Sew Me The Place: How To Get An Interview With Leonard Cohen And Get Into His Hotel Room… And Get Him Out Of His Pants – But “No Hanky-Panky”

Elizabeth Boleman-Herring reveals how she garnered an interview with Leonard Cohen, not because she was a “native speaker [of Greek],” not because she had “two degrees in American Lit [and] all Cohen’s books and records, had been a student of poet Coleman Barks, the great translator of Rumi, and was a published poet” nor because she “could quote Leonard’s lyrics back to him . . . and make sense of them.” Nope, she got the interview because she was packing a needle and thread – and wasn’t afraid to use them.

Alone among the hacks there that day, I was a native speaker. Alone among them, I had two degrees in American Lit, all Cohen’s books and records, had been a student of poet Coleman Barks, the great translator of Rumi, and was a published poet, myself. Alone among them, I could quote Leonard’s lyrics back to him . . . and make sense of them. I could parse him.

But that’s not what got me my exclusive, three-day-long interview with Leonard Cohen.

Instead, it was the fact that, alone among those talking-all-over-one-another scribes, I had a needle and thread in my purse . . . and Leonard’s brand-new suit pants were split (they’d never been sewn, in fact) right up the seat. After he spoke to the crowd, I made my way through the throng, needle and black thread proffered.

“You’re going to want to talk to me.”

“Oh?”

“Mr. Cohen, your pants are split right up the back seam.”

“Can you come up to my room? Now?”

“Of course. With my tape recorder? And, I know you: no hanky-panky?”

A weary smile.

And so, it began. The interview that went on for three days, and certain innocent intervals of three nights. Plus one mega-concert at Athens’s Lycabettus Theater.

From My Long-Overdue Love Letter to Leonard Cohen by Elizabeth Boleman-Herring (Huffington Post, July 2, 2012)

What’s the greatest challenge of [being Leonard Cohen’s musical director & bassist]? Roscoe Beck: “Remaining vigilant! No matter how many times we may have played a particular song, anything about that song could change, at any time—and probably will!”

Roscoe Beck and Leonard Cohen

What’s the greatest challenge of the gig [serving as musical director and bassist for Leonard Cohen] for you?

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Remaining vigilant! No matter how many times we may have played a particular song, anything about that song could change, at any time—and probably will! Remaining focused and in the moment is always important, but on this gig, it is absolutely essential. Another challenge is singing background vocals. In the role of bassist I’m usually comfortable and confident, so onstage I often focus more on the challenge of my vocal parts, doing my best to ensure they’re in pitch and blending well. Overall, if my performance never stands out in a particularly obvious way, I’m probably doing my job well.quotedown2

Roscoe Beck

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From Roscoe Beck: Words and Music with Leonard Cohen by Chris Jisi. BassPlayer: July 1, 2013. The entire article, an intriguing read, can be accessed at the link. Photo atop post by Maarten Massa. Second photo by Mandy MacLeod. Thanks to Linda Sturgess, who alerted me to this article.

“These are more than songs. These are prayers.” Bob Dylan On Leonard Cohen’s Various Positions Album

From Episode 6 Leonard Cohen, A 1992 Archival Interview by Paul Zollo (The Great Song Adventure: July 10, 2018)

The Cohen-Dylan Interface

All posts about Leonard Cohen’s & Bob Dylan’s opinions of each other, their meetings, and comparisons by others can be found at

“I will remember this concert for the rest of my days” – Uwe Schrade On The 2013 Leonard Cohen Berlin Concert

Uwe Schrade of Switzerland writes about the July 17, 2013 Leonard Cohen show in Berlin:

Just back from Berlin…. what an incredible night we had!

After Hamburg, which was (from my point of view) an outstanding performance from Leonard and all of the band members, I wouldn’t – no, I thought – I couldn’t expect more ….

But last night, Leonard delivered a touching, very warm, very exciting evening!
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“Surface ambiguity is transformed into ultimate, if fleeting, comprehension: comprehension of the bewitching nuances of sex and bewildering assaults of culture.” Tom Robbins On Leonard Cohen

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Cohen is a master of the quasi-surrealistic phrase, of the ‘illogical’ line that speaks so directly to the unconscious that surface ambiguity is transformed into ultimate, if fleeting, comprehension: comprehension of the bewitching nuances of sex and bewildering assaults of culture.quotedown2

Tom Robbins

From booklet of “Tower of Song,” a 1996 tribute album

Suitcases, Trains, & The Pied Piper of Hamelin – Dominique Issermann On Making Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan Video

Interviewer: You have made clips for … “First We Take Manhattan” …

Dominique Issermann: [Leonard Cohen] had asked me. I first tried to understand what this last song was saying – “First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin” – and I imagined this guy, a kind of charismatic leader who could lure the crowds, as the Pied Piper of Hamelin. This clip is a bit like that: he draws them after him, everyone drops their suitcases. In the end, he leaves them on the beach and these people go to nowhere, without anything.

