Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: Valley Boy By Wolf Parade

 is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. While most of the songs already posted in this category have been about Leonard Cohen and others name-check the Canadian singer-songwriter, today’s selection is the first entry to be directly inspired by Leonard’s death. Valley Boy is the first single from Cry Cry Cry, the fourth album by Wolf Parade, the quintessential Montreal indie rock band. According to the press release:

“Valley Boy,” a Bowie-inflected anthem for which Spencer [Krug] wrote lyrics after Leonard Cohen died the day before the 2016 election (“The radio’s been playing all your songs, talking about the way you slipped away up the stairs, did you know that it was all gonna go wrong?”).

Lines from the song allude to Leonard (and Marianne) as well:

So you finally became that bird on that wire

Calling all the angels, we must have an intervention
The land and the air and Marianne are in contention
The land wants the tongue and the air wants the spirit
But it’s all inside the heart and Marianne won’t let them near it

Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: Dark Side of the Gym By The National

The National – Dark Side of the Gym

“Just dance me to the dark side of the gym”

From Memories by Leonard Cohen

 is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. While most of the songs already posted in this category have been about Leonard Cohen and others name-check the Canadian singer-songwriter, today’s selection is the second entry that is built around one of his songs (the first was The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song By Jeffrey Lewis). Dark Side of the Gym, the title of a track on The National’s Sleep Well Beast album, refers to “Just dance me to the dark side of the gym,” a line from Memories, released on Leonard Cohen’s 1977 Death Of A Ladies’ Man. The melody and song structure of Dark Side of the Gym is also reminiscent of Cohen’s song.

Matt Berninger, frontman of The National, talks about Leonard Cohen in this excerpt from The National’s Super-Political Love Songs by Spencer Kornhaber *Atlantic: Sep 8, 2017)

Kornhaber: Speaking of sex being at the the core of all our dark desires: Leonard Cohen. You have a reference to him with the song title “Dark Side of the Gym.” What do you take from him?

Berninger: He wrote about sex, he wrote about God, he wrote about politics, all within the same verse. And they all were these beautiful, personal little stories. Everything feels so humongous, but then they also have all these little details.

“Famous Blue Raincoat” is the one I go back to just because it’s like The Great Gatsby or Lolita. That song has so many little details—about a house in the desert, and a lock of hair, and all this kind of stuff—but it’s so big. That song is just a giant, complex story that I don’t quite understand.

He’s one of 20 songwriters that I steal from. Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave—people like that really go right to the most sensitive parts of the skin. Which are the wires that are frayed and sparking? Those are the ones they’ll put their wet hand on. Because they just have to. It’s the only wire in the room that matters, the one that might burn the place down.

Posts about Leonard Cohen’s Memories can be found at Cohencentric: Memories.

Photo by Thepeoplesuck at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia Commons

Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: Illusions in G Major by ELO

 is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. While most of the songs already posted in this category have been about Leonard Cohen or, in one case, has been built around one of his songs, today’s entry name-checks the Canadian singer-songwriter in one line.

Illusions in G Major by Electric Light Orchestra

On the seven seas there was a phantom ship acoming,
Shinin’ in the dead of night,
I heard the crew a hummin’
Tunes that sounded like the Rolling Stones and Leonard Cohen.

Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: The Gallery By Joni Mitchell

 is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. The Gallery is one of four songs held by some to be inspired by Joni Mitchell’s experiences with Leonard Cohen.

Mitchell directly confirmed that “Leonard is an influence on that song [The Gallery]” in Joni Mitchell In Her Own Words by Malka Marom (ECW Press: Sept 9, 2014). Joni Mitchell and Malka Marom discussed Leonard Cohen’s role in this song:

J: Some of them [Cohen’s lyrics] are very unflattering portraits. They scared me. He could be so harsh on women.

M: Harsh in what way?

J: In the songs. “Your thighs are a ruin, you want too much / let’s say you came back some time too soon” [from Master Song by Leonard Cohen]  That’s harsh. I countered it with thinking of the pleasure I’m gonna have watching your hairline recede, which is a similar line. I think both of those things are mean. But Leonard gets funny. When you take him seriously, eventually, you start to …

M: Yes, he’s got this ironic twist in him that I like.

The sentiment behind these words from The Gallery seems clear:

When I first saw your gallery
I liked the ones of ladies
Then you began to hang up me
You studied to portray me
In ice and greens
And old blue jeans
And naked in the roses
Then you got into funny scenes
That all your work disclose

Lady, please love me now, I am dead
I am a saint, turn down your bed
I have no heart, that’s what you said
You said, I can be cruel
But let me be gentle with you

Joni Mitchell – The Gallery

 

Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: Rarity By Lucinda Williams

 is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. While most of the songs already posted in this category have been about Leonard Cohen or, in one case, has been built around one of his songs, today’s entry name-checks the Canadian singer-songwriter in one line.

