Leonard Cohen On His Red Needle Cocktail-Fueled Passion For “Always” As A R&B Song

Leonard Cohen prepares Red Needle on Talkshowet 1992-12-05

I like your cover of “Always” on the new record. You once told me that your ambition was to someday wear a tuxedo, stand over by a grand piano, and sing “As Time Goes By.”

Did I? (laughs) “Always” is in 3/4 tempo, but every time I played it, it turned into this 4/4 R&B song. When we got into the studio, I was dispensing this drink I invented in Needles, California, called the Red Needle, and I felt we should all drink a lot of this before we recorded. It’s composed of tequila and cranberry juice and fresh fruit. It’s very colorful and very potent. The version you hear is the shortest version I could find because usually we played it for the entire length of the tape. We couldn’t stop playing it.

From Sincerely, L. Cohen by Brian Cullman (Details for Men, January, 1993). Originally posted Oct 23, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Also see Video: Leonard Cohen, Poet-Singer-Songwriter-Mixologist, Recreates His Red Needle Drink On TV

Video: Leonard Cohen, Poet-Singer-Songwriter-Mixologist, Recreates His Red Needle Drink On TV

Leonard Cohen Creates The Red Needle

This is the end of my life in art. I am drinking a Red Needle, a drink I invented in Needles, California, tequila and cranberry, lemon and ice. The full measure. I have not been denied the full measure. It happened as I approached my forty-first birthday…. This is drunken talk. This is Red Needles talking. It is too smooth. I am frightened. I don’t know why. Yesterday I was so frightened that I could hardly hand a Red Needle to a monk on Mt Baldy….1

I prepared a lot of Red Needles. That’s a cocktail I invented in Needles, California, in 1976. It consists of tequila and cranberry juice and Sprite and fresh cut fruit. I prepared pitchers of this cocktail for the musicians and we couldn’t stop playing; most of the takes are twenty-five minutes long, and we kept this one because it’s eight minutes long. I did fall down in it, that’s where the guitar solo occurs. It was a very exuberant, passionate evening, and several musicians told me it was the happiest time they ever spent in a recording studio.2

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  1. From Leonard Cohen, ‘My Life in Art,’ from Death of a Lady’s Man []
  2. From Barbara Gowdy Interview With Leonard Cohen A transcript of the full interview was published in 1994 in the book “One on One: The Imprint Interviews” edited by Leanna Crouch and published by Somerville House Publishing []

Must See Video: Full Version Of Leonard Cohen Appearance On 1992 Danish Talk Show

talkshowetLeonard Cohen was the only guest on S2E5 of the Danish talk show, Talkshowet (Dec 5, 1992).  Videos of this show of various lengths and quality have been intermittently available online but then disappear. Martin alerts us that the entire 1 hour, 5 minute episode in good resolution can be accessed – until February 8, 2017.

This is a must-see for Leonard Cohen fans.  Featured are

  • Leonard Cohen demonstrating how to make his Red Needles cocktail
  • A discussion of the myth of Leonard Cohen as ladies’ man
  • The differentiation of depression and seriousness
  • The necessity of destroying old versions of one’s self to make an album
  • Leonard Cohen on Miami Vice

One word of advice: don’t let the talk show host annoy you. Leonard takes him on stride; you can, too

If the above video player doesn’t work for you, you can view this video on its host site at DR-Talkshowet

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Jo Meul, who alerted me to this video appearing on YouTube.

Restocking The 2007 Leonard Cohen Heck of a Birthday Bash Kit



Everybody Knows – Today Is The Birthday Of Leonard Cohen

Update: For Leonard Cohen’s response to this post, see Is Leonard Cohen A Sweetheart Or What?

Well, at least every Cohenthusiast knows that Leonard Cohen was born September 21, 1934.

The question, however, is – are you prepared?

Growing up in the Bible belted-and-suspendered Ozarks, I heard the following question repeatedly issued from the church pulpit and the Sunday School lectern:

What would you do if Jesus came to your house today?

Well, the truth is I would have been creeped out, especially if he didn’t call first, but I understood the message underlying this query: we should live our lives in such a Christian manner that we would be prepared if Jesus dropped in for a visit to the point that the only change we would need to make would be frying up an extra pork chop for dinner.

I now find it more entertaining and enlightening to ask myself

What would you do if Leonard Cohen came to your house today?1

Given that today is his birthday, a host would surely want to acknowledge that with a celebratory ceremony of some sort, but a generic funny hats and gag gift sort of affair just doesn’t seem to fit and, as far as I know, Hallmark doesn’t yet sell a Leonard Cohen birthday pack with paper plates, napkins, cups, and decorations all coordinated in a “Tower of Song” theme.

