From I Went To Your Wedding
To Death Of A Ladies’ Man
As a teenager in L.A. in the early 1950s, Harvey Phillip Spector was glued to the sounds of the AM radio dial. He loved Patti Page singing “I Went To Your Wedding …”1
“I Went to Your Wedding,” written by Jessie Mae Robinson in 1952, became a hit for Patti Page, whose recording of it entered the Billboard chart on August 22, 1952, lasting 21 weeks and reaching #1 on the chart. A country music version by Hank Snow peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart the same year.
Twenty-four years after Patti Page’s rendition of “I Went to Your Wedding” was the top pop song in America, it became the starting point for the Leonard Cohen – Phil Spector collaboration that resulted in the “Death of a Ladies’ Man” album. The following excerpt is from What Happened When Phil Spector Met Leonard Cohen? by Harvey Kubernik:2
Cohen and Spector first met late in 1974, when Cohen was in Los Angeles for a rare club appearance – a two-night gig at the Troubadour. After the last show on the second night, Spector hosted an informal reception for Cohen at his home – a Spanish-style mansion in the grand, excessive Southern California tradition.
Cohen was brought to Spector’s attention, and vice versa, by Martin Machat – who had independently become lawyer and business manager for both men. Machat took Spector to see Cohen perform. Throughout Cohen’s 90-minute show, Spector sat quietly, very still, immediately impressed (he later said) by Cohen’s mystery and his technique (or maybe the mystery of his technique…or the technique of his mystery…)
The two men got on well at the post-Troubadour reception, and kept in some sort of loose touch thereafter. Late in 1976, when Cohen visited Los Angeles again, Spector invited him to be his houseguest. The first night, the two worked out a new version of Patti Page’s “I Went to Your Wedding”; by breakfast, they’d co-written two new songs – Cohen the lyrics, Spector the music (picked out on the piano). The seed was sown for what ultimately became Death of a Ladies’ Man. [emphasis mine]
Cohen’s own version of the story follows:3
After the [Troubadour] concert, Phil invited us to his house. The house was freezing due to the air conditioning, it was four degrees. He locked the door so we couldn’t leave. I said “Listen Phil, if you lock us in here, we are going to get bored… So as long as we are locked up we might as well write some songs together.” So we started that very night. We wrote songs together for about a month, it was fun. Phil is really a charming guy when you are with him alone. I would write the words, then he would work on the melody, then I would revise the words to better fit the melody. We would exchange ideas. But in the studio when other people were around he was a totally different man.
Phil Spector and Leonard Cohen spending a night together reworking a 1952 Patti Page hit song – scary thought, eh?
Of course, one has to wonder how the album would have turned out if Messrs. Cohen and Spector had chosen a different tune from among those favored by the teenaged Spector, say “Work With Me Annie” by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, the Chordettes’ “Born To Be With You,” or “Sixty Minute Man” by the Dominoes.4
Patti Page – I Went to Your Wedding (1952)
Note: Originally posted July 26, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
- From Phil Spector, The Musical Legacy: Part One by Harvey Kubernik (Goldmine, February 20, 2011) [↩]
- The Los Angeles Phonograph, January 1978. [↩]
- Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Throat Culture magazine, 1992) [↩]
- Phil Spector, The Musical Legacy: Part One by Harvey Kubernik (Goldmine, February 20, 2011) [↩]