Leonard Cohen’s “Byronic Bullfrog” Response & Other Delights From 1985 Boston Show

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New Songs & Intriguing Stage Banter: Leonard Cohen At Berklee Performance Center 1985

The May 4, 1985 Leonard Cohen Concert at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston is an extraordinary enjoyable an interesting albeit little-known show. While the only available recording is far from pristine, it is sufficient unto our needs. I have chosen a few excerpts from the concert for your listening pleasure. (The transcriptions are from a bootleg site no longer online with several corrections by Alan Mawhinney.)

Dr Heck How About That Note: Anjani Thomas attended the Berklee College of Music. Leanne Ungar is an Associate Professor in the Music Production and Engineering department at Berklee.

Leonard Cohen – Byronic Bullfrog

Note: The review referenced by Leonard Cohen is Pop/Rock: Leonard Cohen At Walnut Street Theater by Ken Tucker The Philadelphia Inquirer: May 1, 1985; more about this review at the link.

Before A Singer Must Die

 

Thank you very much. It’s been a long time since I played in this country, and it is a real pleasure to be able to understand… understand the reviews that I get for the concerts. I read my first American review in ten years the other night after my very first concert in this country in Philadelphia. And then it’s genuine wit. I say this without any sense of irony. The first half of the column he reviewed my suit. I’m going to relate this news to my tailor. But I bear no grudge. He also called me a ‘Byronic bullfrog’. That man has his finger at the very heart of things.

Leonard Cohen Defies Curfew & Changes Tennessee Waltz

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Leonard Cohen Fluffs, Then, “Like Any Real Man,” Restarts Closing Time – Victoria 2013

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At March 6, 2013 Victoria Concert, Leonard Cohen Is Funny, Bawdy, And – When He Errs – Gracious

The first set passed much like the previous young days of this tour and the second set is where the laughs begin. As per the congregation in Oakland, Victorians shower the master pianist with praise for his tinkerings in Tower of Song. The response from a stunned Leonard: ‘Are you humouring me? Taking advantage of an older chap?’ Anyhow is ‘got’ here in Victoria; the bawdy number fosters wolf-whistles and hoots from the islanders who also revelled in the lines from I’m Your Man: ‘If you want a doctor, I’ll examine every precious inch of you.’ It’s likely each one of us in the venue was stunned at the rarest of occurrences, the full-on stop of Closing Time; early in the song, Leonard seemed to fluff the lyrics and like any real man who takes his medicine, halted proceedings; from the top and with a grin the song was restarted to a flawless finish with I Tried to Leave You.

From Mar 6: Victoria, Show Day by Leif Bodnarchuk. Posted March 7, 2013 at No Ideas.

This was not the first time Leonard Cohen re-started a song in concert. See Leonard Cohen Restarts Song Twice In Concert So It’s “Sung Right” – Glasgow 1972 & Louisville 2013

Originally posted March 7, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Webb Sisters Talk About Touring With Leonard Cohen & Sing You Were Always On My Mind & Missing Person

Good Morning, it’s freezing in this country
Leonard Cohen’s morning greeting to tour musicians regardless of location or date

This program, first broadcast Feb 2, 2014, can be heard at Sundays With Miriam

Note: Originally posted February 7, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Up Close & Personal With Leonard Cohen 2005: The Lifestyle Of The Once Well Off & Kind Of Famous

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The Music Icon At Home

The primary story attached to the now famous, emblematic “Devastated” cover of the Aug 17, 2005 issue Maclean’s, A ‘Devastated’ Leonard Cohen by Katherine Macklem, explored the financial catastrophe that befell the Canadian singer-songwriter.

As the article put it:

He [Leonard Cohen] discovered last fall that his retirement funds, which he had thought amounted to more than $5 million (all figures U.S.), had been reduced to $150,000.

Today’s post, however, focuses on a supplemental story in that same issue of Maclean’s, Up Close And Personal by Brian D. Johnson, which affords an insight into Leonard Cohen’s day to day life at home.

The simplicity of Cohen’s digs and his personal preferences are striking, especially in contrast to the contemporary press references to his “extravagant ‘celebrity’ lifestyle.”

Credit Due Department: The scans from Maclean’s were contributed by Dominique BOILE. Photo of Leonard Cohen’s Montreal home by Lilian Graziani.

