The Fugs were the founders of Alternative Rock as we know it today. Starting off as a bunch of beatnik poets and an early example of a Garage Rock band they did for their genre what Lenny Bruce did to standup comedy: push the boundaries of what could be talked about in public and advocate freedom of speech. In some ways they are more offensive today than it was in its own time, in part due to their own influence on public tastes and all the cult rock bands that followed in their wake. Together with Frank Zappa and Velvet Underground the Fugs are seen as the first underground rock band, but they came before everybody else.
The Fugs used a deliberately raw, crude recording style, and experimented with various kinds of performance art in their live appearances, pushing the boundaries of both artistic expression and good taste to the breaking point. Much of their work was political and social satire of the most caustic sort. They openly criticized America's involvement in the The Vietnam War, but didn't just do it musically, as most counterculture rock bands and protest singers did in their time: they activally marched along during peace protests and caused outrage when conducting an exorcism in front of the Democratic Party Committee in Washington in 1968 and later doing the same in front of the grave of communist witch hunter Joseph McCarthy. This was not without risk: they were shadowed by the F.B.I. and received many death threats.
Apart from their Protest Song material the Fugs also gained notoriety as the first rock band to openly sing about taboo subjects such as sex and drugs and always in very vulgar language. As a result they remained in the underground and never reached the same level of public acceptance as other counterculture bands of The '60s did, like The Grateful Dead, The Velvet Underground and The Mothers of Invention. The topicality of their work also makes a lot of their material heavily dated. Still, without them, many of these bands would have not existed and their albums and films, as well as the numerous poetry books of two of their founding members, Ed Sanders and the late Tuli Kupferberg, remain cult classics.
- The Fugs First Album (1965)
- The Fugs Second Album (1966)
- Virgin Fugs (1967)
- Tenderness Junction (1968)
- It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest (1968)
- The Belle Of Avenue A (1969)
- Golden Filth (1970)
- Refuse To Be Burnt Out (1984)
- Baskets Of Love (1984)
- No More Slavery (1985)
- Star Peace (1986)
- Fugs Live in Woodstock (1989)
- The Real Woodstock Festival (1995)
- The Fugs Final CD (2003)
- Be Free: The Fugs Final (Part 2) (2010)
Tropes associated with The Fugs include:
- All Men Are Perverts: Several of their songs are very explicit odes to sexual lust, including "Boobs A Lot", "Frenzy" and "Virgin Forest".
- Avant Garde Music: They were the first underground rock band and this is very audible on their first two albums. They were basically self taught musicians, who played in a very chaotic and raunchy style, without caring much about the sound quality. One of the most experimental songs is "Virgin Forest" from The Fugs Second Album.
- Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: "Bury Me In An Apple Orchard"Do not surround me with wreaths of flowersOr place upon my body the signs of a fetishOr crescent, cross, phallus or sunBut bury me in an apple orchardThat I may touch your lips again.
- Buxom Is Better: "Boobs A Lot", an ode to breasts.
- Call-and-Response Song: "Dirty Old Man" has the protagonist shout out his lines, while the band repeats them back.
- Celebrity Cameo: Tuli Kupferberg has a memorable moment in W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism where he walks around dressed up as as soldier, sexually stroking his gun as the soundtrack plays "Kill For Peace".
- CIA Evil, FBI Good: "CIA Man"
- Even though the FBI officially spied upon them because of their anti-war activism.
- Cool Old Guy: Tuli Kupferberg was already past 40 when the Fugs were formed, making him effectively the oldest rock singer in the world until his death at 86 in 2010.
- Dirty Old Man: "Dirty Old Man" about a dope selling old pervert.
- Everybody Must Get Stoned: "I Couldn't Get High," later covered by the staunchly pro-marijuana reggae rock band Slightly Stoopid.
- Evil Laugh: The dirty old man cackles out an evil laugh halfway "Dirty Old Man".
- Garage Rock: Their early recordings were very low-budget, making them sound close to other rock bands from the mid-1960s who recorded in such bad audio quality circumstances.
- The Immodest Orgasm: "Group Grope" has an interlude where the singer moans and sighs, accompanied by a young woman.
- Intentionally Awkward Title: Having a name that sounded so much like "the fucks" largely barred them from getting air on commercial radio (the fact that the word 'fug' was actually invented by Norman Mailer as a less offensive substitute for the word 'fuck' probably affected this as well).
- Intercourse with You: Parodied with "Wet Dream", in the form of a doo-wop teenage love song.
- My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: The Fugs sang pointed satirical songs against the US Government and the Vietnam War. This didn't make them very popular with certain people. The F.B.I. shadowed them and Ed Sanders was threatened with death calls, forcing him to take his phone number out of the phone book.
- Precision F-Strike: They were the first rock to openly swear and use vulgar language.
- Protest Song: "Kill for Peace", though much of their repertoire falls into this category.
- Psychedelic Rock: They made some pretty trippy songs where they sang poems and praised sex, drugs and peace.
- Red Scare: The band once held a devil exorcism by the grave of Joseph McCarthy.
- Refrain from Assuming: "Wide, Wide River" from It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest is not called "River of Shit."
- Refuge in Audacity: They were the first rock band to openly sing about sex, drugs and politics.
- Satire: They satirized pretty much 1960s politics and society while they were experiencing it themselves.
- Stock Sound Effects: "Kill For Peace" has sound effects of gunfire mixed in.
- Straw Nihilist: "Nothing" lists everything that means "nothing", but actually does it in an amusing way. So it can be The Anti-Nihilist as well.
- Take That!: The title of the EP Thrown Off Atlantic is a reference to the contract dispute with the publisher of their first album, Atlantic Records. Some later releases of The Fug's First Album include a track consisting of a recording of the initial contract signing party for the album, under the title "In the Middle of Their First Recording Session the Fugs Sign the Worst Contract Since Leadbelly's" (a reference to the way Blues legend Huddy 'Lead Belly' Ledbetter was forced to sign over all rights to his songs for a pittance).
- Time Marches On: This band is about as The '60s as you can get. Direct references to politics, society,counterculture, The Beat Generation, The Vietnam War,... The good side is that it makes their music a time capsule of that era. The bad side is that it also made a lot of their stuff dated, one of the reasons why they have faded away in rock history a bit, despite being in many ways the inventors of Alternative Rock.
- Unusual Euphemism: The band name was taken from a euphemism for "fuck" from The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer.