Leonard Cohen’s "A Thousand Kisses Deep" – From Book Of Longing To San Jose Concert

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Leonard Cohen – Another Thousand Kisses Deep In San Jose

Leonard Cohen Item #1:   Leonard Cohen’s recitation of “A Thousand Kisses Deep” at the November 13, 2009 San Jose show was not the standard concert version of the poem.

Leonard Cohen Item #2:   There is no standard concert version of “A Thousand Kisses Deep.”1

The Wasn’t that a different version of “A Thousand Kisses Deep” Leonard Cohen recited at the concert last night? meme has, in fact, been a part of the World Tour discussions since the first set of concerts in Summer 2008. But that’s getting ahead of the story, which begins, for the purposes of this post, during the rehearsals for the Leonard Cohen World Tour.

In The Beginning Was the Word – Soon Afterward, Leonard Cohen Revised It

Before the beginning (of the World Tour), “A Thousand Kisses Deep” was a poem in the Book Of Longing.  In the studio, the first verses were excised and the remainder of the poem rearranged to create the song, “A Thousand Kisses Deep” that was released on the album, Ten New Songs.2

Leonard Cohen – A Thousand Kisses Deep
From Ten New Songs

It seems safe to posit that, for most fans, the title, “A Thousand Kisses Deep,” evoked the song rather than the poem.

It also seems safe to suppose that most fans were surprised that Leonard Cohen chose to perform “A Thousand Kisses Deep” as a spoken poem rather than a song in the World Tour concerts.

The decision also surprised, I’m told, his World Tour crew.

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Cohen, according to a crew member, originally considered performing the first portion of “A Thousand Kisses Deep” as a spoken poem with a segue into the song, which as noted above, consists roughly of the second half of the printed work.3  At some point, however, Cohen decided the performance was “too long” and eliminated the song.

It remains unclear if this decision was the result of Cohen’s genius, caprice, random choice, desire to screw around with the heads of fans, fascination with the phrase, “…  handled me like meat,” or his concern that Heck Of A Guy would exhaust all other topics and cease  posting.

The Many – But Less Than A Thousand (So Far)  – Versions Of  “A Thousand Kisses Deep”

No sooner had the first audiences recovered from hearing the unexpected recitation than the question of which words were changed arose, and the discussion has been, unlike Cohen’s lines, persistent ever since.  For a brief review of the issues, see Leonard Cohen Was More Than “A Thousand Kisses Deep” In Dublin

“A Thousand Kisses Deep”  is (yet another) Leonard Cohen work in progress.

This is the latest pubic version:

Leonard Cohen – A Thousand Kisses Deep
San Jose: 11/13/2009
Video from arlenedick15

Lyrics

Transcription of the November 13, 2009 San Jose performance of “A Thousand Kisses Deep”  is by j6ppc at LeonardCohenForum

You came to me this morning
and you handled me like meat
you’d have to be a man to know
how good that feels how sweet
my mirror twin my next of kin
I’d know you in my sleep
and who but you would take me in
a thousand kisses deep

I loved you when you opened
like a lily to the heat
you see i’m just another snowman
standing in the rain and sleet
who loved you with his frozen love
his secondhand physique
with all he is and all he was
a thousand kisses deep

I know you had to lie to me
I know you had to cheat
to pose all hot and high
behind the veils of sheer deceit
our perfect porn aristocrat
so elegant and chic
I’m old but I’m still into that
a thousand kisses deep

I’m good at love
I’m good at hate
its in-between I freeze
been working out but its too late
its been too late for years
but you look good you really do
they love you on the street
If I could move I’d kneel for you
a thousand kisses deep

I’m still working with the wine
still dancing cheek to cheek
the band is playing Auld Lang Sine
but the heart will not retreat
I ran with Diz I sang with Ray
I never had their sweep
but once or twice they let me play
a thousand kisses deep

Don’t matter is the road is long
don’t matter if its steep
don’t matter if the moon goes out
and the darkness is complete
don’t matter if we lose our way
its written that we’ll meet
at least that’s what I heard you say
a thousand kisses deep

I loved you when you opened
like a lily to the heat
you see i’m just another snowman
standing in the rain and sleet
who loved you with his frozen love
his secondhand physique
with all he is and all he was
a thousand kisses deep

well that’s my story
I admit its broken and its bleak
but all the twisted pieces fit
a thousand kisses deep.