Originally posted February 21, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I assumed it was a mashup of Synclavier-era Frank Zappa with Leonard Cohen singing on top” Artists Talk About Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man Album

Leonard Cohen’s ‘I’m Your Man’ Album Turns 30: Artists Reflect on the ‘Dark,’ ‘Cheesy’ Masterpiece by Ron Hart (Billboard: Feb 2, 2018). I’ve excerpted one sample below, but the entire article is a worthwhile read and is available at the link.

Eric Slick, Dr. Dog

My friend Dave Dreiwitz (Ween) played I’m Your Man for me on a long drive through New Hope, PA. I thought it sounded wild. I had never heard his earlier acoustic stuff so I just assumed he was making songs like that all along. I recently heard “Jazz Police” at a thrift store and I assumed it was a mashup of Synclavier-era Frank Zappa with Leonard Cohen singing on top. I guess I forgot what “Jazz Police” really sounded like. I chortled for the entirety of that song. What a great tune. I think Leonard Cohen is kind of like Captain Beefheart or Laurie Anderson. As artists we almost look to them to ask, “Is it okay to make a record that sounds like this?” They’re the trailblazers, they pave the way. They allow the lesser artists to potentially make safer, albeit more financially successful records. Those lesser records carry the influence and help popularize the germ of the idea. I also have a low singing voice, so Leonard gives me hope that maybe one day somebody will write a thinkpiece about how low singing is under-appreciated. I look through Leonard’s work all the time and try to pay attention to the annotated Genius lyrics. It’s good to get into the rhythm of other people’s lyrics when you’re writing. I’ve also been thinking about I’m Your Man lately, and how i’m gonna steal a lot of those cheesy production techniques for my next record. I’m also a painfully slow writer, as was Leonard. I’m also Jewish. There’s so much we have in common, except he’s a brilliant poet, and I’m some doofus writing about how much I admire him as a fanatic. Can someone tell me where he was buying his suits, though? That’s the real burning question.

“[Jazz Police] felt surreal while I was writing it–the choruses were trying to wiggle away from being crushed by the boot of judgment” Leonard Cohen

In the Soviet Union, there’s the KGB; in our country there’s the RCMP; in the USA, there’s the FBI. But above all these agencies there’s a superagency called the “Jazz Police.”They govern everything; they rule everything; they are behind every plot and every resolution. This is my homage to them.

Leonard Cohen
Toronto: Nov 9, 19881

This next song [Jazz Police] is a very curious song. I hope you will forgive me for indulging in some augmented fifths and diminished ninths. I know that I am only supposed to use three chords, but sometimes the devil just gets hold of me.

Leonard Cohen
Portland: Oct 28, 19882

Jazz Police: The Least Loved Leonard Cohen Song?

According to another of my incredibly unscientific yet uncannily accurate surveys, Jazz Police is the Leonard Cohen Song Most Likely To Be Loathed On The I’m Your Man Album. Regardless, today’s celebration of the release of that album affords an opportunity to present this rarely heard tune.

In a thoughtful analysis of Jazz Police, Fragmented Absurdity: An Analysis Of Leonard Cohen’s Jazz Police,3 Jason Murray describes the origins of the song:

In an interview in Musician Cohen gives the story. It began during the making of the record Recent Songs when he worked with the fusion group Passenger. Often the band would sneak bits of jazz riffs into the songs, which Cohen admitted he had to watch out for. Between Cohen and the band grew an understanding that if he caught them playing jazz riffs (augmented fifths or sevenths is the example he gives) he would call them on it. Initially he was himself the jazz police! The intent was to then take the idea of a ‘jazz police’ and let it run on into some type of fruition, be it absurdity or full expression. It took 9 years (1979-1988) for the song to develop and be recorded; a testament to Cohen’s well know practice of working and reworking pieces of poetry and songs in time consuming detail

When Anjani Thomas, who herself describes Jazz Police as “kind of Manhattan Transfer-meets-Star Trek,” asked Leonard Cohen to “clarify it,” his response was that

‘Jazz Police’ is a lighthearted look in the post-modernist style, on judgment of any kind in all art forms. I recall it felt surreal while I was writing it–the choruses were trying to wiggle away from being crushed by the boot of judgment.

As Anjani concludes, “I sure hope that clears it up for all you fans out there.”4

Leonard Cohen – Jazz Police
Austin City Limits: 1988

Originally posted February 2, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. Source: Diamonds In The Lines []
  2. Source: Diamonds In The Lines []
  3. Source: LeonardCohenFiles []
  4. Source: Interview With Anjani Thomas accessed at Speaking Cohen [No longer online] []