Excerpt from The Future by Alberto Manzano. El Europeo: Spring 1993 (click on image to enlarge):
I thank you for those items that you sent me,
the monkey and the plywood violin.
I practiced every night, now I’m ready.
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.
From First We Take Manhattan by Leonard Cohen
[The sender of the monkey and the plywood violin is] that part of ourselves that diminished that voice that . . . was demanding a spiritual aspect to our lives . . . . We gave that aspect of ourselves that was hungry some kind of perverse and obscene charity. We made him into an organ grinder . . . . We gave that part of us a monkey and a plywood violin, so that it would screech away and amuse us with its antics
Leonard Cohen, Personal Interview with Winfried Siemerling. 2 November 1990, North York. Unpublished. Quoted in Interior Landscapes and the Public Realm: Contingent Mediations in a Speech and a Song by Leonard Cohen by Winfried Siemerling. Canadian Poetry: No. 33, Fall/Winter, 1993. Originally posted Mar 22, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
My song was really political, a certain demented . . . manifesto, which addresses a constituency that really exists in the world, which cannot be defined by left or right, that is a radical perspective of a great many people, internationally, who feel that there is no . . . political expression that represents us, that the language, the rhetoric of politics today has become so divorced from anybody’s feelings and heart that it invites a new and radical rhetoric which in a kind of humorous and demented and serious way I touch upon in ‘First We Take Manhattan.’
Leonard Cohen, Personal Interview with Winfried Siemerling. 2 November 1990, North York. Unpublished. Quoted in Interior Landscapes and the Public Realm: Contingent Mediations in a Speech and a Song by Leonard Cohen by Winfried Siemerling. Canadian Poetry: No. 33, Fall/Winter, 1993. Originally posted March 25, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
I felt for some time that the motivating energy, or the captivating energy, or the engrossing energy available to us today is the energy coming from the extremes. That’s why we have Malcolm X. And somehow it’s only these extremist positions that can compel our attention. And I find in my own mind that I have to resist these extremist positions when I find myself drifting into a mystical fascism in regards to myself. So this song, what is it? Is he serious? And who is we? And what is this constituency that he’s addressing? Well, it’s that constituency that shares the sense of titillation with extremist positions. I’d rather do that with an appetite for extremism than blow up a bus full of schoolchildren.
Paul Zollo, Songwriters on Songwriting, Da Capo Press, 2003, p. 345. Photo of Leonard Cohen by Roland Godefroy (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Originally posted Aug 5, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
If the lyric [of First We Take Manhattan] was set to something more solemn or ponderous it would have bored me to death. If it didn’t have that kind of techno-pop counter-point the song would collapse. But these things aren’t done from a point of view of strategies. They just evolve. Like that song grew out of one called ‘In Old Berlin’, half of which went off to become ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love.’ And to get to where it is I had to go through five notebooks of maybe 50 verses, just slowly scratching away. I don’t have any strategies, even in my private life. Any I had collapsed years ago. It’s my music as much as any other music is.
From Read Leonard Cohen’s exclusive interview with Hot Press from 1988 by Joe Jackson (Hot Press: 11 Nov 2016)
Leonard Cohen Experience 1 & 2
These videos feature segments from an August 1988 Leonard Cohen interview with Mitch Corber, which was to be published in Downtown Magazine (I have been unable to discover if the piece was actually published although the New York Library did purchase the audio tape for their collection), interspersed with songs by Leonard Cohen performed by himself and others. Many of the performances are from the 1988 Austin City Limits show. Also shown are photos of and art by Leonard Cohen.
Leonard Cohen Experience 1
Topics: Difference between poems and songs, religious beliefs, the moral universe, disguising oneself in the service of gaining the one you desire, King David as musician and man, Yeats, the Buckskin Boys, moods & Zen, the rare speculation on his importance, books vs record sales, style of living.
Songs: If It Be Your Will, Chelsea Hotel #2, Seems So Long Ago Nancy, Why Don’t You Try, Sisters Of Mercy, Ain’t No Cure, Lover Lover Lover, The Future.
Leonard Cohen Experience 2
Topics: Influence on younger musicians, striving for popularity as songwriter, popularity of his novels, books vs record sales (repeated from Experience 1), style of living (repeated from Experience 1), meaning of chorus of First We Take Manhattan, romanticism, romantic poets, false dichotomy of spirituality and flesh, meaning of I’m Your Man, wooing women with song, sources of Suzanne, nature of love, meanings of “rags” in lyrics,
Songs: First We Take Manhattan, Everybody Knows, So Long Marianne, Closing Time, Come Healing, If It Be Your Will, Amen.
Note: Originally posted Apr 3, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric