Baby, Baby, Baby – Leonard Cohen & Anjani Sing The Blues In Norway


Leonard Cohen in stylishly scruffy mode – Norway 1985

3 Videos Of 1985 Leonard Cohen Norway Concert Surface

Two days ago, three videos, “I Tried to Leave You,” “Heart With No Companion,” and “Story of Isaac,” taken from a TV broadcast of a 1985 performance by Leonard Cohen in Kalvøya (“Isle of Calf” – near Oslo),  Norway appeared on YouTube, courtesy of kaarekjohnsen. While all three are interesting and well worth watching, the most entertaining and intriguing of the lot is “I Tried To Leave You.” (Because of YouTube’s 10 minute limit, the song requires two videos, the second of which is just over 1 minute long.)


Anjani And The Mean Streakin’ Pearl of the Pacific Blues

Then as now, “I Tried To Leave You” is used as a showcase for the band members’ talents. Unlike the contemporary rendition of “I Tried To Leave You,”1 however, the 1985 version is performed as a blues number.2

Nowhere is this more evident than in the solo by Anjani (identified as “Angie Thomas” on the TV caption) beginning at 2:36 with the salutatory appeal, “Baby, Baby, Baby,” following which Anjani  channels Ruth Brown for a few bars lamenting good love gone bad.3

Cohen’s introduction of Anjani is itself a treat:

Now we come to the girl I love, even though she has a mean streak. She translates that mean streak into passion and fire. That’s why I love her. The Pearl of the Pacific, from Honolulu, Hawaii, Ms Anjani Thomas.

Also Starring …

The video of “I Tried To Leave You” also features an impressive display of guitar skills by band members, Leonard Cohen in stylishly scruffy mode4 improvising lines and being crowned with a wreath of laurels, and a huge crowd of incredibly wholesome-looking, uniformly well-behaved Norwegians.


The Boys In The Band

“I Tried To Leave You” also serves as background for Cohen’s introductions of the band members which are generous and laudatory as those he performs in concerts now. He creates a couple of titles congruent with those he has used for band members in the World Tour. His 1985 drummer, for example, is designated the “Master of Surfaces” while his 2009 counterpart, Rafael Gayol, is labeled the  “Prince of Precision”  or “Our Timekeeper.”

Only The Lonely

And then as now, he has a special concern for those alone. In 2009, it usually takes the form of this blessing, “May you be surrounded by friends and family, and if none of these is yours, may the blessings find you in your solitude. ” In 1985, he urges his audience to remember him and his band “… even  when you find yourself alone in your room making passes at yourself.”

Update Feb 21, 2012: The original videos referenced in this post and at least two sets of replacements  have been removed because of copyright issues.

Leonard Cohen – Story Of Isaac (Kalvøya, Norway, 1985) – Removed
Leonard Cohen – Memories (Kalvøya, Norway, 1985) – Removed
Leonard Cohen – Heart With No Companion (Kalvøya, Norway, 1985) – Rmoved
Leonard Cohen – I Tried to Leave You (Kalvøya, Norway, 1985) – Removed
  1. For a recent example, see the Belfast performance “I Tried To Leave You,” which is the first video in the post, Leonard Cohen – Best Of Belfast. []
  2. None of the many versions of “How To Sing The Blues” found on the Internet (see example of these rules below) address the likelihood of a Canadian crooner and his Hawaiian back-up singer, with the non-blues name, “Anjani,” being qualified to sing the blues. The reader is thus left to his own devices. I offer the following only as a convenience in this effort:

    How To Sing The Blues

    1. Most Blues begin “woke up this morning.”

    2. “I got a good woman” is a bad way to begin the Blues, unless you stick something nasty in right away:
    I got a good woman—with the meanest face in town.

    3. Blues are simple. After you have the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes. Sort of.
    I got a good woman—with the meanest face in town.
    I got a good woman—with the meanest face in town.
    She got teeth like Margaret Thatcher and she weighs 500 pounds.

    4. The Blues are not about limitless choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch; ain’t no way out.

    5. Blues cars are Chevies, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Other acceptable Blues transportation modes include Greyhound buses and southbound trains. Walkin’ plays a major part in the Blues lifestyle. So does fixin’ to die. Blues don’t travel in Volvos, BMWs, or SUVs. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain’t even in the running.

    6. Adults sing the Blues. Teenagers can’t sing the Blues. They ain’t fixin’ to die yet. In the Blues, “adulthood” means old enough to get the electric chair when you shoot that man in Memphis.

    7. You can have the Blues in New York City, but not in Brooklyn or Queens. Hard times in Vermont, Tucson, or North Dakota are just depression. The best places to have the Blues are still Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City. You cannot have the blues in any place that don’t get rain.

