“Won’t You Let Me See Your Naked Body” Leonard Cohen On Nakedness

Introduction: This is an entry in Cohencentric’s  series. The origin of this investigation of Leonard Cohen’s thoughts on nakedness and his employment of “naked” and its equivalents in his songs, poems, art, and novels can be found at “I love to see you naked” Leonard Cohen On Nakedness.

Memories By Leonard Cohen

The comment by Thomas D. Ryan of “American Hit Network” writing on the Amazon page for Death of a Ladies’ Man is reasonably representative of the response of the music press, the public, and, ostensibly, Cohen himself to Memories:

To add injury to the insulting production, the lurid topics of most of this album’s lyrics are as dated as coke spoon necklaces. Cohen carries on in the pre-Aids era of mid-seventies decadence without ever managing to transcend his insipid surroundings. He sounds like he’s lost on the dance floor, trying to seduce whomever ambles by. “Memories” is almost beyond ridiculous. The arrangement is as decadent as anything ever mustered by the Roman Empire, all to service Cohen’s obsession with seeing his partners’ naked body. [emphasis mine]

Cohen has introduced Memories at several concerts; the following is typical:

It brings me from the exulted and sublime considerations of these musicians and technicians to an extremely banal experience which I have put into a song frozen like a fly in amber and somewhat less important. But this is a song into which I’ve placed my most banal adolescent recollections and I think this song will probably live forever. It’s called Memories.1

Cohen’s own facial expressions, displayed in these screen captures from the 1979 Rockpop Special video, however, reveal the misleading nature of such contemptuous statements.

Those photos disclose that Mr. Cohen, on or about the 31st day of October, 1979 did, at the ZDF-TV Studio in München, Deutschland, with intent and forethought, conspire to and commit personal enjoyment during the performance of the song known as Memories.

Part of the joke in Cohen’s performance of Memories is the absolute deadpan delivery which mocks the seriousness of the Frankie Avalon style of singing about teenage love. Note that Mr. Cohen starts strong with his face firmly expressionless, but when he starts the first refrain of the key line, “Your naked body,” he can’t fight off the grin. In the video, he turns away at the point he gives up altogether the effort to restrain his smile.

Regardless of the hyperbole (Cohen’s words at the very end of the song, after the last “naked body” on the lyrics sheet are “her divine, her immaculate, …), the dramatized expression of adolescent angst, the outlandish impersonation of 1950s singing idols, and the obligatory inclusion of Cohen’s patented ironic style, “Memories” unmistakably proclaims the power exercised by the longing to “see your naked body,” even though that force is all too likely to result not in triumphant union but in humiliation, social manipulation, or heartbreak.2

Leonard Cohen Performs “Memories”

Leonard Cohen – Memories
ZDF-TV Studio in München, Deutschland: October 31, 1979


Also See Collection Of Live Performances Of Memories Online


Note: All posts from this series will be collected at

Originally posted Jan 2, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. London 06/12/79 []
  2. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. One can think of Memories as an early iteration of Cohen’s notion of the “broken Hallelujah.” []

“We’ve reached that time in our relationship – like any relationship – when I feel comfortable enough with you to perform a Leonard Cohen song” Alex Turner Covers & Is Covered By Leonard Cohen (Song & T-shirt, Respectively)


Alex Turner of Last Shadow Puppets (and frontman of the Arctic Monkeys) is shown in the image above sporting his Leonard Cohen Songs Of Love And Hate t-shirt. He and his mates. as it turns out, perform some of the most striking covers of Leonard’s work.

Alex Turner & The Last Shadow Puppets
Is This What You Wanted by Leonard Cohen

Alex Turner & The Last Shadow Puppets
Memories by Leonard Cohen

Electric Proms: 2008

Leonard Cohen Performs Memories Featuring Paul Ostermayer On Sax + “Sweet Music Of America” Outro – Bonn 1980


The Intro: “I hope you dislike it intensely”

The introduction to Memories (“a… song I wrote a thousand years ago with Phil Spector…”) is similar to the openings Leonard used at other shows, although I don’t recall hearing the final “I hope you dislike it intensely” before.

The Performance

This is an outstanding performance with an especially impressive sax solo by Paul Ostermayer.

