I know Alan and I have discussed this song in print and in person before so I’m not surprised that he would suggest it
I remember it well - not quite the Chelsea Hotel, but a very pleasant afternoon spent discussing Leonard with another Cohenite friend (is that tautology?), just prior to the concert in Melbourne Tennis Centre.
I said then and I say it again, FBR
is my #1 Cohen song, I prefer the album version most of all, as it is almost unplugged*. Some of the concert versions over the years have been over-arranged IMHO.
I haven't heard a cover that I even remotely like and I confess that when I saw and heard the video of a program called "RockPop" broadcast on German TV (31.10.1979) I thought Leonard had murdered his own song by his phrasing. Sadly several versions are available on YouTube.
This thread has made me examine my own thoughts on why I like the song. When the album was released, I had played the first 2 albums almost endlessly, mainly listening through headphones, for 2-3 years, I had just started work and was living in shared accommodation with a non-Cohen fan. It is a fabulous song to absorb in the dark, allowing those word pictures to guide my thoughts as they drift around, often in different directions from the time before.
Irrespective of the lyrics, the melody and arrangement are to me, lullaby-like, and this is accentuated by Leonard's hypnotic voice. I am not musically savvy enough to describe the combination, but the slow rhythmic beat, the rising and lowering of his voice, the delicate picking of the guitar strings get me every time.
The lyrics - what a story that is both told and untold, the mixed feelings for the other(s) as well as the self just resonated with me initially and ever since.
At Uni and working, both away from my family home, my parents had insisted on a letter home every week and I always found it difficult, and here is this man writing a letter and expressing and implying feelings that I had never experienced. It was such a revelation.
The only comment that I'll make re the specific lyrics is not original. The concept of the other man being another part of Leonard's "id" was postulated some years ago, with the trigger word being "gypsy". He had referred to himself as a gypsy in So Long, Marianne
and later of course he apparently was writing about Suzanne Elrod in The Gypsy's Wife
. So I agree that the gypsy thief
is another (suppressed?) part of his nature, his character, his past, etc.
Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never tried.
But there are so many brilliant lines. These are probably not just my favourite lines in this song, but probably my favourite LC lines over all, considering the depth of emotion both expressed and implied.
I know Leonard felt he hadn't nailed it, but I wouldn't change it at all, other than he could have pronounced the K at the end of awake
, with the same clarity that he did at the end of flake
However, I would happily expunge that RockPop version from the universe.
As I write this, it's not 4 in the morning, more like 5:30 in the afternoon, and there's FBR (album version) on repeat front and centre. I don't know how many repeats, but each time it is an old friend that I know well and an amazing new friend, like I was hearing it for the first time, both together.
So I know this song intimately, but I don't know it at all. How's that for understanding?
Long Live The Mystery Of Cohen Lyrics!
If the great whoever said to me "only one song for evermore" I would chose this one.
To be truthful, I am not so much interested in what anyone thinks the lyrics mean exactly, but how do the lyrics make you feel and what kinds of images and memories do they bring to mind, and what about the music? That, I am definitely interested in. So thank you for sharing.
Thank you Vicky. So much has been written in other places, I feel your direction is the right one to follow for this thread. I hope I have succeeded.
I was listening to New Skin For The Old Ceremony
this morning and thought it could easily have been called Songs Of Love And Hate part 2.
Are you aware you can have personalised ring tones on your mobile phone without paying an ongoing fee?
I have The Future
verse You don't know me from the wind
as my ring tone and the intro to Waiting For The Miracle
as my message tone.
At the start of the 2nd half of the 1985 concert I attended, he was unplugged and unaccompanied for a few songs, and it was fabulous.
Leif Bodnarchuk (guitar technician) in his blog during the beautifully long World Tour
quoted someone along the lines of:
If your name is not on the ticket, you don't really have much of a say and many fans out there would happily turn up to hear Leonard on his own.
Amen to that.