OK, we think it’s Adam in the video (when asked, Adam responded “Looks like me but I really don’t remember!”). And, OK, the duration of the Cohen duo on screen is a bit less than 3 seconds. And, yes, the professional fee was one cool pair of sunglasses. Still, …
The video in which the Cohens appear showcases a band called Terminal Sunglasses performing Psycho Rail. Terminal Sunglasses, according to the group’s web site,
were part of the Montreal punk/new wave/alternative music scene from 1983 to 1985. Labelled an “avant-garage” band, they updated 60’s garage band influences and Velvet Underground avant-guard tendencies with 1980’s punk sensibilities.
That site is administered by Lawrence Joseph, a band member whose musical role is described as “twisted lead and spastic rhythm guitars, background mumbles and Latin percussion.” From his account., the video was filmed on Montreal’s St Laurent Blvd, “near the old location of the Montreal Pool Room, a bit north of Dorchester on the west side of St Laurent.”
To my query asking if Leonard Cohen materializing in the middle of the Terminal Sunglasses video was serendipitous, Lawrence replied
Yes, Cohen was just walking by and we were kind of taking up a lot of space on the sidewalk and drawing a crowd of weirdo gawkers. He stopped to ask us what was going on. His girlfriend saw we were all wearing cool sunglasses, so we made a deal with him: We would give his girlfriend a free pair of cool sunglasses, and in exchange he would appear in the video. So it was with his permission and we sort of paid him a “fee,”1 but it was otherwise just lucky that he was walking by that day. At the very least he was with his girlfriend, and quite possibly his son was there too, but I do not have a specific memory of that. His son did not come to speak to us, and many people were crowding around.
I did ask Lawrence if he knew the identity of the girlfriend:
Unfortunately, after 30 years, no and no. Maybe longish brown hair, I have a vague recollection about that, but I would not swear to it. Not very helpful, sorry.
The Michael Jackson Cameo
By the way, Michael Jackson also appears at the end of the video. Again, Lawrence provides some detail:
Same thing with Michael Jackson at the end of the video. He just happened to be out driving around the corn fields of Ste Anne-de-Bellevue where we were filming that day. Unlike Cohen he did not stop to talk with us, and instead littered the roadway with a Pepsi can. Two completely different personalities.
The Video: Terminal Sunglasses – Psycho Rail
The Cohens arrive at 2:15
Credit Due Department: Esther Park alerted me to this Cohen cameo and was the one who contacted Adam Cohen to ask if he recalled the incident. Esther found out about the video from a LeonardCohenForum post by Helen Ketcham.
- DrHGuy Note: Given the loss of song rights, the lackluster promotion by record companies, and the fiscal problems that marked all but the last five years of Leonard Cohen’s career, a strong argument can be made that scoring a pair of sunglasses for a mini-cameo was one of the better deals the Canadian singer-songwriter struck at that point.On the other hand, he didn’t get to keep the sunglasses himself, so … [↩]