The Outro: “Ah, Sweet Music Of America”

The outro, however, is special. As noted in an earlier post, the Nov 4, 1980 Leonard Cohen show was held the same date as the US Reagan-Carter presidential election. Leonard dedicated Diamonds In The Mine to “the next president of the United States – if you can tell the difference.” I suspect the impending election also motivated the “Ah, Sweet Music Of America” exposition:

Ah, sweet music of America – may you rise forever on the great dismal cosmos of time. America – God bless you. May your destiny be full and may you conquer with the best part of your heart as you have conquered with this music so that the whole world will know that the heart is open and that the mind is free and everything can be …

Leonard Cohen – Memories
Bonn: Nov 4, 1980

The 1980 Leonard Cohen Bonn Concert Recording

As far as I can determine, no recording of the Nov 4, 1980 Leonard Cohen concert at the Beethovenhalle in Bonn, Germany has been available online – until now. A tape of one hour of the show has emerged, thanks to the generosity of a friend from Bonn, who recorded this song and 11 others with the permission of Leonard Cohen and his sound engineer. (The other songs from this concert have been posted or will be posted soon; all recordings from this show are collected at .)

The supporting musicians for the 1980 Tour follow:

  • Sharon Robinson – vocals
  • Roscoe Beck – bass guitar
  • John Bilezikjian – oud, mandolin
  • Bill Ginn – keyboards
  • Raffi Hakopian – violin
  • Steve Meador – drums
  • Paul Ostermayer – wind
  • Mitch Watkins – electric guitar

Credit Due Department: Photo of Leonard Cohen by Pete Purnell.

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

Leonard Cohen’s “Memories” Features Lines From The Shields’ Doo Wop Hit “You Cheated”


Leonard Cohen Sings “You Cheated, You Lied”

Careful listening to the outro of “Memories,” released as a track on the 1977 Leonard Cohen-Phil Spector collaboration, Death of a Ladies’ Man, reveals Cohen singing1

You cheated, you lied,
You said that you love me.


This YouTube recording of the album version of Memories starts just before those lyrics begin.

Those lines from “Memories” are significant because they are taken from the lyrics of the 1958 single, “You Cheated” by the Shields, a musical allusion2  the implications of which have been discussed. Three examples follow:

From Memories Leonard Cohen by Phil Kakulas3  (Words & Music November 2012):

The heightened atmosphere also inspired one of Cohen’s finest vocal performances, as he abandons all restraint to scream, moan and plead his case over the outro [of Memories], the song fading away to the strains of You Cheated, You Lied by The Shields – a nod to one of the song’s musical inspirations.

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  1. While most articles mention only Cohen singing these words, at least one listener reports Bob Dylan singing along: “Bob Dylan chimes in at the end of Leonard Cohen’s Memories, first harmonizing and then singing a few bars of ‘you cheated, you lied.’ he’s mixed down pretty low, too.” []
  2. The outro  also includes  a reference to singer Frankie Laine, but that’s another post. []
  3. Phil Kakulas was a member of The Blackeyed Susans, a group that produced an outstanding cover of “Memories.” See Blackeyed Susans And David McComb & The Red Ponies Cover Leonard Cohen’s “Memories” []

Blackeyed Susans And David McComb & The Red Ponies Cover Leonard Cohen’s "Memories"

David McComb

David McComb, an Australian singer-songwriter who died at 36 in 1999,1 was lead singer for The Triffids and later a member of the Blackeyed Susans. He also did a solo tour with his own backing band, The Red Ponies.

An especially well-done summary of the history and significance of the Triffids and McComb by UrPal, a contributor to LeonardCohenForum and a moderator of The Triffids web site, is available at “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On” By McComb & Peters Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox.

Memories By Leonard Cohen

I am an unabashed fan of “Memories,” a song originally concocted during the brief, stormy, and itself memorable collaboration-collision of Leonard Cohen and Phil Spector. Previous posts featuring “Memories” include the following:

  1. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Memories & Death Of A Ladies’ Man
  2. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Leonard Cohen On Memories
  3. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Memories & I Am A Hotel
  4. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: The 1979 ZDF-TV Droll, Deadpan Version
  5. Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Live Performances Of Memories Online

These covers by David McComb and The Red Ponies and by the Blackeyed Susans are outstanding additions to the collection.

Blackeyed Susans – Memories

Note: Originally posted Oct 27, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. McComb had a history of alcoholism, drug abuse, and cardiomyopathy, for which he underwent a heart transplant in 1996. He died a few days after being sent home from the hospital following a car accident. From Wikipedia []

Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: Live Performances Of Memories Online

1985-Leonard-Cohen-Norway-VideosThis is the fifth post in the Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine series examining “Memories” by Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen Live Performances Of Memories Online: An Annotated Index

While not the equivalent of attending a live performance, viewing these videos of Leonard Cohen singing “Memories” should provide a reasonable  amount of entertainment and, if one is lucky, an entirely unreasonable spark of passion of the most unsophisticated, retrograde, and delightfully irredeemable sort.

Previous Posts Featuring Live Versions Of Memories

Recordings Of Live Performances

Leonard Cohen – Memories
Warsaw: March 22, 1985
Includes “Return to my dismal adolescence in Montreal” introduction. One of the most melodious versions available with none of the theatrics.
Video from messalina79

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