Signs Of Leonard Cohen: 1970 Leonard Cohen University Of Wisconsin–Madison Homecoming Concert

1970uof2Poster for the 1970 University Of Wisconsin–Madison Homecoming (“Homecoming For The G.I.s”), which includes a listing for the Oct 30, 1970 Leonard Cohen concert.

A first hand account of that show can be found at The 1970 Leonard Cohen University of Wisconsin-Madison Concert, The Anti-War Movement, & Joe Way

Note: Originally posted February 3, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

The 1970 Leonard Cohen University of Wisconsin-Madison Concert, The Anti-War Movement, & Joe Way

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Madison – Brigadoon with a touch of Havana
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Leonard Cohen

DrHGuy Note: This extraordinary personal account of the 1970 Leonard Cohen University of Wisconsin-Madison Concert and its sociopolitical context has been unavailable recently.1 Now, however, Cohencentric, in cooperation with the author, Joe Way, is proud to publish the report in its entirety. I heartily recommend this article, written at a time when the Gulf War was this country’s key political issue, not only to Leonard Cohen fans but also to anyone interested in the social protests and peace movement of the late Sixties and early Seventies, the contentions over the war in Viet Nam, or the atmosphere in which the Boomer Generation made the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

1970 Leonard Cohen Madison Concert Review by Joe Way

“The fifteen minutes of the sixties” (as Leonard Cohen has characterized them) wore on into the summer and fall of 1970. Examine this timeline:

  • May 4, 1970. Four students are killed and eight wounded by National Guard troops in an anti-Viet Nam demonstration at Kent State University in Ohio.
  • August 24, 1970. Sterling Hall (in which is housed the Army Math Research Center) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is destroyed by a homemade bomb killing one young researcher in another Viet Nam war protest.
  • August 31, 1970. Leonard Cohen performs at 4 AM at the Isle of Wight festival following a Jimi Hendrix appearance that according to Ira Nadel “set the stage on fire.” Leonard first appeared in pajamas, but then followed his seventeen song set with a fourteen minute encore that according to Kris Kristofferson was “the damnedest thing you ever saw – he charmed the beast.”
  • September 18, 1970. Jimi Hendrix dies in his sleep.
  • October 4, 1970. Janis Joplin dies at 27.
  • October 5, 1970. British Trade Commissioner, James Cross, is kidnapped by FLQ (Front de liberation du Quebec) terrorists in Westmount, Leonard Cohen’s childhood Montreal home area. (Read the FLQ’s communiqué and demands after kidnapping Cross.)
  • October 10, 1970. Quebec reporter, Pierre Laporte, is kidnapped by FLQ (Front de liberation du Quebec) terrorists.
  • October 16, 1970. Pierre Trudeau implements Canada’s War Powers Act establishing martial law. When questioned about the act, an angry Trudeau replies: “There’s a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is go on and bleed.” (View the CBC interview clip with Prime Minister Trudeau where he made this comment.)
  • October 17, 1970. Pierre Laporte is found dead in a car trunk.
  • October 30, 1970. Leonard Cohen performs at the Wisconsin Student Association sponsored, anti-war, “Bring them Home from Viet Nam” Homecoming celebration at the University of Wisconsin Field House in Madison.

 

manchild Insert here an eighteen year old freshman from a very small town in northern Wisconsin called, “Tigerton” who arrived in Madison somewhere in the middle of September 1970 to start his college life. The people of Tigerton were concerned that he would turn communist and lose his religion on this godless campus. That person was me.

Continue Reading →

  1. Portions of this material were posted Feb 16, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric. []

Leonard Cohen “Playing Tinkerbell” at 1970 Stony Brook Show: First-hand Accounts

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Leonard Cohen at Hartford April 8, 1970

Note: Originally posted Feb 16, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric. Updates are indicated in the text.

Leonard Cohen Challenging The Audience

Review by an audience member of Leonard Cohen Concert Dec 5, 19701 held at the Student Centre of Stony Brook University, New York, NY:2

I was a graduate student at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in the early 1970s, and during my first year there, sometime in the late fall of 1970, Cohen gave a concert in the gymnasium in the Student Centre.

Here are a few things I can recall. He was backed up by one or two female vocalists, and some instrumentalists too I think. He performed in an all-black outfit, maybe just slacks and turtleneck. He looked tired and a bit haggard.

There was a full audience and the concert unfolded in a curious way — he seemed to be losing interest after a few songs and claimed that the crowd was not giving him the vibes he needed (not said in those exact words). I thought he was going to walk out. I think he may have started to. The audience was a bit rowdy and impatient with his antics. Then gradually the audience (probably entirely made up of students from the campus) started responding more, and he did this thing where he was seeming to be revived by this response, and so he gave the audience the feeling that they had somehow given him the life and energy to go on.

