Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: Dark Side of the Gym By The National

The National – Dark Side of the Gym

“Just dance me to the dark side of the gym”

From Memories by Leonard Cohen

 is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. While most of the songs already posted in this category have been about Leonard Cohen and others name-check the Canadian singer-songwriter, today’s selection is the second entry that is built around one of his songs (the first was The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song By Jeffrey Lewis). Dark Side of the Gym, the title of a track on The National’s Sleep Well Beast album, refers to “Just dance me to the dark side of the gym,” a line from Memories, released on Leonard Cohen’s 1977 Death Of A Ladies’ Man. The melody and song structure of Dark Side of the Gym is also reminiscent of Cohen’s song.

Matt Berninger, frontman of The National, talks about Leonard Cohen in this excerpt from The National’s Super-Political Love Songs by Spencer Kornhaber *Atlantic: Sep 8, 2017)

Kornhaber: Speaking of sex being at the the core of all our dark desires: Leonard Cohen. You have a reference to him with the song title “Dark Side of the Gym.” What do you take from him?

Berninger: He wrote about sex, he wrote about God, he wrote about politics, all within the same verse. And they all were these beautiful, personal little stories. Everything feels so humongous, but then they also have all these little details.

“Famous Blue Raincoat” is the one I go back to just because it’s like The Great Gatsby or Lolita. That song has so many little details—about a house in the desert, and a lock of hair, and all this kind of stuff—but it’s so big. That song is just a giant, complex story that I don’t quite understand.

He’s one of 20 songwriters that I steal from. Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave—people like that really go right to the most sensitive parts of the skin. Which are the wires that are frayed and sparking? Those are the ones they’ll put their wet hand on. Because they just have to. It’s the only wire in the room that matters, the one that might burn the place down.

Posts about Leonard Cohen’s Memories can be found at Cohencentric: Memories.

Photo by Thepeoplesuck at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia Commons

2 Replies to “Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: Dark Side of the Gym By The National”

  1. Philip

    Matt Berninger also sings “the poor they leave their cellphones in the bathrooms of the rich” in Turtleneck, which I see as a variation of the line from Tower of Song “The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor”.