Longtime WBAI DJ Bob Fass’s free-form radio program, Radio Unnameable, aired from midnight to the early morning, served as a community message board and a place for Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, and others to stop by and chat.
WBAI’s Bob Fass was another Yippie collaborator, and he used independent radio to broadcast his social and political critiques. Fass’s free-form radio program, which aired from midnight to the early morning, was a prelude to the way many people use social media networks today. “It served a community purpose,” Paul Krassner recalled. “If there was some kind of event, people would call in to the radio station. They were like citizen journalists describing what was happening right then and there.” For example, Fass used his WBAI show to organize listeners after a citywide sanitation worker strike left piles of trash on the streets. “The first thing they did was clean up wealthier streets like Park Avenue, naturally,” Fass said, “so we organized this ‘Sweep-In’—where people came from all over to clean a block on the Lower East Side.” Another time, Fass used his radio show to call for a “Fly-In” at JFK airport that drew thousands of people on one of the coldest nights of the year. “They sang and danced and gave out flowers and welcomed people as they were getting off the plane,” Fass said. “There was nothing being sold, nothing but goodwill.” These street theater actions were partially rooted in Fass’s own theater background. He appeared in Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, and performed in other Off-Broadway shows at the Circle in the Square and Cherry Lane Theatre during the late 1950s and early 1960s. “When I was in theater, I hung out with the people who were part of the art scene, and I would go to painters’ bars,” Fass recalled. “Actors’ bars kind of bored me, but the painters’ bars, there was excitement. I would also hang out in places like the Figaro. The coffeehouse scene and the music scene was beginning to erupt.”
From Chapter 5 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
Soon after Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg formed the Fugs, the Holy Modal Rounders teamed up with them to create the first incarnation of the Fugs. “Someone told me Sanders and Tuli had written a bunch of songs like ‘Coca-Cola Douche’ and ‘Bull Tongue Clit,’ ” Peter Stampfel recalled. “So I went to listen at the Peace Eye Bookstore, and I saw that the only instrument was Ken Weaver playing a hand drum. So I said, ‘Hey, you can use a backup band.’ It was an obvious thing to put together, so that’s how Steve Weber and I started playing with them.” After signing a deal with Folkways Records, the band recorded their first album in April 1965. Along with several original songs, the Fugs included two Blake poem adaptations on their Harry Smith–produced debut, The Village Fugs Sing Ballads of Contemporary Protest, Point of Views, and General Dissatisfaction. In addition to live gigs and vinyl records, the group could also be heard on free-form radio shows. Their performance of “Carpe Diem” at a Judson Church memorial service for comedian Lenny Bruce, for example, was recorded by Bob Fass and aired on WBAI (Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, and many other musicians, poets, and political activists also made appearances on Fass’s show over the years).
From Chapter 15 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore