“First We Take Manhattan might be understood as an examination of the mind of the extremist.” Leonard Cohen


I’ve never known what “First We Take Manhattan” is about. Can you explain it a little? Do you think its meaning changed after the attack to New York? Would you sing it again in concert?

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Every succeeding moment changes what has happened the moment before. In the stream of writing all that is written changes its meanings by what is written subsequently. First We Take Manhattan might be understood as an examination of the mind of the extremist. In a way it’s a better song now than it was before and I would probably sing it in concert if the circumstances were appropriate.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Online Web Chat October 16, 2001

Leonard Cohen’s plan after taking Manhattan: “I’m not at liberty to disclose the full details, but I can tell you it will involve a lot of new parking meters.”

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

First We Take Manhattan by Leonard Cohen

From 1988 interview with Dave Fanning (no longer accessible). Cohen gave a similar answer on an interview for Norwegian TV broadcast in May 1988

Note: Originally posted Jan 21, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“This song is a direct response to the boredom, to the anxiety, to the sense of weightlessness, that I feel in my daily life.” Leonard Cohen On First We Take Manhattan


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This song is a direct response to the boredom, to the anxiety, to the sense of weightlessness, that I feel in my daily life. I don’t know whether anybody else feels this way. I suspect some people do feel this way – that the world has disappeared, that the catastrophe has already taken place, that the flood has already come, that we don’t have to wait for the nuclear holocaust, that the world has been destroyed somehow. But you can’t take these ideas with you on the street.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

I’m Your Man, by Alberto Manzano (Rockdelux (Spain): May 1988)

Leonard Cohen Lays Out His Plan Once He Takes Manhattan And Berlin

lc-1988

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But even your immaculate hospitality will not deter me from my appointed task which is to take Manhattan and then Berlin. And as soon as I take them, I’m going to give them back, because I don’t want them… unless they really insist. Just my way, that’s all. There’s no punchline to this joke. It just leaves you in a blue limbo of ambiguity, a landscape that I happen to know extremely well. I hope I don’t meet any of you there.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen, introduction to “First We Take Manhattan” at the April 28, 1988 concert at Jaahalli Helsinki, Finland, Originally posted Nov 5, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Employs Sergio Leone, Motown, Bubble Gum For A “Different Twist” On First We Take Manhattan

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Without that Sergio Leone-Eastwood track it would have been truly demented geopolitical fantasy. But with that soundtrack and with the Motown chorus veering over to bubble gum, you get a different twist on the thingquotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Folk-Rock’s Poet Laureate Returns By Jeff Bradley. AP story, printed in Times Daily – Sept 3, 1988. Originally posted Nov 13, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen On The Significance Of Who Sent The Monkey And The Plywood Violin In First We Take Manhattan

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I thank you for those items that you sent me,
the monkey and the plywood violin.
I practiced every night, now I’m ready.
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.

From First We Take Manhattan by Leonard Cohen

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[The sender of the monkey and the plywood violin is] that part of ourselves that diminished that voice that . . . was demanding a spiritual aspect to our lives . . . . We gave that aspect of ourselves that was hungry some kind of perverse and obscene charity. We made him into an organ grinder . . . . We gave that part of us a monkey and a plywood violin, so that it would screech away and amuse us with its anticsquotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen, Personal Interview with Winfried Siemerling. 2 November 1990, North York. Unpublished. Quoted in Interior Landscapes and the Public Realm: Contingent Mediations in a Speech and a Song by Leonard Cohen by Winfried Siemerling. Canadian Poetry: No. 33, Fall/Winter, 1993. Originally posted Mar 22, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric