More Leonard Cohen, Anjani Videos From Kaare Johnsen
Another group of outstanding historical videos featuring Leonard Cohen and Anjani came online at YouTube yesterday through the auspices of kaarekjohnsen,1 who was responsible for the videos of the 1985 Leonard Cohen concert in Kalvøya that were the topic of Baby, Baby, Baby – Leonard Cohen & Anjani Sing The Blues In Norway.
While I will address several of these in upcoming posts, today’s focus is on the three videos (total time: 17 minutes) comprising the appearance of Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas as guests on the March 30, 2007 edition of “Først & sist” (“First & last”), the Norwegian talk show hosted by Fredrik Skavlan.2
Leonard Cohen On His Ordination As A Zen Monk, The Pilfering Of His Money, Al Gore, and Anjani
My recommendation of this interview segment is based in large part on Cohen’s low-key explanations of the reasons he devoted a few years to living in a Zen monastery on Mount Baldy and the events surrounding the pilferage of his retirement fund, both of which demystify the circumstances without denying the significance of the episodes.
As always, Cohen is well-spoken, poised, and witty, especially in regard to his loss of his retirement fund of several million dollars.
Money has a way of disappearing if you don’t watch it very, very closely. That’s a certain wisdom I acquired. I wasn’t absolutely certain of this [before the loss], but now I am. It’s enough to put a dent in your mood.
[Responding to the host's observation that Cohen seems "quite happy" despite having very little money following the loss:] Well, I don’t recommend this as a spiritual exercise, …
As I’ve pointed out, beginning with the first Heck Of A Guy post that addressed a Cohen interview,
Leonard Cohen exercises the poet’s prerogative of re-interpreting and manipulating her [the interviewer's] words and his own to distract and deflect. A trivial but nonetheless amusing example follows:
Leonard Cohen: I always thought I would change my name and get a tattoo
Beryl Fox: Where?
Leonard Cohen: There’s this place on St. Lawrence Blvd.
The interviewer’s facial expression at that point is a bonus.
As one might expect, Cohen has, in the 39 years that separate the two interviews, become more subtle and sophisticated in his technique, but he still shepherds the conversation into the path he chooses, content to follow the lead of the interviewer only if it fits his needs. This is, I hasten to add, invariably a benefit to the quality of the interview.3
Two brief Cohen expositions are worthy of special note:
1. In a few sentences, he makes Al Gore, who is also a guest on the show, sound principled rather than ponderous and spiritual rather than self-righteous. Mr Gore, unfortunately, proves himself equally efficacious in undoing this rehabilitation when he responds to Cohen’s comments.
2. An interesting contrast exists between Cohen’s characterization of his relationship with Anjani in this interview and that contained in his introduction of her in the video of the 1985 Kalvøya, Norway performance of “I Tried To Leave You.”The 1985 introduction follows:
Now we come to the girl I love, even though she has a mean streak. She translates that mean streak into passion and fire. That’s why I love her. The Pearl of the Pacific, from Honolulu, Hawaii, Ms Anjani Thomas.
Compare that with his response to the host’s phrase, “This is a long love story,” which was spoken simply as an invitation for Cohen to provide the history between Anjani and him. Instead, Cohen first finds it necessary, with notable stuttering and stops and starts, to correct the improper application of “love story” to the relationship:
It wasn’t always a love … It was an affectionate story for a long time, and it ripened into something deeper. But I found it’s best not to name a relationship.
It is important to acknowledge that this shift does not seem the consequence of any change in Cohen’s relationship with Anjani, to whom he appears deeply attached during the interview. In fact, just prior to his halting pronouncements on the nature of the connection, Cohen had spontaneously segued from Anjani as his backup singer to Anjani as his romantic partner:
I depended on that [Anjani's] voice, I leaned on it, I slept on that voice.
Instead, the difference appears the result of Cohen’s insistence, which has intensified with age, of speaking in a knowledgeable manner only about matters concerning which he is indeed knowledgeable.
Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas On Først & sist, NRK, 2007 (1 of 3)
Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas On Først & sist, NRK, 2007 (2 of 3)
Anjani Sings “Thanks For The Dance”
Reflecting the power of ratings, the lion’s share of the interviewer’s attention is on Cohen. The primary question asked Anjani is, in fact, “How is it to work and live so close to Leonard Cohen?”
It turns out that “It’s a lot of fun.”
On the other hand, Anjani does a star turn on the show, performing “Thanks For The Dance.”
Update: As is apparent below, Part 3 of Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas On Først & sist, NRK, 2007 has been removed by the YouTube user. I have sent a message asking that the segment be restored but have received no response. As far as I can determine, the video is not available elsewhere.
Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas On Først & sist, NRK, 2007 (3 of 3) Includes Anjani Performing “Thanks For The Dance”_____________________
- When treasures like these become available from 25 years ago, my fantasies tend toward scenarios such as the discovey of a cache of tapes stored in mislabeled box at an abandoned TV studio. The actual explanation is less dramatic but perhaps more impressive. The 1985 Cohen performance (as well as songs sung by Donovan and Joni Mitchell) were recorded from TV by a colleague of Kaare Johnsen while the other material was recorded from TV broadcasts by Kaare Johnsen herself. (A few items, not among those discussed in this post, were found on DVD). That Kaare and her colleague had the foresight to record these performances and the orgnization to find them again 25 years later is a formidable – and a bit intimidating – accomplishment. [↩]
- The other two guests are American environmental activist and former vice president Al Gore and Gro Harlem Brundtland, who from 1984-87 was chairman of the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development (also former prime minister of Norway and director-general of the World Health Organization). [↩]
- One of the several reasons I desperately long to interview Leonard Cohen is my conviction that, if I can muster the presence of mind to stutter out a discernible query of any sort (currently, I’m thinking of going with “So, Leonard, how’s tricks?”), the interview will be a pristine, elegant discussion of whatever Cohen wanted to talk about – which would be the same result regardless of what I had asked, so it is, as they say, all good. [↩]