Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s 1988 Covers Of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

bob-dylan-1988

Bob Dylan – 1988

Leonard Cohen Sings “Hallelujah” To Bob Dylan

It’s [Hallelujah is] a rather joyous song. I like very much the last verse. I remember singing it to Bob Dylan after his last concert in Paris. The morning after, I was having coffee with him and we traded lyrics. Dylan especially liked this last verse “And even though it all went wrong, I stand before the Lord of song With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah”
– Leonard Cohen, from 1985 interview published in Paroles et Musiques

Dylan went on to be one of the first artists to cover “Hallelujah,” performing it twice in his 1988 concert tour.

Of course, no post about Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and “Hallelujah” would be complete without the anecdote, a classic in Cohen’s repertoire, about the contrast in the time required by Dylan and Cohen to compose a song. The story appears in several Cohen interviews. The following iteration is from Leonard Cohen, Los Angeles 1992, a section of “Songwriters On Songwriting” by Paul Zollo:

That [“Hallelujah”] was a song that took me [Leonard Cohen] a long time to write. Dylan and I were having coffee the day after his concert in Paris a few years ago and he was doing that song in concert. And he asked me how long it took to write it. And I told him a couple of years. I lied actually. It was more than a couple of years.

Then I praise a song of his, “I and I,” and asked him how long it had taken and he said, “Fifteen minutes.” [Laughter]

Bob Dylan – Hallelujah
Forum de Montréal, Montréal: July 8, 1988
Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen Cover) by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

Bob Dylan – Hallelujah
Greek Theatre, Los Angeles: August 4, 1988
Hallelujah by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

Note: I first posted about Bob Dylan’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on . Various recordings of this cover have appeared online only to be disappear again. Alerted by Juanma Lopez Andreu to a YouTube version1 that has survived online since Jan 2014, I am re-posting the material along with the audio recordings of Dylan’s two 1988 covers.

Credit Due Department: Photo by Ken Friedman

__________________

  1. The YouTube version is the audio track from the July 8, 1988 Montreal rendition attached to a single still photo of Dylan and thus offers no advantages over the audio tracks embedded on this post []

Dominique Issermann On Shooting Bob Dylan’s Lingerie Ad & Missing Leonard Cohen’s Depression

I never have believed that there was a parallel world
more interesting than the real world.

The Dominique Issermann Interview

The photo atop this post and the following excerpts are from Champ Libre by Anne Diatkine (Le Temps, 25 June 2012). The French to English translation was made possible by Coco Éclair. I have placed Dominique Issermann’s words in bold italics for the convenience of readers.

Bob Dylan & The Lingerie Ad

Dominique Issermann is a sober joker.  Sober in her aesthetic choices, and also because she does not drink, and has never done drugs, even in the 80’s when she was a mainstay at the Theatre.  While everyone else was collapsing and losing the ability to speak, she still tried to interact.  “I have never been able to believe that there was a parallel world more interesting than the real world.”

Also funny.  She mimics the people she mentions.  Bob Dylan is mentioned, but also Marguerite Duras, and many others that it would be rude to name so it would be best that we forget them.

The photographer imitates the behaviour of Bob Dylan, met for a women’s lingerie advertisement.  He was being really macho in it.  Did he do it for free, for the beauty of the work (ad)? 

I don’t think so.  More like triple the rate.  I was scared to death of the idea that they sent me his stand-in.  We were confined in a room where tons of fuchsia bras were hanging, and I held out a cowboy hat to him.  He said: “Oh no I can’t.”  “Why?”  “Because lingerie, that’s okay.  But if I put on a hat, my friends will really find it quite strange.  I never wear them.  “Mr. Dylan, I’ve been to lots of your concerts, I can attest that you wear a hat.”  “You’re confused, it wasn’t me.”  I panicked, and then the impersonator was unmasked.

She continues the story, we would willingly listen for hours, and that’s incidentally what happens.1

DrHGuy Note: The referenced women’s lingerie commercial is this 2004 “Angels In Venice” ad from Victoria’s Secret.

And About Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen, photo by Dominique Issermann - London 1990

She noted that, even setting Leonard aside,  she hadn’t photographed just  women. It is enormously false, look [showing me another photo] – Gérard Depardieu before Going Places.

Leonard Cohen is, however, one of the only recurring men who is not photographed like a reflection in a mirror, but in the process of moving, that is to say, dreaming, writing, putting on his shoes, doing nothing, in short, living.  She says: Yes, I was the woman from I’m Your Man [note – title of an album dedicated to her], which I would have never thought to mention publicly if some biographies weren’t out.  I learned that he was very depressed when we met on Hydra.  I wasn’t at all aware of it, we laughed so much.”  How does the story end?  “In one fell swoop.  Like water flowing from a basin.

Dominique Issermann is not chronological.  My love affairs are my only timekeeper.  I forget the dates of the last decade.  I could say:  “This picture was when I was with such and such person.”  When there is no love, I am incapable of situating myself in time.

She just finished the clips of Leonard Cohen’s last album with an iPhone.  It’s a little magic box.  It allows me to become what I wanted to be as a child. 2

 Credit Due Department:  The photo of Leonard Cohen is from “Leonard par Dominique,” (Le Nouvel Observateur,  January 26, 2012); see  Dominique Issermann’s Romantic Photos Of Leonard Cohen.

