“Oh! What It Seemed to Be” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

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Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.

Oh! What It Seemed to Be

Tom Chaffin, author of  Conversations From A Room (1993 Leonard Cohen interview), wrutes

Was looking at your Leonard Cohen Jukebox the other day, and thought of a song that he mentioned to me as one of his early favorites. At the time I wasn’t familiar with the song (just remember him reciting first verse or so), so I have no idea of what version he had in mind.

Wikipedia informs us

“Oh! What it Seemed to Be” is a song composed by Bennie Benjamin, George Weiss and Frankie Carle. The song was most popular in 1946, and was taken to number 1 that year by both Frank Sinatra and the Frankie Carle orchestra, the latter with Marjorie Hughes on vocals.

That first verse follows:

It was just a neighborhood dance
That’s all that it was
But, oh, what it seemed to be
It was like a masquerade ball
With costumes and all
Cause you were at the dance with me

Since Leonard was not, for the most part, a Sinatra fan, I’ve chosen the version by the Frankie Carle orchestra for this post.

Blackeyed Susans And David McComb & The Red Ponies Cover Leonard Cohen’s "Memories"

David McComb

David McComb, an Australian singer-songwriter who died at 36 in 1999,1 was lead singer for The Triffids and later a member of the Blackeyed Susans. He also did a solo tour with his own backing band, The Red Ponies.

An especially well-done summary of the history and significance of the Triffids and McComb by UrPal, a contributor to LeonardCohenForum and a moderator of The Triffids web site, is available at “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On” By McComb & Peters Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox.

Memories By Leonard Cohen

I am an unabashed fan of “Memories,” a song originally concocted during the brief, stormy, and itself memorable collaboration-collision of Leonard Cohen and Phil Spector. Previous posts featuring “Memories” include the following:

  1. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Memories & Death Of A Ladies’ Man
  2. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Leonard Cohen On Memories
  3. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Memories & I Am A Hotel
  4. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: The 1979 ZDF-TV Droll, Deadpan Version
  5. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Live Performances Of Memories Online

These covers by David McComb and The Red Ponies and by the Blackeyed Susans are outstanding additions to the collection.

Blackeyed Susans – Memories


Note: Originally posted Oct 27, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. McComb had a history of alcoholism, drug abuse, and cardiomyopathy, for which he underwent a heart transplant in 1996. He died a few days after being sent home from the hospital following a car accident. From Wikipedia []

Bob Dylan’s “Ballad Of A Thin Man” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

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Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. There was “The Great Pretender,” “Cross Over the Road.” I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.

Renik Van den Eynde points out that Leonard Cohen’s admiring use of Dylan’s lyrics from The Ballad Of A Thin Man qualifies it for Leonard Cohen’s jukebox:

I don’t know what is happening, and I don’t care what is happening, to tell you the truth, it’s none of my business. I know that the explanations that are available have their various degrees of interest, but nothing seems to be speaking to me personally about what is happening. I tend to, you know, let my attention wander from the various channels of information, whether they be newspapers, television, art, song, literature and even conversation; so something is happening, as Dylan says, but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones. So that’s the way I feel. So what is happening or what has happened to me or my writing or my lyrics, I’m not interested in the explanation, even my own, I’m only interested in the feeling that is just answering the appetite to describe moments and feelings that somehow has not been described in what is available.1

The referenced Dylan lyrics follow:

Because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?
You raise up your head and you ask, “Is this where it is?”
And somebody points to you and says, “It’s his”

Bob Dylan – Ballad of a Thin Man
Desert Trip, Coachella: Oct 14, 2016

Bob Dylan Songs On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Leonard Cohen-Bob Dylan Interface

All posts about Leonard Cohen’s & Bob Dylan’s opinions of each other, their meetings, and comparisons by others can be found at

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  1. From Interview with Leonard Cohenby Kari Hesthamar, Los Angeles, 2005 []

“Cross Over The Bridge” By Patti Page Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

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Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. There was “The Great Pretender,” “Cross Over the Road.” I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.

“Cross Over The Road Bridge” By Patti Page

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Leonard’s song reference is found in the above excerpt from Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen:

quoteup2
Biggest Influence on My Music: The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. There was ‘The Great Pretender,’ ‘Cross Over the Road.’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

While Leonard labeled the song “Cross Over the Road,” the only song with that title I’ve found is a hymn by Kevin Mayhew. Even allowing for Leonard Cohen’s ecumenicism and the idiosyncrasies of Montreal jukebox listings in the 1950s, this seems an unlikely choice.  I suspect Leonard instead had in mind “Cross Over The Bridge,” which was written by Bennie Benjamin and George David Weiss in 1945 but became a best-seller when recorded by Patti Page in 1954. (Page’s release was covered at that time by The Chords.) Page’s version entered the Billboard chart on February 17, 1954, staying on the chart for 23 weeks and peaking at position #2.1

Patti Page – Cross Over The Bridge
1954

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  1. Source: Wikipedia []

Mick Jagger’s Wandering Spirit Album Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

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Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.

mig-jagger-wandering-spirit

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Yes, it is true that a lot of people burn themselves out. A lot of people die, especially in rock and roll. But on the other hand, there are people who continue to perfect their art. Curiously enough — and this is probably a very unpopular example — I think the last album by Mick Jagger [Wandering Spirit], who is a figure who is not really taken seriously… That’s a guy who is somehow not considered to be at the cutting edge of his own spirit any longer. Somehow, he has dissolved into the celebrity that he so ferociously courted. But you know, I had occasion to look carefully at the lyrics of his last album [Wandering Spirit]. They’re really quite surprising. They’re pretty good. It’s been a long time since I’ve turned to Mick Jagger for spiritual information! I wanted to see what Mick Jagger was doing these days, ’cause all you hear of him is he shows up with a beautiful woman here or there, or he’s having marital problems, or he’s signing a $60 million contract. It seems not to have anything to do with what we’re interest in. But when I looked at that album, he says, ‘I’ve seen a whole lot of shit, I’ve seen more than most guys.’ He’s speaking the truth. He says, ‘I really have been on those mountains. I really have had dinner with those kings and princes and slept with those beautiful women. And now, from the point of view of this experience. I’m asking you: Is there nothing beyond the kisses? Is there anything better than fucking? I’d like to know because it isn’t very good.’ He’s saying something that is heavy and beautiful, and he’s saying it beautifully. And then … Nobody listening. You know it’s just like another little Mick Jagger record. And it’s cool. It’s OK. We don’t have to worry about the guy, either. We know he’s a billionaire, and we know he has these women. Putting all these things aside, which is difficult to do in a case like Mick Jagger, you see that this guy’s still on this trip at the age of 40 odd.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Maverick Spirit: Leonard Cohen by Jim O’Brien. B-Side Magazine: August/September 1993.

Since Leonard indicated an album rather than one song, I’ve selected album’s lead single, Sweet Thing, from the playlist to represent the entire collection.

“Take These Chains from My Heart” By Ray Charles Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

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Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox

Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.

“Take These Chains from My Heart” By Ray Charles

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Leonard Cohen On “Take These Chains from My Heart” By Ray Charles

I told Cohen that “my first conscious experience of song as therapy” occurred one night 13 years earlier while I was listening to his recording, “Sing Another Song, Boys.” I explained why. He said, “That’s the way I feel when I hear certain songs at certain times. I feel, ‘He’s said it for me,’ like when Ray Charles sings ‘Take These Chains from My Heart (And Set Me Free)’. ”1

“Take These Chains from My Heart” was written by Fred Rose and Hy Heath for Hank Williams, whose recording of the song went to #1 in 1953 (after Williams’ death Jan 1, 1953). Ray Charles covered on his 1962 album,  Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music Volume Two.

Ray Charles – Take These Chains From My Heart

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  1. From Hallelujah – An Irishman’s Diary on meeting Leonard Cohen by Joe Jackson (Irish Times: Jan 1, 2017) []