Patti Page’s “I Went To Your Wedding” Was Starting Point For Leonard Cohen – Phil Spector Collaboration

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

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  1. From Phil Spector, The Musical Legacy: Part One by Harvey Kubernik (Goldmine, February 20, 2011) []
  2. The Los Angeles Phonograph, January 1978. []
  3. Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Throat Culture magazine, 1992) []
  4. Phil Spector, The Musical Legacy: Part One by Harvey Kubernik (Goldmine, February 20, 2011) []

Revisiting Billboard’s 1998 Tribute To Leonard Cohen

Billboard’s 30th Anniversary Tribute To Leonard Cohen – November 28, 1998

The November 28, 1998 issue of Billboard contains a 14 page celebration of Leonard Cohen:

The tribute is a 14 page appendix in the middle of the magazine. A recent interview with Leonard written by with Susan Nunziata was also posted on Billboard’s own website, but there is more in the magazine – we can read comments from his co-workers and friends, like Phil Spector, Jennifer Warnes, and Steve Lindsey. Dylan Siegler writes about Leonard’s career. There are numerous stylish advertisements showing great photos of Leonard and his family. For instance the staff at Stranger Management, his promoters, record companies, financial advisors, music publisher, and TV/radio channels greet him. A touching ad is on page LC-12: photos from Leonard’s family album are presented with the text “With love from your family; Suzanne, Lorca, Adam and Esther”.1

The Nunziata interview is studded with gems, including  Cohen’s acknowledgment of  his debt to Jennifer Warnes:

Jennifer Warnes practically revived me from the dead in America by putting out Famous Blue Raincoat.… She’s been an invaluable help in my life.

And there is also a discussion of Cohen’s project with Phil Spector:

Of note was Cohen’s collaboration with Phil Spector on the album “Death of a Ladies’ Man”. The almost unimaginable combination of Spector and Cohen has been well documented. Spector’s obsession with guns, his heavy drinking, his tendency to surround himself with menacing henchmen, and his penchant to threaten musicians. The now infamous stories of Spector holding a gun to Cohen’s neck as a sign of his unswerving affection and his obsessive possessiveness of the master tapes, to the extent that Cohen was prevented from hearing the mixes before the album was released, are now legendary. The sound and style of Ladies’ Man were in such contrast to Cohen’s previous work that it came as a great disappointment to him.

However, with the intervention of time, Cohen has mellowed and warmed toward the album and has now developed a great affection for it, even to the extent that he has entertained the possibility of working with Spector again. Spector, for his part, expressed great admiration for Cohen, and warmly cherished the honor of working with Cohen and of sharing in the writing and production of “Death of a Ladies’ Man”. [emphasis mine]

The Cohen Cover Photo

The intriguing qualities of the interview notwithstanding, I am more taken with the ads placed in the Cohen tribute section by his business associates and family (seen in the following sections) and the spectacularly cluttered cover (seen atop this post).

While I understand the significance of the Cohen-authored books and albums comprising the border of the cover and the fact that no periodical is likely to sacrifice its own logo to highlight a cover photo, I am convinced the simple image of Leonard Cohen, freed of the clunky icons surrounding the image’s perimeter, is far more striking.

The Leonard Cohen Family Ad

Clearly the highlight of the ads is the touching collection of family photos with the inscription

With love from your family;
Suzanne, Lorca, Adam and Esther

Ad From Moses Znaimer

Moses Znaimer was the head of several Canadian specialty channels, including  Much Music, MusiquePlus, MusiMAX, and MuchmoreMusic. His ad places Cohen on a background filled with images of music, Hebrew script, a rose, a statue emblematic of Eastern thought, and a list of Cohen’s roles: Poet, Singer, Songwriter, Rabbinical Student, Buddhist Adept, and Lover Of Women.

Ad From European Promoters

I first award this ad the prize for Funniest Tribute Ad because of its legend,

First we take Manhattan
Then we take a break

… and the accompanying pseudo-Polaroid of Cohen collapsed on the floor.

It also wins the award for Most Sincere Tribute Ad because of the openly self-serving signature lines:

Dear Leonard,
We can’t wait to see you back on the road.
Love, Fleming, Steen, & your European promoters.

Ad From Greenberg & Associates Financial Advisors

Things change. In 2005, Cohen and his legal team would accuse Greenberg of failing to warn Cohen about his dangerous financial situation. 2

Ad From Stranger Music

Some things really change. The text reads,

“Like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free”

Dearest Leonard,
With great love and affection,
from Kelley [Lynch], Joan [Lynch], Jack [Lynch], and all your friends at Stranger Management, and from Steve Lindsey [arranger & producer]

The ad shows Leonard Cohen playing  at University Of Rome in 1974  (see Rare Photos: Leonard Cohen’s 1974 Appearance At The University Of Rome – Performance & Book Promo).

View The Original Tribute

The entire Tribute section can be found at Google Books
Note: Originally posted Mar 24, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. Source: LeonardCohenFiles []
  2. Leonard Cohen’s Troubles May Be a Theme Come True By Marc Weingarten.  New York Times October 6, 2005. []

The Leonard Cohen Bomber Jacket Photo, Warner Bros., Phil Spector, & Death Of A Ladies’ Man

“1977 Leonard Cohen Singer Musician Poet Novelist Canadian Jacket Press Photo”

“1977 Leonard Cohen Singer Musician Poet Novelist Canadian Jacket Press Photo” is the description provided on the auction site where this photo appeared.1 I suspect the 1977 date is derived from the stamp on back of the photo (see date on lower right of back of photo sheet below). In my limited experience, these dates often indicate when the photo was published rather than the date when they were taken. I haven’t found independent documentation of the date or the identity of the photographer.

Warner Bros. Releases The Bomber Jacket Photo & The Death Of A Ladies’ Man Album

Dominique BOILE adds the two pages of media information that were originally sent with the photo2) and this comment:3

This is the official promotional photo sent by Warner Bros. Records in October 1977 for the promotion of “Death Of A Ladies’ Man.”

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

The association of the photo with “Death Of A Ladies’ Man” explains why the head shot bears the logo of Warner Bros., the company that first released the album, rather than that of Cohen’s own  label, Columbia Records (Columbia did pick up the album later).

Moreover, the Warner Bros. involvement, it turns out, was more a cause than a consequence of the Phil Spector – Leonard Cohen collaboration that resulted in “Death Of A Ladies’ Man.”  The following excerpt is from Gods, Gangsters and Honour by Steven Machat, whose father, Marty Machat, was, until his death, Leonard Cohen’s manager:

In 1977, my father was confronted by a big problem that was threatening his relationship with Phil Spector. Dad had negotiated Phil a label deal with Warner Brothers that involved Spector getting a huge advance before he delivered his future product. Unfortunately, Spector had failed to deliver the product and Warners wanted their money back.

Machat Senior came up with the answer: stick two of his top clients in the studio. My dad would then give the album to Warners to keep them happy, clear the debts, and keep both clients happy. But this involved two of his most problematic clients. Not just Spector but Leonard Cohen,  who, like Phil, could not buy a pop hit in the US. Nevertheless, Death of a Ladies’ Man was born.

Even a cursory knowledge of the horrors that attended the creation of “Death Of A Ladies’ Man” may shift how one views this publicity photo of Leonard Cohen to an edgier perspective. This summary of the Cohen-Spector releationship by Susan Nunziata, writing in the Nov 28, 1998 edition of Billboard, is more benign than most such descriptions:

Of note was Cohen’s collaboration with Phil Spector on the album “Death of a Ladies’ Man”. The almost unimaginable combination of Spector and Cohen has been well documented. Spector’s obsession with guns, his heavy drinking, his tendency to surround himself with menacing henchmen, and his penchant to threaten musicians. The now infamous stories of Spector holding a gun to Cohen’s neck as a sign of his unswerving affection and his obsessive possessiveness of the master tapes, to the extent that Cohen was prevented from hearing the mixes before the album was released, are now legendary. The sound and style of Ladies’ Man were in such contrast to Cohen’s previous work that it came as a great disappointment to him.

In Gods, Gangsters and Honour, Marchat offers a more pointed quote by Cohen about Spector:

The man is crazy. We were drunk and stupid. I do not wish for this album to see daylight.

Now when you  check the photo, doesn’t  Leonard look a little dazed and more than a bit uneasy, like someone who has been flinching way too many times lately?

Leonard Cohen “Touch[es] His Toe In The Mainstream”

This tempestuous history is – unsurprisingly – recast in the official media information sheets.

The Leonard Cohen data is standard Cohen boilerplate, although one wonders which demographic the “Death Of A Ladies’ Man” PR folks at Warner bros. were pursuing by pointing out, as part of a three paragraph publicity blurb, that he graduated from McGill and was “the recipient of an honorary LLD from Dalhousing College4 (Halifax, Nova Scotia).”

On the other hand, the second page, which deals with the Cohen-Spector collaboration,  is a PR masterpiece.  I’ve underlined some of the more startling revelations. such as “it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where Cohen leaves off and Specter begins, so closely did the two mesh talents and ideas on this album.”

And, while “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On” may be funny, I suspect few who heard it – other than those whose salaries were paid by Warner Bros. – found it to be “as wry as they come.”

The final paragraph alone could serve as the basis for a dozen doctorate dissertations:5

Cohen has said that with this album [Death Of A Ladies’ Man] he’s hoping to “touch his toe in the mainstream.” No doubt, it’s a place where he’s always belonged.

To which Cohen fans can only reply “Run, Leonard, run away from the mainstream.”

Note: Originally posted July 1, 2012 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. I am a tad disappointed the description doesn’t mention the plaid shirt peeking out from the bomber jacket. []
  2. The photo atop this post is from Dominique []
  3. Dominique also affirms that the name of the photographer and the date of this picture are not given. []
  4. Actually, Dalhousie University []
  5. Of course, at a place like University Of Chicago, the placement of the apostrophe in “Death Of A Ladies’ Man” could generate post-graduate papers in a quantity that would approximate the number of “Death Of A Ladies’ Man” albums sold in the eastern half of the US. []

1977: Doc Pomus Hangs Out With Phil Spector & Leonard Cohen

docp

Doc Pomus 1947

Today’s post is a followup to “Save The Last Dance For Me,” Doc Pomus, & Leonard Cohen, which focused on the origins of ”Save The Last Dance For Me, a song popularized in 1960 by Ben E. King with The Drifters, and covered by Leonard Cohen in his 2012 and 2013 tours.

Doc Pomus and Death Of A Ladies’ Man

Reading “I’m Your Man,” the biography of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons, sometime after publishing that post, I came across two references to Doc Pomus.

One was a quote by Hal Wilner, who reported that he, then an intern at CBS, and Doc Pomus “loved that record [“Death Of A Ladies’ Man,” the Phil Spector – Leonard Cohen collaboration] …; we used to listen to it all the time.”

The other alluded to Doc Pomus, “Spector’s friend,” visiting Spector’s home while he and Cohen were working on “Death Of A Ladies’ Man.” A bit of research turned up this more extensive description from He’s a Rebel: Phil Spector, Rock and Roll’s Legendary Producer by Mark Ribowsky (Da Capo Press, January 9, 2007): click on scan to enlarge

Mark-Ribowsky-book-excerpt-re-doc-pomus

That Doc Pomus spent a month at Spector’s home in 1977 when Spector and Cohen were engaged in creating “Death Of A Ladies’ Man,” an album Doc Pomus loved and to which he and a young Hal Wilner often listened does not, of course, necessarily indicate that the interactions that then took place between the Canadian singer-songwriter and one of the writers of “Save The Last Dance For Me”1 somehow led to Leonard Cohen covering that song during the 2012 Tour.

But it would seem to improve the odds that a personal liaison between the two men influenced, at least indirectly, Leonard Cohen’s choice to add “Save The Last Dance For Me” to his standard concert set list.

Update: In a comment to the original post, Jugurtha Harchaoui wrote

At Goldstar Studios, Doc Pomus took Leonard Cohen aside & exhorted him not to work with Spector – Doc Pomus couldn’t have been more explicit — I haven’t seen this fact mentioned too often in the various accounts because it doesn’t fit into the we’re-all-a-big-family fiction that people like to hear — people always prefer unrealistic fiction ?

Bonus: A.K.A Doc Pomus – Official Movie Trailer 2012

Credit Due Department: Photo by Gottlieb, William P. – Library of Congress, Public Domain via Wikipedia

Note: Originally posted Oct 22, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. It appears there was at least one other set of contacts between the two men. From The Untold Story of Pomus & Shuman: “We also hear about Doc’s philanthropic side; he regularly held writers’ workshops for budding musicians in his apartment, which attracted guests like Lou Reed, Robert Plant, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen.” [emphasis mine] []

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 []