 Other Posts Featuring Dominique Issermann

  1. Excerpt in original French follows:

    Dominique Issermann est une sobre rigolote. Sobre dans ses choix esthétiques, et aussi parce qu’elle ne boit pas, ne s’est jamais droguée, même dans les années 80, quand elle était un pilier du Palace. Tandis que chacun s’affaissait et perdait l’usage de la parole, elle tentait encore d’échanger. «Je n’ai jamais pu croire qu’il y avait un monde parallèle plus intéressant que le monde réel.» Rigolote aussi. Elle mime les gens qu’elle évoque. Bob Dylan s’invite à la table, mais aussi Marguerite Duras, et beaucoup d’autres, qu’il serait mal élevé de citer parce qu’on en oublierait. La photographe imite la démarche de Dylan, rencontré pour une pub de lingerie féminine. Il y faisait l’homme. Gratuitement, pour la beauté du geste? «Je ne pense pas. Triple tarif, plutôt. J’étais morte de trouille à l’idée qu’on m’ait envoyé son sosie. On était enfermés dans une pièce où pendaient des milliers de soutiens-gorge fuchsia, et je lui ai tendu un chapeau de cow-boy. Il m’a dit: «Ah non, je ne peux pas.» «Pourquoi?» «Parce que la lingerie, d’accord. Mais si je mets un chapeau, mes amis vont vraiment trouver ça très bizarre. Je n’en porte jamais.» «Monsieur Dylan, j’ai été à des tas de vos concerts, je peux certifier que vous portiez un chapeau.» «Vous confondez, ce n’était pas moi.» Je paniquais, le sosie s’était démasqué.» Elle continue l’histoire, on l’écouterait pendant des heures, c’est d’ailleurs ce qui se passe. []

  2. Excerpt in original French follows:

    La troisième, c’est la fidélité: qu’elles s’appellent Anne Rohart, Isabelle Adjani ou Laetitia Casta, qu’elles soient connues ou pas, les mêmes personnes reviennent, de décennie en décennie. Quand elle lie amitié, elle ne rompt pas. On lui fait remarquer qu’elle n’a photographié que des femmes, à part Leonard Cohen. «C’est archi faux, regardez. Gérard Depardieu avant Les Valseuses.» Leonard Cohen est cependant l’un des seuls hommes récurrents, qui ne soit pas photographié en reflet dans un miroir, mais en train d’agir, c’est-à-dire de rêver, d’écrire, de mettre ses chaussures, de ne rien faire, bref, de vivre. Elle dit: «Oui, j’ai été la femme de I’m Your Man [titre d’un album qui lui est dédié, ndlr], ce que je n’aurais jamais pensé évoquer publiquement si des biographies n’étaient pas sorties. J’y ai appris qu’il était très déprimé quand on s’est rencontrés à Hydra. Je n’en avais aucune conscience, on riait tellement.» Comment s’arrête une histoire? «D’un seul coup. Comme l’eau qui s’écoule d’un bassin.»

    Dominique Issermann n’est pas chronologique. «Mes aventures amoureuses sont ma seule horloge. J’oublie les dates à une décennie près. Je pourrais dire: «Cette photo-là, c’était quand j’étais avec telle personne.» Quand il n’y a pas d’amour, je suis incapable de me repérer.» Elle vient de terminer les clips du dernier album de Leonard Cohen avec un iPhone. Quitte à laisser tomber l’argentique, autant changer radicalement de support. «C’est la petite boîte magique. Elle me permet de devenir ce que je voulais être enfant.» []

Leonard Cohen Vs Bob Dylan At Forest Hills 1970

Leonard Cohen And Bob Dylan – Feuding Friends?

Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan have, by all accounts, sincerely admired and thoughtfully praised each other’s work since Cohen became, like Dylan, a full-fledged singer-songwriter.

But that doesn’t mean  the relationship has always been conflict-free, at least according to the following excerpt from Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan by Howard Sounes (Grove Press, April 12, 2002. pp 260-261):

The underlining and the release date of Dylan’s Self Portrait were added by me. Click on image to enlarge.

This report of a conflict that manifested in the meeting at Cohen’s 1970 Forest Hills concert resonates with and perhaps explicates backup singer Susan Musmanno’s recollection:

I had also forgotten that the concert in Forest Hills was really one of a series. That was the only bad performance we ever gave, and I think part of the reason was that Dylan was in the house that night, and we were all nervous.

And with the extraordinarily negative review of the concert by Nancy Erlich published in the August 8, 1970 issue of Billboard, a model of pristine certainty untainted by dubiety, ambivalence, or ambiguity. Cohen is, Ms Erlich informs us, a musical Svengali, ruthlessly using “his extraordinary command of language and other people’s emotions” to oppress, diminish, and emotionally deplete those who listen to his songs.1

  1. The entire review may be read at the aptly named post, Leonard Cohen, Forest Hills 1970 – “Nervous, Uncomfortable, Oppressive, Lifeless” []

Rarely Viewed Video – Leonard Cohen On His Atrocious Voice, Dylan, Lead Belly, Ice-T, Songwriting, Love, & Where’s The Beef

Cohen On Cohen: The 1992 Interview

Today, Heck Of A Guy offers viewers another1 thoughtful, intriguing, and inexplicably obscure Leonard Cohen interview on video.2

The somewhat  garbled Google translation of the  on-site description of the video follows:

07/09/2008 – Tomorrow enter the Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen in Bruges, it’s 15 years since he last toured it.

You can revisit the interview that journalist Serge Simonart with Cohen in 1992. He had just moved into a new album: “The Future”. “I want to hear People that can not sing” says Cohen. The story of a life will be heard in one voice – that’s why he loves Leadbelly, Dylan and Ice T and he will not mind if his own voice Liberation “terrible”s ets. Cohen also tells how he deceived when Dylan asked him how long Cohen had worked on the song “Hallelujah”. It continues with the central myth of our time, the rhetoric of the extreme left and right, and about love.

Cohen On Cohen Highlights

  • The interview to which yesterday’s post, Leonard Cohen Claims Joan Baez Brutally Violated His Song “Suzanne”, referred is part of the Cohen On Cohen video.
  • In chronological order, the songs, with video accompaniment, woven into the interview are “First We Take Manhattan,” “Closing Time,” “Chelsea Hotel #2,” “Take This Waltz,” “The Stranger Song,” “Sisters of Mercy,” “Democracy,” and “Dance Me To The End Of Love.”
  • Among the pre-recorded video segments included within Cohen On Cohen, the most interesting is the sequence from Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen, filmed in 1964, in which the then 30 year old Cohen banters with a makeup artist.


  • Among the pre-recorded videos, the second most interesting is the set of scenes from Robert Altman’s 1971 classic, “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” which featured three of Cohen’s songs, “The Stranger Song,” “Sisters Of Mercy,” and “Winter Lady.”

  • Cohen opens the interview with remarks on the “news that [he] had a terrible voice,” adding that recently Libération had proclaimed he had an “atrocious” voice.  He follows that with the matter of fact observation that

Well, you can’t expect any mercy from Libération.

  • Cohen explains his preference for a “guy’s story” the singer feels compelled to perform over the quality of the singer’s voice.

All those guys that I listen to you know – from Lead Belly to Dylan to Ice-T you know they had something in their voice that tells me about their lives, about their true story. I like to hear a guy’s story. …  I want to hear people who can’t sing.

  • Leonard Cohen re-tells two of his classic anecdotes: First, he relates the story  behind the often quoted response given by his lawyer (Marty Machat) when he (Cohen) professed, prior to his appearance at the 1967 Newport Folk Festival that “I can’t sing:’

None of you guys can sing. When I want to hear singers, I go the Metropolitan Opera.

Later, Cohen confesses to lying to Bob Dylan by claiming to have written “Hallelujah” in one year when it actually took twice that long; the punch line, of course, is that Dylan then answered Cohen’s question about how long it took for Dylan to write “I and I” with “fifteen minutes.” This anecdote concludes with a variation of another of Cohen’s favorite lines:

If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often. And I guess he [Dylan] feels the same way.

  • A contemplation of the relationship between art and commerce is offered:

What we called the revolution of the 60s was also 10 or 15 minutes, and then it was taken over immediately by the head shops and the hustlers and the money makers … it’s also not written anywhere that commerce is an enemy of revolution or an enemy of art. In fact, art and commerce have always been indistinguishable.

This conversation segues into an exploration of the fatigue endemic to contemporary culture and a potential cure for or, more likely, a possible palliation of that exhaustion:

… people get tired of tired of having their souls pressed into various kinds of duty. I think the need for oxygen is perennial. Just Sit back and breath deeply and you’re going to have a different view of the thing’. Relax is what the hippies said. And what the new age says.  Just relax.

  • Perhaps the most perspicacious and pointed commentary is Cohen’s contention (beginning at 16:30) that a primary determinant of civilization’s misery is the persistent belief that humans live in – or can live in – paradise:

The central myth of  our culture is the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.  This is not paradise. … From time to time men and institutions arise that promise to return you to paradise. The Communist party, the Fascist party, this church, that church, this vision, that philosophy… They invite you to go back to paradise. Whenever you hear that, you should duck.  You should run in all directions from this. … This is one of the sources of our suffering – this inability to confront the notion that we are not in paradise.

  • On the political front, Cohen focuses on the disconnect between non-extremist rhetoric and reality:

It’s an incredible mess … for some odd reason, we  still dare to hope … Freedom from hope … a  kind of freedom from cynicism. It’s beyond cynicism, it”s beyond hope. It’s just an embrace. … Public utterance is way behind private experience. … You’ll find that people are talking much more realistically than the leaders. When a leader begins a talk realistically, unfortunately they’re generally from the extreme left or the extreme right. But the thing that is appealing about their rhetoric is that it’s real. The rhetoric of the center is chronically and obsessively concerned with a version of reality that nobody buys. That something really great is going on. Well something great isn’t going on. Something quite despairing is going on.

Chelsea Hotel interior (screen capture)

  • Most poignant, however, are Cohen’s ruminations on the endurance of love:

People change and their bodies change…. Bodies decay and die,  but there is something that doesn’t change about love. … Marianne … when I hear her voice on the telephone, I know something is completely intact even though our lives have separated and we’ve gone our very different paths. I feel that love never dies, and that when there is an emotion strong enough to gather a song around it, that there is something about that emotion that is indestructible..

  • My personal choice from the Cohen On Cohen menu is his “Where’s the beef”  tutorial provided in response to the interviewer’s questions about the underlying ad campaign (which did not run in the interviewer’s country). 3
  • And, who can riff on songwriting better than Leonard Cohen? He explains that one reason his songs require so long to write is that he sees himself

like a geologist, like someone writing for he National Geographic rather than for Rolling Stone.  … Precision is very very important – to get exactly the right language to describe the situation in which I find myself. ….  there is no inside, no outside. To report from that position involves a kind of surrender. ..It means … burning away a lot of voices whispering in your ear because you start off with a slogan … psychic propaganda … You want to  impose a solution on the song. … All those voices have to be not silenced but eliminated. until you get to a position where you can defend every word, and that seems to take a lot of trouble and a lot of work.

  • Finally, in rueful tones, Leonard Cohen talks about anger, especially anger with a loved one, with the conviction of someone who has realized a truth about himself:

One of the areas in which it is absolutely urgent that you express your anger is with people you love. It’s fatal not to express anger. If you’re close to someone, I think you’re occasionally seized with rage. … Whenever I’m in love, I can be counted on … getting angry three or four times a day.

… One of the descriptions of a good man in the Talmud is [that he is] slow to anger, quick to forgive. …  I’m slow to anger and slow to forgive

Cohen On Cohen: The Video

The video (which cannot be embedded) can be viewed at Cohen On Cohen

fedoradivider

Credit Due Department: Once again, Heck Of A Guy is grateful that Maarten Massa alerted us to the existence of this video treasure.

  1. Earlier this week, Heck Of A Guy posted Leonard Cohen Performs Soundcheck Conga And Speaks On The Summoning Of Courage, which featured a little seen interview from 1993 []
  2. A personal request to hard core Cohenites: I know I’ve seen portions of this video elsewhere. Indeed, I specifically recognize the setting, including the slanted ceiling and window. I’m reasonably sure I posted it at Heck Of A Guy, but I haven’t been able to track it down.  If a viewer could point me to that video, I’d be appreciative. []
  3. Cohen, it must be noted, misidentified the fast food chain that ran the commercials. The 1984 “Where’s The Beef?” advertising campaign, starring 81 year old Clara Peller and created  by the Dancer Fitzgerald Sample ad agency, was a promotion for Wendy’s, not Burger King or McDonald’s. []

Leonard Cohen And The Andy Warhol Scene – Brigid Berlin’s Cock Book

Brigid Berlin – Andy Warhol Superstar

In checking references for Leonard Cohen, Gerard Malanga’s Poem, And The Andy Warhol Scene, I came across the story of Brigid Berlin (aka Brigid Polk), daughter of socialite Muriel “Honey” Berlin and Richard E. Berlin, chairman of the Hearst media organization more than a half-century, who was, more pertinently, one of Andy Warhol’s superstars.1

Andy Warhol and Brigid Berlin

After meeting Brigid in 1964,  Warhol soon nicknamed her “Brigid Polk” because of her predilection for giving others “pokes,” i.e., injections of Vitamin B and amphetamines.

Vincent Fremont summarized her role at the Factory:

Brigid’s life by the mid-1970s was at the front desk at the Factory. If a tank had rolled by and you’d ask her, ‘Did a tank come by?’ she’d look up completely unaware. She and Andy were like a married couple. Brigid was the one one who could fight with him that way. He would offer her a painting as a present, and she would say no, and ask for a washing machine instead. Andy and Brigid had a great relationship; they spoke on the telephone every morning. Brigid was Andy’s ‘B’ in the ‘Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)’… In the 60s and the beginning of the 70s Brigid routinely took her clothes off at Andy’s Factory. Andy took a lot of pictures of her nude, especially polaroids.2

Brigid Berlin’s  close relationship with and loyalty to Andy Warhol was striking.  A short, moving story about and interview with Brigid  that captures a sense of their connection, including some tenderness, is available on the Carnegie Museums site.

Brigid is also, however,  credited by many critics as a legitimate artist independent of her association with Andy Warhol.

She was known for obsessively recording the sights and sounds of everyday life.  Her tapes of phone conversations between her and her socialite mother were, in fact, the raw material of Warhol’s play, “Pork.”

She also created several art projects, such as “Boobes” (seen above). Brigid made this book by

inking her boobs, as well as the boobs of friends of hers that were hanging around the factory.3

The photo below (from ArtNet) demonstrates the methodology.

Andy Warhol photographs Brigid Berlin making a breast print

The best known of her compositions, however, was a somewhat  parallel project called “The Cock Book.”

The Cock Book – Brigid Asks Leonard Cohen To Contribute

A biographer describes the project:

When she came across a large book full of blank pages with the title, Topical Bible, at a shop on Broadway, she decided to use it as a trip book and wanted to choose a theme for it. “Topical” ryhmed with “cockical” so she made it into a cock book. In addition to drawing in it herself, she would take it with her to Max’s or the Factory and get whoever was around at the time to make a cock drawing in the book. Among the people who contributed to the book were Taylor Mead, Billy Sullivan, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Jane Fonda, Roger Vadim, Peter Beard, Dennis Hopper, Ondine, Richard Avedon and Leonard Cohen.4

Wikipedia enlarges on the methodology Brigid used to compile her book and notes Leonard Cohen’s contribution:

Brigid schlepped her Cock Book around with her when she went out at night to places like Max’s Kansas City or the Factory and got others to fill each page with their rendition of a penis. Brigid was not particularly selective about who drew in it, because she was consumed with the idea of having it filled and completed. Contributors range from artists like Basquiat to Jane Fonda, whose cock adorns a matchstick pearl necklace, to Leonard Cohen, who opted out of drawing a cock, instead writing “let me be the shy one in your book”. Berlin herself drew in the Cock Book, as did Andy Warhol, who refused to sign his proper name or draw a proper cock. The Cock Book was an artwork and entertainment for Brigid who “had more fun doing that than anything I’ve ever done in my life. I would come home, stoned from being up at Max’s [Kansas City, a now-defunct New York club] and I would sit on the floor and work on the book. [emphasis mine]

Brigid’s “Cock Book,” recently sold for $175,000 to artist Richard Prince

Inconsequential Incident Or Prototypical Paradigm?

While I’m not ready to claim paradigmatic status for this brief contact between Leonard Cohen and the Andy Warhol scene via Brigid Berlin’s “Cock Book,”  I would suggest it might be an early demonstration of a technique used by Cohen to position himself as a peripheral member (“honorary member” might be a more accurate term) of a community without the encumbrances of ongoing fealty or the necessity to defend the principles or goals espoused or actions taken by that group.