It was a very nervy thing to do, sort of playing Tinkerbell, and the atmosphere that resulted was quite amazing. And then the performance started getting a lot better. I was at the exit when he left at the end, I remember a sort of minibus, maybe a Volkswagen minibus, that he and the band climbed into and took off.

Update from LeonardCohenForum:

Yep I was there! I believe it was even a free concert… the one memorable thing I remember LC doing was he had a stool (?) set up near the mike with a glass and a bottle of wine and before he started performing he poured some wine out on the stage floor saying, For those who cannot be with us tonight… which was very meaningful since Jimi and Janis had just died

Update from LeonardCohenForum:

I attended the 1970 Stony Brook concert in the University Gym. It was at the beginning of December. It was my freshman year and I was only 16 years old at the time. The concert was phenomenal. The only strange moment was when Leonard came on stage and gave a mock Nazi salute to the consternation of many in the audience. People were definitely not apathetic, only mellow but certainly disoriented by this entrance gesture and were unsure about his motivation. He could definitely be spirited and feisty during that time of his relative youth. It was the end of the counter-culture, but Leonard was always in his own groove. He was not to have his Zen awakening for many years. He was always a bit sardonic and his voice was much stronger and deeper than during his recent London tour. His songs and poetry are gorgeous and he will always be one of a kind, although the mock politeness he displayed in London was quite precious and funny!

Update from LeonardCohenForum

I remember the concert well. It was also my freshman year and I had just turned 17. I worked on the concert for work/study and sold tickets in the Student Union. I remember he was dressed all in black and gave the salute. I was disturbed. I also remember the after-party. We were standing around him in a circle and nobody said anything. So, I broke the ice, shook his hand and started up the conversation. I felt like everyone was waiting for him to levitate. I still remember the feelings that experience evoked. Now it is over 42 years later. He is on tour now and will be in Miami, where I live on March 20th. Amazing.

Credit Due Department: Photo atop this post by George Tunick.
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  1. At the time of the original posting, the exact date was unknown. The source indicated “This concert was performed during the late fall 1970, possibly after Canadian Thanksgiving (October 12), on a Sunday evening, so possible dates are October 18, 25 ; November 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 ; December 6, 13, 20, 27.” Now other sources, notably Tour Archive: Stony Brook University 1967 – 1973, report the date as Dec 5, 1970 []
  2. This account is from LeonardCohenLive.com which is no longer online []

The 1970 Leonard Cohen Champagne & Crazy Guy Concert At UCLA: A First Person Account

outlawuclaThis personal report of the 19701 UCLA Leonard Cohen performance by Dan Fuehring, published in its entirety here for the first time,2 is intriguing – and supports my contention that the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour was distinctly weird.

It was in Royce Hall on the UCLA campus. First, someone had a bottle of champagne on the stage and they were passing it around. Cohen took it and poured a bit on the windscreen of his mike. It did not appear to hurt the mike.

But the extraordinary thing was when a crazy guy started yelling random incoherent things from the audience. Everyone tried to ignore him until he jumped up on stage, still spouting gibberish. (For the identity of the “crazy guy,” see Michelle Phillips’ Gig As A Leonard Cohen Backup Singer)

The cops came to get him but Cohen waved them off, and then sat on the edge of the stage talking quietly to him, eventually holding hands with him.

After a bit, Cohen went back to the mike and said, “Why doesn’t everyone come up here?” and so the stage filled with as many people as it would hold, and they went on with the concert.

I was there with my sister. We were towards the back, so we stayed in our seats.

Pretty special night, though.

Dan clarifies and adds a few details:

I think that it was 1970, as there is some mention of him playing Royce Hall that year.3 That would also match with the phase of me playing Cohen in the house and my mom getting worried about me.

It was sold out or near-sold out. I would guess 1500 – 2000 or so.4

The band was typical of one of his bands. I do remember that Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and Papas was one of the two female singers (see Michelle Phillips’ Gig As A Leonard Cohen Backup Singer). There was a writeup in Rolling Stone about it, which also included a mention of his guitar being lost for a time during loadout, but then found in another case.

It was maybe about the time of Songs From a Room,5 but I am not sure. I don’t remember what he played other than it was very very good and typical of the style he played when I saw him in subsequent years.6

I have seen Cohen every chance I have gotten. It’s just a magical experience. The last was the I’m Your Man tour, which I caught at the Schnitzer Hall in Portland. Of course I bought my tickets (here in Eugene) the minute that I heard, but then it was only about one third full. Cohen alluded to that but still played a great, long, generous set.

Credit Due Department: The ad atop this post is from the November 13, 1970 Highlights Of Week End Entertainment In The Southland section of The Valley News (Van Nuys, California).

