Video: Leonard Cohen’s Elegy For Janis Joplin – Chelsea Hotel #1 (Tel Aviv 1972)

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The Once-Unmade Bed In Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel Room

On a trip to New York last month, Mel Joss made a pilgrimage to Room 424 of the Chelsea Hotel, where Leonard Cohen was one of the many famous artists and writers in residence,1  In planning the posting of the photos Mel took during this expedition, I came to realize that these images could be used to best effect as elements in a video of Chelsea Hotel #1, the version of the Chelsea Hotel song before it became Chelsea Hotel #2.

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The Chelsea Hotel #1 Video, Leonard Cohen & Janis Joplin

The video features the audio recording of the first version of Chelsea Hotel from Leonard Cohen’s 1972 concert in Tel Aviv2 complemented by images of Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin (whose liaison with Cohen at the Chelsea Hotel led to the creation of the song), the Chelsea Hotel, and other people and places associated with the song.

In part, this video is offered in support of my contention that thematically Chelsea Hotel #1 is  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 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.

In the second version, the listener’s knowledge of the identity of Janis Joplin is decidedly less important to experiencing the full impact of he song, which could indeed be the reason Leonard Cohen revised Chelsea Hotel #1 – to make the music more universal and less a biographic tribute to a specific individual.

Leonard Cohen – Chelsea Hotel #1
Tel Aviv: April 19, 1972
Video by Allan Showalter

Credit Due Department: Photo atop this post by Chris Goldberg. Photo of Leonard Cohen’s room by Mel Joss.

Note: Originally posted Aug 1, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
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  1. Cohen actually stayed in several different rooms but none longer or more frequently than #424. []
  2. The video mistakenly lists the song as part of the April 20, 1972 concert in Jerusalem; it is actually from the April 19, 1972 concert in Tel Aviv. []

11 Replies to “Video: Leonard Cohen’s Elegy For Janis Joplin – Chelsea Hotel #1 (Tel Aviv 1972)”

  1. Gill Keys

    Have already posted this to “I Need A regular dose of Leonard Cohen”, Allan. Not heard it before – thought it was brilliant! And appropriate since the Chelsea Hotel closed on Sunday…..

    1. Walt G.

      I WAS BROUGHT UP ON CLASSICAL MUCIC, AND REGRETFULLY MISSED THE ROCK AND ROLL PERIOD…I HEARD LEONARD COHEN ON NATIONAL PUBLIC TV IN LONDON AND NOW HAE BOUGHT 5 COPIES FOR FRIENDS…MY WIFE WHO WAS A BALLET DANCER FOR THE NY BALLET, AND I LISTEN TO IT AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK, HE IS HOLY….

  2. mel joss

    I have to admit…I have never heard version #1.

    The clips you selected meshed perfectly with the song. Your talents are relentless! Thanks.

  3. Tom Kennedy

    I was just listening to this today and thought of how different it is thematically, and there you are writing about it.

    Dr H Guy <3

  4. Caspar

    Hi! I have known this recording for quite some time now, it is truly one of the bootleg treasures. Anyway, this is a recording from the april 19, 1972 Tel Aviv concert and not the april 20, 1972 Jerusalem concert. Thought you might want to know. Great blog! Thanks.

    1. DrHGuy Post author

      That is correct. The video mistakenly lists the song as part of the April 20, 1972 concert in Jerusalem; it is actually from the April 19, 1972 concert in Tel Aviv. I’ve made corrections in the copy of the post and the YouTube blurb. Thanks for the assist.