“I need some chocolate if I’m gonna do this.” Leonard Cohen, Working On Blue Alert With Anjani Thomas

Anjani tells of fueling the Leonard Cohen lyric-writing engine with candy during their work together on the Blue Alert album:

The song was No One After You, and we just needed one line to finish it so I could record it the next day:

I lived in many cities
from Paris to LA
I’ve known rags and riches

It was a bit tense as he paced back and forth. I sat at the piano and didn’t move, didn’t say a word. Then he finally said, “I need some chocolate if I’m gonna do this.”

That would have been milk chocolate, because he doesn’t like dark — and of course I always keep some around — so he ate a bar and about a minute later he came up with the line:

I’m a regular cliche

From personal communication with Anjani Thomas. (Anjani also used this anecdote with some minor differences in an interview with PureMusic.) Photo atop post by Dominique BOILE.

“I like to wake up alone, and she likes to be alone. We are both impossibly solitudinous people.” Leonard Cohen Explains Why He & Anjani Have Separate Bedrooms (2007)

From He Has Tried in His Way to Be Free by Sarah Hampson (Lion’s Roar: Nov 1, 2007). Photo by Dominique BOILE.

Leonard Cohen & Dominique Boile In Paris: 1993-2013


Leonard Cohen with Dominique Boile & friends (Dominique is third from left)- After 1993 Paris concert. Photo by Dominique Issermann.

Leonard Cohen In Paris By Dominique Boile

Note: The following text was written in 2014 for Here It Is – Letters To Leonard Cohen.1 I’ve added links to pertinent posts and Dominique’s photos.

Leonard Cohen once said:

My songs last about as long as a Volvo — about 30 years.

Leonard Cohen was wrong.

In 1971, when I was 15, I discovered his songs. Now, in 2014, I am 58, and I am still listening to his golden voice. Those first songs of his are nearly as old as I am. The songs Leonard Cohen released since 1967 are played all over the world every day and thousands come to his concerts to hear these songs. How many 1967 Volvos are running these days?

In the years to come, those of us alive now – including Leonard Cohen himself – will not be here. Will automobiles made by Volvo exist a hundred years from now? But Leonard’s songs live on!

I attended my first Leonard Cohen concert on September 7, 1974 in Paris. Since then, I’ve experienced that magic at nearly twenty of his shows, but my fondest memories are the four times I’ve met the man offstage.

On May 13, 1993, Leonard is on stage at Le Zenith in Paris, and I am in the audience. After the concert, there are 13 irrepressible Cohen fans – as many girls as boys – waiting two hours outside where the sweetness of the Parisian night makes us patient …

We see Carole Laure. Leonard, however, has not come out of the concert hall. We convince a member of the security service to let our man know that this group has only one desire: to meet him.

Finally, at 1:30 AM, Leonard, hand in hand with Dominique Issermann, arrives before us. So, Leonard Cohen – at 1:30 in the morning, after a long concert, with his lover and friends waiting for him – devotes half an hour to 13 young fans, talking to us, autographing albums, programs and whatever else we ask him to sign.

It was magic!

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  1. Here It Is – Letters To Leonard Cohen is a book presented to the Canadian singer-songwriter in celebration of his 80th birthday, comprising stories and essays by fans that put their experience of Cohen’s music into words. Kim Gorsuch, who has long admired Cohen, came up with the idea and organized the project, gathering the pieces and photos online for printing into a hardbound volume. []

“Unlike Leonard [Cohen], who diligently sits and writes/draws/composes every day, I’ll do anything to avoid work.” Anjani

I’m a procrastinator. Unlike Leonard, who diligently sits and writes/draws/composes every day, I’ll do anything to avoid work. Then, when the deadline looms — or worse — has passed, I go into a frenzied state of action and if I’m lucky, I pull a rabbit or two out of the hat. It never ceases to amaze me how slothful I am, and how productive only when I need to be. On the other hand, I make a kickass carrot cake and I know my way around a garden.

