Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
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vlcoats
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby vlcoats » Fri Aug 04, 2017 2:14 am

I have at last finished Prophet of the Heart. As you know it was arduous for me. :? It grew on me towards the end though, and I learned a lot of which a little was due to the fact that I had to look up the meaning of more than a couple words (ex. 'dichotomously'). I think I absorbed enough though to have a better understanding of the man himself and his life up to that point.

They had a ton of Leonard quotes from various interviews etc. which I loved. One of my favorites was when he was talking about the album Various Positions. He said, "I probably achieved the ultimate confusion of woman and G-d with this album. But, you know, sometimes when you meet a person who is really touched by the spirit, it looks like he's in love. But you can't tell in love with what." Another favorite quote, if you can call it that, was what he wrote at the front of his program for the tour after I'm Your Man was released. It was called "How to Speak Poetry" and said something about speaking the words, conveying the data, and then stepping aside.

Sometimes it did seem that the authors either put words in his mouth or had a lot of their own opinions thrown in there. They used parentheses a lot (said the kettle to the pot, lol). And I wonder what Leonard himself thought of their book and some of the things they said in it.

Several questions came to me as I was reading the biography but of course I can't think of them now. I will probably reread it since I feel that I missed a lot, and hopefully after I learn more, I will understand this biography better. I'd like to hear if you guys have any theories or thoughts on the book or the authors. I'm going to read Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Nadel next.

I have listened to my first Live CD also. I especially liked Don't Pass Me By. I also liked Passing Through and I need to listen to Queen Victoria some more. I want to say I love his sense of humor but that's not close enough to what I'm really trying to say.

Hope you all are not having the weather we are here. The heat and dryness are sucking the life out of the air. Even the rattlesnakes are moping about!

Thanks again!
Vickie
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby B4real » Fri Aug 04, 2017 2:54 am

Vickie,
I haven't read that first bio for a long time now so I don't have any immediate thoughts on it and also I hadn't listened to Live Songs for some time either but have done so yesterday. It was good to hear his young voice again. I thought I'd give some insight into the album. Even though the subject matter in some of the songs is austere in nature I like the overall ambiance of the album. My favourite here is Bird On The Wire as it was when I originally heard that song and still is in all its forms. Those alternate lines we previously spoke about, “it was the shape of our love twisted me” and “I thought a lover had to be some kind of liar too” are sung here too.
AlanM wrote: In 1972 I was able to procure some tickets for the Albert Hall concert - no internet ticket agencies then - and headed to London.
Ah Alan, you must have heard these three songs because they were all recorded from that concert :) Minute Prologue (only time sung live that I know of), Passing Through and Seems So Long Ago, Nancy.

Passing Through was written by Dick Blakeslee in 1948 and Leonard would have first heard it probably when he was a counsellor at one of those summer camps in the fifties. Some of the first songs he sang were from The People’s Song Book in which this one was also published.

You Know Who I Am alternate verse:
I cannot follow you, my love,
You cannot follow me
I am not life, I am not death,
I am not slave or free.

Vickie, and I know you have heard this exact song before too :) Tonight Will Be Fine because it was recorded at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970. Here there are alternate lines and verses:

But I know from your eyes
and I know from your pretty little smile…

they've got only one bed and they've got only one prayer;
and I listen all night for your step on the stair...

I've looked into the mirrors in numberless places,
they all smile back at me with their troublesome faces.
And the cards that they dealt me, there weren't any aces,
and the horses never listen to me at the races

There's still one or two of us walking the street
No arrows of direction painted under our feet
No angels to warn us away from the heat
And no honey to keep us where it is sweet

Improvisation is an extended instrumental guitar trio version of the vamp from You Know Who I Am.

Please Don’t Pass Me By (A Disgrace) was sung only live with varying version in at least three concerts. I remember at one early concert he was asked to sing this song and he said please don’t ask me to sing that song because it’s too long and exhausting and I’ll never sing it again or something to that effect. He never did sing it again.

Queen Victoria was never sung live and was recorded alone (a reason enough for liking it) by LC in a Tennessee hotel and again as he has done on numerous occasions was originally a poem called ‘Queen Victoria And Me’ from Flowers For Hitler 1964.

Some different lines from the poem:
the slim unlovely virgin anyone would lay
the white figure floating among German beards...

and your perfect memory…

who discolour test tubes in the halls of science
who turn up unwelcome at every World’s Fair...

Seems So Long Ago, Nancy (the melody is great to play on the violin!). I hadn’t started posting info from the early studio album so here’s bit about it now:

Alternate words and verse:
The morning had not come,
Nancy was alone...

Ah the morning would not come
Nancy was alone...

And now why don't you look around you,
see her everywhere,
many of you who used her body,
many combed her hair...

