This piece was originally published in Arthur No. 13 (Nov. 2004), with cover artwork by John Coulthart and design by William T. Nelson, pictured above (click image to view at larger size). A correction involving Cosmic Charlie published in a later issue has been embedded in the text here at the most natural point. I’m sorry that I’ve been unable to include the many fantastic photographs from the print article here. However, I have added a still from the film “Will the Real Norman Mailer Please Stand Up” by Dick Fontaine, which we did not have access to at the time of print publication into the text, and there are more stills from various films appended. —Jay Babcock
Clip from Arthur No. 13’s Table of Contents page, featuring photo by Robert A. Altman.
OUT, DEMONS, OUT!
On October 21, 1967, the Pentagon came under a most unconventional assault.
An oral history by Larry “Ratso” Sloman, Michael Simmons and Jay Babcock
* * *
INTRODUCTION BY MICHAEL SIMMONS By Autumn of 1967, the “police action” in Vietnam had escalated. The United States of America waged War—that hideous manifestation of the human race’s worst instincts—against the small, distant, sovereign land. 485,600 American troops were then stationed in Nam; 9,353 would die in ’67 alone. We were there under false pretenses (the “attack’ at the Gulf of Tonkin that never happened), operating under a paranoid doctrine (the Domino Theory, fretting that Vietnamese Communists fighting a civil war in their own country with popular support would envelop all of Southeast Asia and end up invading Dubuque, Iowa). Seven million tons of bombs would eventually be dropped, as opposed to two million during World War II. Indiscriminate use of gruesome weaponry was deployed, most infamously napalm, a jelly that sticks to—and burns through—human skin. Saturation bombings, free-fire zones, massive defoliation with the carcinogen Agent Orange. “Destroying the village to save it,” as one American military man put it.
For a generation that remembered the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals after WW II, something had to be done. Genocidal fugitive Adolf Eichmann’s “I was just following orders” excuse would not fly. The draft was sending 18-year-olds off to die. A domestic anti-war movement emerged, as had a counterculture of hairy young people who rejected the militarism, greed, sexual repression, and stunted consciousness of their parents and leaders to pursue Joy and Sharing as well as Dope, Rock and Roll, and Fucking in the Streets. Pundits spoke of The Generation Gap. A quaking chasm had split the nation.
San Francisco painter Michael Bowen had a dream of people coming together to celebrate his city’s burgeoning hippie subculture, and so he and his wife Martine initiated the Great Human Be-In on Sunday, January 14, 1967. Sub-billed as A Gathering of the Tribes, 10,000 hippies, radicals and free spirits convened in Golden Gate Park. Beat poets emceed (Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Lenore Kandel), rock bands rocked (Grateful Dead, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Charlatans), Hell’s Angels returned lost kids to their mommies – and the cops busted no one, despite rampant open marijuana use. For many, the realization that there were other Martians was transcendental. Berkeley anti-war activist Jerry Rubin gave a speech, but his narrow political rap was dubbed “too histrionic” by Ginsberg and many in the crowd. It fortuitously forked Rubin’s direction. “It was the first time I did see a new society,” he said later. “I saw there was no need for a political statement. I didn’t understand that until then, either.”
Events ending with the suffix “In” became the rage. Bob Fass hosted the hippest radio show in the country, “Radio Unnameable” on New York’s WBAI. The all-night gab-and-music fest was Freak Centra, functioning as a pre-internet audio website. Regular guests included Realist editor Paul Krassner (dubbed “Father of the Underground Press”), underground film director Robert Downey Sr. (father and namesake of…), actor/writer Marshall Efron (arguably the funniest man on the planet), and a manic activist-gone-psychedelic named Abbie Hoffman—all rapping madly, verbally riffing and improvising like musicians. One night after participating in a UsCo avant-garde multi-media show of projections, movies, music, etc., at an airplane hangar, Fass stopped by nearby JFK International Airport and noticed a group of three dozen young people—clearly ripped to the tits—communally entranced by a giant mobile centerpiecing a terminal. The vast open spaces of an airport, with jet planes and stars in the sky, were the stage for dreams to come to life. Fass flashed on the infinite possibilities.
