Striking Video: Leonard Cohen Performs Tower Of Song – Adelaide 2013

Well, my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on
I’m just paying my rent every day in the Tower of Song

Leonard Cohen – Tower Of Song
Adelaide: Dec 11, 2013
Video by by alanm5049

Note: Originally posted Dec 12, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen’s Gateway To Roy Orbison: Jennifer Warnes At Black & White Night

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“Make it like Roy Orbison would do it”
~ Leonard Cohen

That Leonard Cohen held Roy Orbison in high regard is a certainty, as evidenced by this excerpt from Various Positions – A Life Of Leonard Cohen by Ira Nadel (Random House of Canada 1996):

In rehearsal [for the 1988 tour] Cohen would tell the band to ‘make it like Roy Orbison would do it.’ The musicians had a picture of Orbison pasted into their chart folder.

And, as noted in Roy Orbison’s “House Without Windows” (Or Hank Williams’ “House Without Love”) Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox, #6 on Leonard Cohen’s Top Ten Songs Of 1988 list is “House Without Love” by  Roy Orbison.1

It’s significant that these two Leonard Cohen references to Roy Orbison, both dated 1988, are the only allusions the Lord Byron of Rock ‘n’ Roll made to the Big O I found – until I came across a Jan 30, 2017 article about the re-release of Roy Orbison’s Black & White Night video.

Jennifer Warnes Explains How Roy Orbison’s Black & White Night Impacted Leonard Cohen’s Music

Jennifer Warnes was one of the friends at Roy Orbison’s September 30, 1987 Black & White Night With Friends performance. Her entire account of the event, including Jackson Browne inviting her to participate and her work with T Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello, k.d. lang, and Bonnie Raitt, is a treat to read (and the full article is available at the link below), but the focus of this post is on the influence this experience ultimately had on Leonard Cohen. The following excerpts are pertinent:2

“I told Leonard he needed to be there [at the Black & White Show], because I knew it would be good. He was my friend and my ticket, …  I remember where Leonard was sitting, and Rebecca De Mornay [who was briefly engaged to Cohen] was there…

“In studying Anita Kerr’s arrangements I began to understand how to support a pop record with stacking, and what that does to a song…  She [Warnes]  contrasts stacking (“a slang term generally used in the recording studio, when one singer can compose an arrangement and then sing all the parts in layers”) with the process of “my generation of recording artists, who lowered the costs and risks of recording live by multi-tracking or overdubbing. Meanwhile, digital technology can now ‘clone’ vocals: Virtual choirs can be constructed by an engineer through ‘cut and paste’ technology–infinite construction [such that] the live, real, spirited force in the room when music is created live, is absent.”

A week after the show, then, Cohen, “like he usually did,” sent Warnes a number of new songs to go over and make suggestions. He must have been deeply impressed by the show and was very respectful of Roy afterwards,” she says. “I picked what I thought I had something strong to add to, including ‘Tower of Song’–but didn’t tell him I was taking the information I learned from Anita Kerr and applying it. When he showed up at the studio I told him he probably wasn’t going to like what I did, but to give me a chance. I’d layered up three or four voices on ‘Tower,’ and he just loved it and ended up going with that approach for many years. He was hooked on the idea of making his recordings sound more pop.” [emphasis mine]

So, while it seems safe to assume that Leonard Cohen, the aficionado of jukebox tunes and country music radio, must have been aware of Roy Orbison prior to 1987, it appears that Jennifer Warnes and the 1987 Black & White Night were the catalysts that led Cohen to Orbisize some of his songs and make his “recordings sound more pop.”

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  1. Leonard Cohen – In Eigenen Worten by Jim Devlin []
  2. With Roy Orbison’s landmark all-star ‘Black & White Night’ long form video being re-released in new format, Jennifer Warnes reveals its influence on Leonard Cohen by Jim Bessman (Centerline: January 30, 2017) []

“I’ll be speaking to you sweetly From a window in the Tower of Song” Marianne Faithfull’s Tribute To Leonard Cohen

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Marianne Faithfull opened her Nov 25, 2016 Paris Bataclan show with Leonard Cohen’s Tower Of Song in tribute to the Canadian singer-songwriter, who died earlier this month.

Credit Due Department: Contributed by CHEMA of Barcelona

The Five Funniest Leonard Cohen Music Videos: 4. I’m Your Man & 5. Tower Of Song – Swedish TV 1988

swedtv

The Five Funniest Leonard Cohen Music Videos

The humor of these videos starring Leonard Cohen, aka Poet Laureate Of Pessimism, aka High Priest Of Pathos, aka Master Of Erotic Despair, aka Gloom Merchant, …1 is, one hopes, self-evident so only minimal annotations have been added. Today’s post features the #4 and #5 funniest videos; all posts in this series can be found at

The Criteria:

  1. The videos must feature Leonard Cohen in a professionally staged and directed performance intended to be viewed in the video medium.
  2. Videos of live performances, such as concerts, are ineligible.
  3. Home-brewed cut and paste videos, Leonard Cohen impersonations, and parodies are ineligible.
  4. “Funniest” includes funny-ha ha, funny-weird, and combinations of both.

5. Tower Of Song (Swedish TV 1988)

I will stipulate that entries #5 and #4 may well be more fun than funny. That specified, I stand by their rankings in this category. For details, see Videos: Leonard Cohen Sung To, Danced With, Fondled By Perla Batalla & Julie Christensen On Swedish TV from which this excerpt is taken:

This video of Leonard Cohen and backup singers, Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen, performing “Tower Of Song” was also part of the 29/30 June 1988 episode of Jacob’s Backstage (Med Noje Pa Dalaro) Stockholm, Sweden [see #4 below] and was also incongruously set against the backdrop of a pleasant lake.

While the action lacks the fondling that was the keynote of the “I’m Your Man” production, Perla Batalla’s never-shifting gaze fixed on Cohen and Julie Christensen’s dreamy look with sometimes closed and sometimes half-closed eyes are sufficiently provocative.

 

4. I’m Your Man (Swedish TV 1988)

Again, for details, see Videos: Leonard Cohen Sung To, Danced With, Fondled By Perla Batalla & Julie Christensen On Swedish TV from which this excerpt is taken:

While all the obligatory flirtatious adoration of his back-up singers/willing accomplices associated with the salaciously provocative “I’m Your Man” is, other than the song itself, the high point of the video, at least two other tiny gems adorn this production.

1. I’d Say Please, Too: Just after 2:30 Leonard Cohen does his Roscoe Beck imitation, echoing his own “Pleeeeease.”

2. Someone Makes A Splash: At 1:54 a diver springs into the lake over Julie Christensen’s right shoulder. As a guide, the screen capture is shown below with the diver’s body circled in red and Photoshopped into high contrast.

Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man
Swedish TV: June 29/30, 1988
Video from Current Cohen (May be blocked in some countries)

Note: Originally posted Jun 24, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
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  1. There are plenty more nicknames where those came from – see Leonard Cohen, AKA … – The Nicknames []

Listen To Leonard Cohen Voice Of Experience Interview – NPR 1988

619px-Leonard_Cohen17b[Tower of Song is] one of the three or four real songs I’ve ever written
Leonard Cohen

This Leonard Cohen interview, given in support of his I’m Your Man album includes a discussion of specific tracks from the album, the significance of “experience” in the voice of the singer, poetry Vs songs, and the importance of interpreting “a song as a song” (at 5:26).

Leonard Cohen’s Voice Of Experience on Listen Now at NPR: April 09, 1988

Credit Due Department: Photo atop post by Roland Godefroy – Own work, CC BY 3.0, via Wikipedia