25th Anniversary Of Leonard Cohen’s Miming Manhattan-Takers Videos


The 1988 Leonard Cohen European TV Campaign

Prior to the start of the 1988 Leonard Cohen Tour, the Canadian singer-songwriter performed in a series of European television promotions.

Jim Devlin reports on the phenomenon in his book, In Every Style of Passion (1996):

January and February 1988 took Leonard across Europe to France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, England, Austria and elsewhere to contend with the barrage of media interviews. Compared to previous tours, the PR machine this time round was firing on all cylinders. He appeared on several TV shows, performing – truth be told, miming – First We Take Manhattan in front of Dutch, German and Swedish studio audiences, in all cases with two gyrating female back-up singers. In Oslo, he chose ‘Ain’t No Cure For Love’ and ‘Take this Waltz’. Very often, clips of, or in some cases, the whole of, the video ‘First We Take Manhattan’ accompanied television and radio reports. Of particular interest was a 40-minute documentary on Finnish television in February, neatly subtitled so we heard Leonard without the nuisance if the overdub, and we got to see most of the 1985 German TV-video of ‘Hallelujah’. [Emphasis mine]

Today’s post is a celebration of those First We Take Manhattan performances described in the highlighted section of the above excerpt.

Diamonds In The Mine lists such performances in Belgium, Germany, and France. The video shown below appears to be from the February 21, 1988 French TV show, A La Folie.1

First We Take Manhattan TV Promotion #1 On 5 Funniest Leonard Cohen Music Videos List

Heck Of A Guy has featured these joyous presentations in the past. This excerpt is from the August 17, 2009 Heck Of A Guy post,  Leonard Cohen In French Farce Version Of First We Take Manhattan:

Leonard Cohen Video Or Saturday Night Live Skit Gone Bad?

There are a number of points worth watching in this odd video of First We Take Manhattan …

The set itself (shown above)  is – well, let’s call it striking, a 1980s decorator’s dream  composition in glass, mirrors, chrome, stainless steel, and all things bright and shiny.


The big question, however, is “Who are those two women with the big hair who assist Leonard Cohen in miming and pantomiming the song – and who lose the three-handed arm wrestling championship to him?”



Yes, they dance, too.

Très groovy.


And, it looks to  me as though Cohen only barely wins the ongoing battle against a smirk that repeatedly threatens to break through to take over his facial expression.

Indeed, the German version of this performance took First Place in The 5 Funniest Leonard Cohen Music Videos competition. And while the German iteration is more complete and projects its own cultural charm, the French production does, as one would expect, exude elan.

Video: joseph debray

21 February 1988 – A La Folie

  1. Yes, that means the official 25th Anniversary is still a couple of weeks away. Well, Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th, but that date seems to work for the celebration of that event.  More to the point,  YouTube videos can disappear at any time so I advocate viewing while the viewing is good. []

One response to “25th Anniversary Of Leonard Cohen’s Miming Manhattan-Takers Videos

  1. Wicked Leonard and ladies – love it!