What You Don’t Know About Leonard Cohen’s “Old Ideas” Album – The Original “Old Dog” Name & Art

More Leonard Cohen Info Not Found On Other Web Sites1

Old Ideas Secret #1: The original name for the album was “Old Dog – Old Tricks” and featured a congruent design.

The Cohen-Canine Connection

First, it’s no secret that Leonard Cohen likes dogs.

Leonard Cohen with Bobby, Jr aka the Eels’ talented singing dog. Photo by Jennifer Delarosa

Leonard Cohen talked about the dogs he has loved in this 2001 interview with Stina Lundberg:

SL: And your dog?

LC: My dog? Oh, uh, I’m very happy these days because my daughter, who lives in the same house as I do, she has two dogs. And I love dogs and she’s brought two dogs into my life, it’s really wonderful, and I play with them every day and teach them tricks.

SL: What kind of dogs?

LC: Mutts. Just street dogs. She got them from the pound.

SL: Did you have a dog when you were little?

LC: Yes, I had a Scottie, Scottish terrier. His name was, my mother named him, Tovarich, “comrad”. We called him Tinky. And yes, a very – I guess the closest being to me during my childhood. The dog would sleep under my bed and follow me to school, and wait for me. So that was a great sense of companionship.

SL: Because you sometimes write about the dog.

LC: Well I have his picture on my dresser in Los Angeles. We loved that dog. My sister gave me his picture framed as a present.

The Cohen-Cover Art Capriciousness

Second, Mr Cohen has in the past sometimes appeared, depending on one’s perspective, cavalier, capricious, or clever in his management of album covers.

The photo on his first album, Songs Of Leonard Cohen, for example, was shot by and attributed to a coin-operated photo booth (the photo credit on the album jacket reads “Photo by Machine”).

 The Previous Cohen Canine Covers

These two traits converged in the placement of Nova, Lorca Cohen’s pooch, on the cover of a Leonard Cohen record.

In fact, according to Leonard Cohen himself,2 a portrait of Nova nearly graced the cover for his “Ten New Songs” album:

When Leanne saw the photo I took of Sharon and myself, she said, “That’s a picture of two people with one mind.” Given her stunning contribution to Ten New Songs, it was necessary, just, and appropriate that Sharon appear on the cover. Otherwise, Nova, my daughter’s dog, would have been featured; even though nobody really liked it but Kelley, Lorca and me. The people at Sony thought I ‘must be kidding.’ Nova will have her day.

And later on, Nova did make the cover of Cohen’s “Boogie Street” single.3

 A Classic Painting Inspires Leonard Cohen

Given this history, one is not surprised to discover  that when Leonard Cohen happened upon one of the versions of C. M. Coolidge’s iconic “Dogs Playing Poker,” he was seized with the compulsion to embed a similar image on the cover of his then unnamed album and to bestow upon that CD the irreverent, self-effacing (i.e., Cohenesque) title “Old Dog – Old Tricks.”

Cohen then composed suitable cover art by photshopping the dog’s face and paws onto a photo of himself previously taken by his personal assistant, Kezban Özcan – and the rest is history.

Or, at least it would have been if his record company hadn’t  gone into corporate apoplexy when they reviewed the album cover.

After prolonged negotiations failed to produce an compromise, Leonard Cohen finally agreed to the somewhat similar title he had intended to use for the album that was released as “Dear Heather” in 2004 – “Old Ideas.” Fatigued and disgusted, he threw the shot of pre-photoshopped version of Kezban’s photo of him on the conference table, muttering “Just use that.”

And that is how “Old Dog – Old Tricks” became “Old Ideas.”


Still More Leonard Cohen Info Not Found On Other Web Sites

  1. “Other Web Sites,” are defined as those that unimaginatively limit themselves to facts about Leonard Cohen. []
  2. Leonard Cohen quote and photos of doggie-graced record covers are from LeonardCohenFiles: Alternative covers for Ten New Songs []
  3. From LeonardCohenFiles: CD Singles 2001-2002 []

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