Maybe you weren’t around when thousands of hippies attempted to levitate the Pentagon in 1967. Perhaps you missed the moment when a merry bunch of political pranksters known as the Youth International Party, or Yippies, showered stockbrokers with dollar bills on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, or promoted a porcine candidate named Pigasus for president in 1968. Half a century later, Yippie associate and Fugs founder Ed Sanders is still railing against “the establishment” and doing so in a most creative manner.
On May 30, Sanders and 21st century Fugs bandmates Scott Petito, Steve Taylor, and Coby Batty, performed a White House exorcism at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The occasion was a well-attended Veterans for Peace Rally, and the exorcism came in the form of a brand-new Fugs song with the apt name, “Exorcism of the White House.” At seven-plus minutes, “Exorcism of the White House” invokes peace in the names of civil rights figures, ancient gods, and the Hindu concept of non-harm, ahimsa. The counterculture carol also calls out for the banishment of myriad presidential appointees.
Sanders explained his motivation for the song to Orlando Weekly.
“People were always saying, ‘Why don’t The Fugs do something about Trump?’ We decided to exorcise the White House, because it’s not so much Trump as these real creepy people he’s put into power. So, in the exorcism I list all the secretaries and the people he’s put in power.”
Filmmaker Chuck Smith created a compelling music video that features “Exorcism of the White House” along with a brief snippet of 1960s counterculture activist Abbie Hoffman.
“We call upon the spirits of eternity to raise the White House from its foundations, spin it around, and cleanse it of evil and malevolent demons. We summon the spirits of benevolent destiny to exorcise the White House of its violence, ill will, and ill intentions from now until the end of time. In the name of peace, love, and economic justice. In the name of harmony among nations on Earth.”
Lyrics to “Exorcism of the White House” were written by Sanders and are based on actual exorcism incantations, says Hudson Valley One. The Fugs recorded the heartfelt ditty at NRS Recording Studios in Catskill, NY in March 2017. The song debuted at Cooper Union a month later where Sanders delivered the exorcism incantation against the current administration from a lectern formerly used by Abraham Lincoln.
Tuesday afternoon’s performance of “Exorcism of the White House” was not the first time Ed Sanders et al made a creative attempt at ridding “the establishment” of nefarious evildoers. The 77-year-old activist whom Arthur magazine called “one of the first public figures to live seamlessly within realms of Politics, Art, and Fun” has been rousing the proverbial rabble for decades. Considered by counterculture historians to be the link between the Beat Generation and the hippies, Sanders opened the bohemian gathering place, Peace Eye Bookstore, in New York City in 1962 and published more than a dozen issues of Fu*k You: A Magazine of the Arts. Over the years, Sanders has written books about Charles Manson, Anton Chekhov, Allen Ginsburg, and Egyptian hieroglyphics. He’s penned poems about maple syrup and been awarded both Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships.
Ed Sanders founded the satirical smut-folk protest band, The Fugs, in 1964 with poet Tuli Kupferberg and percussionist Ken Weaver. Due to their ofttimes scatological lyrics, records by The Fugs did not receive a lot of commercial radio play.
“We were not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. We were not The Beach Boys. We were The Fugs. And we had our own pizzazz and energy and elan, especially early on. Those old records just scream and steam with fun and joy and raising our fists to the sky to demand a new type of American reality.”
Of the so-called alt-right “counterculture” movement, Sanders has nothing kind to say.
“They’re like a cult. A cult ultimately has to deal with dentistry, children, passing on books and heritage and poetry and culture. So whatever setup passes on a decent, humane, sharing semi-socialist or socialist agenda is the one that will triumph, and everything else is in the service of the war machine.”
Original Fugs drummer, Ken Weaver, is now retired from the music biz. Lyricist Tuli Kupferberg passed away in July 2010 at age 86. Ed Sanders and his wife, Miriam R. Sanders, currently publish the Woodstock Journal.
[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]