In Leonard Cohen Meets Jack Kerouac At Allen Ginsberg’s Home, I commented on Cohen’s self-professed role on the periphery of Kerouac’s and Ginsberg’s group:

Leonard Cohen’s account of his meeting with Jack Kerouac has always impressed me not only because the scene described is pretty darn funny but also because Cohen’s self-assessment of his position on the periphery of the bohemian literary group rather than an integral participant is a paradigm played out in many and perhaps most of his professional and social relationships.

A parallel sense of being tolerated but not, as was Cohen’s longing, being accepted as an equal is, for example, embedded in these lines from the version of “A Thousand Kisses Deep” he has recited during the World Tour:

I ran with Diz, I sang with Ray
I never had their sweep
but once or twice they let me play
a thousand kisses deep.

And Nadel quotes Cohen himself on the subject:

In New York, Cohen found confirmation of his anti-establishment stance, although he was never accepted by the Beats. “I was always on the fringe. I liked the places they gathered, but I was never accepted by the bohemians because it was felt that I came from the wrong side of the tracks. I was too middle class. … I didn’t have the right credentials to be at the center table in those bohemian cafes.”5

Notwithstanding Cohen’s pronouncement that he “didn’t have the right credentials,” I see little indication that he was motivated to make any significant efforts to be accepted by that circle.

In the cases of both the “Cock Book” and the bohemians, Leonard Cohen effectively distanced himself from individuals and their causes without cutting off the ties altogether, let alone antagonizing anyone, by using a maneuver which most of us past puberty will recognize from our own experience and which can be evocatively encapsulated by the phrase, “It’s not you – it’s me.”

I will pursue this notion in the future (if I’m not distracted by another idea or any bright, shiny object in my peripheral vision), but for now let me suggest one other incident I believe fits into this pattern.

An earlier post, Leonard Cohen Declines Bob Dylan’s Invitation To Play In Rolling Thunder Revue, provides the account of Dylan and others asking Cohen to play in the Rolling Thunder concert in his hometown:6

“Leonard, how you doing?” Bob [Dylan] warmly greets the Canadian. He points over at Ratso. “Hey, do you know this character?”

Leonard [Cohen] rolls his eyes. “This man has plagued me for the last three years.” They all laugh.

“Hey, Leonard, you gonna sing,” Ratso pleads.

“Let it be known that I alone disdained the obvious support,” Cohen chuckles. “I’m going to sit out there and watch.”

“Why not sing?” Joni [Mitchell] begs.

“No, no, it’s too obvious,” Leonard brushes off the request and looks to Ratso for guidance. He leads them out to the sound board where some folding chairs have been set up, just in time to see Dylan do his first set.

It’s not you, Bob & Joni, It’s me.


  1. I find the categories of Warhol’s superstars implicitly proposed by The Petite Sophist unusually perspicacious and useful:

    • [Male] Female impersonators (Holly, Jackie, Candy)
    • Female female impersonators (Viva, Ultra Violet, International Velvet, Ingrid Superstar)
    • Pretty boys (Little Joe, Gerard Malanga, Ondine)
    • Crazies (Andrea Feldman, Geri Miller, Valerie Solanas)
    • Slumming socialites (Baby Jane Holzer, Edie Sedgwick)

    Brigid Berlin falls into the Slumming socialites. []

  2. Brigid Berlin by Gary Comenas []
  3. From Partners & Spade []
  4. Brigid Berlin Biography by Gary Comenas []
  5. Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira Bruce Nadel, 2007, University of Texas Press. P 52. []
  6. From “On the Road With Bob Dylan,” by Larry (Ratso) Sloman []

Leonard Cohen Hosts Joni Mitchell & Ratso At Home For Barbequed Ribs

Dinner With Leonard, Suzanne, Ratso, And Roger

Yesterday’s post, Leonard Cohen Declines Bob Dylan’s Invitation To Play In Rolling Thunder Revue, spotlighted the account from Larry (Ratso) Sloman’s “On the Road With Bob Dylan,” an entertaining and enlightening read about Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, of Leonard Cohen being fetched from his home in order to attend the Montreal concert of that tour. Asked to perform, Cohen demurred, choosing to watch from the audience.

The end of the concert, however, was not the end of the Montreal adventures associated with the Rolling Thunder Revue.

The excerpt below  from “On the Road With Bob Dylan” describes a small dinner party given by Leonard Cohen and Suzanne1 on December 5, 1975, the night after the Rolling Thunder Revue Montreal concert, for Larry (Ratso) Sloman (the author), Joni Mitchell, and Roger McGuinn,2

Larry Sloman - 2009

This episode is interesting for a number of specific reasons as well as the insight it lends into an important area of pop music in the 1970s:

  • The always shifting relationship between the ex-lovers, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell (see Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell: Just One Of Those Things),  reflected in the banter between them is fascinating. I’m especially fond of Cohen’s response to Mitchell’s contention that he has “a more consistent character than [he]  plays out:” “I’m as constant as the North Star.” It may also be helpful to recall that, as documented in yesterday’s post, Cohen’s initial greeting to Mitchell backstage at the concert was, “Joni, my little Joni.”
  • While less apparent, Joni Mitchell’s feelings toward Bob Dylan and the ethos of the  Rolling Thunder Revue he constructed are worth the effort required to detect them, given her unambiguous denouncement of him that would take place in April 2010:

    Yesterday, the folk world was rocked by Joni Mitchell. Apparently she has a giant grudge against Bob Dylan and, as Matt Diehl found out when interviewing Mitchell for the LA Times, she does not like being compared to him. Indeed, when Diehl intimated that the two were similar because they both “changed” their names (from Roberta Joan Anderson to Joni Mitchell and Robert Zimmerman to Bob Dylan) to create a persona, Joni uttered these venom-laced words: “Bob is not authentic at all. He’s a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception. We are like night and day, he and I.”3

    More about the Joni Mitchell-Bob Dylan connection at another time.

