Leonard Cohen (1965): “I think I’m going to record myself singing my poems” Leonard’s Friend: “Please don’t”

Cohen’s career took a new jog when, one day in the summer of 1965 in a suite in Toronto’s King Edward Hotel, Cohen sat on a sagging couch composing tunes on a mouth organ. In between he tried singing his poems to a friend. In an adjoining bedroom, visible through an open door, a naked couple twisted and moaned through the songs, their concentration on Leonard’s music and their own rhythms clearly affected by middle-class amounts of cocaine and marijuana. Cohen chose to interpret their noises positively. “I think I’m going to record myself singing my poems,” he said. His friend winced at the sound of Cohen’s nasal voice. “Please don’t,” she replied. The admonition showed much esthetic sense but lacked all commercial judgment. In 1967 Cohen released his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, and a cult of international dimensions was established. Today his books can be read in 11 languages: book sales are over two million volumes and record sales are around the 9‘/2-million mark. His Selected Poems sold 700,000 copies in the United States alone. “A phenomenal sale for a book of poetry,” says Viking Press President Thomas Ginsburg.

 

From Leonard Cohen Says That to All the Girls by Barbara Amiel. Maclean’s: Sept 18, 1978. \

“I was unaware of the techniques of collective enterprise” Leonard Cohen On The Making Of Songs Of Leonard Cohen

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I had some trouble with my first record in getting the kind of music I wanted because I hadn’t worked with men for a long time. I had worked by myself and I forgot what was necessary to work with men. I forgot how to make your ideas known to other people. The fault was completely mine. I was unaware of the techniques of collective enterprise, I just didn’t know then. I’m a little more aware of them now.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

An Interview with Leonard Cohen by Michael Harris. Duel: Winter 1969.

“I sometimes see myself in the Court of Ferdinand, singing my songs to girls over a lute” Leonard Cohen

DrHGuy Note: Of course, this begs the question of how he got those girls over a lute to start with.

From Beautiful Creep By Richard Goldstein. Village Voice: December 28, 1967. Photo of Leonard Cohen performing at Queen’s Park Love-in – Yorkville, Toronto 1967, taken by Bill Dampier, is credited to York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, F0433, ASC26833. Originally posted Dec 5, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I was able to take the time to find exactly the right mood for the narrator, until the vocals married with the track and the song’s content, so the voice represented the song rather than simply unfolded it.” Leonard Cohen On Recording Ten New Songs At 4 A.M.

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I had to start singing before the birds, and the traffic on Olympic, and before my daughter’s dogs started barking. It was very relaxed at those times, four or five a.m., to come in and find the right place to stand or sit, and have the right drink or smoke in your hand, lean back, go back, erase, go forward. It was a very luxurious way to do the vocals. I was able to take the time to find exactly the right mood for the narrator, until the vocals married with the track and the song’s content, so the voice represented the song rather than simply unfolded it.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen by Eric Rudolph (Mix: Feb 1, 2002). Photo of Leonard Cohen taken by Ethan Hill in 2001 and published in Rolling Stone.

Leonard Cohen Describes How Roshi Gave Him “The Best [Musical] Advice I Ever Got”

How do you think your writing and music has changed since studying under Roshi?

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I’ve been studying with Roshi for over thirty years, so it’s hard to say. Roshi came to the studio one night when I was recording New Skin for the Old Ceremony. That was in the seventies. In those days I was being written off as a morbid old depressive drone peddling suicide notes. (Still am, in some circles). Roshi slept through most, but not all of the session. The next morning I asked him what he thought. He said, ‘Leonard, you should sing more sad.’ That was the best advice I ever got. Took a while to put it into practice.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From October 16, 2001 Online Web Chat

DrHGuy Note: Leonard’s reference to “morbid old depressive drone” is one of many comments he made over the years to an insulting review of his 1970 Isle Of Wight performance. See Leonard Cohen On Being Labeled A “Boring Old Drone Who Should Go The Fuck Back To Canada.”

“I started the guitar and I heard myself sing that first phrase, ‘Like a bird on a wire,’ and I knew the song was going to be true.” Leonard Cohen

I’m not sure of exactly what I want to say next. It has to do with maybe an image you may have formed of yourself. That has something to do with this business of coming of age. But maybe it changes, all the way through, maybe the next record will be the epitome of simplicity and will be absolutely out of the hole.

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Well, I understand what you mean. I’ll try to relate it to something particular: this song ‘Like a Bird on a Wire’ which I was telling you about. I tried many versions and in a way the history of that song on the record is my whole history. I tried it in many different ways. At about four in the morning I sent all the musicians home except for my friends Zev who plays Jew’s harp, Charlie McCoy who was playing the bass, the electric bass, and Bob Johnston who’s the A & R man; I asked him to just sit at the organ from time to time. And I just knew that at that moment something was going to take place. I’d never sung the song true, never, and I’d always had a kind of phony Nashville introduction that I was playing the song to and by the time I came around to start my own song I was already following a thousand models. And I just did the voice before I started the guitar and I heard myself sing that first phrase, ‘Like a bird on a wire,’ and I knew the song was going to be true. I knew it was going to be true and new and I sang it through and I listened to myself singing, and it was a surprise. Then I heard the replay and I knew it was right. I’d never sung it true and I didn’t think I could ever sing it true again because I’m not a performer. But there is one moment and it happens to coincide with the huge mechanical facilities of Columbia Records, that’s what I call magic. And it did, it happened that way. I suppose a master, a master of chance and someone who deeply understands phenomena, could see the method and technique. I learned a lot from it, I’d like to apply it right now, we may get to that moment.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

An Interview with Leonard Cohen by Michael Harris. Duel, Winter 1969.

“I was drinking about three bottles of wine by the end of the tour… before every concert. I only drank professionally, I never drank after the concert.” Leonard Cohen On Château Latour & His 1993 Tour


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One of the reasons was that I was so wiped out physically by the end of my last tour because I was drinking heavily. I was drinking about three bottles of wine by the end of the tour… Before every concert. I only drank professionally, I never drank after the concert. I would never drink after intermission. It was a long tour. It must have been 60 to 70 concerts. [Interviewer: Why did you need to drink?] I was very nervous. And I liked drinking. And I found this wine, it was Château Latour. Now very expensive. It was even expensive then. It’s curious with wine. The wine experts talk about the flavour and the bouquet and whether it has legs and the tannins and the fruit and the symphonies of tastes. But nobody talks about the high. Bordeaux is a wine that vintners have worked on for about 1,000 years. Each wine has a very specific high, which is never mentioned. Château Latour, I don’t know how I stumbled on it, but it went with the music, and it went with the concert. I tried to drink it after the tour was over, and I could hardly get a glass down. It had no resonance whatsoever. It needed the adrenaline of the concert and the music and the atmosphere, the kind of desperate atmosphere of touring—desperate because I was drinking so much! I had a good time with it for a while, but it did wreck my health, and I put on about 25 pounds.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Cohen wore earplugs to a Dylan show? by Brian D. Johnson (Maclean’s: June 12, 2008)