In the era of the late '60s musical underground, The Fugs were about
as underground as a band could be. Unlike L.A.'s Mothers of
Invention, the New York-based Fugs recorded for a small indie label
(ESP-Disk, home also to Sun Ra and Albert Ayler) and were often
deemed too inflammatory for even the burgeoning (if short-lived) crop
of "progressive" radio stations. The Fugs' two creative proponents,
Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg, drew inspiration from sources ranging
from ancient Greek plays to Dada, and from Charlie Parker's seething
sax to the silence of John Cage. But by 1970, it was over for the
band – at least temporarily – as Sanders worked on two albums for
Warner Bros./Reprise Records – Sanders' Truckstop and Beer Cans on the Moon.
Unavailable since long before the advent of the CD, Collectors'
Choice Music will reissue the two Sanders solo albums on January 29,
re-mastered with extensive liner notes by Richie Unterberger.
To the surprise of some Fugs fans, Sanders' Truckstop was a
country-rock album. Tinges of country had permeated the band's final
studio album, The Belle of Avenue A. This wasn't the Byrds, however,
but rather what John Ware, drummer and keyboardist on the album
deemed "country-Fugs-on-drugs . . . grad school hippies and a yahoo, buckaroo!"
Ed's wife, Miriam Sanders, wrote the original liner notes, which
included red, yellow and green lights beside each song title as a
guide to radio programmers who might be inclined to play the album on
air. But that was the problem. The record received scant airplay, and
consequently didn't chart. Robert Christgau awarded it a "C+" in the
Village Voice's "Consumer Guide, " which he later upgraded to a "B"
in his review anthology, Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the
Seventies, adding: "I must point out that the yodeling country twang
Sanders developed with the Fugs has never known the difference
between parody and departure, which makes some of these songs crueler
than they're intended to be."
Rolling Stone's reviewer, Jack Shadolian, presented a similar
observation: "(Sanders') decision to apply his special madness to the
down-home idioms reflects a commercial wisdom as well as a satiric
sociopolitical updating to better poke the guts out of Middle America
. . . Genuinely mocking spirits are all too rare, and in this day and
age, I suppose we should champion people like Sanders while we've got them."
Despite the commercial disappointment of Sanders' Truckstop, Reprise
issued one more Sanders solo LP, Beer Cans on the Moon. Featured in
the band was guitarist Jake Jacobs (Jake & the Family Jewels),
referred to Sanders by guitar virtuoso Stefan Grossman. Sanders still
sang and wrote about slimy politicians, drugs and sex, notably "Henry
Kissinger" and a song called "Yodeling Robot, " about a robot falling
in love with Dolly Parton. As he'd done on the very first Fugs album,
Sanders even set some William Blake poetry to music, in "Albion Crags."
Alas, this album, like its predecessor, was a commercial non-starter
and would conclude Sanders' Reprise career.
Sanders has kept busy over the years as an American bard, social
activist, environmentalist, novelist, historian, and publisher of The
Woodstock Journal. He's even invented musical instruments, such as
the Talking Tie and the microtonal Microlyre. Among his recent books
are America, A History in Verse, Vols. 1 (1900-1939) and 2
(1940-1961) and 3 (1962-1970) and The Poetry and Life of Allen
Ginsberg. His 1971 book, The Family, a chronicle of the life of
Charles Manson, drew high critical marks.