Songs For Rebecca – The Lost Leonard Cohen Album: The Songs

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Songs For Rebecca – The Lost Leonard Cohen Album

This is the third and final post in the Songs For Rebecca – The Lost Leonard Cohen Album series.1 Previous posts include a discussion of the name of the project, i.e., Songs For Rebecca, was previously published at Leonard Cohen’s Abandoned Album – Songs For Rebecca: Who’s Rebecca? and Collaborator John Lissauer On The Project, How It Began, & How It Ended. This post examines and offers live performances of the tracks recorded for this project.

The Songs Of Songs For Rebecca

Determining which songs were destined for Songs For Rebecca is not an easy task. Lists vary from one source to another, some songs were written specifically for the project, some were revisions of previously recorded songs, the names of some songs changed when they were re-worked later…

William Ruhlmann, writing in The Stranger Music of Leonard Cohen (Goldmine, February 19, 1993) describes the tracks recorded for Songs For Rebecca – and offers support for “The Lost Leonard Cohen Album” part of the title of this series:

After the album’s [the album was New Skin For The Old Ceremony] release, Cohen and Lissauer began work on a new album that has never been released. “We did, I’d say, a side and a half,” Cohen recalls, “I mean, six or seven songs together. I don’t know why I squelched that. It just didn’t have the… It had some great tunes on it, and I finally used one of them, “Came So Far From Beauty,’ on a record [1979’s Recent Songs]. But there were lots of tunes. There was ‘Guerrero,’ that nobody’s ever heard or seen, but we did it on the tour and recorded it. There was an early song called ‘Anthem,’ no relation to this ‘Anthem’ [on The Future]. I can’t find the thing, I can’t find the tapes of it.”

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  1. A more precise title might be “Songs For Rebecca – The Abandoned Leonard Cohen Album” – but “Lost Album” is more dramatic and, as it turns out, accurate as well. But, more about that later in this post. []

Leonard Cohen On Mick Jagger & The Rolling Stones “The bread and wine of the pop groups” (1974)

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I met Mick Jagger once in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel and he said, ‘Are you in New York for a poetry reading?’ There’s some of their songs I like very much. I think it’s wonderful the phenomenon of the Rolling Stones – the figure of Mick Jagger. They are the bread and wine of the pop groups. I was a little bit older than other people when I came into contact with these figures, and I’d already had my mind blown by older and much more outrageous people that I’d met in my youth, so I wasn’t about to succumb to the kind of fever that they produce in younger people. But I’ve always admired them from the slightly humourous point of view. I never did seriously ask myself if Mick Jagger was the Devil. But I think as figures they’re mighty interesting.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen Interview: September 15, 1974 by Robin Pike (ZigZag, Oct 1974). Photo By Bert Verhoeff (ANEFO) – gahetNA (Nationaal Archief NL): Rolling Stones concert in Zuiderpark te Den Haag, Mick Jagger in aktie, Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Fotocollectie Anefo, 2.24.01.05 928-6120., CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Also see Leonard Cohen on Mick Jagger In 1993 “He’s saying something that is heavy & beautiful, and he’s saying it beautifully”

“That’s my theme: It’s a mess – thank God.” Leonard Cohen

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One idea on [The Future] is that the human predicament has no solution. We were tossed out of the garden; this isn’t paradise. And to look for perfect solutions is a very difficult burden to bear. That’s my theme: It’s a mess – thank God.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From 7 Reasons Leonard Cohen Is the Next-Best Thing to God by David Browne. Entertainment Weekly, Jan 8, 1993.

Video From Oana Maria Cajal: If I Didn’t Have Your Love – Dedicated To Leonard Cohen, Love And Salvation

Oana Maria Cajal, whose evocative, Leonard Cohen-themed videos have been cherished features at Cohencentric and its predecessor sites, offers this Picto Video dedicated to Leonard, Love and Salvation.

All posted Cajal videos can be found at Oana Maria Cajal on Cohencentric .

Q: Do you enjoy the process of writing itself? Leonard Cohen: “I feel very distant when I’m doing it. I feel like there’s someone across the room who is very diligently filling in the blanks of a questionnaire. It’s hard.”

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From Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead (and other things I learned from famous people) by Neil Strauss (The Truth About Lies: July 9, 2011). Image from back cover of Flowers for Hitler by Leonard Cohen, Jonathan Cape (UK): 1973. Photo by Sophie Baker.

“I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best” Leonard Cohen Talks About That Line From Chelsea Hotel #2

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Leonard Cohen Explains “I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best”

Because time also is a degree in the estimation of love

Leonard Cohen

The quotation is part of Leonard Cohen’s discussion of the nature of the his relationship with Janis Joplin portrayed in his song, “Chelsea Hotel #2.” The interview is found in “The Song Of Leonard Cohen” by Harry Rasky (1979).

That key line from the final version of Chelsea Hotel, “I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best,” and, indeed, the entire final verse on which the sense of the song turns, is absent from Chelsea Hotel #1.

I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can’t keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
that’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.

In contradistinction to the confession, “I don’t even think of you that often,”  the final verse of Chelsea Hotel #1, as it was played by Cohen in Tel Aviv in 1972,1 is a reluctant leave-taking:

Making your sweet little sound, I can hear you now
So, into the jukebox [?], choose your records
Listen all night now
Making your sweet little sound, baby,

Making your sweet little sound on the jukebox.
Guess I got nothing more to say to you, baby
I mean – so long, gotta leave you,
Little sound

This is in keeping with my contention, previously presented at Video: Leonard Cohen’s Elegy For Janis Joplin – Chelsea Hotel #1 (Tel Aviv 1972), that Chelsea Hotel #1 is thematically a much different song than Chelsea Hotel #2:

Chelsea Hotel #1  focuses on the death of the singer’s (i.e., Leonard Cohen’s) lover (i.e., Janis Joplin), with whom the singer identifies primarily  as an admired fellow artist and colleague and only secondarily as an object of affection or, at least, of reciprocated lust.  In Chelsea Hotel #2, the situation is reversed with the key issue becoming the  singer’s unambiguous  examination of his own feelings for and perception of the woman at the Chelsea Hotel – even if doing so results in an ignoble self-characterization.

Chelsea Hotel #2, in fact, aligns well with other Leonard Cohen songs that mark the end of  a romance, such as So Long, Marianne and Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye, with unflinching observations on the psychological factors causing him to flee the relationship.

But in comparing Chelsea Hotel #1 and Chelsea Hotel #2, the kicker is that Cohen is kinder to and much more sentimental about the Janis Joplin of Chelsea Hotel #1, a singer “making a sweet little sound,” than he is to the Janis Joplin of Chelsea Hotel #2, a lover who affectionately jokes with Cohen (“You told me again you preferred handsome men/but for me you would make an exception”).  He is also – and, not incidentally – far less protective of himself in the second version.

Leonard Cohen On Chelsea Hotel #2 (1979)
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Chelsea Hotel #1

The video of Chelsea Hotel #1 and an earlier discussion of the differences between the two versions of Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel song can be found at Video: Leonard Cohen’s Elegy For Janis Joplin – Chelsea Hotel #1 (Tel Aviv 1972)

Also See “I remember you well at the Chelsea Hotel / That’s all. I don’t think of you that often” Leonard Cohen Talks About The Final Lines Of Chelsea Hotel #2

Photo of Janis Joplin by Columbia Records (Billboard page 5) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Leonard Cohen by Peter Brosseau/Library and Archives Canada/PA-170174. Originally posted Aug 16, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. There is no standard version of Chelsea Hotel #1.  Leonard Cohen repeatedly changed the lyrics and rearranged the order of the verses in performances. []