Interviewer: There are also pictures of a train …

Dominique Issermann: Do you think of the trains that deported the Jews? I do not have a lot of Jewish culture, unlike Leonard who was raised in the Hebrew religion, but we did not talk about this train story at all. I was looking for ideas. But in Trouville there is a train. I like the station platforms, and I wanted the girl to be on a train at some  point. All this is very spontaneous, they are layers of images that are superimposed. But that surely makes sense …

Interviewer: The train, the suitcases, the beach, these characters in cloaks with just a suitcase going to nothingness: you could not avoid thinking about the deportation …

Dominique Issermann: You’re absolutely right: that’s what I thought, but I did not know it … When, at the beginning of the shoot, Leonard asked me, “What are we going to do?”, I told him replied, laughing: “Don’t worry, it’s a Jewish program, we’ll take you from Berlin and you’ll go to Manhattan, and we’ll go the other way!” But strangely I never thought precisely: well, we’ll put trains and suitcases. The suitcase is very present in my universe. I did a lot of pictures with people who carry them. Okay, that’s my legacy. But when people tell me, “Oh yes, you’re half Jewish,” I say, “No, I’m half non-Jewish.” But here, I realize that it is not so simple …

Interviewer: These suitcases also referred to the nomadism of your couple …

Dominique Issermann: Leonard is very attached to suitcases, he has an impressive collection. These are always the ones I bought him a long time ago, and that he still carries around. All brand Globe-Trotter, navy blue or black, cardboard or fiber, old-fashioned suitcases, with straps. He was still on his last tour, completely fucked. He said, “Look, maybe we should buy some more …”

Leonard Cohen – First We Take Manhattan
Promo video: 1988

Also See: Then We Take Trouville: Making Of The Leonard Cohen-Dominique Issermann First We Take Manhattan Music Video

From Ma vie avec Leonard Cohen : “Je l’ai entendu travailler deux ans sur ‘Hallelujah’” par François Armanet et Bernard Loupias (L’Obs: Nov 11, 2016). Interview originally published in “Le Nouvel Observateur” of January 26, 2012. Excerpt via computer translation with assistance from Coco Éclair. Images are screenshots from the First We Take Manhattan Video.

“I knew in that moment clearer than any other that this was the road I wanted to follow, to write songs to sing them in rooms around the world and to always recall and pass on that generosity however and wherever I could.” Glen Hansard On Meeting Leonard Cohen

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Leonard Cohen shaped the way I listen to the words in music. I remember being bathed in the kitchen sink on the eve of my 5th birthday, my mother teaching me the lyrics of Bird On The Wire, lifting the needle over and over to replace it back near a lyric I couldn’t quite grasp: ‘Like a drunk in a midnight choir / I have tried in my way to be free.’ This became my favorite line. The song was a prayer, simple and honest, and something in that naked truth transcended everything. Fast forward eight years and I am listening to Famous Blue Raincoat in the living room, a thirteen-year-old with a guitar somehow figuring out the basic chords and playing along over and over trying to find the finger-style and never quite getting it. ‘New York is cold / But I like where I’m living.’ When I first visited New York 10 years later I looked for Clinton St. It was summer, but I still felt the chill of that November night of the song. When touring Various Positions in 1985, Leonard came to Dublin. He played two shows at the National Stadium, both on the same day, of which for my cousin and I had tickets for the 5pm matinee show. We were both very excited, getting on the queue as early as possible. By the time Leonard and the band entered the stage we were soaring with the feeling and during ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ my older cousin, who had been hit by a car the year before and developed severe epilepsy, had a seizure. It caused some disturbance in the crowd and we could hear Leonard’s voice from the stage, asking ‘is that boy ok?’ As we were being led to the exit by John’s Ambulance a kind man with a tour pass told us that if my cousin was declared ‘ok’ at the hospital, we were welcome to return as guests to the evening show. This was the most exciting news by far and we literally ran down to the hospital where my cousin quickly swallowed the pill given by a nurse, and we ran back to join the queue once more. Leonard’s set was incredible: the generosity of his storytelling, the amazing musicians. Songs we well knew had different arrangements and we were all taken on ride through them that we will never forget. The highlight of the night for me was a story about Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel in New York. She was looking for Kris Kristofferson and Leonard who was sharing the elevator with her had said ‘My dear, I am Kris Kristofferson’ after which they were brief lovers. Of course he then played Chelsea Hotel No. 2. By the time the show ended we’d been transported, we loved him more than ever. As we got up to leave the man with the tour pass came to us and asked us to wait just a few minutes more. Just as the stadium had emptied and we were fretting after the last bus home, Leonard appeared from the sidelines and came to say a brief hello. We couldn’t believe this! He shook my cousin’s hand and asked him how he felt, then turned and shook mine. I’ll never forget that soft firm hand, his humanity. I knew in that moment clearer than any other that this was the road I wanted to follow, to write songs to sing them in rooms around the world and to always recall and pass on that generosity however and wherever I could. We missed the bus and floated all the way home singing his songs. Thank you, Leonard, for so many nights alone in my head with your songs and lovers, your Joan of Arcs, your thin green candles, Nancy long ago, your stories of the street, your immaculate poetry… and most of all your lessons of humanity. Thank you for making the loneliness sexy somehow.quotedown2

Glen Hansard

 

Leonard Cohen: He’s our man (Irish Times: Nov 11, 2016). Photo by Niccolò Caranti – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikipedia.

Breaking The Wishbone – Leonard Cohen’s Poem For Marianne: “I wanted / you to get / the bigger part / because / I’m so happy / anyway”

Breaking The Wishbone
From Leonard Cohen To Marianne

I wanted
you to get
the bigger part
because
I’m so happy
anyway

From So Long, Marianne: A Love Story (English edition) by Kari Hesthamar.