The Picaresque 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour – A Firsthand Account

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A Matter Of Perspective – The 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour Through The Eyes Of Aileen and Elkin Fowler

Cohencentric posts about the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour have described Leonard Cohen & The Horse He Rode In On-Stage at and the Maoists, Music, Mud, Money, & Mayhem of  the Aix-en-Provence Festival,  the legendary concert at the Isle of Wight Festival, the Forest Hills appearance (“Nervous, Uncomfortable, Oppressive, Lifeless” & In A Tiff With Dylan), the 1970 Leonard Cohen Champagne & Crazy Guy Concert At UCLA, and the University Of Wisconsin anti-war rally disguised as homecoming show.

While  there will be further posts about the 1970 Tour, perhaps  the most insightful perspective on that year’s concerts is that of Susan Musmanno, one of the backup singers for Leonard Cohen that  year, and Elkin “Bubba” Fowler, guitarist in the Tour band.1

Note: The text printed in red below is taken directly from email correspondence with Susan aka Aileen Fowler and Elkin Fowler.

The Leonard Cohen Hayride

It turns out that the horseback ride to the Aix concert was not the only unconventional mode of transport utilized by by Leonard Cohen and his musicians in 1970.

Susan: So Hartford was my first Leonard Cohen concert. I don’t remember it as vividly as the next concert, which was in Austin. Since we didn’t have a road manager for the first couple of concerts, Bubba was asked by Bob to take on certain responsibilities, such as limos, transportation, etc. Bob, being a Texan, wanted to give Leonard a big, Texas-style welcome. So, through a friend at University of Texas in Austin, Bubba lined up a flatbed truck with hay, cornstalks, etc., and that’s how we all rode from the airport to the hotel, all of us sitting on bales of hay.

Leonard Cohen, Superstar

Susan: That night, I stood next to Leonard as he cast a spell, and eventually got used to watching him hypnotize and enthrall audience after audience. At the end of the evening in Austin, he invited the audience to join him ‘down at the river’ to continue the magic, and many did.

Those dates in Europe in May of 1970 were milestones. Leonard created a sensation everywhere we went. The response was overwhelming. I remember being whisked from the stage to waiting limousines after the shows. I had no idea when I signed on for the tour that I was accompanying a superstar to Europe, but he became one by the time we finished in London.

Those were turbulent times — the Kent State killings happened the first week in May, while we were in Germany. When we arrived in Munich, there were demonstrations all over the city. It became increasingly clear that Leonard was being recognized as a great poet, and his legend was beginning to grow. We went from triumph to triumph, and, when the tour culminated in Paris and London (both the Olympia and Albert Hall were sold out; they each requested that we add additional shows, but Leonard didn’t want to), the shows were sensational, memorable.

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  1. The story of Susan and Elkin falling in love during the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour will be featured in a future post. []

Video: Leonard Cohen On The High Price Of His Concert Tickets – 1970

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Leonard Cohen On Tour 1970

Part of Leonard Cohen’s stage routine during the 2013 Tour was thanking those in the front rows, some of whom paid $150-200 for a ticket, for thus “endangering the family budget.” It wasn’t the first time the price of admission to his shows was broached. The reporter in this 1970 video questions the Canadian singer-songwriter about the high cost of his tickets.

Based on the August 1, 1970 date of this video,1 the French setting, the reference to a “festival” in the original blurb, and the focus on cost, it seems likely that the appearance referenced in the interview is Cohen’s Aug 2, 1970 show at the Aix-en-Provence Festival – an especially weird event that took place during the weirdness that was the 1970 Tour. For an overview of that concert, see Leonard Cohen At The 1970 Aix-en-Provence Festival – Maoists, Music, Mud, Money, & Mayhem

The total three-day Aix Festival admission fee was  55 francs (about $12 US), not adjusted for inflation. According to a concert summary by Jacques Vassal published in the September 1970 edition (#44) of Rock & Folk, Leonard Cohen received 35,000 dollars (US) for his two hour concert on August 2, 1970 of the Festival.

COHEN, Leonard: resta près de deux heures sur scène (35000 dollars valaient bien ça!).
COHEN, Leonard: remained nearly two hours on stage (35000 dollards was well worth it!).

