Investigative Poetics – 3

AG: So what I want to do this period is to talk about just what I understand of his (Ed Sanders) notion of “Investigative Poetry”, and the things that we’ve done in common (maybe touching on some things that he’ll go into in more extensive detail. I’ll just give my angle on the same).

I want to begin with a sample of..  This is something that I did that Ed approved or encouraged, (and) that I, actually, got a little bit out of Ed. It’s a song. Ed started The Fugs, a rock group, which also began in the early (19)60’s, rather the same time as (the) Peace Eye (bookstore) – (19)64. The Fugs would rehearse at the Peace Eye bookstore, and (it included) people that worked in the Holy Modal Rounders, later – (guitarist Steve) Weber, Tuli Kupferberg, soloist, Ed, soloist, a couple of other people that turned up in other bands. I keep seeing (members) now in other bands, people who played with Joni Mitchell or hanging around (places like) The Bitter End in New York. Apparently he was able to get hold of a lot of a lot of good musicians to back up the amateur poet singers of The Fugs.

I remember one of his early interesting songs was “Police State” – [Police State ? Police State Blues? – maybe, most probably Allen was thinking here of the early Fugs classic, CIA Man]

In other words, he was taking that kind of literary political material and investing it into pop songs and rock songs, and making “a total assault on the culture”, making a real combine of high culture and low – police low-life and dope-fiend low-life hipness. So he was one of the first that introduced actual politics into rock music, and it actually affected a lot of other rock musicians. Because, when he was playing in Greenwich Village in a little theater, I remember Paul McCartney (of The Beatles) came and people from the (Rolling) Stones  band came – other musicians, who were commercially better set-up but who were really curious and interested in seeing the sophistication and intelligence and obvious high balletic quality of what Sanders was doing (in terms of body movements, as well as language).

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in, through to approximately twenty-seven minutes in] 

One comment

  1. It seems that “Police State” (mentioned in the above) was indeed a Fugs song in their early days, performed live but never officially recorded (perhaps somebody out there has a document of it on a live recording?) and it is not a misnomer for “CIA Man;” Ginsburg’s ability to remember Fugs songs is obviously a lot better than that. I quote from Peter Schjeldahl’s article for the New Yorker of the Dec 23, 2019 issue:

    Lee [Crabtree] was the pianist and musical arranger for the Fugs. One night after an awful fight with L., in which for emphasis I punched out a window, I showed up at Lee’s, bleeding. He bandaged and calmed me. He had a big plastic toy horn that I started to toot on. Lee sat at his electric keyboard, and we jammed. Later, he showed me sheet music that he had printed of our improvised creation: “The Red Horn Polka.” We collaborated on a song, “Police State,” that became the Fugs’ first-act closer but isn’t on any album, perhaps because it was too dirty, even for them.

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