompany the goofball humour. Here's what Ed Sanders has to say about this electric period in Fugs history:

Exorcising the Pentagon
October, 1967

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 metal.
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 Theater.

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 the Exorcism.
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 wailed onward.
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.

And this is a Swedish Fugs TV special!

If you're still interested after all that :

Golden Filth Tracklist:

01 Slum Goddess
02 Coca Cola Douche
03 How Sweet I Roamed
04 I Couldn't Get High
05 Saran Wrap
06 I Want to Know
07 Homemade
08 Nothing
09 Supergirl

Its over here.


The Irate Pirate said...

crazy coincidence! i was just telling somebody about the Out, Demons, Out! exorcism of the pentagon today! And I've never been to your blog before, but I'll be back. Ayler, Fugs, & wild roots music is a good combination. i just linked to SC&P on my latest blog post. thanks!

dugg said...

oh my god. this is one of the albums that helped me to survive high school, and i can still recite parts of it from memory!
i've never seen this anywhere- thanks for the chance to hear it again...