Note: Originally posted Feb 16, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
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  1. For context, it was also in 1970 that a jury found the Chicago Seven defendants not guilty, the first Earth Day was celebrated in the U.S., President Richard Nixon signed a measure lowering the voting age to 18, Jimi Hendrix died due to a barbiturate overdose, Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose, the Beatles gave their last studio performance, and Rhodesia became independent, declaring itself a racially-segregated republic. []
  2. A portion of Dan Fuehing’s description was first published in a Metachat comment. []
  3. According to LeonardCohenLive , Cohen played UCLA’s Royce Hall 14 November 1970. []
  4. According to the LA City Guide, Royce Hall has a capacity of 1800. []
  5. Songs From A Room was released April 1969 []
  6. LeonardCohenLive lists a partial setlist from the November 15, 1970 Leonard Cohen Berkeley Community Theatre concert, which was performed the day after the Royce Hall concert:
    1. Bird On The Wire
    2. Suzanne – solo (aborted)
    3. The Stranger Song – solo
    4. (unknown song) – solo
    5. It’s Forbidden To Sit In The Aisles (improvisation)
    6. (short poem)
    7. (short poem)
    (…)
    Encore:
    Seems So Long Ago, Nancy []

Signs Of Leonard Cohen: 1970 Strawberry Fields Festival – 3 Days Of Love, Sun, & Sound But No Leonard Cohen

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Note: Originally posted Nov 20, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

More 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour Eccentricity

The poster above and those in the gallery near the end of this post promoted the August 7, 8, and 9, 1970 Strawberry Fields Festival held at Mosport, Ontario at which Leonard Cohen was listed as an act but did not perform.

The oddest element of this event may be that Leonard Cohen was somehow absent from the festivities; with the off and on involvement of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, its two venue changes (which brought the Festival back to its original site), concerts masquerading as a motorcycle race, … the Strawberry Fields Festival nee Toronto Peace Festival would have fit well into  the weirdness that was the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour.

The story of the Strawberry Fields Festival of 1970 as related in Wikipedia follows:

John Brower along with John Lennon and Yoko Ono had originally planned to host the “Toronto Peace Festival” at Mosport Park in July 19701 but they ran into numerous roadblocks and their plans were dashed when their application for the necessary permits were denied. Without John and Yoko, Brower moved forward with plans to host a festival in Moncton, New Brunswick, named the “Strawberry Fields Festival”. Again, local politicians intervened and revoked various permits so Brower shifted the location back to Mosport Park in Ontario only this time he thinly disguised the event as a championship motorcycle race featuring “some contemporary entertainment.” [Note the copy in the 5th image describing the event.] The festival was advertised in Canada as the “First Annual Strawberry Cup Trophy Race”. To avoid public and political scrutiny, the musical entertainment aspect of the event was downplayed in advertisements and the festival was not promoted heavily in Canada.

The audience has been estimated at between 75,000 and 100,000 people. A three day ticket for the festival sold for $15.00.

Both Led Zeppelin and Leonard Cohen were booked to play the festival and their names appear on the posters but neither showed.

The following musicians did perform at the 1970 Strawberry Fields Festival:

  • Procul Harum
  • Jose Feliciano
  • Ten Years After
  • Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
  • Grand Funk Railroad
  • The Youngbloods
  • Jethro Tull
  • Melanie
  • Hog Heaven
  • Freedom Express
  • Leigh Ashford
  • Fat Chance
  • James Ambrose
  • Mountain
  • Cactus
  • Syrinx
  • Crowbar featuring King Biscuit Boy
  • Luke & The Apostles
  • Lighthouse
  • Alice Cooper
  • Sly and the Family Stone
 Video – Strawberry Fields Festival

Strawberry Fields Festival Posters

Image #4 is a blow-up of the lower left quadrant of Image #3 showing Leonard Cohen as one of  the acts.


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  1. This seemingly bizarre concept had a precedent.  The previous year, John Brower and Kenny Walker had organised  the Toronto Peace Festival held at Varsity Stadium on 13 September 1969. Wikipedia reports that the Festival was built ” around the notion of a revival of rock and roll stars from the 1950s, booking Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, and Gene Vincent. They also booked more modern acts such as Alice Cooper, Chicago, and The Doors, and contacted Lennon to see if he would be willing to be the Master of Ceremonies. Lennon responded that if he came over at all, it would be to play. Since the Beatles had to all intents already broken up at this point, Lennon hastily assembled a band under the Plastic Ono Band moniker, consisting of Eric Clapton on leave from the soon-to-be-disbanded Blind Faith, Klaus Voormann, and future Yes drummer Alan White, to accompany himself and Ono. []