This song was written for and about a judge’s daughter who lived in Montreal and shot herself (LC said "blew her head off") in her father’s bathroom with her brother’s gun (in a later version of the song it’s called a PK45). She was 21 years old.

About the back cover artwork of the album by Daphne Richardson:
Leonard first communicated with her “through the mails” does that description sound familiar? She was an illustrator and a poet and in and out of mental institutions. She committed suicide three days before Leonard had decided to use her artwork on this album. She was 33 years old.
Read more here: viewtopic.php?t=22861#p248525

Uhmm....two young lives misunderstood and taken too soon....and both acknowledged by Leonard.

btw - it has been the hottest winter here that I can remember!
Last edited by B4real on Fri Aug 04, 2017 3:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
Be for real. Free yourself to find the real Self ~~ Me
Happiness is like learning the violin, the more you practice it the more it comes to you ~~ Me
Without the heart, there can be no understanding between the hand and the mind ~~ Gore Vidal
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B4Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby vlcoats » Fri Aug 04, 2017 3:19 am

B4-
Thank you again for all of your wonderful information on lyrics. I did notice that some of the songs did not sound as familiar in certain places, and guessed they were the live variations that we've talked about

That's very interesting about the song Please Don't Pass Me By, in that he didn't want to play it again. I loved the sentiment of it and the way he wryly told them, "this song isn't for you...of course not". But I did think it was a bit long, and I could see how exhausting it might be if the audience wasn't totally into it.

Also interesting about Queen Victoria, that he recorded it alone in a hotel. That would account for the sound. Which is one of the reasons I said I need to listen to it again (using my headphones) I couldn't catch all the words because I was listening in the car.

I remember reading in the Simmon's biography that the Nancy song was about a girl who had committed suicide but I didn't recall that she was the daughter of a judge which would account for some of the lyrics. The biography I just read did mention something about the woman who did the artwork on the back of the album. Saying also that Leonard had responded to her after hearing from her through the mails. (A lyric which by the way, I thought said "through the nails" and thought was a Jesus reference when I first heard it :roll:)

Thank you again for your iinsight!
And just how warm is an Australian winter?
Vickie
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby B4real » Fri Aug 04, 2017 3:30 am

My pleasure Vickie!
B4real wrote:
Fri Aug 04, 2017 2:54 am
About the back cover artwork of the album by Daphne Richardson:
Leonard first communicated with her “through the mails” does that description sound familiar?
That description "through the mails" was first used in Master Song and people have since wondered what it meant ;-)
"such as who had a worm and who had a rock,
and who had you through the mails".

Weather report: It's 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) at the moment and it should be 5-10 less!
Be for real. Free yourself to find the real Self ~~ Me
Happiness is like learning the violin, the more you practice it the more it comes to you ~~ Me
Without the heart, there can be no understanding between the hand and the mind ~~ Gore Vidal
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby AlanM » Fri Aug 04, 2017 3:41 am

Ah Alan, you must have heard these three songs because they were all recorded from that concert :) Minute Prologue (only time sung live that I know of), Passing Through and Seems So Long Ago, Nancy.
Bev,
Sadly the memory has faded a bit after all this time.
My primary memory as I mentioned previously is that he started with Avalanche, and had a bit of chat with the audience during the encore. People were calling out song titles and one of those was and is one of my enduring favourites Lady Midnight. Sadly he declined that one.
Recently I have compiled a playlist of what I think he sang, as gleaned from other sources, mainly Jim Devlin's book, In Every Style Of Passion, with recordings sourced from several European concerts in 1972, including those on Live Songs. [I must confess Queen Victoria has never grabbed me.]
The whole trip was an adventure as I had problems getting tickets until just a few days prior to the concert, then 2 sources came good on the same day. I took several other employees with me, much to the displeasure of my boss (well his wife actually). The fan belt on my car broke as we approached the RAH, but thankfully the motoring organisation replaced it,even though I wasn't a member. Then of course a headlight blew on the way home (2 hours on the M4). We did encounter a police car, but thankfully they didn't stop me!
So there was plenty to distract my memory of the actual songs that were sung.
Also we were very good - we sold our spare tickets for face value. No, I don't remember how much they cost.

Alan
Too much Leonard Cohen is never enough.
London 1972, Adelaide 1980, 1985, 2009
Sydney 2010; Adelaide 2010
Sydney 2013 X2; Melbourne 2013; Adelaide 2013
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby B4real » Fri Aug 04, 2017 3:53 am

Alan,

This should help and as far as I know it is correct :)
https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/leonard- ... 5e570.html

And what an adventure!
Be for real. Free yourself to find the real Self ~~ Me
Happiness is like learning the violin, the more you practice it the more it comes to you ~~ Me
Without the heart, there can be no understanding between the hand and the mind ~~ Gore Vidal
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby AlanM » Fri Aug 04, 2017 4:36 am

Thank you, Bev.
I certainly have no recall of the 2 improvisations.
You should record Nancy as a violin solo and post it for us to enjoy too.
Alan
Too much Leonard Cohen is never enough.
London 1972, Adelaide 1980, 1985, 2009
Sydney 2010; Adelaide 2010
Sydney 2013 X2; Melbourne 2013; Adelaide 2013
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby B4real » Fri Aug 04, 2017 5:35 am

Hi Alan,

I posted that link too quickly without looking at it properly!

My recording agrees with it except for the following:

It’s missing Minute Prologue (sung after 10 Sing Another Song, Boys and before 11 Famous Blue Raincoat)

No 7 on their list has a not quite right improvisation title. I can’t make out some of what he says but amongst other things LC talks about how when the audience is continually coughing it seems like the plague has taken over the city then he spontaneously breaks out in song with these words which are already in my book:

I don’t mind your coughing, baby
Just as long as you stay
You can have pneumonia, baby
Just please don’t go away

No 16 on their list is as it says. He says thank you for being here. Some more talk which in inaudible and then sings “I lit a thin green candle, to make you jealous of me”.....and that’s the end of the recording. Maybe he went on to sing the song in full but I don’t know that. The whole concert is not at all a good recording soundwise but I'm grateful to have it in any case.

And now just to confuse things a bit, The LC Files list the set list this way with Minute Prologue as No 1 (but listening again to my recording I can hear what I think are the chords at the start of Famous Blue Raincoat directly after he finishes Minute Prologue):

1972 March 23: London, England - Royal Albert Hall

1) Minute Prologue (later on "Live Songs")
2) Avalanche
3) Bird on the Wire
4) You Know Who I Am
5) So Long, Marianne
6) One of Us Cannot Be Wrong
7) The Stranger Song
8] Joan of Arc
9) Chelsea Hotel #1
10) Sing Another Song, Boys
11) Famous Blue Raincoat
12) Passing Through (later on "Live Songs")
13) Sisters of Mercy
14) Suzanne
15) Seems So Long Ago, Nancy (later on "Live Songs")

....Just because I love playing Nancy on my violin doesn't mean you will love listening to how it sounds ;-)
Be for real. Free yourself to find the real Self ~~ Me
Happiness is like learning the violin, the more you practice it the more it comes to you ~~ Me
Without the heart, there can be no understanding between the hand and the mind ~~ Gore Vidal
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby vlcoats » Fri Aug 04, 2017 6:37 am

AlanM wrote:My primary memory as I mentioned previously is that he started with Avalanche, and had a bit of chat with the audience during the encore. People were calling out song titles....
If you've got to remember, that's a fine memory!
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby AlanM » Fri Aug 04, 2017 11:51 am

If you've got to remember, that's a fine memory!
But I know from your eyes
and I know from your smile
that tonight will be fine,
will be fine, will be fine, will be fine
for a while.


Ah, that night was so fine, in spite of everything else, and for longer than just a while!

One of the highlights of my life!

Alan
Too much Leonard Cohen is never enough.
London 1972, Adelaide 1980, 1985, 2009
Sydney 2010; Adelaide 2010
Sydney 2013 X2; Melbourne 2013; Adelaide 2013
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby vlcoats » Mon Aug 07, 2017 5:50 am

AlanM post wrote:Sometimes I listen to all the albums in chronological order, but lately I have been listening to just the 3 most recent CDs on repeat.
Me too Alan...

Our friend 4 was right when he said he thought I would like them......

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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby its4inthemorning » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:45 pm

Don't want to cut off more Avalanche discussion, but as we are straying off that topic, maybe someone could suggest a new one. I nominate Alan!
2010 DECEMBER 10 - CAESARS COLOSSEUM, LAS VEGAS / 2012 SEPTEMBER 28 - L'OLYMPIA, PARIS
2012 OCTOBER 3 - PALAU SANT JORDI, BARCELONA / 2012 DECEMBER 13 - K-ROCK CENTRE, KINGSTON
2013 APRIL 6 - RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL, NEW YORK CITY / 2013 JULY 9 - PIAZZA NAPOLEONE, LUCCA
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby its4inthemorning » Tue Aug 08, 2017 1:54 am

I am sure B4 and Alan have seen this video, it is for Vickie and anyone else reading this thread who as not yet seen it.

