Leonard Cohen On His Major Musical Influence – And Waitresses

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The History Of  Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox At Heck Of A Guy

Beginning with the publication of “Unchained Melody” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox on April 4, 2009, the Heck Of A Guy ongoing feature, “X Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox” has featured 18 posts, each featuring a song that has won Leonard Cohen’s admiration and this introduction:

Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: In interviews through the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a handful of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Heck Of A Guy feature that began playing these tunes for your edification and entertainment.

The notion of Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox appealed to me because jukeboxes were one of the few sources of music, other than  radio stations, all selected by my parents in keeping with their preferences for country and gospel genres, available in my youth prior to my acquisition of (1) a rust colored Sears Silvertone 5-transistor radio1 and (2) the first of what were to be a multitude of LPs.2

I happened to come across a Leonard Cohen interview by B.P. Fallon,3 the pertinent excerpt from which follows:

Leonard Cohen: It was a great restaurant. I am sorry it disappeared. It was, it was a real funky restaurant, but it had white tablecloths; I don’t know why. (Laughs) And a really good jukebox. Well, it changed over the years. They had good country songs on it, … “Unchained Melody” was a song that I used to listen to a lot on that.

B. P. Fallon: Which version?

Leonard Cohen:

B. P. Fallon: The Righteous Brothers?

Leonard Cohen: The Righteous Brothers, right.

B. P. Fallon: Interesting, here it is.

Leonard Cohen: Oh, that’s a good one.

It was, by the way, not only the obvious importance Leonard Cohen ascribed to a “good jukebox” that resonated with me but also his inability to come up with the artist’s name on the spot.

Thus was “X Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox” established at Heck Of A Guy (a complete listing of “X Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox” entries spawned thus far is available at the end of this post).

Leonard Cohen Discloses “The Biggest Influence on My Music”

All this is prelude to the arguably anti-climactic but by no means insignificant payoff from this post – the offering of  a 71 word paragraph from my serendipitous re-discovery yesterday of  the Leonard Cohen section  from Scott Cohen’s 1994 book, Yakety Yak:4

Biggest Influence on My Music
The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. There was “The Great Pretender,” “Cross Over the Road.” I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.

That response, albeit oversimplified and self-consciously clever,  goes far to explain  the appeal of Cohen’s songs to at least some admirers – including me.

These are songs written by someone whose fundamental fascination is not with music, however accomplished his skills in that field might be, but with whatever revelations he can glean from the study of  life, including the restaurant he frequents and the restaurant’s waitresses and the restaurant’s jukebox.

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Heck Of A Guy Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox posts:

  1. “Unchained Melody” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  2. “Blueberry Hill” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  3. Billy Joel’s “Light As The Breeze” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  4. “Your Cheatin’ Heart” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  5. “Cold Hard Truth” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  6. “Je ne regrette rien” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  7. “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On” By McComb & Peters Is On
  8. Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  9. The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  10. Roy Orbison’s “House Without Windows” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox (Maybe)
  11. Blackeyed Susans And David McComb & The Red Ponies Cover Leonard Cohen’s “Memories”
  12. Nick Cave’s “Avalanche” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  13. Geoffrey Oreyama’s “Suzanne” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  14. “The Grand Tour” by George Jones Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox – Or At Least His Funeral Setlist
  15. “Waltzing Matilda” By Tom Waits Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  16. Patsy Cline’s “I Fall To Pieces” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  17. Dylan’s “I And I” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  18. “Gloomy Sunday ” Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  19. Concierto de Aranjuez” by Joaquín Rodrigo Is On Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
  1. See Retro Design Porn – Home, 1950′s Style []
  2. The first of these adolescent purchases, documented in Selected Sounds Of Silence – Simon, Garfunkel, Cohen, Dylan, Fraser, & Alizee, were “an album by the Beach Boys, an offering by Jan and Dean, (similar to, predecessors of, and collaborators with the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean had a batch of California surf and car hits such as “Surf City,” “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” and “Dead Man’s Curve”), and “Sounds Of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel,” although to be thorough, the first record I owned was “Cold Nose, Warm Heart,” a paean to Rin Tin Tin, from “Songs of Rin Tin Tin,” a set of three 7-inch, mono, 45 rpm, vinyl records on the Golden Records (EP 745) label performed by the Sandpipers. See Standing Up For Rin Tin Tin []
  3. Leonard Cohen at the BP Orchestra, March 2 1985 on RTE 2 (Dublin, Ireland). From A Thousand Kisses Deep: “Leonard gave two shows in Dublin the same evening, so the programme probably was conceived around that date.” From bpfallon.com: The BP Fallon Orchestra is the famous radio programme on RTE Radio 2 that ran from 1982 to 1987 and played a big part in BP being awarded The Jacob’s Award For Broadcasting. In its five years, The BPFO featured incisive interviews with everyone from George Harrison to Mick Jagger, Spike Milligan to Quentin Crisp, Leonard Cohen to Pete Townsend, Jerry Lee Lewis to the Pogues… “ []
  4. Full title: “Yakety-Yak : The Midnight Confessions and Revelation of Thirty-Seven Rock Stars and Legends” published by Fireside. The Leonard Cohen section also includes many other quote-worthy tidbits, including “What to Tell a Woman after Sex:  Thank you. []

One Response to Leonard Cohen On His Major Musical Influence – And Waitresses

  1. Great insights Allan

    Many thanks!