Stepping into the breach, Cohencentric is proud to offer the

Leonard Cohen Heck of a Birthday Bash Kit2

For the natal day entrée, the kit provides a uniquely Cohenesque dish. As Anjani Thomas noted in a Pitchfork interview, Leonard Cohen is

the only man I know who pairs Kraft Macaroni & Cheese with a 1982 Chateau La Tour.

And what could more effectively insure festiveness than a pitcher or two of Red Needle, the cocktail concocted by Leonard Cohen himself in Needles, California and the fuel that drove the process that created his album, The Future? The recipe, according to the authoritative LeonardCohenFiles, calls for Tequila, Cranberry juice, Lemon (and/or exotic fruits), and ice. As indicated in the lower right corner of the graphic, the hard core Cohenistas may well wish to pop for the deluxe edition of the kit, which includes the services of the drink’s creator as bartender.

This 2007 version of the kit also contains 73 of those thin green candles.3

Finally, perhaps the trickiest question is what music does one play for Leonard Cohen’s party. An all-Cohen-all-the-time playlist smacks a tad too much of pandering, but blasting the kids’ hip-hop repertoire seems even riskier. Happily, Leonard has several times expressed his appreciation of one song appropriate to the occasion, noting, for example, in Martin Oestergaard’s interview, Leonard Cohen Gave Me 200 Franc,

One of the greatest songs in history is “Blueberry Hill.'” “The moon stood still on Blueberry Hill.” I would be happy to have written that line.

All that’s left is the host issuing a heart-felt

Happy Birthday, Leonard

Credit Due Department: Animation Source video: Talkshowet – Leonard Cohen. (S2E5 – Denmark: Dec 5, 1992). View more animated gifs at Leonard Cohen Animations

Bonus September 21st Trivia: Not Everyone Knows that September 21st is also

… the birthday of many other famous, infamous, & not so famous folks:4

  • 1328 – Hongwu Emperor of China (d. 1398)
  • 1411 – Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, claimant to the English throne (d. 1460)
  • 1415 – Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor (d. 1493)
  • 1912 – Chuck Jones, American animator (d. 2002)
  • 1931 – Larry Hagman, American actor
  • 1935 – Henry Gibson, American actor
  • 1940 – Bill Kurtis, American television journalist
  • 1947 – Stephen King, American author
  • 1950 – Bill Murray, American actor
  • 1967 – Faith Hill, American singer
  • 1967 – Tyler Stewart, Canadian drummer (Barenaked Ladies)
  • 1968 – Ricki Lake, American actress and talk show hostess
Happy Birthday Honogwu, Rich, Freddy, et al

… and the date of several historical events of varying significance:

  • 1745 – Battle of Prestonpans: A Hanoverian army under the command of Sir John Cope is defeated, in ten minutes, by the Jacobite forces of Prince Charles Edward Stuart
  • 1765 – Antoine de Beauterne announces he had killed the Beast of Gévaudan, but was later proved wrong by more attacks.
  • 1780 – American Revolutionary War: Benedict Arnold gives the British the plans to West Point.
  • 1792 – The French National Convention votes to abolish the monarchy.
  • 1827 – According to Joseph Smith, Jr., the angel Moroni gave him a record of gold plates, one-third of which Joseph translated into The Book of Mormon.
  • 1981 – Belize is granted full independence from the United Kingdom.
  • 1970 – The Cleveland Browns beat the New York Jets at Cleveland Municipal Stadium 31-20 on the first edition of Monday Night Football.

On a personal note, on this September 21st, I am finally coming to grips with the September 21, 1989 breakup of The Bangles, best known for “Walk Like An Egyptian” and “Manic Monday.”5

Note: Originally posted Sep 21, 2007 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. Of course, the even more intriguing question would be, “What if Leonard Cohen and Jesus came to your house today?” []
  2. Note: The Leonard Cohen Heck of a Birthday Bash Kit is also certified for celebrating the songwriter’s birthday in his absence or, if one prefers, ones own birthday, or the birthday of Jesus. []
  3. Hmmm. I just realized that if Leonard Cohen came to my house on this, his 73rd birthday, he would be accompanied by Anjani, and I would be in the company of my assistive walking device. []
  4. Source: Wikipedia []
  5. Source: Streaming Oldies []

Animation: Leonard Cohen adds a little more tequila to his Red Needle cocktail & a little more & …


Source video: Talkshowet – Leonard Cohen. (S2E5 – Denmark: Dec 5, 1992)

For the Red Needle recipe, see Leonard Cohen on the preparation of his Red Needle cocktail & its effect on recording sessions

View more animated gifs at Leonard Cohen Animations