So who was Tuli Kupferberg, the self-proclaimed world’s oldest rock star? Well, he wasn’t a star in any mass culture sense of the term but he passed at age 86 and apart from Spirit drummer Ed Cassidy I can't think of too many other candidates for that title who are in the same age bracket.

Tuli's main claim to fame is his status as cofounder of The Fugs, that gloriously anarchic combo that combined poetry, politics, theatre and countercultural subversion and dates back to 1964. At that point he was already a forty-year-old Beatnik celebrity and anthologised poet. 

Tuli's contribution to The Fugs were largely lyrical. He couldn't read music, Sanders was some way ahead of him in that regard, and he's on record as saying the only thing I know how to play is the radio but his songs included SupergirlNothingCIA ManKill for Peace, and Morning Morning. If asked to come up with two personal favourites I'd have to go with The Real Woodstock Festival's The Post Modern Nothing and Einstein Never Wore Socks.

Apart from a flow of albums through the sixties including the wonderfully titled It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest, The Fugs played innumerable benefits and antiwar rallies, including the exorcism of the Pentagon in 1967 that formed the basis of Norman Mailer's The Armies of the Night.

At the same time it appears they had serious musical ambitions and Golden Filth, my aural introduction to the band was significantly better than I expected in the musical department, perhaps unsurprisingly so, given that late-sixties line-ups included Danny Kalb (Blues Project, Blood Sweat & Tears), Chuck Rainey (check his discography), Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar (David Crosby, Carole King, Graham Nash, Carly Simon and James Taylor) and Charles Larkey (for a time, married to Carole King).

On the steps of a church hall in suburban Townsville I met a backpacker from New York who claimed they'd booked The Fugs for his high school prom, so we're talking about significant countercultural figures with unexpected links to the mainstream.

Unlike some of his contemporaries (Yippie leader and Chicago Seven defendant Jerry Rubin became a successful businessman) Tuli continued along in more or les the same vein for the next four decade, selling satirical cartoons on the street, performing on and off with The Fugs and other luminaries and, most recently posting his perverbs on a YouTube channel called tulifuli.

What was that line about old dogs and new tricks?

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B© Ian Hughes 2012