Leonard Cohen’s “Memories” Features Lines From The Shields’ Doo Wop Hit “You Cheated”

the-shields-you-cheated-dot-78

Leonard Cohen Sings “You Cheated, You Lied”

Careful listening to the outro of “Memories,” released as a track on the 1977 Leonard Cohen-Phil Spector collaboration, Death of a Ladies’ Man, reveals Cohen singing1

You cheated, you lied,
You said that you love me.

leonard-cohen-death-of-a-ladies-man

This YouTube recording of the album version of Memories starts just before those lyrics begin.

Those lines from “Memories” are significant because they are taken from the lyrics of the 1958 single, “You Cheated” by the Shields, a musical allusion2  the implications of which have been discussed. Three examples follow:

From Memories Leonard Cohen by Phil Kakulas3  (Words & Music November 2012):

The heightened atmosphere also inspired one of Cohen’s finest vocal performances, as he abandons all restraint to scream, moan and plead his case over the outro [of Memories], the song fading away to the strains of You Cheated, You Lied by The Shields – a nod to one of the song’s musical inspirations.

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  1. While most articles mention only Cohen singing these words, at least one listener reports Bob Dylan singing along: “Bob Dylan chimes in at the end of Leonard Cohen’s Memories, first harmonizing and then singing a few bars of ‘you cheated, you lied.’ he’s mixed down pretty low, too.” []
  2. The outro  also includes  a reference to singer Frankie Laine, but that’s another post. []
  3. Phil Kakulas was a member of The Blackeyed Susans, a group that produced an outstanding cover of “Memories.” See Blackeyed Susans And David McComb & The Red Ponies Cover Leonard Cohen’s “Memories” []

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 []

Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Live Performances Of Memories Online

1985-Leonard-Cohen-Norway-VideosThis is the fifth post in the Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine series examining “Memories” by Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen Live Performances Of Memories Online: An Annotated Index

While not the equivalent of attending a live performance, viewing these videos of Leonard Cohen singing “Memories” should provide a reasonable  amount of entertainment and, if one is lucky, an entirely unreasonable spark of passion of the most unsophisticated, retrograde, and delightfully irredeemable sort.

Previous Posts Featuring Live Versions Of Memories

Recordings Of Live Performances

Leonard Cohen – Memories
Warsaw: March 22, 1985
Includes “Return to my dismal adolescence in Montreal” introduction. One of the most melodious versions available with none of the theatrics.
Video from messalina79

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Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Droll, Deadpan Version – ZDF-TV 1979

rockpopThis is the fourth post in the Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine series examining “Memories” by Leonard Cohen.

Now, this is fun …

ZDF-TV Rockpop Special Memories Video

Leonard Cohen – Memories
ZDF-TV Studio in München, Deutschland: October 31, 1979
Part of a set recorded for later broadcast1

OK, if you don’t recognize that this is a funny video after viewing it – and an amazing number of folks don’t – I probably can’t persuade you. Nonetheless, my humanitarian obligation to you as a fellow inhabitant of this planet is to at least attempt to rescue you from your tragic misperception. So, we’ll be taking a look at  Leonard’s humor, the backup singers (Jennifer Warnes and Sharon Robinson) choreography, and the inspirational Frankie Laine. Buckle up.
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  1. According to the YouTube notes, the band at that taping included “Leonard Cohen – vocals, acoustic guitar, blues harp, Sharon Robinson – vocals, Jennifer Warnes – vocals, Mitch Watkins – guitars, Roscoe Beck – bass, Raffi Hakopian – violin, John Bilezikjian – oud, mandolin, Paul Ostermeyer – wind, Bill Ginn – keyboards, Steve Meador – drums.” Leonard Cohen Live lists the the complete set taped that day as follows: “1. Bird On The Wire, 2. The Guests, 3. So Long, Marianne, 4. The Window, 5. Famous Blue Raincoat, 6. Passin’ Through, 7. Memories, 8. The Guests (2), 9. Suzanne, -. The Partisan.” That same source notes that “tracks #1-2 were broadcasted on ZDF-TV ‘Rock-Pop,’ November 10, 1979” and “tracks #3-9 were broadcasted on ZDF-TV ‘Rock-Pop Special,’ December 2, 1979.” []

Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: The Prom Version From I Am A Hotel

ihogelThis is the third post in the Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine series examining “Memories” by Leonard Cohen.

I Am A Hotel: Memories

Within “I Am A Hotel,” the Memories video depicts a high school prom held at the hotel’s ballroom. Cohen not only appears as a resident of the hotel but also as the singer-bandleader providing live music for the dance from an elevated stage. A stylized dance performed by a bellhop and hotel maid is Interspersed with the prom scenes.

The sequence is too artsy, too fartsy for my taste, but hey, as the American Bandstand kids would point out, the song has a beat and – apparently – you can dance to it (at least after a few years of professional training). On the other hand, the brassy sax solo does grab me in an indecent way, and Leonard as the sunglasses-clad implacable singer coupled with Leonard as the leering hotel guest encouraging the bellhop and maid toward the (titter) climax is as creepy-nasty-exciting as ones first illicit sexual liaison with someone a lot more experienced and adventuresome in bed.

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Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Leonard Cohen On Memories

lcmemThis is the second post in the Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine series examining “Memories” by Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen Talks/Sings About His “Most Irrelevant And Banal Adolescent Recollections”

The end of the first Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine post, Memories & Death Of A Ladies’ Man, featured a sampling of the mostly negative criticism of the Leonard Cohen-Phil Spector collaboration, Death Of A Ladies’ Man, and both the studio and live versions of “Memories.”

It turns out that the  apparent leader of this chorus of discontent and disgust is one Mr. Leonard Cohen, who famously explained to the July 8, 1994 BBC Radio 1 audience,

My most bizarre experience with a producer was with Phil Spector, with whom I worked in 1977 or 78, and we produced that grotesque album called Death of a Ladies’ Man.1

To be fair, he did seem to mean “grotesque” in the best possible way, and, in an interview some years later, he has called the album “semi-virtuous.”2

Similarly, Cohen stops short of outright condemnation in his comments from Leonard Cohen Obscured… A Haunting by Spector by Stephen Holden in Rolling Stone, January 26, 1978:

When I heard the final mix, I thought he [Spector] had taken the guts out of the record, and I sent him a telegram to that effect,” Cohen recalls. “I asked him to go back in the studio. I could have delayed its release. But I couldn’t have forced Phil back in the studio, and it might have taken another year. I view it now as an experiment that failed. But even within the failure there are moments. I think the album has real energizing capacities.”

As for the “Memories” track itself, these excerpts from Cohen’s concert tour introductions of that song are self-explanatory:

  • This is a song I wrote a couple of years ago with the great genius of darkest Hollywood:Phil Spector. And it’s a song based on my extremely boring and pathetic life at Westmont High School in Montreal. It’s called Memories.(München 31/10/79)
  • It brings me from the exulted and sublime considerations of these musicians and technicians to an extremely banal experience which I have put into a song frozen like a fly in amber and somewhat less important. But this is a song into which I’ve placed my most banal adolescent recollections and I think this song will probably live forever. It’s called Memories. (London 06/12/79)
  • In this song we placed all our most irrelevant and banal adolescent recollections. (San Francisco 1985)
  • Unfortunately, for my last song, I must offend your deepest sensibilities with an entirely irrelevant and vulgar ditty that I wrote some time ago with another Jew in Hollywood, where there are many. This is a song in which I have placed my most irrelevant and banal adolescent recollections. (Tel Aviv 24/11/80)
  • Long time ago, in my distant middle age, I sat down with Phil Spector on a mahogany piano bench and collaborated with him, one of the most dismal periods of my entire creative life. I wrote a song into which I have placed my most banal adolescent recollections. A song of profound and abiding irrelevance, which will probably last forever. Oh, how I long for the day when upon these shabby balustrades of the Concertgebouw, you will erase one of the lesser names of Wagner, of Stravinsky and in its place, in bright and shiny gold letters, inscribe the name…(laughs). Forgive me great gods of music. I am but a tiny worm groveling in the bright illumination of your memories. That reminds me the name of the tune, it’s called “Memories.” (Amsterdam 30/10/80)
  • The next song is one of my least significant songs. In it I have placed as though it were data in a tiny time capsule which is fired at a distant star and actually dissolves in the colder reaches of space, far before its ultimate destination……In this tiny song I have placed all the irrelevant material concerning my extremely dismal adolescence. It is a song called “Memories,” (Bonn 03/12/79)

Happily, my training and experience in the fields of English literature and psychiatry enable me to proceed, unburdened by the errant beliefs artists may maintain about what they think they think. (If they want to know what they think, they can make an appointment with me like everybody else.)

When Leonard Cohen derides “Memories,” he isn’t, of course, apologizing for the song. If Leonard Cohen is apologizing for anything, it’s for his own enjoyment of a performance that is a spoof.

I suspect a significant factor in my fondness for “Memories” is that I harbor a special affection for instances of Leonard Cohen having fun.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Now, it’s showtime.

Leonard Cohen Performs Memories – 1979

This is a particularly tasty performance despite some lyrics being hoarsely shouted. Featured are Paul Ostermayer on sax and backup singers, Jennifer Warnes & Sharon Robinson, on vocals & synchronized dance moves. Also on display are glimpses of Leonard dancing.

Leonard Cohen – Memories
From The Song of Leonard Cohen: 1979 Tour3
Video from messalina79

Down Memories Laine Posts:

  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

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  1. My favorite Leonard Cohen quote about his experience with Spector is from Leonard Cohen Obscured… A Haunting by Spector by Stephen Holden in Rolling Stone, January 26, 1978, “Phil couldn’t resist annihilating me. I don’t think he can tolerate any other shadows in his own darkness.” []
  2. Beautiful loser, beautiful comeback. by Judith Fitzgerald in The National Post, 24 March 2001. []
  3. Rasky filmed concerts in Antwerp, Paris and Frankfurt []