Lenny Bruce

What I Was Arrested For: The Performance That Got Lenny Bruce Busted

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Originally released in 1969 by Douglas Music, this performance was given a wider re-release in 1975 thanks to Casablanca. It's amazing what just a few years can accomplish in terms of changing social values -- by the time this was re-released, there wasn't really a whole lot here that would get people too upset. The title of the album is a little bit misleading, because Lenny Bruce talks about the performance in San Francisco that got him busted. In other words, those expecting the cops to storm onto the stage at the end will be disappointed. The album itself is short, at just only 24 minutes, but the material included here is certainly thought-provoking: "Dirty Toilet" draws a parallel between dirty toilets and dirty words and how most of the time it's our perception that causes the problem; "To Come" is a riff on the two words in the title, complete with percussion; and "A White White Woman and a Black Black Woman" neatly exposes the hypocrisy involved in the question "would you want your sister to marry one?" by bringing physical attractiveness into the equation. The funniest bit here is "Blah Blah Blah," the track where Bruce discusses his San Francisco obscenity bust, and recounts the relish with which the judge and police got into repeating the word that got Bruce arrested in the first place. While there are a few bits that seem designed more for absurdity than for provocation (notably "I Just Do It and That's All" and "The Perverse Act"), the album as a whole is certainly worth seeking out, but look for the 2000 reissue from Knitting Factory, which cleans up the sound and reinstates the collection's original name, To Is a Preposition; Come Is a Verb.

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