    8. A man with male pattern baldness ain’t the blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg while skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg when your broken-down pickup truck rolled over on it is.

    9. The following colors do not belong in the Blues: violet, beige, mauve (unless you’re truly desperate for a rhyme).

    9. You can’t have the Blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is just plain wrong. Go outside to the parking lot or sit by the dumpster.

    10. Good places to have the Blues: the highway, a jailhouse, an empty bed, the bottom of a whiskey glass. Bad places to have the Blues: ashrams, gallery openings, weekends in the Hamptons, golf courses, Tiffany’s, and Ivy League institutions.

    11. No one will believe it’s the Blues if you wear a suit, unless you happen to be an old black man—and it’s an old black suit.

    12. Do you have the right to sing the Blues?
    Answer “Yes” if:
    a. your first name is a southern state—like Georgia
    b. you’re blind
    c. you shot a man in Memphis.
    d. you can’t be satisfied.
    e. you’re older than dirt
    Answer “No” if:
    a. you once were blind but now can see.
    b. you’re deaf
    c. the man in Memphis lived.
    d. you have a trust fund or an IRA.
    e. you have all your teeth
    f. you were once blind but now can see

    13. Blues is not about color, it’s about bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the blues; Gary Coleman could. Ugly old white people got a leg up on the blues. Julio Iglesias and Barbra Streisand will never sing the Blues.

    14. If you ask for water and baby gives you gasoline, it’s the Blues. Other acceptable Blues beverages are: wine, whiskey, muddy water, beer, black coffee. Blues beverages are NOT: mixed drinks, kosher wine, sparkling water, Snapple, Starbucks Frappuccino, or Slim Fast. Although Rubber Biscuits and the Wish Sandwich are famous blues snacks, better stick to common blues grub like Greasy Bar-b-que, Fatback and beans, and Government cheeze. Blues food is never: Club sandwich, Sushi, or Crème brule.

    15. If it occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it’s a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is a Blues death. So is substance abuse, the electric chair, or being denied treatment in an emergency room. It is not a Blues death to die during liposuction or from tennis elbow.

    16. Excellent names for female Blues singers: Sadie, Big Momma, Bessie, or Fat River Dumpling. Excellent names for male Blues singers: Willie, Joe, Little Willie, Lightning, or Big Willie. Singers with names like Muffy, Sierra, Auburn, Alexis, Gwenyth, Sequoiz, Brittany or Rainbow are not permitted to sing the Blues, no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

    17. The Build Your Own Blues Singer Name Starter Kit:
    a. Name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, Asthmatic)
    b. First name (from above lists) or name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi)
    c. Last name of a U. S. president (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)
    Examples: Blind Lime Jefferson, Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Okay, maybe not “Kiwi”…)

    18. I don’t care how tragic your life; if you own a computer, you cannot sing the Blues.
    You’d best destroy it. Fire, a spilled bottle of Mad Dog, or shotgun.
    Maybe your big ass woman just done sit on it. I don’t care

    19. Hey there, you can READ! This too be a big ol’ problem. Most folks singin’ the
    Blues ain’t never had much a chance for education. In the Blues… the three R’s stand
    for Railroads, Runnin’ and Rehab.

    20. It gots to be dark to sing the blues, preferably after midnight. Singin’ da blues at noon is forbidden.

    21. If none of the above works, try one last, pathetic stab at authenticity: name your guitar. Remember, Lucille is taken.

    22. Epitaph on a blues musician’s tombstone: “I didn’t wake up this morning” []

  3. I think she’s singing about good love gone bad. I can’t follow all the words but if one is singing about a love that, for example, only gets sweeter with each passing day, one is not singing the blues, is one? []
  4. Think “Miami Vice,” a 1986 episode of which would feature Cohen. See Leonard Cohen, Miami Vice Guest Star []

8 responses to “Baby, Baby, Baby – Leonard Cohen & Anjani Sing The Blues In Norway

  1. Awesome as all get out! THANKS

  2. So, nothing sung by the Partridge Family could ever be da Blues?

      • According to various posts at LeonardCohenForum, From 1970-1974, Leonard was playing a Spanish flamenco Conde guitar. In the 1976 and 1979/80, he was playing an Ovation (classical) model. In 1985 and 1988, Cohen used a Gibson Chet Atkins guitar. Since 1993, he’s used a Godin, a Canadian brand.

      • The Partridge Family was a 70’s sitcom featuring the wacky misadventures of a singing family with a multi colored bus.

  3. What guitar is Leonard playing, I notice that he has used it for years now..

  4. Love the laurel wreath!

  5. Another great post good Doctor. Anjani was almost as beautifiul in 85 as she is now!

    But mean? Must just be for the blues, right?