Anjani Thomas


Personal communication. Image is screen capture from 1985 video. Originally posted Jan 19, 2008 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.

“[Blue Alert’s music is] often sad, but by shaking off the melodic restrictions of those lugubrious vocals, Anjani has arguably done more for her man [Leonard Cohen] than any previous muse or collaborator.” Kitty Empire

Of all pop’s poets, Cohen understands the contradictions of romance: ‘I had to go crazy to love you/ You who were never the one/ Whom I chased through the souvenir heartache …’ is not a line you’ll find on a Robbie Williams record. Sin and salvation are, for once, not on the agenda. Instead, the songs focus on goodbyes (‘You won’t hear my voice till it’s far, far away’) and fidelity (‘I taught the Kama Sutra but I never loved before’). It’s often sad, but by shaking off the melodic restrictions of those lugubrious vocals, Anjani has arguably done more for her man than any previous muse or collaborator.

From Songs for small-hours lovers by Kitty Empire. The Guardian: April 28, 2007). Originally posted Oct 12, 2008 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Q: Do you [& Leonard Cohen] sing at home? Anjani: “Yes, just like normal people. We sing his…” (2007)

Do you [Anjani and Leonard] sing at home?

Yes, just like normal people. We sing his old songs like Sisters Of Mercy or Bird On The Wire. He plays a lot of guitar to keep in practice. There is also a synthesizer around, so I can play spontaneously if I want. And sometimes, when friends come to visit, we sing after dinner.quotedown2

Anjani Thomas

From Mit Gedächtnisschwund kommt man schon sehr weit by Von Johannes Wächter. Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin: Issue 17: 2007, an interview with Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas about their connection. Quote via Google Translate. Photo by Dominique BOILE.

Signs Of Leonard Cohen: Indigo Event 2006

When Leonard Cohen, Anjani, The Barenaked Ladies, and Ron Sexsmith performed at the Indigo Event in Toronto in 2006, it was Cohen’s first public appearance since 1993. Originally posted May 4, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Also See Videos & Photos: Leonard Cohen, Anjani, Ron Sexsmith, Barenaked Ladies At Indigo – Toronto 2006

“I was starting to sweat because I just didn’t hear anything to sing” Anjani Thomas On The Process Of Recording Morning Glory With Leonard Cohen

Most of the songs on Dear Heather were recorded in Leonard’s home studio. Could you describe the working process? For instance, when recording the background vocals, were the arrangements and lead vocals already done or did the process move back and forth between the leads and backings?

The music tracks were complete but there was some flexibility between the recording lead and bgs [background vocals]; and one may have influenced the other. Leonard has always given me complete creative freedom on vocals. And although I’ve heard a rough track before the session, it doesn’t mean I know what I’ll do when I step up to the mic. This was especially true on Morning Glory. On several occasions we sat for an hour or two listening to the track and he’d say, ‘This is going to be so great! We’ll just chant, ‘morning glory’ and maybe sing a few lines about how beautiful the morning glories are.’ Meanwhile, he hadn’t written or recorded his speaking part yet, so all I knew about the song was that a 7-foot high wall of morning glory vines in his backyard inspired it. He never knew this, but the more he played the tune the more bewildered I became. It was so slinky and quirky that I had no clue what to do on it. I avoided that session for months until it was one of the last things on the record to complete. By then I thought I’d just give it a shot and it wouldn’t be usable, but at least I did some other good work on the record. So we rolled the tape and a minute of his monologue went by and nothing came to mind. Another two minutes passed and I was starting to sweat because I just didn’t hear anything to sing. Leonard was sitting in a chair four feet away from me with his eyes closed and he didn’t seem perturbed; but I felt like I was really blowing it. As his monologue ended I thought, ‘oh, whatever’ and I started singing, ‘oh, the morning glory.’ When it was over I gave him a look like, how horrible was that? He nodded and said it was just what he had in mind. So I tripled that line, added the harmonies, threw in some ‘glorias’ and by then it really was rather beautiful. quotedown2

Anjani Thomas


From Interview With Anjani at Dear Heather