Daniel Bastida, who took this photo of Leonard Cohen in concert in Madrid 1985, pairs it with the great version of Take This Longing performed in Hannover 1979.
The years went by…Then one year I bumped into her [Nico] at the bar of the Chelsea Hotel…I thought I detected some remote invitation…So we went up to the room and sat on the bed…and I put my hand on – I think it was her wrist…and she hauled off and hit me so hard it lifted me clean off the bed.
From Leonard Cohen by John Walsh. MOJO: September 1994. Nico photo by GanMed64 – Flickr: Nico (The Velvet Underground) – Lampeter University – November 1985, CC BY 2.0, Wikipedia Commons: Originally posted Nov 23, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Frankie Laine, he was singing Jezebel
I pinned an Iron Cross to my lapel
I walked up to the tallest and the blondest girl
I said, Look, you don’t know me now but very soon you will
So won’t you let me see
I said “won’t you let me see”
I said “won’t you let me see
Your naked body?”
From “Memories” by Leonard Cohen
This is the first post in the Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine series examining “Memories” by Leonard Cohen.
One of the world’s great unsolved mysteries, along with the sudden eradication of an entire civilization at Angkor Thom, the meaning of the giant drawings by the Nazca Indians on the plains of Southern Peru, and the technology by which the stone heads were constructed on Easter Island, is the disappearance of “Memories,” a favorite Cohen tune for many fans,1 from Leonard Cohen’s concert repertoire.
And, since it doesn’t look as though Leonard is going to feature “Memories” any time soon, it’s up to Cohencentric to do so. We’re going to take a look at this song over the course of a few posts, starting with its birth as a track on Death Of A Ladies’ Man.
Memories & Death Of A Ladies’ Man
“Memories” was released on the Phil Spector-produced Death Of A Ladies’ Man album in 1977. (A live version of “Memories” with many of Spector’s trademark Wall of Sound features eliminated, was included on the 2001 release of the “Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979″ album.) Notably, “Memories” is the only song on that album that Cohen regularly performed in concert (during the tours of 1979, 1980 and 1985).
It is also one of the songs, along with “Joan Of Arc,” “Take This Longing,” and One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong,” inspired by Nico, the German singer with the Velvet Underground and a fixture in Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd. Nico – the woman who repeatedly spurned Cohen’s advances,2 preferring younger men – was indeed “the tallest and blondest girl” in “Memories.”
Continue Reading →
Leonard Cohen’s Recommendation To Nico
While there is no public proclamation by Nico analogous to Leonard Cohen’s Prince of Asturias Awards Speech, in which he tells the “story of how I got my song” and expresses his gratitude to the guitar teacher who played a key role in that process, that acknowledges Cohen’s contribution to Nico’s music, the Canadian singer-songwriter did make a specific recommendation that significantly influenced the sound of the Andy Warhol superstar once known as Christa Päffgen.
Part of the inspiration for the album [The Marble Index] came from another ex-lover, Leonard Cohen, who encouraged Nico to take up the harmonium, the pedal-powered keyboard instrument whose wheezing drones would subsequently underpin all her future work, and which furnished a suitably haunting, miasmic base for her own compositions. Nico – Frozen Borderline 1968-1970 by Andy Gill. Uncut, Feb 13, 2007))
Brian Dillon, writing in Nico (Frieze,Issue 107, May 2007), elaborates:
The genius of these albums [The Marble Index (1968) and Desertshore (1970)] consists in Nico’s having found a sonic palette that very nearly replicates the voice, an instrumental mirror for her stentorian vowels and long, lifeless sibilants. On the advice of Leonard Cohen (who knew a thing or two about playing to one’s weaknesses), Nico had taken up the harmonium: it wheezes and yawns in perfect consort with her desiccated vocals. It’s that sound, allied with a certain limited array of lyrical tropes, that has given The Marble Index, in particular, a reputation as one of the bleakest records ever made.
