Hear Classic 1988 Leonard Cohen Interview: How the Heart Approaches What it Yearns

Shure_mikrofon_55S-700This is an extraordinary interview that includes this quotation that I consider the touchstone of Leonard Cohen’s perspective:

That’s what it’s all about. It says that none of this – you’re not going to be able to work this thing out – you’re not going to be able to set – this realm does not admit to revolution – there’s no solution to this mess. The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say ‘Look, I don’t understand a fucking thing at all – Hallelujah! That’s the only moment that we live here fully as human beings.

The following description is from Leonard Cohen talks to RTÉ in 1988 at the RTE site:

From the RTÉ archives: Kildare-born novelist, short story writer, playwright, essayist and former RTÉ radio producer John MacKenna made two feature programmes in the RTÉ Radio Centre with Leonard Cohen in 1988, entitled ‘How the Heart Approaches What it Yearns’. Together, they offer a remarkable insight to Cohen’s life and work. Below, you can listen to them both in full. (From Leonard Cohen talks to RTÉ in 1988)

Note: A transcript of this broadcast is available at Transcript: 1988 RTE (LeonardCohenFiles)

The first programme ‘How the Heart Approaches What it Yearns’ is entitled ‘Isaac to Joan of Arc’ in which Cohen discusses his interest in and attitude to heroic figures in history. (From Leonard Cohen talks to RTÉ in 1988)

Programme 2 is entitled ‘If I Have Been Untrue’  and considers songs about people in the street. (From Leonard Cohen talks to RTÉ in 1988)

Credit Due Department: Photo atop this post “Shure mikrofon 55S” by Holger.EllgaardOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Leonard Cohen, Thanks Again For The Tour, I Hope It Was Good For You, Too – The Encore Video

lc-thanksagaintour

Leonard Cohen To World Tour Fans: “I Still Love You, Too”

For those desirous of commemorating the completion of the  Summer 2009 European leg of the Leonard Cohen World Tour, those anticipating the series of concerts in the USA that will conclude the World Tour, and those desperate for a Cohen fix during this Tour hiatus, Cohencentric offers a video celebration comprising photos and video clips associated with the performances, especially those from the past three months. The primary songs are Bird On The Wire and Closing Time.

Dear Leonard Cohen, Thanks – again – for The Tour; I hope it was good for you, too
Video by Allan Showalter

Note: Originally posted Oct 14, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen explains: “Songs are… hospitable to different interpretations”

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I like austerity. I like it as a style. It’s the opposite of abundance. ‘Bird on the Wire’ is quite an affirmative song. It has an anthem-like sound to it sometimes. I’ve found that songs are quite hospitable to different interpretations. When you’re on the road for a long period of time, you tend to sings songs in different ways. You can bring a certain kind of nobility to a depressed lyric, or you can deliver a very affirmative statement like a lamentation. I’ve found there’s a certain emptiness to my songs that allows for a lot of interpretations.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Conversations from a Room By Tom Chaffin. Canadian Forum: August/September 1983.

Marianne’s Song: Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire

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I felt much more that Bird On A Wire had something to do with me because I was there. I gave him [Leonard Cohen] the guitar. We looked out of the window. We saw the birds landing on the wires. And he had not been able to create or write or sing or do anything for weeks and he was in a very, very deep deep depression … Yeah, it’s one of my favorites, absolutely.quotedown2

Marianne Ihlen

 

From interviews conducted by Kari Hesthamar in 2005. See Hear Leonard Cohen And Marianne Ihlen Talk About Their Life Together

Leonard Cohen – Bird On The Wire
Prague: July 21, 2013
Video by albertnoonan

The Absolutely Fabulous TV Series Version of Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire

birdabThe inclusion of Leonard Cohen’s Bird On The Wire on the soundtrack of the recently released Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie has prompted the republication of this 2007 1HeckOfAGuy.com post about the Bird On The Wire soliloquy from the Absolutely Fabulous TV series.

Featuring Edina As The Drunk In A Midnight Choir – And Wherever

In yesterday’s post, Leonard Cohen BBC Interview: “I’d like to go out [on tour] again”, the BBC interviewer alluded to the use of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On A Wire”1 in an episode of the British sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous. And, it turns out that, although “Bird On The Wire” has been covered by everybody from Joe Cocker to Jennifer Warnes to The Bobs, the Ab Fab version is, I believe, uniquely memorable.

The Scene: Absolutely Fabulous – Bird On A Wire

Jealous: Series 3, Episode 4 (First broadcast 27 April 1995)
Edina (AKA Eddie, AKA Eddy), has expectations of winning the PR Person of the Year Award over her rival, Claudia Bing, but, despite rigging the vote, loses instead and wants revenge. Later, at an industry luncheon, Edina loses her prepared remarks but proceeds unabated to give a drunken speech, one portion of which consists of the lyrics of “Bird On A Wire.”

The Dialog: Absolutely Fabulous – Bird On A Wire

From IDMB (with “Bird On A Wire” lyrics placed in bold by me):

[Edina (Eddie) has lost her speech which she has to present to the PR meeting]

Eddie: Yeah I was gonna’ make a-

[taps microphone]

Eddie: Testing. Testing. -Yeah I was gonna’ make a speech, but I just can’t be bothered anymore. I mean, this used to be like fun you know; yeah it used to be fun, but I’m getting bored of all the ‘fun’ bits now. You know, your endless bloody lunches and launches, you know, no-career celebrities and party desperates. And what for, huh? Some colony of crap tags and mags! Well I’m sorry there has to be a little more than that doesn’t there?

[slams her handbag down]

Eddie: Hmmm? You know I had a speech, you know, my… my integrated-projected-global-tele-network system bloody system-system. But you know, if that’s what the worlds coming to I don’t want to be in it. No I don’t want that. I don’t want to be in some sort of cyber-space-hypervirtual bloody reality. I don’t want that- exchanging e-mails with some old age bloody hippies with more information at their fingertips than is safe to know about. I don’t want that! What kind of reality is that, huh, you know, with a thirteen-amp plug on the end of it? Huh? Huh?… That can be un-plugged like that? Come-on I’m going.

[She turns to leave, but… ]

Eddie: No I’m not going yet! No, you!

[points to her competition, Claudia Bing]

Eddie: You, you, just sit there like your velcroed to some bloody add-man! You know those crap-head add-men over there, you know, those kings of bastardization that have just taken everything that was ever real and genuine and honest and original and attached it to a toilet cleaner! Whereas I, I… Like a bird on a wire… Like a drunk in a midnight choir… I have tried in my way to be free.

[Then she sings]

Eddie: Like a bird, on a wire.

Patsy: Go for it Eddy.

Eddie: [singing] … Like a drunk in a midnight choir. I have tried in my way to be free.

[Claudia Bing and her colleagues are laughing]

Eddie: Yeah you can laugh, but you know something- I don’t want more choice I just want nicer things! And you, you can take that look off your face, sitting there with your… with your wheels and AIDS and starvation. You know, skimming a neat profit of the whole of human misery. Labeling us all with this- with this global guilt. Well it may not be all great and good but it ain’t that bad, so cheer up world it may never bloody happen!

[slams her bag down again]

Eddie: Come on I’m going.

[Edina walks off making rude farting sounds at everyone in the room]

Audio Only: Absolutely Fabulous – Bird On A Wire

Edina – “Bird On A Wire”
Spoken word portion

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Edina – “Bird On A Wire”
Singing portion

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Video: Absolutely Fabulous – Bird On A Wire

This clip (may not be available in all countries) comprises the final third of Absolutely Fabulous Series 3, Episode 4: Jealous (First broadcast 27 April 1995). The pertinent portion begins at 4:35

 

Note: Originally posted July 17, 2007 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. Yes, I know that the name of the song on Leonard Cohen’s Songs From A Room album is “Bird On The Wire.” In the Ab Fab episode, it’s “Bird On A Wire” – as it is in The Essential Leonard Cohen album. []