The video is not a song or interview, it is Leonard's Prince of Asturias Award acceptance speech given in Spain in 2011. There is not much more I can say, it speaks for itself. The mother of all acceptance speeches:

https://youtu.be/VIR5ps8usuo

4
2010 DECEMBER 10 - CAESARS COLOSSEUM, LAS VEGAS / 2012 SEPTEMBER 28 - L'OLYMPIA, PARIS
2012 OCTOBER 3 - PALAU SANT JORDI, BARCELONA / 2012 DECEMBER 13 - K-ROCK CENTRE, KINGSTON
2013 APRIL 6 - RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL, NEW YORK CITY / 2013 JULY 9 - PIAZZA NAPOLEONE, LUCCA
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby AlanM » Tue Aug 08, 2017 3:52 am

Don't want to cut off more Avalanche discussion, but as we are straying off that topic,
OK back on topic. I recall reading (probably on this Forum) that Songs Of Love And Hate was supposed to have love songs on one side of the vinyl disc and hate songs on the other. I beg to differ and propose that most if not all of the songs have elements of both emotions, as manifested in Avalanche (see - back on topic).
What do I think I understand?
I stepped into an avalanche.
It covered up my soul;

As 4 wrote previously:
It really doesn't matter what Cohen's meaning might have been, to me it is a metaphor for, "all of a sudden I'm in a desperate situation, and I don't think I will ever escape." This could apply to many situations, physical and mental.
When I am not this hunchback that you see,
I sleep beneath the golden hill.

This desperate situation has affected me greatly, but I can still occasionally find relief.
You who wish to conquer pain,
You must learn, learn to serve me well.

Learn from my mistake(s).

You strike my side by accident
As you go down for your gold.

You triggered my situation inadvertently. [Troll reference?]
The cripple here that you clothe and feed
Is neither starved nor cold;
He does not ask for your company,
Not at the centre, the centre of the world.

You are smothering me, back off.

When I am on a pedestal,
You did not raise me there.
Your laws do not compel me
To kneel grotesque and bare.
I myself am the pedestal
For this ugly hump at which you stare.

I think/hope I am still in control of myself/the situation, but I'm not convinced.

You who wish to conquer pain,
You must learn what makes me kind;
The crumbs of love that you offer me,
They're the crumbs I've left behind.
Your pain is no credential here,
It's just the shadow, shadow of my wound.

If you want to persuade me towards acceptance, consider me, not just yourself.

I have begun to long for you,
I who have no greed;
I have begun to ask for you,
I who have no need.
You say you've gone away from me,
But I can feel you when you breathe.

You are starting to get to me, in spite of myself, and I'm fairly sure I still do not want to give in.

Do not dress in those rags for me,
I know you are not poor;

Are you trying to be like me, so I will accept you?
You don't love me quite so fiercely now
When you know that you are not sure,

It's different now, isn't it, when you see my resistance is not so strong?
It is your turn, beloved,
It is your flesh that I wear.

Could I be the driver in this relationship now?

In 2010 I wrote:
Re: What sort of music does Leonard Cohen play?

Postby AlanM » Sat Sep 04, 2010 1:23 pm
My answer has always been:
He sings story songs while painting intricate word pictures.
I haven't changed my mind.
Take away my comments above and we are left with an intriguing story song, liberally spread with intricate word pictures.
Instead take away Leonard's lyrics, and we are left with the ramblings of someone trying to make up a story.

4 - Before we move on, let's see if we raise any dust when this ball lands on the other side of the fence.
Bev - you will notice I made no comments on the alternate lyrics. I feel they are all embellishment on the theme.

Alan
Too much Leonard Cohen is never enough.
London 1972, Adelaide 1980, 1985, 2009
Sydney 2010; Adelaide 2010
Sydney 2013 X2; Melbourne 2013; Adelaide 2013
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Re: Along the way... Discovering Leonard's albums

Postby vlcoats » Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:19 am

Alan,
Very interesting. So it sounds like you might be saying that it is about a relationship, love, etc.? Similar to what 4 said regarding so many of LC's songs being about love or a girl. Although my husband isn't as enamored as myself with Leonard, he seems to agree with you. He said it sounds like Avalanche is talking about a girl that has wronged him and that he chose the words that he did because not only did they rhyme and sound awesome together ;-) , but they hinted at his anguish without being so obvious that she would know exactly how much she got to him.
Well, maybe you guys are right, but for me this song has always been about his talent and his passion and how it engulfs him. Not sure if I could take it line for line, but when he says things like "I myself am the pedestal for this ugly hump at which you stare" and "Your pain is no credential here, it's just the shadow, shadow of my wound," he is trying to say that people are attracted to his passion and see what they want in him, and they raise him up as theirs as if he is speaking for them, but they have no idea what it is like for him to live with the passion that he has. And when he says he has begun to long for them, it's because in spite of everything, he still needs their acceptance. .... but I am just guessing. :roll:
Vickie

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