Harmonium: Musical Instrument & Protective Shield
Regardless of ones valuation of the impact of the harmonium on Nico’s musical oeuvre, Leonard Cohen did at least prevent possible harm to her. In Nico’s show at the Free University in Berlin, she made the mistake of singing Deutschland über Alles, causing a riot. Fortunately, her harmonium shielded her against the fusillade of beer bottles.1 If Cohen had instead recommended she play, for example, a piccolo, musical history might have been forever altered.
Video: Nico On Harmonium Live 1987
- Nico: The End by James Young (Overlook, 1st edition September 1, 1993) [↩]
Things To Do In New York If You’re Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen provides, in his own words, an entertaining synopsis of his time in New York during the 1960s, including the kind words Lou Reed had for him and the less kind words of dismissal he received from Nico:1
In 1966 I borrowed some money from a friend in Montreal and came down to the great empire, America, to try to make my way. I had written a few books and I couldn’t make a living. I played in a country band and I loved country music and I had a few songs I thought were country songs and I was on my way ultimately to Nashville but I got ambushed in New York by the folk renaissance — and got my first public appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. In New York I found this huge explosion of things and I was interested in this enlightened community being promoted in the east side of New York and I would go down there but I couldn’t locate it.
I walked into a club called the Dome and I saw someone singing there who looked like she inhabited a Nazi poster; it was Nico, the perfect Aryan ice queen.
And there was a very handsome young man playing for her; he turned out to be Jackson Browne.
I just stood there and said forget the new society, this is the woman I’ve been looking for. I followed her all around New York.
She led me to Max’s Kansas City. I met Lou Reed there and he said something very kind to me which made me feel at home. I had no particular clout in that scene. I was just a guy who was a little older than the other guys, just sniffing around like everybody else. I was very lonely and mostly interested in finding a girl. Lou came over and introduced himself and said, “I love your book.” I never knew anybody knew my books because they only sold a few thousand copies in America. We were sitting at a table and some guy was bugging me, in a polite sort of way, and I was responding in a polite sort of way, and Lou Reed said to me, “Hey, man, you don’t have to be nice to this guy. You don’t have to be nice to anybody. You’re the man who wrote ‘Beautiful Losers.’”
Nico eventually told me, “Look, I like young boys. You’re just too old for me.”
Credit Due Department: Lou Reed photo: By Arista Records/Photo by Mick Rock. – ebayfrontback, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30585465. Nico photo: By GanMed64 – Flickr: Nico (The Velvet Underground) – Lampeter University – November 1985, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27794898. Jackson Browne photo: By Helge Øverås – Norberak egina, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3473573
Note: Originally posted Mar 2, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
- From Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen 1994 [↩]
Note: See Part 1 of this post at the link.
Leonard Cohen Is One Of The Boys (Of New York)
Do you think you have seen all the films in which Leonard Cohen played a role?
Try this one. In 1967 Cohen appeared in a virtually unknown experimental movie called B.O.N.Y. (Boys Of New York) by Gregg Barrios.
Even the extraordinarily thorough UK-based website http://www.diamondsinthemine.co.uk/ did not list this film until alerted to its presence as a result of research for this post.
The flick also features … Gerard Malanga.
B.V. Olguín in ‘San Antonio Current’ (10/8/2008) concisely provides the facts relevant to the film, Warhol, Malanga, and Leonard Cohen:
Like most film buffs of the era, Barrios eventually made a pilgrimage to Andy Warhol’s notorious Manhattan Factory. Under Warhol’s tutelage, in 1967 Barrios made his own experimental film, titled BONY (Boys of New York). Shot in both black-and-white and color with a 16-millimeter Roloflex Camera, Barrios’s film captures a day in the life of the Warhol “superstars” — the poet Gerard Malanga and Rene Ricard (the poet and art critic who “discovered” Jean Michel Basquiat) — during which they meet Leonard Cohen and Vogue model Ivy Nicholson. BONY is archived at UCLA and is included on Chon Noriega’s list of 100 Best Chicano Films.
Update June 10, 2014: I received an email from Gregg Barrios, who had come across the mention of his film in the 2010 post. It turns out that BONY (Boys of New York) has been remastered and will soon be available for purchase. Gregg was good enough to include the poster shown above promoting his film which includes Leonard Cohen in the cast.