Leonard Cohen At Another Other 1970 Festival: Aix-en-Provence (Part 1)

Note: Originally posted Sept 9, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Woodstock, Music Festivals, and Leonard Cohen

While Leonard Cohen did not perform at Woodstock, the August 1969 convocation at Max Yasgur’s farm had a major, albeit deferred, impact on the Canadian singer-songwriter’s career.

In August 1970, Leonard Cohen played two festivals sired by Woodstock.1 One of these festivals, The Isle Of Wight, produced a Leonard Cohen performance that is now approaching legendary status. The other, the festival at Aix-en-Provence was – well, that show was unique.

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

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  1. Leonard Cohen also performed at the Forest Hills Festival, which was in reality a series of concerts by different bands, typically separated from each other by a week or more, rather than a music festival in the common sense, and consequently the Leonard Cohen Forest Hills Festival appearance was, operationally, indistinguishable from other 1970 Leonard Cohen concerts. In any case, there were few elements shared between Woodstock’s Three Days of Peace & Music (and mud and drugs) and the concerts by, among others, Peter, Paul, & Mary, Fifth Dimension, and The Band held at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. Cohen was also scheduled to appear at the 1970 Strawberry Fields Festival held at Mosport, Ontario but did not perform. []

Rare Live Video: Leonard Cohen Performs Sisters Of Mercy At The 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival

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Peter Torbijn of the Netherlands has discovered a film, previously unknown to me and listing only 127 viewings at time of posting, with a brief segment (one minute) of Leonard Cohen singing Sisters of Mercy at the 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival. The portion featuring Leonard Cohen begins at 2:22. More about this film and its implications will be featured in the next post about the 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival.

The description from the site follows:

Sujet consacré au festival de musique pop d’Aix en Provence. Le commentaire sur des images de concerts alterne avec les interviews de festivaliers et du directeur de la manifestation. Le reportage se termine sur des images de Leonard COHEN interprétant “Sisters of Mercy” sur scène.

[via Google Translate] Topic dedicated to pop music festival in Aix en Provence. Commentary on concert pictures alternates with interviews of festival and director of the event. The report concludes with images of Leonard Cohen performing “Sisters of Mercy” on stage.

Update: Véro Chô has offered a summary in English of the initial portion of the video:

This festival of “progressive music” was organised by a general (!) Clément, and while it’s not said explicitly, the idea was met with some resistance it seems. Valery Giscard-d’Estaing (then not yet president, but – I looked it up – minister of Economy and Finance) came to support the general, and the festival opened with him optimistic about its success. The turnout was much lower than expected, with only 15000 people, only half of them paying, on Sunday, when they had expected 100.000 and so the festival ended after two days instead of three. Two spectators from neighbouring villages praise the youth for its peaceful manners and will to emancipate. And the topic ends with a not exactly appreciative comment about Leonard Cohen: the commentator makes a pun on “fausses notes”, which can both mean wrong notes hit by a musician or faults. He says that Leonard Cohen didn’t manage to make forget the wrong notes (i.e. lack of ticket sales). But there’s clearly a double entendre here… The festival lost 1 million French francs, which would be about 200.000 Euros nowadays but must have been a huge sum then.

Michelle Phillips’ Gig As A Leonard Cohen Backup Singer – And The Dennis Hopper Intercession

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Note: Originally posted Nov 8, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Michelle Phillips

It’s one of those little-known facts that (ahem) everybody knows: Michelle Phillips, the singer, songwriter, and actress whose most recognized persona was the willowy blonde singer for the Mamas and Papas (Michelle is at the far left in the group photo shown below),1 did a stint as a backup singer for Leonard Cohen during the 1970 tour.

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The description of this gig found in her Wikipedia entry is representative, “During 1970, Phillips sang backup vocals on a Leonard Cohen tour.” In fact, if one plugs in precisely those words “During 1970, Phillips sang backup vocals on a Leonard Cohen tour,” within quotation marks, Google reports finding that exact phrase on about 7,360 websites. Without the quotes, Google reports about 39,300 hits.

The devil is, in accord with rhetorical precedent, in the details.  The sentence, “During 1970, Phillips sang backup vocals on a Leonard Cohen tour,” and its many variants are maddeningly ambiguous and potentially misleading.  A casual reader could, for example, infer that Ms Phillips was a backup singer throughout the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour. Efforts to discover specifics (e.g., at which concerts did she perform), however, have been unrequited – until now.

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  1. Often overlooked is the fact that she also co-wrote some of the group’s most popular songs, including “Creeque Alley” and “California Dreamin.” []

Leonard Cohen & The Horse He Rode In On-Stage At The 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival

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Leonard Cohen And The Army Cavalry Ride To Aix

In 1970, Leonard Cohen played three festivals:  one, the Isle Of Wight, produced a Leonard Cohen performance that is now approaching legendary status; one, Forest Hills, was in reality a series of  concerts by different bands, typically separated from each other by a week or more, rather than a music festival in the common sense, and consequently the Leonard Cohen Forest Hills Festival appearance was, operationally,  indistinguishable from other 1970 Leonard Cohen concerts; and one, the festival at Aix-en-Provence was – well, that show was unique.

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

Continue Reading →

Leonard Cohen Live At Leeds 1970: Download Audience Recording

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Leonard Cohen: Leeds University 1970

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Leeds Student Union Refectory : 1970 Leonard Cohen Concert Venue

Denis Piggott was a student at Leeds University in 1970 and was in the audience at Leonard Cohen’s May 19th concert.1 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHappily for us, he brought along his trusty Philips cassette recorder and captured the the complete show except the final song (Please Don’t Pass Me By), which was the point at which when the tape ran out.2

He has made this recording available for download in two parts:

Update: These files have been uploaded to YouTube. See Hear Leonard Cohen Playing Leeds 1970

For more about this show, see Leonard Cohen Live At Leeds 1970 – Leonard Cohen Live At Leeds 1970 – Photos & Reviews

Setlist
From Denis Piggott

LEONARD COHEN
Leeds, England – (Leeds University)
May 19, 1970 (actually between May 15 & 17)

1st set:
1. Bird On The Wire
2. So Long, Marianne
3. You Know Who I Am
4. Dead Song (poem)
5. Lady Midnight
6. One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong
7. The Stranger Song – solo
8. Joan Of Arc
9. Tonight Will Be Fine

2nd set:
10. The Music Crept By Us (poem)
11. The Partisan
12. Sisters Of Mercy
13. Diamonds In The Mine
14. Story Of Isaac
15. Famous Blue Raincoat
16. Sing Another Song, Boys
17. Travel (poem)
18. Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye
19. Suzanne
20. Please Don’t Pass Me By

Credit Due Department: Photo atop post: Copyright John Rettie – www.rocknrollphotographs.com. Photo of Leeds Student Union: Betty Longbottom [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Recorder photo: “Philips EL3302” by mib18 – selbst (neudeutsch: own work). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Note: Based on an Oct 3, 2009 post at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.
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  1. The exact date of this concert is uncertain. Cohen Live has it taking place “May 19, 1970, actually between May 15 & 17” []
  2. This information was originally posted by denispiggott at LeonardCohenForum. []

Leonard Cohen Live At Leeds 1970: Photos & Reviews

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A Very 1970 Leonard Cohen Performance At Leeds University

Denis Piggott was a student at Leeds University in 1970 and was in the audience at Leonard Cohen’s May 19th concert.1 He is responsible for alerting us to the existence of photos and reviews of the concert as well as offering his own taping of the show.2

Update: The concert recording has been uploaded to YouTube. See Hear Leonard Cohen Playing Leeds 1970

A Note On Context: It’s helpful to keep in mind how early in Cohen’s career this concert occurred. At the 1970 Leeds concert, for example, Leonard Cohen was singing “So Long Marianne” only two to three years after that romantic relationship finally ended. It is also noteworthy that he dedicates “The Partisan” to “the students who were killed by the National Guard;” the Kent State Shootings had taken place only two weeks earlier (May 4, 1970).

Daily Telegraph Review

Denis noted this review “was published a few days” after the concert. Click on image to enlarge

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‘Don’t Pass Me By,” Sings Cohen, But The World Passes Him by Mike Collins. Union News: 6/26/1970

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Another review of the obscure 1970 Leeds show was published in the June 26, 1970 edition of the Leeds University Union News.3

While the review itself is a bit of a hodgepodge of uncited references to Cohen’s poetry, novels, and close but not quite correct quotations, it does provide a sense of era’s perception of the Canadian singer-songwriter. Click on image to enlarge
leeds-rev-l1600Update: See Leonard Cohen Live At Leeds 1970: Download Audience Recording

Credit Due Department: Photos: Copyright John Rettie – www.rocknrollphotographs.com

Note: Based on an Oct 3, 2009 post at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.
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  1. The exact date of this concert is still disputed. Cohen Live lists it as taking place “May 19, 1970 (actually between May 15 & 17)” []
  2. Denis Piggott first posted about the 1970 Leeds concert at LeonardCohenForum. []
  3. Denis has made a copy available for download at MediaFire – Cohen 1970. I have discovered a somewhat larger, easier to read version can be had by downloading the entire June 26, 1970 Union News as a PDF from the Union News Digital Library. The Cohen review is atop page 11. []