by Ed Sanders
De Capo Press
Whoever said "If you can remember the '60s, you weren't there" obviously never met Ed Sanders. From his "secret location" in the Lower East Side of New York, Sanders stood at the forefront of the counter-culture movement, and as this vital memoir illustrates, he remembered it all. From his "Peace Eye" bookstore, he watched as the Beats morphed into hippies, and with his magazine, Fuck You/ A Magazine of the Arts he published Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Norman Mailer, and more -- and went to trial on obscenity charges because of it.
Sanders was the one of the founders of The Fugs, a free-wheeling combination of rock band, performance art, and political activism that could only exist in the 1960s. They were the band at the attempted levitation of the Pentagon, for one. Together with Tuli Kupferberg, Sanders and The Fugs called themselves "the freakiest singing group in the history of Western Civilization," and with songs such as "Kill for Peace" and "Coca Cola Douche," they certainly were outspoken about the injustices and horrors of life as they saw it. As Sanders writes: "All throughout the history of The Fugs in the '60s, the war in Vietnam throbbed like an ever-seething soul sore. However much we partied, shouted our poetry, and strutted around the like images of Bacchus, we could never quite get the war out of our mind."
The 1960s marked the last time that meaningful protest to America's war machine actually made a difference. When anti-war protesters chanted "Hey, hey, LBJ? How many kids you kill today?" at the White House, it drove Johnson crazy, and was a major factor in his decision to not run for re-election. Such days are over, it seems.
When The Fugs ran out of gas near the end of the '60s, Sanders, burned out on the rock star trip, moved his focus from building a better society to chronicling the start of the decay of the hippie movement via Charles Manson. His early '70s work The Family stands as one of the most literate and in-depth looks at the culture and climate that made a simple con man into a murdering messiah.
Fug You is a landmark work of remembrance from one of the leading lights of the literary and rock scenes of the 1960s. Loaded with images of magazines, handbills, and photography from his own collection, the book is an important look at a pivotal time in America. Never again has this country been so idealistic, and you get the sense from reading Sander's accounts that they thought they could change the world. Reading this work nearly 50 years past, you get swept up in his account and marvel at his passion, until you're ready to join the fight... if only to give a hearty "FUG YOU!" at the squares.