The Fugs

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The Fugs
OriginLower East Side, New York City, U.S.
Years active
  • 1964–1969
  • 1984–present

The Fugs are an American rock band formed in New York City in late 1964,[2] by the poets Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg, with Ken Weaver on drums. Soon afterward, they were joined by Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber of The Holy Modal Rounders. Kupferberg named the band from a euphemism for fuck used in Norman Mailer's novel The Naked and the Dead.

The band was one of the leaders of the underground scene of the 1960s and became an important part of the American counterculture of that decade.[3] The group is known for its comedic, even lewd, nature but also earned fame through its persistent anti-Vietnam War sentiment during the 1960s.[2] Some 1969 correspondence, found inside an FBI file on the rock group The Doors, called The Fugs the "most vulgar thing the human mind could possibly conceive".[4] They have been derided for their scatological lyrics.[5] The Fugs have been labeled avant-rock noise music.[6]


The band's original core members, Ed Sanders, Tuli Kupferberg, and Ken Weaver, were joined at various times in the 1960s by a number of others, some of whom were noted session musicians or members of other bands. These included Weber and Stampfel,[7] bassist John Anderson, guitarist Vinny Leary, guitarist Peter Kearney, keyboardist Lee Crabtree, guitarist Jon Kalb, guitarist Stefan Grossman, singer and guitarist Jake Jacobs, guitarist Eric Gale, bassist Chuck Rainey, keyboardist Robert Banks, bassist Charles Larkey, guitarist Ken Pine, guitarist Danny Kortchmar, clarinetist Perry Robinson, bassist Bill Wolf, and drummer Bob Mason.[citation needed]

For most of their career, the Fugs were composed of the primary singer-songwriters Sanders and, until his death, Kupferberg; the composer, songwriter, guitarist and long-time Allen Ginsberg collaborator Steven Taylor; singer-songwriter and percussionist Coby Batty; and Scott Petito, a musician and music producer.[citation needed]

The band signed a record contract with ESP-Disk in 1965. The Fugs said that "our royalty rate was less than 3%, one of the lower percentages in the history of western civilization".[2] The owner of the label, Bernard Stollman, has frequently faced accusation of not paying royalties to artists.[8] In February 1967, the group was signed to Atlantic Records and recorded one album, The Fugs Eat It, but it was never released.[9]


A satirical rock band with a political slant, the Fugs have performed at various war protests – against the Vietnam War and since the 1980s at events around other U.S. involved wars. The band's often frank and humorous lyrics about sex, drugs, and politics[5] occasionally generated hostile reactions, most notably from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the late 1960s. The group is referenced several times in the F.B.I. file on the Doors; an excerpt mentions eleven songs from The Fugs First Album that are "vulgar and repulsive and are most suggestive".[10]

In 1968, they toured Europe twice: in May to Denmark and Sweden where they wrote the song "The Swedish Nada"[9] and played with Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After, and The Nice;[11] and in September to Germany where they played with Peter Brötzmann, Cuby and the Blizzards, Family, Guru Guru Groove, Alexis Korner, David Peel, Tangerine Dream, at the Internationale Essener Songtage in the Grugahalle in Essen.[11][12]

In a 2012 interview with National Public Radio, Ed Sanders read a leaflet from an August 1965 show: "The Fugs present: Night of napalm, songs against the war, rock n' roll bomb shrieks, heavy metal orgasms! Watch all The Fugs die in a napalm raid!"[13]

Their participation in the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam's 1967 March on the Pentagon, at which they and others purportedly attempted to encircle and levitate the Pentagon, is chronicled in Norman Mailer's book The Armies of the Night. A recording of this event is featured on the Fugs' 1968 album, Tenderness Junction, entitled "Exorcising the Evil Spirits from the Pentagon Oct. 21, 1967".[14] Beforehand, Sanders and Kupferberg had prepared an elaborate exorcism ritual, and rented a flatbed truck along with a sound system.[2] As is heard on the album, the two gathered a large crowd in front of the Pentagon and repeatedly chanted, "Out, demons, out!"[2][14]

One of their better-known songs is an adaptation of Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach". Others were settings of William Blake's poems "Ah! Sun-flower" and "How Sweet I Roam'd". Another, "Nothing", is a paraphrasing of the Yiddish folk song "Bulbes".[15]

After pursuing individual projects over the years, in 1984 Sanders and Kupferberg decided to re-form the band and stage a series of Fugs reunion concerts.[16] On August 15, 1988, at the Byrdcliff Barn in Woodstock, New York, the Fugs performed one of their first real reunion concerts. This incarnation of the Fugs included, at various times, the guitarist and singer Steve Taylor (who was also Allen Ginsberg's teaching assistant at the Naropa Institute), the drummer and singer Coby Batty, the bassist Mark Kramer, the guitarist Vinny Leary (who had contributed to the first two original Fugs albums), and the bassist and keyboardist Scott Petito. The re-formed Fugs performed concerts at numerous locations in the United States and Europe over the next several years.

In 1994 the band intended to perform a series of concerts in Woodstock, New York, (where Sanders had lived for many years) to commemorate the 1969 Woodstock Festival, which had actually occurred near the town of Bethel, some 50 miles away. They learned that a group of promoters were planning to stage Woodstock '94 that August near Saugerties, about 8 miles from Woodstock, and that this festival would be much more tightly controlled and commercialized than the original. Consequently, The Fugs decided to stage their own August 1994 concerts as "The Real Woodstock Festival", in an atmosphere more in keeping with the spirit of the 1969 festival. The basic Fugs roster of Sanders, Kupferberg, Taylor, Batty, and Petito performed in this series of concerts with additional vocal support from Amy Fradon and Leslie Ritter and also with appearances by Allen Ginsberg and Country Joe McDonald. In 2003, the group released The Fugs Final CD (Part 1) with positive feedback. In 2004, The Fugs began to record Be Free: The Fugs Final CD (Part 2).

In 2008 their song "CIA Man" was featured during the end credits for the movie Burn After Reading, directed by the Coen brothers. In 2009, Kupferberg suffered two strokes, the latter of which severely hindered his eyesight. He was under constant care, but was able to finish recording his tracks for Be Free in his New York City apartment. A benefit for Kupferberg was held in Brooklyn, New York, in February 2010, featuring all of the Fugs minus Kupferberg, as well as Lou Reed, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye, and others. Be Free: The Fugs Final CD (Part 2) was released on February 23, 2010. The album art, designed by Sanders, featured a snail reading Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl". The album was produced by Taylor and Sanders.

Kupferberg died on July 12, 2010, in Manhattan, at the age of 86.[17] In 2008, in one of his last interviews, he told Mojo magazine, "Nobody who lived through the '50s thought the '60s could've existed. So there's always hope."[18]

The remaining Fugs from time to time seriously consider further performances.[9][16] On June 11, 2011, the four remaining Fugs performed at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London as part of the annual Meltdown Festival, curated that year by Ray Davies of the Kinks. Their set received a four-star review in The Guardian.[19]

They performed at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland on November 30, 2012, and at the City Winery in Chicago on December 1, 2012 .

Film appearances[edit]

The band can be seen performing in the cult film Chappaqua (1967) by Conrad Rooks. Tuli Kupferberg made appearances in W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971) by Dušan Makavejev and played God in Voulez-vous coucher avec God? (1972) by Michael Hirsh and Jack Christie.

Their song, "CIA Man", can be heard during the closing credits of the 2008 Coen Brothers' film Burn After Reading, and during the closing credits of the fifth episode of the 2017 docudrama miniseries Wormwood.

Primary lineups[edit]

The Fugs went through a number of lineup changes. Below are those that lasted the longest. For instance, guitarist Stefan Grossman was with the band for only several weeks, so this lineup is not included.

1964 – February 1965

Summer 1965

  • Tuli Kupferberg – vocals, percussion
  • Ed Sanders – vocals
  • Ken Weaver – drums, vocals
  • Steve Weber – guitar, vocals
  • Vinny Leary – guitar, vocals
  • John Anderson – bass, vocals

September – December 1965

  • Tuli Kupferberg – vocals, percussion
  • Ed Sanders – vocals
  • Ken Weaver – drums, vocals
  • Steve Weber – guitar, vocals

December 1965 – July 1966

  • Tuli Kupferberg – vocals
  • Ed Sanders – vocals
  • Ken Weaver – drums, vocals
  • Lee Crabtree – keyboards, percussion
  • Vinny Leary – guitar, vocals
  • John Anderson – bass, vocals
  • Pete Kearney – guitar, vocals

July – October 1966

  • Tuli Kupferberg – vocals
  • Ed Sanders – vocals
  • Ken Weaver – drums, vocals
  • Lee Crabtree – keyboards, percussion
  • Jon Kalb – lead guitar
  • Vinny Leary – rhythm guitar, vocals
  • John Anderson – bass, vocals

October 1966 – Spring 1967

  • Tuli Kupferberg – vocals
  • Ed Sanders – vocals
  • Ken Weaver – drums, vocals
  • Lee Crabtree – keyboards, percussion
  • Jake Jacobs – guitar, vocals
  • Chuck Rainey – bass

Summer 1967 – Summer 1968

  • Tuli Kupferberg – vocals
  • Ed Sanders – vocals
  • Ken Weaver – drums, vocals
  • Ken Pine – guitar, vocals
  • Danny Kortchmar – guitar, violin
  • Charles Larkey – bass

Winter 1968 – March 1969

  • Tuli Kupferberg – vocals
  • Ed Sanders – vocals
  • Ken Weaver – drums, vocals
  • Ken Pine – guitar, vocals
  • Bill Wolf – bass, vocals
  • Bob Mason – drums

1984 – 2010

  • Tuli Kupferberg – vocals
  • Ed Sanders – vocals
  • Steven Taylor – vocals, guitar
  • Coby Batty – drums, percussion, vocals
  • Scott Petito – bass, keyboards