He conceived a Fly-In at JFK and announced it on Radio Unnameable. Though Saturday night, February 11, was freezing cold, 3,000 of the underground’s finest came to sing Beatles songs, torch reefers, dance the body electric, and groove with their sisters and brothers. “One of the things that happened,” Fass observed, “was that there was such a colossal amount of human connection that there was something akin to feedback that happened, and people really began to experience not ‘happiness,’ but Ecstasy and Joy. We’re planning another one at your house.”
New York responded to San Francisco’s Be-In with its own. Key to its success was Jim Fouratt, a young actor who’d become one of the most effective hippie organizers on the Lower East Side. Promotion for the event cost $250, which paid for posters and leaflets. On Easter Sunday, March 27, 10,000 full and part-time hippies came together—some in the carnal definition—at Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. It was a glistening, no bad vibes, lysergic day. Fouratt was central to virtually every NYC hip community event, including the infamous Soot-In at Consolidated Edison, where he, Abbie Hoffman, and others dumped bags of nasty black soot at the coal burning, energy company’s offices, in a protest that prefigured and influenced the birth of the environmental movement.
Emmett Grogan was a brilliant and enigmatic prankster/con man at the heart of San Francisco’s do-goodnik anarcho-rogues the Diggers. He suggested to his friend Bob Fass that a Sweep-In would strengthen the momentum the Fly-In had sparked. The idea was to “clean up the Lower East Side” area of NYC where the hippies dwelled. Fass conspired with Krassner and Abbie and listeners on his radio show, and they chose Seventh Street, where Krassner lived. The buzz grew louder and one day an inquiring bureaucrat from the Sanitation Department called Radio Unnameable. The potentates of garbage at City Hall were nervous about these beatniks with brooms taking their gig. While appearing cooperative on the phone and in a later meeting, the city pranked the pranksters on the day of the Sweep-In, April 8. When thousands of mop-wielding longhairs appeared at 11 a.m., they beheld a garbage-free, sparkling fresh, squeaky clean street of slums—courtesy of the Sanitation Department. Fass and Krassner were amused that they’d actually forced the city to do its job. Unfazed, they moved the Sweep-In to Third Street. When a city garbage truck turned the corner, the street peeps leaped on it and cleaned it as well.
No single human—other than Tribal Elder Allen Ginsberg—was as influential on this emerging culture than Ed Sanders. He led the satirical-protest-smut-folk-rock band The Fugs with East Village legend Tuli Kupferberg, ran the Peace Eye Bookstore (and community center) on 10th Street, published Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts, made films like Mongolian Clusterfuck, wrote poetry, rabble roused for myriad peacenik causes and cannabis legalization. Sanders—one of the first public figures to live seamlessly within realms of Politics, Art, and Fun—was a first cousin to Che Guevara’s paradigmatic New Man—albeit thoroughly American and anti-authoritarian.
But the Life Actor who embodies the Revolutionary Prankster in 20th-century history books is Abbie Hoffman. And he is where our story begins…
My Top Ten Favorite Psychedelic Folk Songs by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
I was invited to create a list of my personal FAVORITE music and so I did, for an English newspaper The Independent. I was happy to illustrate how different my taste is to the endless dark mediocrity of current so-called Industrial Music that people seem to assume I would like when I NEVER have!
A note about the number of Incredible String Band songs in the following list: In 1969, I was a member of The Exploding Galaxy kinetic performance troupe in London. Some members left to form Stone Monkey, who danced with the ISB for a while. I had been listening to the Incredible String Band since school. The surrealism and FREEDOM of the lyrics is what continually engages me: the subject matter of absurdity and spirituality combined. I feel the ISB are probably the lyrical geniuses of the ’60s and onwards, far more than the Beatles or Dylan, who become predictable and never really extended the form of the song as an open system in the same way. Once one gets the ISB all the other musics fall into place. These are the true troubadours of the last two centuries. They explore divinity and magick from a lyrical chivalric dimension. Combine this with the interdimensionality and you have works beyond compare. SUBLIME!
Go and explore, there are more stories in the drug mine of British folk than man hath dreamed of and Lewis Carroll hath penned to his own particular blend of paper.
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge New York City, April 2004
1. “Meet on the Ledge” by Fairport Convention (from What We Did On Our Holidays, 1968) When I was at Hull University this song was on the student-picked juke box. The in-joke amongst we flower children/soon-to-be-drop-outs was that when we wanted to score hash from the University dealer we’d put this record on as a buying signal and meet outside by the “hedge.”
2. “When I Get Home” by Pentangle (from Light Flight compilation double CD, 1971) This is amazing! Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Richard Thompson and the crew evoke the most immersive sense of melancholy. I saw all the guitarists individually in the Hall of Residence cafeteria so this always makes me smell gravy and roast potatoes instead of think of alcoholism. A whiskydelic song as Lady Jaye would say.
3. “A Very Cellular Song” by the Incredible String Band (from The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, 1968) Probably my equal favorite song of all time. Full of whimsy, weirdness, surreal lyrics that insist they are profound when you know they are more likely just found. When it gets to a sequence which describes the feelings of an amoeba you know that you are, after all, in the presence of genius!
4. “Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal” by Dr. Strangely Strange (from Kip of the Serenes, 1970) I can’t imagine life without this band. They always bring joy to my heart. Rumor has it the main singer split to become a full-on Zen priest so they only made two albums. Both are total classics of British pre-Raphaelite fairytales. No other people can pull off this nonsense poetry so authentically. The genius Joe Boyd brought them from Eire to record their masterpiece. You do not love words if you cannot love this song which has the silliest chorus ever written.
5. “Sign On My Mind” by Dr. Strangely Strange (from Heavy Petting, 1970) I used to have this on vinyl and the cover unfolded as intricately and dadaistically as the music and lyrics. Gnomic hippies peer from insubstantial cut-out trees as we are led a merry frolic into the surprise of a guitar solo by Gary Moore of Thin Lizzy fame! I have seriously considered doing a cover version of this song with The Master Musicians of Jajouka playing the flute parts.
6. “Time Has Told Me” by Nick Drake (from Five Leaves Left, 1969) The myth says that Rizzla rolling papers had one paper that said “Five Leaves Left” to warn stoners of impending doom. Of course, I could have chosen ANY song by Nick Drake. The intensity of melancholia drenching the analog tape, the sheer PRESENCE of his voice is an honor to share, as is the raw intimacy with which he describes turmoil, creating confusion in us by delicately flecking every edge of his words with guilty beauty.
7. “My Father Was a Lighthouse Keeper” by the Incredible String Band (from Earthspan, 1972) Here I am duty bound to confess I have at least 20 ISB CDs and albums! Never, ever, on any day, in any mood do I feel less than joyous to hear their voices and humor, their grand metaphysics and acid-drenched morality plays. At first I wasn’t sure about this era. L. Ron Hubbard supposedly wanted to guide their parables. But there is something in the violin—as an electric violin player since 1966 myself, I am a sucker for them. Now, I bellow along and feel the sea spray soak my mediaeval hose as I witness a murderous foam.
8. “Translucent Carriages” by Pearls Before Swine (from Balaklava, 1965) Tom Rapp is one of the great undiscovered poet songwriters from Eastern USA. Originally on ESP Disc alongside the Fugs and other neo-Beat nutters he occasionally lets slip a seductive lisp. I have never figured out the meaning of this song (which was first played to me by Annie Ryan in Liverpool in a post-acid glow) even though I did record it for the Psychic TV Pagan Day album. Answers on a dog-tag please. He is a lawyer now. Sensible man saw too much of the larval nature of mankind for his own peace of heart.
