“I’ve never forgotten Phil [Spector] coming towards me with a bottle of Manischewitz in one hand, a .45 in the other” Leonard Cohen On Recording Death Of A Ladies’ Man


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[During the recording of Death Of A Ladies’ Man] I was holding on for dear life. My family was breaking up at the time – just to show up was rough. Then I’d have to go through this ninth-rate military film noir atmosphere. I’ve never forgotten Phil [Spector] coming towards me with a bottle of Manischewitz in one hand, a .45 in the other and putting his arm around my shoulder, shoving the gun into my neck, cocking it and saying, ‘Leonard, I love you.’ It wasn’t that much fun.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From No Mercy – Leonard Cohen’s Tales from the Dark Side by Anthony DeCurtis. Rolling Stone: January 21, 1993.

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

the-shields-you-cheated-dot-78

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.

leonard-cohen-death-of-a-ladies-man

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” []

Patti Page’s “I Went To Your Wedding” Was Starting Point For Leonard Cohen – Phil Spector Collaboration

From I Went To Your Wedding
To Death Of A Ladies’ Man

As a teenager in L.A. in the early 1950s, Harvey Phillip Spector was glued to the sounds of the AM radio dial. He loved Patti Page singing “I Went To Your Wedding …”1

“I Went to Your Wedding,” written by Jessie Mae Robinson in 1952, became a hit for Patti Page, whose recording of it entered the Billboard chart on August 22, 1952, lasting 21 weeks and reaching #1 on the chart. A country music version by Hank Snow peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart the same year.

Twenty-four years after Patti Page’s rendition of  “I Went to Your Wedding” was the top pop song in America, it became the starting point for the  Leonard Cohen – Phil Spector collaboration that resulted in the “Death of a Ladies’ Man” album.  The following excerpt is from What Happened When Phil Spector Met Leonard Cohen? by Harvey Kubernik:2

Cohen and Spector first met late in 1974, when Cohen was in Los Angeles for a rare club appearance – a two-night gig at the Troubadour. After the last show on the second night, Spector hosted an informal reception for Cohen at his home – a Spanish-style mansion in the grand, excessive Southern California tradition.

Cohen was brought to Spector’s attention, and vice versa, by Martin Machat – who had independently become lawyer and business manager for both men. Machat took Spector to see Cohen perform. Throughout Cohen’s 90-minute show, Spector sat quietly, very still, immediately impressed (he later said) by Cohen’s mystery and his technique (or maybe the mystery of his technique…or the technique of his mystery…)

The two men got on well at the post-Troubadour reception, and kept in some sort of loose touch thereafter. Late in 1976, when Cohen visited Los Angeles again, Spector invited him to be his houseguest. The first night, the two worked out a new version of Patti Page’s “I Went to Your Wedding”; by breakfast, they’d co-written two new songs – Cohen the lyrics, Spector the music (picked out on the piano). The seed was sown for what ultimately became Death of a Ladies’ Man.  [emphasis mine]

Cohen’s own version of the story follows:3

After the [Troubadour] concert, Phil invited us to his house. The house was freezing due to the air conditioning, it was four degrees. He locked the door so we couldn’t leave. I said “Listen Phil, if you lock us in here, we are going to get bored… So as long as we are locked up we might as well write some songs together.” So we started that very night. We wrote songs together for about a month, it was fun. Phil is really a charming guy when you are with him alone. I would write the words, then he would work on the melody, then I would revise the words to better fit the melody. We would exchange ideas. But in the studio when other people were around he was a totally different man.

Phil Spector and Leonard Cohen spending a night together reworking a 1952 Patti Page hit song – scary thought, eh?

