Category Archives: Leonard Cohen

Listen To Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems Now Via NPR


Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems now streaming free of charge via NPR First Listen.1


  1. I was able to connect from my location in the US. It appears to work in the UK, Australia, and Europe as well.  I do not know, however,  if this site can be reached from all countries. []

Baby, Baby, Baby – All The 1985 Leonard Cohen Norway Videos Are Back Online


Now You See Them, Now You Don’t, Now You Do, … The Spectacular Leonard Cohen Kalvøya Videos

In 2009, Heck Of A Guy posted Baby, Baby, Baby – Leonard Cohen & Anjani Sing The Blues In Norway celebrating the YouTube appearance of three spectacular videos, “I Tried to Leave You,” “Heart With No Companion,” and “Story of Isaac,” taken from a TV broadcast of a 1985 performance by Leonard Cohen in Kalvøya (“Isle of Calf” – near Oslo), Norway. The color and clarity of these recordings were outstanding, the performances, with Anjani on the keyboards and vocals, were  solid, and watching these videos was moving, exhilarating, and fun. Since then, the videos have reappeared and been removed at least once. Then, in 2013, some of the Kalvoya performances, including “Memories,”  a performance not previously available, were uploaded to Daily Motion. Sadly, “I Tried To Leave You” was missing.

Until now.

NRK has put their entire broadcast of the festival online, including all four Leonard Cohen songs: “Memories,” “Heart With No Companion,” “Story of Isaac,” and “I Tried to Leave You.” In addition, a brief interview with Cohen is included.

lc-mem2And, with his hair slicked back, his beard stylishly scruffy, a cigarette in one hand, and a microphone in the other (note the dramatic microphone dip at 1:58), Leonard Cohen’s matinee idol persona, typically used in the performance of “Memories,” has never been more enjoyable.

Good Afternoon, My Darling
I Tried To Leave You

While all the songs are interesting and well worth watching, the most entertaining and intriguing of the lot is “I Tried To Leave You.”

Anjani’s Mean Streakin’ Pearl of the Pacific Blues


Then as in the 2008-2013 tours, “I Tried To Leave You” is used as a showcase for the band members’ talents. Unlike the more contemporary rendition of “I Tried To Leave You,”1 however, the 1985 version is performed as a blues number.

Also Starring …

The video of “I Tried To Leave You” also features an impressive display of guitar skills by band members, Leonard Cohen in stylishly scruffy mode2 improvising lines and being crowned with a wreath of laurels, and a huge crowd of incredibly wholesome-looking, uniformly well-behaved Norwegians.

The Boys In The Band

“I Tried To Leave You” also serves as background for Cohen’s introductions of the band members which are generous and laudatory as those he performed in more recent concerts. He creates a couple of titles congruent with those he has used for band members in the World Tour. His 1985 drummer, for example, is designated the “Master of Surfaces” while his 2009 counterpart, Rafael Gayol, is labeled the “Prince of Precision” or “Our Timekeeper.”

In addition to Anjani Thomas on keyboards, fans are likely to recognize Mitch Watkins, the guitarist on the recent Cohen tours.

Only The Lonely


And then as now, he has a special concern for those alone. Since 2008, it often took the form of this blessing, “May you be surrounded by friends and family, and if none of these is yours, may the blessings find you in your solitude. ” In 1985, however, he urges his audience to remember him and his band “… even when you find yourself alone in your room making passes at yourself.”