The Video

Since the video is in French and the majority of this blog’s readers are English-speaking, a spoiler revealing the punchline of the piece is, unfortunately, necessary. It’s still fun watching Cohen responding to the question in the short (under one minute) clip.

The original description of the film follows:

Léonard COHEN est vivement apostrophé à sa descente d’avion à propos du coût exorbitant de ses cachets et donc du prix des places dans un festival. “Vous êtes obligés d’avoir des cachets si chers ?”Léonard COHEN : “non, je ne suis pas obligé, c’est un plaisir”.

Coco Éclair provides an English translation:

Leonard Cohen is accosted when getting off his plane about the exorbitant cost of his tickets and hence the price of the seats for the concert. “Are you obligated to have such expensive fees?” Leonard Cohen: “No, I am not obligated, it is a pleasure.”

Leonard Cohen À Propos Des Gros Cachets
[Leonard Cohen About Big Fees]
Aug 1, 1970
Note: The Leonard Cohen interview begins a few seconds after the video begins.

If the embedded video player can’t be viewed, watch the video at the ina.fr site

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Dominique BOILE for the information re Cohen’s fee for the concert.

Note: Originally posted Mar 13, 2014 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. The dates given for videos have not proven reliable in all cases. Caveat emptor and all that. []

The Real Story About Leonard Cohen Singing “Arms Of Regina” – Hints: It Involves Flatt & Scruggs And There Is No Song Called “Arms Of Regina”

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Ongoing readers may recall the multiple posts devoted to the weirdness that was the . Today’s addition to that catalog focuses on the sporadically recurring query among (hard core) Leonard Cohen fans, “What’s with that Regina song Leonard Cohen sings on the 1970 French TV video?”

As far as I can determine, there are only two known recordings of Leonard Cohen singing the song Cohen fans call “The Arms Of Regina.”

1. On August 28, 1970 (two days before the Isle Of Wight Festival), Leonard Cohen and his band played an unpaid gig at the Henderson, a therapeutic community in Sutton on the southern edge of London.1 Sylvie Simmons, who listened  to an audience recording of the show, reports in “I’m Your Man, her biography of Cohen,

… the band did a quick sound check – “Arms Of Regina,” an unreleased song, sounding here like a midtempo country ballad with heart-tugging harmonies.”

2. On May 13, 1970, Leonard Cohen performed  two songs on French TV’s  Joe Dassin Show – “Arpèges sur Joe Dassin.” The first, with only Cohen on camera, was “The Partisan.” After completing “The Partisan,” Cohen assembled the band and backup singers on camera and led them in a rendition of “The Arms Of Regina.”

And, what else do we know about “The Arms Of Regina?”

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  1. For more about this performance, see Leonard Cohen & Babies, Therapy, Covers, Lyrics, Roberta Flack, Jian Ghomeshi, 1993, … []

Photo: Bob Johnston, Leonard Cohen & Charlie Daniels – 1970

DrHGuy Note: Leonard Cohen didn’t tour in 1971, but he and The Army, including Charlie Daniels & Bob Johnston, played Royal Albert Hall May 10, 1970.

Note: Originally posted December 23, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Mesmerizes Audience At 1970 Isle of Wight Festival

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Jimi Hendrix was a tough act to follow under the best of circumstances. But to follow him onstage after midnight in front of a crowd of more than half a million people that had been setting fires and throwing bottles at the stage seemed like an impossible task for a poet with an acoustic guitar and a gentle band of backing musicians. Yet Leonard Cohen turned the volatile situation at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival into one of the most magical performances of his career.

Excerpt from Leonard Cohen Plays a Spellbinding Set at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival by Mike Springer (Dangerous Minds: Oct 10, 2015)

While there is little in this post that will be new to hardcore Leonard Cohen fans, savoring the account of Cohen’s iconic performance is always worth a read and a viewing, and for those not familiar with this remarkable episode early in the Canadian singer-songwriter’s career – well, you’re in for a treat.

The article and an embedded video of Murray Lerner’s Leonard Cohen’s Live At The Isle of Wight 1970 can be found at Leonard Cohen Plays a Spellbinding Set at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Jo Meul, who alerted me to this post.