Beating The Velvet Underground to the punch as New York’s first underground rock band, The Fugs (name derived from a Norman Mailer euphemism for ‘fuck’) were formed in late 1964 by poets Tuli Kupferberg and Ed Sanders, and were fleshed out by Steve Weber and Peter Stampfel of the psych-folk band The Holy Modal Rounders. Where The Velvet Underground were streamlined, Euro-decadent pop art junkie chic, The Fugs were sprawling, anarchic theatrical pranksters and activists who’d sing in Yiddish and troll the foibles of the time.
Encouraged by friends Allen Ginsberg and Harry Smith, the latter managed to sneak them into Folkways (apparently by passing them off as a jug band!) to record their first album, 1965’s The Village Fugs Sing Ballads of Contemporary Protest, Point of Views, and General Dissatisfaction, re-released the following year as The Fugs First Album. As well as a few more-or-less straightforward numbers (usually knocked off balance by out-of-nowhere whistling or muffled drums), there’s the bubblegum nihilist chant Nothing, which starts off “Monday: Nothing/ Tuesday: Nothing/ Wednesday and Thursday: Nothing/ Friday, for a change: A little more nothing/ Saturday: Once more nothing” and proceeds to negate everything from the months, years and even, say, The Village Voice, The New Yorker and the philosophers – it’s like The Monks with a sense of humour. I Couldn’t Get High would be a bona-fide Nuggets-y garage-rock classic if it had been recorded by a bunch of teenagers instead of by older,