The Video

The video cannot be embedded here but can be viewed at Det er fest på Kalvøya igjen (Kalvøyafestivalen 1985)


Note: The contents of the entire video are displayed below the viewing screen.  One can access the desired sections by clicking 0n those headings (see highlighted “Leonard Cohen – I Tried To Leave You” section in above screen capture)

Credit Due Department: I was alerted to this video by a Facebook post authored by Gordana Stupar


  1. For example, see the 2009 Belfast performance “I Tried To Leave You,” which is the first video in the post, Leonard Cohen – Best Of Belfast. []
  2. Think “Miami Vice,” a 1986 episode of which would feature Cohen. See Leonard Cohen, Miami Vice Guest Star []

How To Listen To Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems Album The Week Before Its Release


Sony Streaming

Sony is promoting Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems album by streaming its tracks free of charge the week prior to its release. The dates below indicate when the streaming of Popular Problems begins in a given country. The pre-release streaming appears scheduled to continue until the release date of the album, Sept 23, 2014. This information is current as of 13 September 2014.

Update: As of 7  AM Sept  15, I am unable to reach the streaming via the Canadian site or the SmartUrl listed below from my location in the US. I am, however, able to access sites streaming the album at Kurier and NPR.


English – Sept 15, 2014: Information at CBC Music – Leonard Cohen Week

French – Sept 16, 2014: Information at – Le Nouveau Disque De Leonard Cohen – Bientôt En Primeur Sur


Clicking on link after the start date automatically connects you to the correct streaming provider for your region: Popular Problems – SmartURL

Sept 15, 2014
Czech Republic

Sept 16, 2014


I can find no direct reference to pre-release streaming in the US, but Sony’s European memo notes, “Any countries not listed below will be pointed to the NPR player in the US on September 15th. Consequently, I suspect the same link will work for the US as well, beginning Sept 15, 2014: Popular Problems – SmartURL

Credit Due Department: The information re pre-release streaming in Europe was found in a Sony memo posted at LeonardCohenForum

Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems Album – Updated Amazon Sales Ranking


Amazon-USA: 13 September 2014

Yesterday’s post, Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems Album – The Sept 12, 2014 Update, noted that Popular Problems was “popular enough to rank #1 in sales on today’s US Amazon Album-Oriented Rock list.” While that statement was true, it was incomplete. As the above graphic (click to enlarge) indicates, Leonard Cohen’s soon to be released album is not only #1 in Album-Oriented Rock on the US Amazon site but is also #1 in Rock Music, #4 in Pop Music, and#5 in Music.

Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems Album – The Sept 12, 2014 Update



1. With a minimum of promotion (compared to the Old Ideas sales campaign), Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems Album is – well, it’s popular.


It’s at least popular enough to rank #1 in sales on today’s Amazon Album-Oriented Rock list. That’s in the US. On the Canadian Amazon site, Popular Problems is #1 in Music. Update: See Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems Album – Updated Amazon Sales Ranking

2. The early reviews are positive. The best of the lot so far is Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems is a portrait of the artist in his joyful late period by Bernard Zuel (The Age: Sept 12, 2014). Of course, I also suggest my own notes:

3. Credits: The Leonard Cohen-Patrick Leonard collaboration accounts for most of the songs of the album. Anjani Thomas is credited, along with Cohen, on A Street and Born In Chains is credited to Cohen alone. The only member of the Tour band who plays on the album is Alex Bublitchi. The backup singers are Dana Glover (who also sang on the Old Ideas album) and Charlean Carmon.

4. There is the prospect of another album. Rolling Stone reports:

Cohen and Leonard say they have “half of another record finished,”

5. There may or may not be a Tour promoting Popular Problems. As I reported on our conversation in early August:

At one point, Leonard responded to a comment I made about the wonders of his doing concerts lasting more than three hours with “We’ll have to do that again.”

Being the intrepid blogger I am, I prompted “So, there’s going to be another tour?”

Without hesitation, Leonard Cohen leaned forward, flashed his grandest smile, and immediately replied in a firm, clear voice, “Maybe.”

Not satisfied with that equivocation, I pushed forward with “Is that a definite maybe?”

Leonard smiled again, answering “A tour is a definite maybe.”

I countered with “Well, you have to do something. Your retirements haven’t been very successful.”

Now that Rolling Stone and Billboard report that Leonard Cohen commented that the road is “beckoning,” the prospect of a tour has risen to – a definite maybe.

6. You can listen to the full album next week. has announced they will broadcast the nine songs from Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problem album from 16 to 23 September, a week before its official release, on and See How To Listen To Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems Album The Week Before Its Release

Notes On Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems Album: Tracks 5-9


This is the followup to Notes On Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems Album: Tracks 1-4

Note: Any lyrics quoted below are not official but are transcriptions of what I heard listening to the recordings. I’ve made every effort to be accurate but …

5. Did I Ever Love You

In “Did I Ever Love You,” Leonard Cohen lists all those questions about love he has asked repeatedly in his novels, poems, and songs throughout his career:

Did I ever love you
Did I ever need you
Did I ever fight you
Did I ever want you
Did I ever leave you
Was I ever able
Or are we still leaning across the old table

The song opens slowly with Cohen’s voice in a lower register, then speeds up with percussive beats that have the listener swaying as the female singers take up the refrain, finally joined by the violin.

6. My Oh My

“My Oh My”  is an examination of a past relationship (“I held you for a little while, My Oh My Oh My”) and its implications about the participants and the nature of love itself.

Although substantially reworked with greatly extended lyrics, “My Oh My” remains clearly recognizable as the same song recorded at the 2010 Ghent soundcheck.

Leonard Cohen – My Oh My
Ghent Soundcheck: August 21, 2010
Video by Maarten Massa

7. Nevermind

“Nevermind” echos “Darkness” in tempo, mood, and the notion of treachery within relationships. If anything, the lyrics of the newer song are more vehement.

From “Darkness:”

I should’ve seen it coming
It was red behind your eyes
You’re young and it was summer
I just had to take a dive
Winning you was easy
But darkness was the price.

I caught the darkness
It was drinking from your cup
I caught the darkness
Drinking from your cup
I said, “Is this contagious?”
You said, “Just drink it up.”

From “Nevermind:”

The war was lost
The treaty signed
I was not caught across the line
I was not caught though many tried
I live among you well-disguised
I had to leave my life behind
I dug some graves you’ll never find
The story’s told with facts and lies
I had a name, but nevermind
Nevermind, nevermind

Our law of peace which understands
A husband leads, a wife commands
And all of this, expressions of
the sweet indifference
some call love

… I could not kill the way you kill
I could not hate, I try to fail
You turned me in, at least you tried,
you side with them
who you despise
This was your heart, this swarm of flies,
This was once your mouth, this bowl of lies

8. Born In Chains

The lyrics are modestly changed from those performed in Sligo in 2010 (see Born In Chains By Leonard Cohen – Updated Lyrics And All Videos), but the studio version is, of course, essentially a solo performance by Leonard Cohen with female vocals used only as a chorus.

9. You Got Me Singing

“You Got Me Singing’ is the album’s gently triumphant conclusion. It is, in fact, a reaffirmation of the premise on which “Anthem” and “Hallelujah”are based with an unabashed and undisguised allusion to the latter in the chorus. As Cohen explained to an interviewer in 1995,

I wanted to write something in the tradition of the hallelujah choruses but from a different point of view…The other song closely related to that is ‘Anthem.’ It’s the notion that there is no perfection–that this is a broken world and we live with broken hearts and broken lives but still that is no alibi for anything. On the contrary, you have to stand up and say hallelujah under those circumstances.1

You got me singing
even though the news is bad
You got me singing
the only song I ever had
You got me singing
ever since the river died
You got me singing
all the places we could hide
You got me singing
Even though the world is gone
You got me singing
And I’d like to carry on
You got me singing
Even though it all looks grim
You got me singing the hallelujah hymn

Credit Due Department: The Duchess contributed significantly to the comments on “My Oh My” and “Did I Ever Love You.”


  1. From “Robert Hilburn Interviews Leonard Cohen” by Robert Hilburn (Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1995) Found at Speaking Cohen. []