Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Tuli, Madly, Deeply

Yesterday's news of the death of Tuli Kupferberg (hat tip Frank Wilson) - at an amazing age, given his excesses and self-destructive moments - took me back to a time, many years ago, when I would seek out (and they took some seeking out) and buy albums by his 'band', The Fugs. Nothing else offered quite such a pungent mix of fun and filth, scabrous satire, Blakean lyricism, scholarly wit and drug-fuelled craziness. I still have their splendidly titled gatefold album It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest, the Fugs' most expensive (i.e. least cheap), most musically accomplished (i.e. least completely shambolic) album. The tracks range from a blast of acid rock (Crystal Liaison) to strange and sweet lyrics (Rameses II Is Dead My Love, Burial Waltz, When the Mode of the Music Changes), chants and spoken word gags - including a haiku joke - and a track titled Claude Pelieu and J.J. Lebel Discuss the Early Verlaine Bread Crust Fragments (don't ask). I haven't listened to it in years, and most likely never will again, but for some reason I hang on to it still. They don't make them like that any more - and they don't make them like Tuli Kupferberg any more.
I also have a book that he co-compiled with his wife Sylvia Topp, called As They Were. It's a collection of strangely haunting and revealing photographs of famous people as children - no commentary, but none is needed. Once seen, the picture of Hitler as an infant is never forgotten.


  1. Never actually owned any of the Fugs music, but I knew a man who did. I remember Rameses II (the song of course) but it was Big Brown River that we always seemed to sing along to. (Did Max Bygraves cover that one do you know?)

    Thanks for the post. Lovely.


  2. sorry bout tuli,still own only pressingf live at fillmore east "golden filth", which you're lucky f u don't.."crawld into hand"brill tho,both claude+ramses maj masterpieces,play em again nig!

  3. Thanks Pete - River of Shit is indeed on Max Bygraves' legendary 'white album', along with New Amphetamine Shriek, another singalong favourite. 'There's nine bouncing people in one little room, The vectors are threading eternity's loom...' Classic Max...
    And is that really you Cap'n T? Welcome back!

  4. "River of Shit is indeed on Max Bygraves' legendary 'white album', along with New Amphetamine Shriek, another singalong favourite."

    ...have I wandered into some kind of strange parallel universe??

  5. Yes you have Worm. And technically the title's Big Brown River of course...

  6. As well as Archie, everyone's now educated, you need hands Nige.

  7. frankly, not being a verlaine scholar, after all those years, or rather decaydes... i'm still or AGAIN wondering: what IS this Pelieu-Lebel-Verlaine-Breadcrust song (on the Hand, Honest album) really ABOUT? any information or well, education is welcome. yessir!

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