Of course, one has to wonder how the album would have turned out if Messrs. Cohen and Spector had chosen a different tune from among those favored by the teenaged Spector, say “Work With Me Annie” by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters,  the Chordettes’ “Born To Be With You,” or “Sixty Minute Man” by the Dominoes.4

Patti Page – I Went to Your Wedding (1952)

Note: Originally posted July 26, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. From Phil Spector, The Musical Legacy: Part One by Harvey Kubernik (Goldmine, February 20, 2011) []
  2. The Los Angeles Phonograph, January 1978. []
  3. Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Throat Culture magazine, 1992) []
  4. Phil Spector, The Musical Legacy: Part One by Harvey Kubernik (Goldmine, February 20, 2011) []

Revisiting Billboard’s 1998 Tribute To Leonard Cohen

Billboard’s 30th Anniversary Tribute To Leonard Cohen – November 28, 1998

The November 28, 1998 issue of Billboard contains a 14 page celebration of Leonard Cohen:

The tribute is a 14 page appendix in the middle of the magazine. A recent interview with Leonard written by with Susan Nunziata was also posted on Billboard’s own website, but there is more in the magazine – we can read comments from his co-workers and friends, like Phil Spector, Jennifer Warnes, and Steve Lindsey. Dylan Siegler writes about Leonard’s career. There are numerous stylish advertisements showing great photos of Leonard and his family. For instance the staff at Stranger Management, his promoters, record companies, financial advisors, music publisher, and TV/radio channels greet him. A touching ad is on page LC-12: photos from Leonard’s family album are presented with the text “With love from your family; Suzanne, Lorca, Adam and Esther”.1

The Nunziata interview is studded with gems, including  Cohen’s acknowledgment of  his debt to Jennifer Warnes:

Jennifer Warnes practically revived me from the dead in America by putting out Famous Blue Raincoat.… She’s been an invaluable help in my life.

And there is also a discussion of Cohen’s project with Phil Spector:

Of note was Cohen’s collaboration with Phil Spector on the album “Death of a Ladies’ Man”. The almost unimaginable combination of Spector and Cohen has been well documented. Spector’s obsession with guns, his heavy drinking, his tendency to surround himself with menacing henchmen, and his penchant to threaten musicians. The now infamous stories of Spector holding a gun to Cohen’s neck as a sign of his unswerving affection and his obsessive possessiveness of the master tapes, to the extent that Cohen was prevented from hearing the mixes before the album was released, are now legendary. The sound and style of Ladies’ Man were in such contrast to Cohen’s previous work that it came as a great disappointment to him.

However, with the intervention of time, Cohen has mellowed and warmed toward the album and has now developed a great affection for it, even to the extent that he has entertained the possibility of working with Spector again. Spector, for his part, expressed great admiration for Cohen, and warmly cherished the honor of working with Cohen and of sharing in the writing and production of “Death of a Ladies’ Man”. [emphasis mine]

The Cohen Cover Photo

The intriguing qualities of the interview notwithstanding, I am more taken with the ads placed in the Cohen tribute section by his business associates and family (seen in the following sections) and the spectacularly cluttered cover (seen atop this post).

While I understand the significance of the Cohen-authored books and albums comprising the border of the cover and the fact that no periodical is likely to sacrifice its own logo to highlight a cover photo, I am convinced the simple image of Leonard Cohen, freed of the clunky icons surrounding the image’s perimeter, is far more striking.

The Leonard Cohen Family Ad

Clearly the highlight of the ads is the touching collection of family photos with the inscription

With love from your family;
Suzanne, Lorca, Adam and Esther

Ad From Moses Znaimer

Moses Znaimer was the head of several Canadian specialty channels, including  Much Music, MusiquePlus, MusiMAX, and MuchmoreMusic. His ad places Cohen on a background filled with images of music, Hebrew script, a rose, a statue emblematic of Eastern thought, and a list of Cohen’s roles: Poet, Singer, Songwriter, Rabbinical Student, Buddhist Adept, and Lover Of Women.

Ad From European Promoters

I first award this ad the prize for Funniest Tribute Ad because of its legend,

First we take Manhattan
Then we take a break

… and the accompanying pseudo-Polaroid of Cohen collapsed on the floor.

It also wins the award for Most Sincere Tribute Ad because of the openly self-serving signature lines:

Dear Leonard,
We can’t wait to see you back on the road.
Love, Fleming, Steen, & your European promoters.

Ad From Greenberg & Associates Financial Advisors

Things change. In 2005, Cohen and his legal team would accuse Greenberg of failing to warn Cohen about his dangerous financial situation. 2

Ad From Stranger Music

Some things really change. The text reads,

“Like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free”

Dearest Leonard,
With great love and affection,
from Kelley [Lynch], Joan [Lynch], Jack [Lynch], and all your friends at Stranger Management, and from Steve Lindsey [arranger & producer]

The ad shows Leonard Cohen playing  at University Of Rome in 1974  (see Rare Photos: Leonard Cohen’s 1974 Appearance At The University Of Rome – Performance & Book Promo).

View The Original Tribute

The entire Tribute section can be found at Google Books
Note: Originally posted Mar 24, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. Source: LeonardCohenFiles []
  2. Leonard Cohen’s Troubles May Be a Theme Come True By Marc Weingarten.  New York Times October 6, 2005. []

The Leonard Cohen Bomber Jacket Photo, Warner Bros., Phil Spector, & Death Of A Ladies’ Man

“1977 Leonard Cohen Singer Musician Poet Novelist Canadian Jacket Press Photo”

Note: I am reposting this entry to launch the Leonard Cohen Promotional Photos series. This is the first of at least 17 specimens.

“1977 Leonard Cohen Singer Musician Poet Novelist Canadian Jacket Press Photo” is the description provided on the auction site where this photo appeared1 before it was purchased by Dominique BOILE. I suspect the 1977 date is derived from the stamp on back of the photo (see date on lower right of back of photo sheet below). In my limited experience, these dates often indicate when the photo was published rather than the date when they were taken. The name of the photographer and the date of this picture are not given,

Warner Bros. Releases The Bomber Jacket Photo & The Death Of A Ladies’ Man Album

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  1. I am a tad disappointed the description doesn’t mention the plaid shirt peeking out from the bomber jacket []

1977: Doc Pomus Hangs Out With Phil Spector & Leonard Cohen

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Doc Pomus 1947

Today’s post is a followup to “Save The Last Dance For Me,” Doc Pomus, & Leonard Cohen, which focused on the origins of ”Save The Last Dance For Me, a song popularized in 1960 by Ben E. King with The Drifters, and covered by Leonard Cohen in his 2012 and 2013 tours.

Doc Pomus and Death Of A Ladies’ Man

Reading “I’m Your Man,” the biography of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons, sometime after publishing that post, I came across two references to Doc Pomus.

One was a quote by Hal Willner, who reported that he, then an intern at CBS, and Doc Pomus “loved that record [“Death Of A Ladies’ Man,” the Phil Spector – Leonard Cohen collaboration] …; we used to listen to it all the time.”

The other alluded to Doc Pomus, “Spector’s friend,” visiting Spector’s home while he and Cohen were working on “Death Of A Ladies’ Man.” A bit of research turned up this more extensive description from He’s a Rebel: Phil Spector, Rock and Roll’s Legendary Producer by Mark Ribowsky (Da Capo Press, January 9, 2007): click on scan to enlarge

Mark-Ribowsky-book-excerpt-re-doc-pomus

That Doc Pomus spent a month at Spector’s home in 1977 when Spector and Cohen were engaged in creating “Death Of A Ladies’ Man,” an album Doc Pomus loved and to which he and a young Hal Willner often listened does not, of course, necessarily indicate that the interactions that then took place between the Canadian singer-songwriter and one of the writers of “Save The Last Dance For Me”1 somehow led to Leonard Cohen covering that song during the 2012 Tour.

But it would seem to improve the odds that a personal liaison between the two men influenced, at least indirectly, Leonard Cohen’s choice to add “Save The Last Dance For Me” to his standard concert set list.

Update: In a comment to the original post, Jugurtha Harchaoui wrote

At Goldstar Studios, Doc Pomus took Leonard Cohen aside & exhorted him not to work with Spector – Doc Pomus couldn’t have been more explicit — I haven’t seen this fact mentioned too often in the various accounts because it doesn’t fit into the we’re-all-a-big-family fiction that people like to hear — people always prefer unrealistic fiction ?

Bonus: A.K.A Doc Pomus – Official Movie Trailer 2012

Credit Due Department: Photo by Gottlieb, William P. – Library of Congress, Public Domain via Wikipedia

Note: Originally posted Oct 22, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. It appears there was at least one other set of contacts between the two men. From The Untold Story of Pomus & Shuman: “We also hear about Doc’s philanthropic side; he regularly held writers’ workshops for budding musicians in his apartment, which attracted guests like Lou Reed, Robert Plant, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen.” [emphasis mine] []