  • Joni Michell’s self-assessment – also an always shifting matter – is revealing.
  • Leonard Cohen was then, as he is now, recognized as an extraordinarily gracious host.
  • This glimpse into the domestic life of Leonard Cohen as spouse (pragmatically if not legalistically) and father is intriguing.
  • The early lyrics of  the songs that would become “Iodine” and “The Smokey Life” are reminders of Cohen’s habitual reworking and revising of his music.

I’ve added photos and explanatory footnotes to Ratso’s story.

Leonard Cohen in front of his Montreal home - 1977

“I’m a stone Cohenite” – Joni Mitchell

The cab finds the address and they pile out and enter the Cohen domicile. And what a contrast. If the Mount Royal residence4 was subtly elegant, Cohen’s house in old Montreal is blatantly commonplace. First of all, it’s not a house, it’s a ramshackle bungalow-type structure, entered via a door that would be hard put to withstand the ravaging assault of a five-year-old. It boasts exposed beams, slanted floors and ceilings, and a collection of furniture that would do any Goodwill proud. But there’s a curious feeling of warm spirituality pervading the home, and the shelves upon shelves of books and the myriad knickknacks and the old, dusty-framed prints and paintings impart a tremendous character to the place. Ratso [author Larry (Ratso) Sloman] enters Leonard’s house for the second time and feels right at home.

“Leonard,” he yells in greeting, smelling the savory aroma of barbecued ribs wafting into the front room, “you’re immaculate.” The reporter scurries into the back of the long room and plops down at the table. The others follow, exchanging greetings with Leonard and his lovely lady Suzanne.

Cohen has long been a demigod to that brand of musical practitioner that label themselves sensitive singer-songwriters. A fine novelist and a best-selling poet in his native Canada, Cohen turned to the concert hall at the urging of his friends, among them Judy Collins, who put Leonard’s song “Suzanne” on the map and the charts. And of course, part of Cohen’s attractiveness and his appeal is the graphic description in his songs of the vicissitudes that befall a gentleman in a world of scoundrels. And his documentation of the doings of the scoundrel in the parlors of society. In other words, Cohen just don’t fit, he carries around his angst like other people carry chewing gum. And the songs get delivered in that lumbering, world-weary monotone that emanates from that broodingly handsome iconographic wandering Jew face. Ratso loves Leonard’s work; it never fails to make him laugh.

“I didn’t hear you last night, Joni,” Leonard laments, “I’m really sorry. How was your friend tonight?”

“She was my matron of honor when I was married but between that time period there was a long gap since we saw each other and that was only briefly. There must have been five years between that,” Joni holds a rib poised over her plate, “so my impressions of her have been romanticized over the years plus her circumstances have limited her experience in certain ways so that we weren’t as linked as we were as girls. Like you and Mort5 have carried your relationship along …”

“Yes, Mort is one of these rare creatures,” Leonard smiles. “He’s really like a completely unrecognized genius.”

“You know all those stories you read where the Zen master slapped someone on the back and at that moment he attained. Well, Mort did that one day in New York,” Joni says. “He took my problem and in one sentence eliminated it. That’s a rare gift, isn’t it?”

“He says he wants to give you another lesson,” Leonard smiles slyly. “What was the sentence?” Ratso gets the question out between two mouthfuls of ribs.

“Draw me and don’t look at the paper,’ that’s all he said to me and it changed everything, you know? So what you do is actually you trace the lines of highest emotion. It doesn’t matter if the person moves, it doesn’t matter if the eye overlaps the nose or anything, I’ve tried to pass that on to a lot of different people and Blakley6
is like one of the few—”

“She’s nice, eh?” Leonard asks.

“Well, nice I wouldn’t say,” Joni says diplomatically, “we have a relationship that isn’t defined by the word nice.”

“I enjoyed her last night,” Leonard smiles.

“She is like Nico, you know,” Joni offers. “She has a strange kind of madness that you would find interesting. My attraction to her is like that too….”

“I like it in you,” Leonard grins. “You guys have been pretty close now for how many months?”

“Just weeks,” Roger corrects, “but I’ve been out for two months now.

“It’s really interesting,” Joni gushes, “cause people are always testing each other all the time, you know, misreading you. You know you have to deal with their misreading and you have to like decide whether to allow them to misread you or to clarify it, like I’ve learned to float like coming from a position where I -need always to be sincere and to be understood, I like allowed myself to float through situations, that’s what I was trying to tell you, it’s so exciting to me, it’s not giving a shit. It’s not consistent. It really is an interesting thing because it’s a traveling commune.”

Suzanne interrupts the monologue with a soda break. Joni sips at her Coke and continues, “I’ve come to deal with my multiphrenia, they’re all realities. There are so many ways to look at the thing, you know that as a writer, cutting through the layers of personality to get to the one who is the most honest, you know.”

“I don’t know how honest I am,” Leonard smiles sheepishly. “I’m unstable.”

“Maybe I’m more unstable than you,” Joni boasts. “You have a more consistent character than you play out.”

“Oh yeah,” Cohen smiles sardonically, “I’m as constant as the North Star.”