Your voice a cello
Your words speak volumes
In the night I run for
Like Leonard Cohen’s

Rarity by Lucinda Williams

As this excerpt from Lucinda Williams: On Record by Evan Schlansky (American Songwriter: Oct 29, 2008) explains, Rarity was inspired by another musician, Mia Doi Todd:

Did you write “Rarity” with someone specific in mind?
I was actually really inspired by this artist named Mia Doi Todd. She’s just a really, really brilliant songwriter kind of more in the underground folk pop thing I guess. She goes out and tours and stuff. I guess there was a situation that inspired the song, but of course all my songs are bigger than one person. But there might be a person or an event that plants the seed for the song, but then the song becomes bigger than that. But what had happened was, a friend of turned me on to her, a record she put out on a little indie label, and this was when I was still living in Nashville, before I moved back to Los Angeles about six years ago. And I really was just struck by her lyrics. Her voice was soft and moody sounding, and her melodies were great, but her lyrics really impressed me. I’d never heard of her before. Then I was in a record store in L.A. and saw that she had a record out on a subsidiary of universal, I think it was on hip-o, maybe. But obviously she had some major label distribution, and I went, yay, finally. She’s got a chance to sell some records and get better known and things. Next thing I know I read that she’s been dropped by Universal, and now her next record is out on an unknown little indie label, so that’s what spurred the idea for the song. Because I had seen that so often, and I’d been through that myself, to some degree, and seen it happen with a lot of really good artists: where if they don’t sell enough records, they don’t really get a chance. It’s the same old story that you’ve heard a million times. So that’s basically what planted the idea for the song.

We finally got to meet, she lives in L.A., and she had came in, and I recorded a song that was going to go on West, but we had so many songs that we couldn’t put them all on the record. We sort of ran out of time, budget, money, time to record all the songs. But I had a demo of it, she came in and heard the demo, and she was really touched.

I don’t get as chance to see her play very often, but she’s just one of those unusually brilliant songwriters who probably if she had a chance to do something back in the, if she’d been around back in the day, when people like Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, writers like that were coming out, she would have probably stood a better chance in getting recognition. She definitely has a cult following, that’s for sure. That’s kind of the only way you can do it now anymore, if you’re just starting out. You have to build your own thing like that. I mean, I’m lucky, ‘cause I just barely got in by the skin of my teeth. But if I was just starting out now, I’d have a hard time. I’m lucky I got as far as I did! Just before the door slammed on me, before the industry kind of went to hell and a hand basket.

Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen: Marching Band By Movits!

1200px-movits_at_sxsw is a Cohencentric series featuring a few of the many tunes alluding to Leonard Cohen. While the songs already posted in this category have been about Leonard Cohen or, in one case, has been built around one of his songs, today’s entry name-checks the Canadian singer-songwriter in one line.

Yep, the sole rationale posting this video in Cohencentric’s Looking For The Best Song Referencing Leonard Cohen series is that one line of the (mostly) Swedish lyrics of “Marching Band” (the first section of the original lyrics and the Google English translation are available at the end of this entry) by Movits!1 references Leonard Cohen. And that I find the entire song oddly delightful.

The Leonard Cohen shout-out takes place at 0:20.

Original Lyrics (bolding mine):

Ta dig från Luleå till Mississippi
Johnny Hurt, Kentucky whiskey
Nån stans i en husbil utanför Philly

Får väl köra i streck till imorgon bitti
Frågar vart vi kommer ifrån, excuse me?
Say, where you guys from? Sapmi
Ôr det kanske nåt som du känner till?
Ingvar Kamprad eller surströmming
Sen tar vi Berlin, Leonard Cohen
Började ganska sent i tonåren
Sånger från rummet på andra våningen
Ut ur min skalle
Kan inte sova på flera månader, nej, men sömnlös i
Ã.tminstone alldeles för många dygn
Har klivit upp alldeles för tidigt
Med spänningshuvudvärk [unverified]
Har sålt slut biljetter

Google Translate (bolding mine):

Take from Luleå to Mississippi
Johnny Hurt, Kentucky whiskey
Someone somewhere in a camper outside Philly

May well run in the dash to tomorrow morning
Asks where we come from, excuse me?
Say, where you guys from? Sapmi
A “is perhaps something that you know of?
Ingvar Kamprad, or fermented herring
Then we take Berlin, Leonard Cohen
Began quite late in adolescence
Songs from the room on the second floor
out of my head
Can not sleep for several months, no, but sleepless in
Ã.tminstone too many days
Has stepped up too early
With tension headaches [unverified]
Has sold out tickets

Credit Due Department: Photo by Ann Larie Valentine – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikipedia

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  1. Movits! is a Swedish music group from Luleå that plays swing mixed with hip hop. []