Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Fugs - And on Shabbos...Nothing.

The Fugs in actionGot a call from my wife at work yesterday. "DID YOU HEAR THAT?!" Sure did. She was talking about the NPR radio spot on the seminal political beatnik rock band The Fugs. (I told you my wife was a radio junkie. And an alternative music queen. And a fantastic interior decorator. Love my wife. Oh. back the Fugs...) Here's Steven Lee Beeber's description of The Fugs from excellent his book "The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's, A Secret History of Jewish Punk"
"Still far from the hipster paradise it would become, the East Village (of NYC) - especially the Bowery area.....-had been growing steadily since Warhol had decamped in the late 1960s. It had seen initial settlers like Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs, who, along with the rest of his beatnik friends in the band, performed radical political songs as informed by Yiddish melody as by Jewish humor"
Specifically, the Fugs were settled (Ed Sanders) into the Peace Eye Bookstore, which he housed in a decommissioned kosher market, and (Tuli Kupferberg) over Lifschutz wholesale egg market.

The NPR spot was in honor of a new (!!!!) Fugs album, The Final CD part 2. The clip that got my wife's attention was from the classic Fugs song "Nothing." In addition to the distinctly Yiddish melody, my wife had immediately gotten the joke the NPR commentator had missed. The lyrics, a nihilistic assessment of the times, followed the pattern of a classic Yiddish joke "Monday: potatoes. Tuesday and Wednesday: potatoes. Thursday and Friday: potatoes. But on the Sabbath, something different: a lovely potato kugel!" But there's no kugel in the Fugs version. No Shabbos. Nothing special. Just potatoes. Just nothing.

Here's a wonderful video of Coby Batty of the Fugs performing Nothing, which was written by Kupferberg.
The Nothin Song

Hat Tip to YouTube user jadeDragon1351 for posting the video.

* By the way, the irony of me writing posts titled "I could not run from God" and "And on Shabbos Nothing" back to back isn't lost on me.


groove68 said...

Tuli Kupferberg dissecting Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated for Paper Tiger TV

Jack said...

Hey Groove68...did you have a link. I'd love to see or read that.

Adavidow said...

it's fascinating how this song has evolved. In the original recording (the first or second Fugs album) Kupferberg does a direct "bulbes" to "nothing" transmutation, occasionally accenting the connection by using the yiddish "gar nisht" in place of the English word, "nothing." I have a memory of a more recent Kupferberg recording--possibly on the Fillmore live album (my favorite Fugs recording) or one of the post-Sixties reunion recordings. This take takes the song further into the folk process and away from mere potatoes. Cool!