“But I find that different people will manifest different aspects,” Joni goes on. “You know, some people will bring out the sage, some people will bring out the child, some people will bring out the rebel, some people will bring out the conservative.”

“I find everyone too revolutionary these days,” Leonard comments as he grabs another rib.

“You are wearing a suit in your own funky old house,” Roger notes. “But that’s the only clothes he has,” Ratso explains.

“This seeming cattiness was one aspect of tour that I had to adjust to after I came in late,” Joni picks up her thought and starts to address Leonard. “I got on the bus and I thought, God that’s cruel, they’re cruel people being cruel to each other. Next thing that I noticed was that everybody was quite strong and the manifestation of multiple personalities was almost a necessity.”

“There’s a definite pecking order,” Ratso says, from the bottom.

“There is a strange pecking order,” Joni agrees, near the top.

“Baez has this amazing George Harrisonesque dressing room with rugs on the walls and incense and food spreads and you guys got this funky closet for a dressing room,” the reporter reports.

Leonard interrupts with cups of hot sake.

“You’re quite a host, Leonard,” Roger marvels. “I’d like to reciprocate sometime.”

“Roger and I did a scene,” Joni remembers, “and we were great in the scene except I quoted from pure Nietzsche and Bob wouldn’t let me give him credit. I said, ‘C’mon, Bobby, I got to say like Thus Spake Zarathustra, I can’t be like an intellectual quoting from Nietzsche, with no originality, give me a break. He’s got a mean streak, he gets mean.”

“You’re talking about Bobby Neuwirth?”7 Leonard misunderstands.

“Oh Neuwirth is different,” Joni smiles. “It’s much more open, he just tells you you’re cold and you’re a cunt and you’re an asshole.” She giggles. “With Dylan, he just like strikes you out of a scene or puts you in the scene where he wants you to manifest parts of yourself, it’s different. He’s got the power, he’s got the hammer, and Neuwirth just attacks and he can really hurt. Neuwirth really hurt me and then he said, `There’s no fear allowed on Rolling Thunder.’ He just keeps whittling away at you and whittling away at you until he finds the place of you which you’re most afraid of and then, whew, he just like presses on it till he gets you, then he says, `No fear.’ It’s an excellent exercise.” She giggles again.

“He’s been unable to pin me,” Roger smiles, “and he always rolls away in frustration.”

“That’s ’cause you always say `I’m sorry,’ all the time,” Joni cracks. “How can you pin someone that’s always apologizing?”

“Gee, I’m sorry,” Roger gushes. “I didn’t mean to offend you last night, I’m really sorry.”

Ratso gulps down his sake and accepts Suzanne’s invitation to a guided tour of the place. They tramp up the rickety stairs and view the small cubiculed bedrooms and, in one room, come upon Leonard’s two children. “Jesus, they’re so cute,” Ratso marvels at the two small figures.

suzanne,-lorca,-adam-cohen

Suzanne, Lorca, and Adam

“Yes, they’re angels, aren’t they?” Suzanne says in her delicate voice, a voice that oozes grace and charm and patience, an avalanche of patience. When they return downstairs, Joni is enmeshed in a long story about her marijuana bust a few years ago in L.A.

“I really started to feel like a fool, I felt so frustrated because I was really on the verge of a song,” Joni remembers, “and they didn’t give me a pencil or paper and I asked them for my guitar, and this one guy was like a guitar player and understood, and I felt like Huddie Ledbetter, `Give me my guitar,’ and they wouldn’t do anything. So finally the narcs called me out, which was good because I could smoke and at that point I was like three hours without a cigarette. So they called me in and the Man said this was off the record, it didn’t have to do with what I was up for and in the meantime they were analyzing my vitamin pills and had changed it from marijuana to like narcotics because I had this whole mixture of different kinds of vitamin pills that they were putting through the lab or something. So the guy asked me what my drug experience was because his kid was being hit on the playground for reds and he was only eight, and I asked them if they had experienced any drugs themselves because in this room I was in there were pictures of marijuana leafs of different shapes, pills and their titles underneath, all the way around the room.

“I said, `Do you know what these things do to your chemistry? Have you tried anything?’ And he told me he wanted to be a professional baseball player but he couldn’t make it so he became a cop, and he was like half tough and half soft and we just talked for a long time. I said, `Ask me anything you want as long as I can keep smoking, this is the worst, you got all the leaves and pills up here but this,’ and I pointed to my cigarette, `is the really serious villain, this is the socially accepted drug.”

“They used tobacco as a tool against you,” Roger smiles. “They used it to get you to talk.”

But there was supposed to be a release to the press, they always do that, like they did with Steven Stills, and I said, Well, you’re talking ’bout your kid, eight years old, and people hitting on him on the playground for reds, if you put that I was arrested for dangerous drugs, by nature of the people who listen to the things that I have to say, do you know how many people you’d turn on. Why don’t you try a little preventive crime?’ So the captain said, `No, we have to release everything to the press,’ and they didn’t release it! They didn’t put anything out. Sometimes the laws are very insensible and he was a man that went beyond the law to his own sensibility.”

“Horse sense,” Roger cracks.

“Then I went back to my cell,” Joni relates, “and they threw this girl in in the middle of the night, about three o’clock in the morning and I had already meditated three times, I’d done every dance step I know, and I was really starting to die of boredom. I’m fading,” Joni yawns, “we should go home pretty soon. I wish I had a guitar, I’d like you to hear the new song.”

“I’d like to play myself,” Roger adds, a little tipsy from the sake, “but mine’s all packed away. We gotta fly tomorrow.”

“We all want to serenade you guys,” Joni giggles, while Roger breaks into a spontaneous “One More Cup of Sake for the Road.”

