Leonard Cohen cannot walk on water,
but he knows where the rocks are …
That line is the opening of An Interview With Leonard Cohen by Rob O’Connor (Downtown, Feb 12, 1992). The article is is well organized and interesting but doesn’t appear to be available online (I can find no evidence that Downtown is still a functioning newspaper) so I’m posting a scan of the pertinent pages generously contributed by Dominique BOILE.
And, while most of the significant material has been covered elsewhere, there are some delectable treats to be had. I’ve listed the major issues covered along with a few excerpts and my own annotations naming names and explaining a couple of points of confusion:
Leonard Cohen’s impending move to Los Angeles. The 85 year old “drinking buddy” is Roshi, who was then and is now in charge of the Mount Baldy Zen community where Cohen spent several years in the 1990s.
Cohen also brings up the “Leonard Cohen is a boring old drone …” quote from Melody Maker about his Isle Of Wight performance that must be the line written about him that he has most often mentioned. It turns up at least as early as a 1976 taped interview and as recently as the Dec 2, 2010 Vancouver concert.
My personal choice for funniest excerpt from this article:
[Interviewer:] I’ve gone to parties and put your records on and some people think you’re insane, but there’s always a core who stay in the room.
[Leonard Cohen:] I hope some girls stay in the room. You don’t want to ruin the party
Cohen on how long it takes to finish writing songs. Speaking about “Democracy Is Coming To The USA,” he pointed out
I wrote about 50 verses and there are at least four or five completely different songs coming down to that final line.
“Cohen distinguishes “Democracy Is Coming To The USA” from “another song which I’m writing next:”
If You Could See What’s Coming Next: “If you could see what’s coming next/If you could see the hidden text/You’d say, Give me love or give me Adolf Hitler/And you’d say, Give me back the Berlin Wall/Give me Stalin and St Paul/You’d say, Give me Christ or give me Hiroshima/Just get me out of this mirror.
- An explanation of this apparent incongruity is found in this Leonard Cohen quotation excerpted from another article, Leonard Cohen: No Mercy By Anthony DeCurtis Rolling Stone January 21, 1993:
Every one of those songs began as a song that was easier to write. A lot of them were recorded with easier arrangements and easier lyrics. A song like ‘Anthem,’ for instance, I recorded that song for each of the last three albums – with strings, voices and overdubs. It didn’t make those records, because the version was too easy. ‘The Future’ began as a song called ‘If You Could See What’s Coming Next.’ That point of view was a deflected point of view. I didn’t have the guts to say, ‘I’ve seen the future, baby:/It is murder.’ The song was more observational, on the edge of the action.
Yeah, I’m getting on a bit, but thank god for little girls. There are a few who like an older man in their life and now and then you run into one. It’s not all bleak. It is bewildering to me quite seriously, the relationship between a man and a woman is such a bitch. I mean, nobody can figure it out right. We all have trouble on that one.
An Interview With Leonard Cohen by Rob O’Connor
click on image to enlarge