9. “War in Peace” by Alexander “Skip” Spence (from Oar, 1969) Skip was a Canadian bass player who switched to drums for the Jefferson Airplane during the acid madness until he was dropped in 1966 for missing a rehearsal! He turned up like a mad penny in Moby Grape next, still erratic and enigmatic. There’s the touch of Syd Barrett tragedy in the implosion and incompleteness of many of his songs. His deranged inspiration sneaks him in as folksy acid.
10. “Ducks on a Pond” by the Incredible String Band (from Wee Tam and the Big Huge, 1968) Yes, I know, there are so many others and where DO you draw the psychedelic line? By its very natyre it meanders and has no beginning, edge or point. I wanted to include the Blossom Toes’ “We Are Ever So Clean”; Nirvana’s “All of Us”; anything quirky by Syd Barrett (which means everything he did). Why I even toyed with Kaleidoscope from the USA and Dantalian’s Chariot (whose guitarist went on to play in The Police!!! Oh Andy Summers, ouch!). But “Ducks” is the 1968 masterpiece. A total artwork. A monster that will not shut up or stop spiralling around and around as dumb as a duck and as crazy as a fox complete with “inky scratches everywhere.”
ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES
32 SECOND AVENUE NEW YORK, NY 10003
A tribute to the 60s icon, Fugs co-founder, cartoonist, and New York underground beat poet laureate, who passed away in July. Two shows of shorts, clips, and U.S. premiere of the new high-def transfer of the long-unscreened underground film VOULEZ-VOUS COUCHER AVEC GOD?
Sixties icon, Fugs co-founder, cartoonist, and New York underground beat poet laureate Tuli Kupferberg passed away in July 2010 at age 86, leaving a rich legacy of a lifetime’s worth of artistic radicalism and fun, including many rarely-seen film and video appearances. This special memorial screening presents a diverse collection of short films and videos from the 1960s onward, including Tuli’s appearances on the public access programs REVOLTING NEWS and IF I CAN’T DANCE YOU CAN KEEP YOUR REVOLUTION, some of Tuli’s more recent web clips, and other odds and ends. Not to mention the first screening in many a moon of the long-lost counter-culture feature VOULEZ-VOUS COUCHER AVEC GOD?, starring Tuli in the title role!
To be screened:
Shorts, clips, and odds & ends, including Edward English’s short film:
(1960s, 12.5 minutes, 16mm)
“(Sights and sounds of the lower East Side rain forest.) This film captures a bit of the Fugs’ environment, which includes the lower East Side, the Waldorf Astoria, the MacDougal Street scene, police harassment, show biz, humanity, their audiences, and the filmmaker.” –E.E.
–Sunday, November 14 at 6:00.
Tuli with hat, taken from the film. Tuli plays God. Image courtesy Jack Christie and Michael Hirsh
Michael Hirsh & Jack Christie
VOULEZ-VOUS COUCHER AVEC GOD?
(1972, 69 minutes, 16mm-to-video.)
(U.S Premiere of new high-definition transfer from original 16mm elements.)
Voulez-vous coucher avec God? Judge for yourself at the New York premiere of this vintage, Canadian-made experimental flick featuring a groundbreaking potpourri of live action and animation, backed by a rollicking soundtrack of 1960s hits. As portrayed by Kupferberg, there’s no messing with this Yahweh who’d just as soon enjoy a blow job from an inflatable schmoo as mastermind a presidential election from the cozy confines of his bathtub in Hashish Seventh Heaven, where a cast of pipe-dreaming souls journeys to be reborn. All hell breaks loose when the angel of the Lord attempts to cover up his failure to avert the sacrifice of young Isaac by his father, Abraham (also played by Kupferberg).
–Sunday, November 14 at 8:30.
Directions: Anthology is at 32 Second Ave. at 2nd St. Subway: F to 2nd Ave; 6 to Bleecker. Tickets: $9 general; $8 Essential Cinema (free for members); $7 for students, seniors, & children (12 & under); $6 AFA members.