“Did I ever tell you I loved your live album, Leonard?” Ratso asks.

“You and twelve thousand other people liked it,” Leonard sighs.

The songwriter and the reporter walk into the front room as the others exchange good-byes.

“Sing me some of your new shit, Leonard,” Ratso says eagerly, the stuff you told me you were working on when I was following you around doing that story for Rolling Stone. “

“OK,” Leonard assents and begins to recite the song in his haunting voice.

A lady found me boasting in the Guerrero
When I was running smoke across the line
She let me love her till I was a failure
Her beauty on my bruise like iodine
When I was weak enough to learn her method
I said `Will I be punished for my crime?’
She said `There is a table set in heaven
But I don’t like to eat there all the time.’
She pulled away the mask of her Madonna
She pulled away the valley of her thighs
She bid me find herself in other women
Until I should exhaust her last disguise.
And I was with her when there was no ocean,

When there was no moon to spill the tide:
Oh long before the wild imagination
Could lay us in Guerrero side by side.

“Jesus, Leonard,” Ratso kvells, “that’s great. But you told me you were gonna write some top-forty stuff. That ain’t no Tommy James and the Shondells.”

“Here’s another,” Leonard glances back and deduces there’s time for one more.

I’ve never seen your eyes so wide
Your appetite so occupied with someone else
As if I didn’t know
It ain’t my style to hold this tight
So let’s be married one more night.
It’s light enough to let it go.
A while ago the scenery started fading.
I held you ’til you learned to walk on air.
But don’t look down, it’s gone, it’s faded baby:
The smoky life is practiced everywhere.

Joni walks up just as Leonard comes to an end. “We should go,” she hugs the poet good-bye. “I need a week’s sleep.”

They say good-byes and the troupe hops into the waiting cab and starts back to the motel.

“Who was that guy?” McGuinn mysteriously whispers. “The Lone Ranger?” Ratso guesses.

“No, it wasn’t Tonto either,” Roger grins.

“I’m a stone Cohenite,” Joni brags. “Dylan, ehhh,” she jokingly dismisses the singer with a flap of the wrist.

“Let’s call Dylan,” Roger starts to unpack his attaché-case phone.

“I love Cohen,” Joni continues. “I’m promiscuous with my love.

I love a lot of people. Who I can live with, that’s another question,” she laughs. “I can make it through, but I’m feeling like the mother of a large family.”

“I’ve come around to a new way of thinking about everyone in the world.” Roger puts the phone away. “I’m serious.”

“What new way?” Joni’s curious.

“It’s called acceptance,” Ratso says cynically.

“Small-town acceptance,” Joni smiles.

“I love the people I love and I ignore the people I can’t tolerate if I can,” Roger says with impeccable logic, “and try not to loathe anyone.”

“I don’t loathe anyone,” Joni agrees. “I try not to feel superior, like ajiveass superior chick, but I keep myself in check ’cause there are other perspectives I’m able to appreciate; the beauty of people on different levels until I get pushed in a corner.”

“I’m against possessiveness and monogamy,” Roger interrupts. “I did it for two years, Roger,” Joni confesses.

“I did it for five,” Roger three-ups.

“Really?” Joni seems incredulous. “You didn’t cheat on the road?” “Not once,” Roger moans.

“I sure broke down in a hurry,” Joni shakes her blond head.

“I’m not talking about this trip,” Roger is quick to qualify.

“Yeah,” Joni laughs, “we all know about this trip. It’s very difficult and it’s very limiting and very indulgent at the same time, none of us are mature enough to be able to accept the fact that other people can love other people. We all want to be the conqueror, the one and only in every relationship that we begin.” Joni pauses for the right words. “There’s a duality that I can’t make out, I don’t mean to be a victimizer but sometimes I find I am by my own spontaneous nature, you know, like gravitating to people who interest me in a room and neglecting the one who is like hurting by my interest in other people.”

Blakley
  1. “Suzanne” is Suzanne Elrod, mother of Cohen’s two children, Lorca and Adam. []
  2. Prior to his work in the Rolling Thunder Revue, McGuinn had been on the folk music circuit, worked as a sideman for folk groups like the Limeliters, the Chad Mitchell Trio, and Judy Collins, and played guitar and sang backup harmonies for Bobby Darin. He is best known, however, as a co-founder of  The Byrds. []
  3. From Folk Face-Off: Joni Mitchell vs. Bob Dylan []
  4. “The Mount Royal residence” refers to the house that belonged to Leonard  Cohen’s parents and the home in which he and his sister, Esther, were raised. (See Tour Childhood Home Of Leonard Cohen and The Childhood Of Leonard Cohen). The dinner in this account is being held at Cohen’s own home in Montreal. []
  5. “Mort” is Morton (Mort) Rosengarten, Leonard Cohen’s boyhood best friend and a well known Montreal artist and sculptor. []
  6. “Blakley” is Ronee Blakley, a singer-songwriter and actress (perhaps best known for her performance as country superstar Barbara Jean in Robert Altman’s 1975 film Nashville). Blakley had sung a duet with Dylan on “Hurricane” from his Desire album and subsequently became part of the Rolling Thunder Revue. Blakley would go on to record with Cohen on the 1977 “Death Of A Ladies’ Man” album, being featured on “Memories,” “Iodine,” and ” True Love Leaves No Traces.” []
  7. Bob Neuwirth, a singer-songwriter in the folk tradition who soon became a confidant and musical associate of Bob Dylan, put together the backing band for the Rolling Thunder Revue. He also introduced Kris Kristofferson to Janis Joplin. []