When Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention were Lenny Bruce’s opening act, 1966
08:14 pm

As regular readers of this blog know, I am a massive Mothers of Invention fan and also a huge Lenny Bruce aficionado. I’ve got a painting of the original Mothers above my desk as I type this and several pieces of rare Lenny Bruce memorabilia on the bookshelves behind me.

Last week when I found that wild recording of Lenny speaking to students at UCLA, I also found this gem. It’s had fewer than 75 plays.

What is “this” you ask? Why it’s a short live recording of Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, who were—on June 24th and 25th,1966—the opening act for Lenny Bruce at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. This is a record of one of those nights.

Zappa later wrote of meeting the great comedian (who he named-checked on the cover of Freak Out in the “These People Have Contributed Materially In Many Ways To Make Our Music What It Is. Please Do Not Hold It Against Them” list of his influences and heroes.)

“I had seen Lenny Bruce a number of times at Canter’s Deli, where he used to sit in a front booth with Phil Spector and eat knockwurst. I didn’t really talk with him until we opened for him at the Fillmore West in 1966. I met him in the lobby between sets and asked him to sign my draft card. He said no – he didn’t want to touch it.”

The YouTube poster claims the recording to be from a soundboard source and it does sound pretty good once it gets going. Certainly it’s one of the earliest live Mothers recordings in circulation (and news to me). It starts off with “Plastic People,” then goes into “Toads Of The Short Forest” and “I’m Not Satisfied” before the group launches into the sea shanty “Handsome Cabin Boy” and turn it into a guitar rave-up of epic proportions with Zappa’s axe making a noise that was probably quite novel sounding to the ears of those in attendance.

The MOI were but a five-piece at the time with Jimmy Carl Black on drums; Ray Collins on vocals; Roy Estrada on bass, Elliot Ingber on guitar and Frank Zappa on guitar and vocals.

The performance of “The Orange County Lumber Truck” that follows the “Handsome Cabin Boy” jam is not from the same show. I don’t see how it could be without Bunk Gardner, Don Preston, Motorhead Sherwood or Ian Underwood (who all seem to be present and accounted for by the sound of things). Which is not to say that it’s not absolutely amazeballs—because it most certainly is. I just don’t know what the provenance is.

And to keep the Frank Zappa/Lenny Bruce connection going, here’s The Berkeley Concert (recorded on December 12th of 1965) as originally released on Zappa and Herb Cohen’s Bizarre record label in 1969.

Posted by Richard Metzger
08:14 pm



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