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Life Arts

The Fugs, Albert Camus, and the Psychedelicatessen

By       Message Bob Patterson     Permalink
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Did "The Establishment" hate "The Haight"?

 

Wear a flower in your hair?

"Fug You," the 2011 book written by Ed Sanders, had completely gone stealth on the pop culture radar screen at the headquarters of the World's Laziest Journalist until we noticed a remaindered copy for sale in the Half-Price Bookstore in downtown Berkeley CA, last week.   The snob appeal of being able to write about Sanders Sixties Rock group, the Fugs, and casually saying "we saw them perform in the Village in 1966" overpowered our usual tightwad tendency to avoid spending money just to be able to write a column mit book review.  

When we got the book home and leaned that the cover was a visual pun that referred to the time the Fugs were featured on the cover of LIFE magazine, we had a breakthrough moment that solved a conundrum that has been baffling us for a long time:   "What makes the Bush era different from the Vietnam War era?"

The first time we read Albert Camus' book, "The Rebel," we thought we encountered a passage that asserted that the Establishment, as Society was called in the Sixties, would defuse rebels by absorbing them into high society.   (Subsequent rereadings of the Camus' book failed to produce that particular passage for quoting purposes.)   That Camus insight, real or imagined, helped us immensely in our various subsequent excursions into pop culture analysis.   Didn't a rebellious band from England eventually become The Rolling Stones Inc.?   Aren't the rights to the Beatles songs still earning royalties?   Will new rock bands raise funds by selling stock?

As we started to read "Fug You," we were delighted to see that a bunch of the references to the counterculture evoked some personal memories to add to our enjoyment level of Sanders recounting of the Sixties.   (Was the Psychedelicatessen NYC's first "head shop"?   [It was featured in a Time magazine story dated February 24, 1967.])  

Then we had our breakthrough insight while staring at the information that the Fugs were featured on the cover of the February 17, 1967 issue of LIFE magazine.   In the Bush era, underground cult heroes have zero chance of getting mainstream media exposure.   No corporation in its right mind (pun?) will give free publicity to a movie maker, novelist, or band that isn't a shining example of the capitalist philosophy and (even better) part of that very corporation's "extended family" of subsidiaries.  

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It wasn't always like that.

When a book expert was asked to authenticate the validity of a hardback copy of the first edition of Jack Kerouac's book, "On the Road," which was autographed and inscribed to Marilyn Monroe, his research revealed that both the actress and the pioneer Beatnik novelist appeared on the Tonight TV show on the same night, so he verified the authenticity of the item.

Sanders says (on page 230) that the Fugs were invited to perform on the Johnny Carson version of the Tonight Show but that a dispute over which song was to be performed caused the cancellation of that potential milestone in pop culture history.  

On November 5, 1965, the Fugs added an extremely unusual accomplishment to their resume (page 170).   Allen Ginsberg, the Fugs, and Country Joe and the Fish gave a concert performance in a chemistry lecture room on the University of California Berkeley campus.

In the Bush era, the mainstream media does not feature stories on the counterculture and thus bestow legitimacy on the rebel artists and their anti-establishment philosophy.   In the Sixties, underground celebrities were almost automatically given a ticket to fame by the mainstream media.

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During 1969 while we lived in San Francisco, we were totally oblivious to the fact that a co-worker from our college yearbook and newspaper, John Walsh, was struggling with a counterculture venture in the very same city.   (Woulda/coulda/shoulda)   It wasn't until about two years later that Newsweek magazine drew national attention to the feisty rock'n'roll magazine being published in the city slightly to the East of Berkeley CA.   That publishing venture called itself by the same name that O. Henry had used years before when he attempted to publish a magazine:   "Rolling Stone."

San Francisco's band of rogues called the Merry Pranksters weren't the first people in the United States to buy an old bus and then go tearing around the country seeking fun and adventure, but the Pranksters were the first to have their escapades chronicled by a mainstream writer (from New York City) who just happened to be in the process of forming the Gonzo branch of Journalism, Tom Wolfe.

Hunter S. Thompson chronicled the exploits of the Hell's Angles Motorcycle Club in the mid-Sixties in a book and then became a staff writer for the previously mentioned Rolling Stone magazine.

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BP graduated from college in the mid sixties (at the bottom of the class?) He told his draft board that Vietnam could be won without his participation. He is still appologizing for that mistake. He received his fist photo lesson from a future (more...)
 

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