2010 – present

  • Ed Sanders – vocals
  • Steven Taylor – vocals, guitar
  • Coby Batty – drums, percussion, vocals
  • Scott Petito – bass, keyboards


Studio albums[edit]

Year Title US Top 200 Label
1965 The Village Fugs Sing Ballads of Contemporary Protest, Point of Views, and General Dissatisfaction Broadside/Folkways
1966 The Fugs First Album* 142 ESP-Disk
The Fugs 95
1967 The Fugs Eat It [unreleased] Atlantic
Virgin Fugs ESP Disk
1968 Tenderness Junction Reprise
It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest 167
1969 The Belle of Avenue A
1986 No More Slavery New Rose
1987 Star Peace – A Musical Drama In Three Acts
2003 The Fugs Final CD (Part 1) Artemis
2010 Be Free: The Fugs Final CD (Part 2) Fugs Records
  • The Fugs First Album is a retitled reissue of the Broadside/Folkways LP.

Live albums[edit]

Year Title Label
1970 Golden Filth (Live at The Fillmore East) Reprise
1984 Refuse to Be Burnt Out New Rose
Baskets of Love Olufsen
1993 Fugs Live in Woodstock MUSIK/MUSIK
1995 The Real Woodstock Festival Big Beat

Compilation albums[edit]

Year Title Label Notes
1975 Fugs 4, Rounders Score ESP-Disk Consists of recordings from first two albums plus two unreleased cuts from first album sessions.
(Four unreleased tracks by The Holy Modal Rounders are included, and date from first album sessions as well.)
1982 The Fugs Greatest Hits Vol. 1 PVC Compilation drawing from the first three albums.
1990 Songs from a Portable Forest Gazell Chronicles the 1980s reunion albums.
1994 Live from The 60s Big Beat This album is made up of recordings from assorted (unprofessionally recorded) tapes of various shows, and home demos.
2001 Electromagnetic Steamboat: The Reprise Recordings Rhino Handmade Includes the four Reprise albums in their entirety plus special promo edits, mono mix of Tenderness Junction
(except for Aphrodite Mass) and tracks from the unreleased Atlantic LP (in censored, mono form.)
2006 Greatest Hits 1984–2004 Fugs Records
2008 Don't Stop! Don't Stop! Big Beat Repackaging of the first two albums with various outtakes, demos and live recordings.
2010 Tenderness Junction/It Crawled Into My Hand Honest Floating World Two-fer combining the first two Reprise albums. Unlike the Rhino Handmade set which used tapes, this release is sourced from vinyl.


  1. ^ "Were The Fugs the first punk band?". December 28, 2022. Retrieved April 27, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e "History of the Fugs". Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  3. ^ "The Fugs: At The Forefront Of The Counterculture" by John Kalish, All Things Considered, NPR, April 6, 2010
  4. ^ Leopold, Jason, "Inside the FBI's File on The Fugs: The 'Most Vulgar Thing the Human Mind Could Possibly Conceive'"., Retrieved November 12, 2017
  5. ^ a b Burke, Patrick (Spring 2011). "Clamor of the Godz: Radical Incompetence in 1960s Rock". American Music. University of Illinois Press. 29 (1): 35–63. doi:10.5406/americanmusic.29.1.0035. S2CID 153519635.
  6. ^ David E. Morse (February 1969). "Avant-Rock in the Classroom". English Journal. 58 (2): 196–200, 297. doi:10.2307/812592. JSTOR 812592.
  7. ^ "The Fugs – Tuli Kupferberg".
  8. ^ Weiss, Jason (2012). Always in Trouble: An Oral History of ESP-Disk', the Most Outrageous Record Label in America. Wesleyan. ISBN 978-0-8195-7159-5.
  9. ^ a b c Sanders, Ed. "History of the Fugs", part 3. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  10. ^ "The Doors Part 1 of 1". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "The Fugs Family Tree – shows list", Rock Prosopography 102
  12. ^ "A Visit to Prague" by Ed Sanders, Woodstock Journal, November 29, 2007; via Prague Writers' Festival, October 2018
  13. ^ Kalish, Jon (May 4, 2012). "'Fug You': The Wild Life of Ed Sanders". NPR. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
  14. ^ a b The Fugs. "Exorcising the Evil Spirits From Within the Pentagon Oct. 21, 1967", Tenderness Junction, Reprise, 1968.
  15. ^ Goldsmith, Kenneth (2020). Duchamp Is My Lawyer: The Polemics, Pragmatics, and Poetics of UbuWeb. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-231-54691-1.
  16. ^ a b Kot, Greg. "The Fugs Still Riotous After All These Years". Chicago Tribune, November 27, 2012. [1]
  17. ^ "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2010 July to December". Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  18. ^ Mojo, no. 203, October 2010, p. 34.
  19. ^ Review of the Fugs, The Guardian

External links[edit]