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-Hand Account

outlawucla

Note: Originally posted Feb 16, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

This 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).
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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

strawberryfieldsfieldsfestival3.jpg.scaled1000

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. []

Maoists, Music, Mud, Money, & Mayhem: Leonard Cohen’s 1970 Aix-en-Provence Show

Note: Originally posted Sept 15, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Reports, Recordings From The 1970 Aix-en-Provence Show

This post is the continuation of  Leonard Cohen At Another Other 1970 Festival – Aix-en-Provence (Part 1). While Part 1 of this post focused on the Aix-en-Provence Music Festival itself, this entry centers on Leonard Cohen’s August 2, 1970 appearance there.

As noted in an earlier post, Leonard Cohen & The Horse He Rode In On-Stage At The 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival,

the Aix-en-Provence Music Festival in general, and Leonard Cohen’s role in it specifically, were uniquely weird.

In addition to Leonard Cohen making his onstage entrance astride a white stallion,1 for example, he also reported having been shot at:

I think I was shot at once at a big festival in Aix-en-Provence. That was when the Maoists were very powerful in France and they resented the fact that they actually had to buy a ticket. A lot of them broke down the fence and came into the concert and I did notice one of the lights on the stage go out after a kind of crack that sounded like a gunshot. I don’t know. But they’re tough critics, the Maoists.2

On the other hand, when asked in the same interview, “What about the French generally? You have said you are French. How do they respond to you?” Cohen responded

Continue Reading →

  1. For a photo of and the story behind that equestrian event, see Leonard Cohen & The Horse He Rode In On-Stage At The 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival []
  2. Leonard Cohen: Various Positions, Transcript of 1984 CBC interview by Robert Sward []

Video: Leonard Cohen’s Opening At 1970 Aix-en-Provence Show – Revolution, Profit, & Bird On The Wire

1970-08-02 Progressive Festival D'Aix En Provence - Handbill-900

Note: Originally posted Sept 13, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

The Leonard Cohen Aix-en-Provence Video & Posts

This video augments two posts on Leonard Cohen at the 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival. Leonard Cohen At Another Other 1970 Festival: Aix-en-Provence (Part 1), which focuses on the Festival itself and Maoists, Music, Mud, Money, & Mayhem: Leonard Cohen’s 1970 Aix-en-Provence Show, which features photos of Cohen, including some seen in the video, and also the stories: the Maoists, who may have taken a shot at the Canadian singer-songwriter; Leonard Cohen being called a fascist because of his decision to continue to live in Greece under the Regime of the Colonels; talk of Revolution; Cohen’s critics; poetry written about the experience; and more.

Video: Leonard Cohen’s Opening Speech & Bird On The Wire at 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival

This video features an audience-made audio recording of Leonard Cohen’s introduction and performance of Bird On A Wire on August 2, 1970 at the Aix-en-Provence Music Festival illustrated with photos of Leonard Cohen and his musicians, most of which have never before been published, pictures of scenes from the Festival, and images of other publications and events associated with the Festival.

The audio recording is only fair at best but does have the virtue of being authentic – and the only available recording of Cohen’s entire performance.

Leonard Cohen’s Opening At Aix-en-Provence 1970: Revolution & Bird On The Wire
Video by Allan Showalter

 

Credit Due Department:

Leonard Cohen’s introduction and his performance of “Bird On A Wire” were recorded by an audience member at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. The copy used in this video is from the private collection of Hippy1948. All of the photos of Leonard Cohen in the video, save two, are by Claude Gassian from the private collection of Dominique BOILE. I was alerted to the wonderful photo of Leonard Cohen astride a white stallion by Maarten Massa. The photo was first found by Dominique BOILE in “Leonard Cohen” by Jacques Vassal (Albin Michel Rock & Folk, published 1975, revised 1979). The photo of Leonard Cohen flanked by two members of his band is credited to Steve and was found in Rock & Folk #44. The copy used is from the private collection of Dominique BOILE.