For comparison, “A Thousand Kisses Deep” as performed on the Live In London recording follows:

Leonard Cohen – A Thousand Kisses Deep
From Live In London (2009)

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Credit Due Department: The photo of the HP Pavilion and the photo of Leonard Cohen were taken by Kim Solez of Leonard Cohen Nights

  1. It is, of course, possible I missed the official announcement. There may exist, somewhere on YouTube, an obscure, shaky video of Leonard Cohen announcing to an audience in eastern Europe or the Maritime provinces that the verses he just recited now constitute the standard version of the poem, or a document, duly notarized with the Unified Heart Seal and tucked away in a little visited corner of LeonardCohenFiles.com, may be an irrevocable proclamation setting forth the standard version.  I am, however, unaware of such certification. []
  2. Lyrics – A Thousand Kisses Deep (from Ten New Songs)

    The ponies run, the girls are young,
    The odds are there to beat.
    You win a while, and then it’s done –
    Your little winning streak.
    And summoned now to deal
    With your invincible defeat,
    You live your life as if it’s real,
    A Thousand Kisses Deep.

    I’m turning tricks, I’m getting fixed,
    I’m back on Boogie Street.
    You lose your grip, and then you slip
    Into the Masterpiece.
    And maybe I had miles to drive,
    And promises to keep:
    You ditch it all to stay alive,
    A Thousand Kisses Deep.

    And sometimes when the night is slow,
    The wretched and the meek,
    We gather up our hearts and go,
    A Thousand Kisses Deep.

    Confined to sex, we pressed against
    The limits of the sea:
    I saw there were no oceans left
    For scavengers like me.
    I made it to the forward deck.
    I blessed our remnant fleet –
    And then consented to be wrecked,
    A Thousand Kisses Deep.

    I’m turning tricks, I’m getting fixed,
    I’m back on Boogie Street.
    I guess they won’t exchange the gifts
    That you were meant to keep.
    And quiet is the thought of you,
    The file on you complete,
    Except what we forgot to do,
    A Thousand Kisses Deep.

    And sometimes when the night is slow,
    The wretched and the meek,
    We gather up our hearts and go,
    A Thousand Kisses Deep.

    The ponies run, the girls are young,
    The odds are there to beat . . . []

  3. This format, a piece composed of a recitation followed by singing the same work  did survive in the concerts in the case of “If It Be Your Will,” in which Cohen introduces the song and recites a few lines, after which the Webb Sisters sing the verses. See this video of “If It Be Your Will.” []

3 Responses to Leonard Cohen’s "A Thousand Kisses Deep" – From Book Of Longing To San Jose Concert

  1. Arlene told me you’d posted my transcription from friday night- thanks for doing so. I think there are at least 5 different versions of 1000 kisses out there now- the “for those who greeted me” on the blackening pages, the version as published in the book of longing. 2 different versions found as mp3 recordings somewhere and Friday night’s version. I’m not counting minor tweaks of a word here or there as variants!

  2. I would like to commend you on the depth of your scholarship presenting the history of this thrilling poem. I was stunned when I first read through your whole article, it affected me so deeply. It is much more than a blog piece, it is an outstanding treatise! Thank you.

  3. I enjoyed reading this entry. This poem has for many years been my most favorite of all Cohen’s work. I prefer it as poem over song so I was thrilled with his choice for the tour. I’m always excited to hear bits I hadn’t heard before.