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Lenny Bruce - Law, The Language & Lenny Bruce 1974

On: Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lenny Bruce
Leonard Alfred Schneider
 Mineloa, New York USA
Oct 13 1925 – Aug 03 1966 age 40

ABOUT EIGHTEEN MONTHS or so before Lenny Bruce died, he formed a loosely defined business relationship and a close friendship with Phil Sector. On the surface this seemed an unlikely hook-up. Closer examination does, however, reveal that there was a strange logic to the partnership. This was the mid-sixties. Spector was the teenage millionaire rock-and-roll whiz kid; Bruce was the comedian/martyr being hounded out of existence by the forces of reaction.
For Spector, the idea of supporting Lenny through his series of trials offered a kind of non-conformist radical commitment that was far superior to becoming a liberal democrat. For Lenny, the idea of a patron who would subsidise him while the complex net of legal harassment was virtually preventing him from working seemed like a gift from god. Spector poured large sums of money into Lenny during the final months of his life. After Lenny died he was even reported to have paid off the L.A. Police Department to prevent them from circulating the disgustingly rigged pictures of Bruce's nude corpse.
Spector's only material legacy from the whole episode was a number of tapes of Lenny's later performances. In the same way that Spector fans have been waiting for him to release a comprehensive set of his work with The Crystals, The Ronettes and The Righteous Brothers (now imminent, as a matter of fact), Lenny Bruce fans have waited anxiously for Uncle Phil to package up the Bruce tapes.
This is the first of them, and, in many ways, it's something of a mixed blessing.
Make no mistake, if you just walked out of seeing Dustin Hoffman play Lenny (if ever we do, finally, get to see that movie) this is not the album to rush and buy as a souvenir.
It contains none of the famous, more acceptable 'bits' like ‘Religions Inc’., ‘The Lone Ranger’, or ‘Father Flotsky’. If you want to hear the straight-forward, funny Bruce, you're better off with the earlier fantasy albums or even Zappa's production of the Berkeley concert. At this time in his career Lenny had pared down his nightclub act to a manic stream-of-consciousness pushed into over-drive by cocktails of methedrine and smack. He had reached a point where he was bored with his set routines, suspected their validity, and also assumed that the majority of the audience was familiar with them.
On this record, for the most part, he only makes nodding references to a few of his most powerful routines. He does an abbreviated version of ‘Tits And Ass’, a drastically cutdown synopsis of ‘How the Jew Got Into Show Business’, and ‘Jack Ruby Considered As A Jewish Billy The Kid’. If you want to hear the same material in its entirety, you have to go back to the earlier Lenny Bruce albums.
Time and again throughout this record Lenny goes back to the subject of morality, language, and law. He worries the subject of the obscenity law's like a terrier with a rat. It isn't a polished, finished performance. It's an individual freely verbalising his confusion at what is being done to him in the name of morality. It's a spectacle of Lenny Bruce turning himself and society inside out to discover where exactly the fault lies.
At times it's ironically hilarious, at others jerky and confused. It's hard to be objective about just how interesting the legal ramblings are to anyone who isn't that attracted to the concept of obscenity and the legal contradiction of censorship in a supposedly free society. Having been directly involved in a protracted obscenity trial, I personally find it fascinating. It's very possible, however, that it may not be everyone's cup of meat.
Despite its limitations, this album, probably above all the others, demonstrates the awesome weight of Bruce's thinking. It may be muddled at times, but it never lets up. Any comedian who can sign off his nightclub act with a correlation between Adolf Eichmann and the bombing of Hiroshima must not be forgotten. He doesn't leave them laughing. That's too easy.
Lenny Bruce left them numb and bleeding.
There was no safety in his comedy, either for him or his audience. In that, he took the ultimate artistic risk that few contemplate and even fewer attempt. Source: Rock's Back Pages Mick Farren, 1975

01 Side 1
02 Side 2

Thanks Harry Speakup!

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