“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
This is the official promotional photo sent by Warner Bros. Records in October 1977 for the promotion of “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
- I am a tad disappointed the description doesn’t mention the plaid shirt peeking out from the bomber jacket. [↩]
- The photo atop this post is from Dominique [↩]
- Dominique also affirms that the name of the photographer and the date of this picture are not given. [↩]
- Actually, Dalhousie University [↩]
- 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. [↩]