Tag Archives: Joni Mitchell

Best Bootlegs: Joni Mitchell Sings Joni Mitchell ’70

Because I may not know music, but I know what you should like

… and where to find it1

Joni Mitchell In Concert – BBC 1970

This is, to my ears, Joni Mitchell at her best – when her voice was exquisite, and she was mature enough to allow herself to feel vulnerable now and again but still  young enough to devote herself primarily  to music. She performs an excellent selection songs from her first three albums and some material that would become part of her 1971 Blue Album.

The concert, played in intimate surroundings before a small audience was recorded September 3, 1970 at BBC Television Center – Shepherd’s Bush, London, England. It was originally broadcast October 9, 1970.

Track List: Joni Mitchell Sings Joni Mitchell

  1. Chelsea Morning
  2. Hunter
  3. Intro to ‘The Gallery’
  4. The Gallery
  5. Cactus Tree
  6. My Old Man
  7. For Free
  8. Intro to ‘Woodstock’
  9. Woodstock
  10. Introduction of dulcimer
  11. All I Want
  12. Intro to ‘California’
  13. California
  14. Intro to ‘Big Yellow Taxi’
  15. Big Yellow Taxi
  16. Both Sides Now

Viewing Information

The concert can be seen viewed on videos embedded at The Sixties Archive2

I’ve included “The Gallery” below as an example. The introduction is as interesting as the song, involving Scientology and the problem of being “a lady to an artist” – especially if the artist has dumped the lady.  The lyrics themselves are – well, let’s go with “bittersweet.”  Viewers experiencing difficulty in identifying the artist/infidel lover may wish  to consult Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell: Just One Of Those Things.

Downloading Information

Soundaboard has ripped the audio from the video files, in Flac, MP3, and M4A (note that audio is 2 channel mono), making them available for download in any of these formats at Joni Mitchell – England 1970.3

  1. This post is part of the Heck Of A Guy Best Bootlegs Series. An explanation of this project is included in the first post in this category: Best Bootlegs: Otis Redding – A Soupçon Of Soul. []
  2. Technical details from the site follow:

    PAL DVD, reconstruction of complete BBC 1970 b/cast in original order (48′ 44” edit here)
    from the best known sources (incl. edited 2007 digital broadcast)

    Video: 720×576, VBR (mixed VBR/CBR, 8500kbps max), interlaced, TFF
    Audio: LPCM (48kHz, 16 bit, 1536kbps, 2 channel mono) []

  3. The actual download is from Hotfiles.com as a single zip file. []

Dave Van Ronk On How To Write A Song – 1st, Get Drunk With Leonard Cohen & Joni Mitchell

Dave Van Ronk at 1963 Newport Folk Festival

Dave Van Ronk And The Folk Music Scene

Dave Van Ronk was an integral part of the acoustic folk revival of the 1960s, not only because of his own work which included old English ballads, Bertolt Brecht, blues, gospel, rock, New Orleans jazz, and swing, but also because the Mayor of  MacDougal Street, as he was known, presided over the coffeehouse folk culture, influencing, helping, and inspiring many folk performers such as Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Patrick Sky, Phil Ochs, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Joni Mitchell. Joni Mitchell, in fact, held that his rendition of her song “Both Sides Now” (which he called Clouds) was the finest ever.

From left to right: Mimi Fariña, Dave Van Ronk, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, Chad Mitchell (on guitar).

Last Call By Dave Van Ronk – With Collaboration Of Leonard Cohen & Joni Mitchell

Dave Van Ronk originally released his song, Last Call, on his album Songs For Ageing Children in 1973. When he released a different version of  the song on Going Back To Brooklyn in 1994, Van Ronk included  the story of how the song came to be in the liner notes.

He claimed that he spent the night drinking with Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell at the Chelsea Hotel, and the next morning the lyrics to this song had been scribbled out although none if the three drinking buddies remembered writing it.

Van Ronk elaborated on the circumstances in his live introductions to the song, explaining that the lyrics were found  in his notebook in a handwriting none of them recognized. Since it was in his notebook the other two informed him that he obviously wrote it.1

While the story may be apocryphal, some of the lyrics of “Last Call” do have a Cohenesque quality to them, like an Irish version of “Closing Time.”

Last Call by Dave Van Ronk

And so we’ve had another night
of poetry and poses,
and each man knows he’ll be alone
when the sacred gin mill closes.

And so well drink the final glass
each to his joy and sorrow
and hope the numbing drink will last
til opening tomorrow.

And when we stumble back again
like paralytic dancers
each knows the question he must ask
and each man knows the answer.

And so well drink the final drink
that cuts the brain in sections
where answers do not signify
and there aren’t any questions.

I broke my heart the other day.
It will mend again tomorrow.
If I’d been drunk when I was born
I’d be ignorant of sorrow.

And so well drink the final toast
that never can be spoken:
Here’s to the heart that is wise enough
to know when it’s better off broken.

What Dave Van Ronk Learned From Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell

This extract is from The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir by Dave Van Ronk, Elijah Wald, Lawrence Block2 (click on image to enlarge):

Credit Due Department: The photo atop this post  was  taken by John Byrne Cooke. The photo of a room full of folk singers was taken by by Daniel Kramer and was contributed by Dominique BOILE.

  1. Music Musings and Miscellany []
  2. The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir by Dave Van Ronk, Elijah Wald, Lawrence Block. Da Capo Press, April 12, 2005 []

Stranger Song, Indeed – Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, & The Man On An Acid Trip

Judy Collins and Leonard Cohen at Forest Hills 1968

 Judy Collins Helps Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, And The Man Coming Down From An Acid Trip

While “the man coming down from an acid trip” plays a role in a strange story in Judy Collins’ newly published book, Sweet Judy Blue Eyes – My Life In Music,1 he is at most the fourth strangest element in the single paragraph that deals with him, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and Judy Collins herself.

In a few pages of  Sweet Judy Blue Eyes, Judy Collins has written accounts of her connections with Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. Most of the information has been previously published in books about or interviews with Collins, Cohen, and Mitchell.  Nonetheless, I have excerpted below the book sections dealing with how Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell met, how Judy Collins and Leonard Cohen met, and Leonard Cohen’s first public appearance, all of which include explanations of the role Judy Collins played in promoting the careers of Cohen and Mitchell.

We begin, however, with an anecdote that offers some new (at least to me) and odd (again, at least to me) content and is set forth in an even odder, downright eccentric construction:

Joni and Leonard met for the first time at that concert [the Newport afternoon concert] and began a love affair. Still, everyone was a little off-center. I remember being in bed with a man I did not know who was coming down from an acid  trip and wanted me to “comfort him,” no sex involved. Leonard sat in the room with us, singing “The Stranger Song” softly  to himself, not paying any attention at all to what was happening on the bed. The Chelsea Hotel indeed! I trusted Leonard completely in very intimate situations and although we never had an intimate exchange of that kind ourselves, he was a constant ally I could take into battle with no fear of betrayal. Joni wrote “That Song About The Midway” about Leonard, or so she says. Sounds right: the festival, the guy, the jewel in the ear.

If I were still grading Freshman Composition papers (my work/study job in college), this paragraph would be covered in red ink, my scrawls asking, first of all, why a sentence about Joni and Leonard meeting and beginning a love affair is followed immediately in the same paragraph with the non sequitur, “Still, everyone was a little off-center,” and then by a scene portraying the narrator in bed with and (asexually) comforting  a man coming down from an acid trip while Leonard sings a song while “[without] paying any attention at all to what was happening on the bed.” There is more, but let’s not linger over violated principles of narrative exposition.

It doesn’t require the services of a hot-shot shrink (my job after coming to my senses and opting for medical school rather than a post-graduate English Lit program) to detect signs that Judy Collins may have some unresolved anger directed toward Joni Mitchell and that Leonard Cohen is somehow involved.  The juxtaposition of those last three sentences is unmistakably telling (as is that devastating phrase casually dropped into the second line, “or so she [Joni Mitchell] says”):2

I trusted Leonard completely in very intimate situations and although we never had an intimate exchange of that kind ourselves, he was a constant ally I could take into battle with no fear of betrayal. Joni wrote “That Song About The Midway” about Leonard, or so she says. Sounds right: the festival, the guy, the jewel in the ear.

All this lends a special poignancy to a phrase that has become a mantra for Judy Collins in recent interviews and on-stage banter with her audiences; it appears in this book in its most complete form:

I have always been grateful that I did not fall in love with Leonard in the way that I fell in love with his songs. I could have, certainly.

 Judy Meets Joni – Judy Loses Joni

Al Kooper introduced Joni Mitchell to Judy Collins. (Click on images to enlarge)

Judy Meets Leonard

Mary Martin introduced Leonard Cohen to Judy Collins.

Judy On Leonard’s First Appearance As A Singer

Leonard Cohen’s professional singing debut came about when Judy Collins invited him to perform at the April 30, 1967 SANE Against Vietnam War Concert At New York City Town Hall.

Credit Due Department: The photo atop this post was taken by Suzanne Szasz and is also from Sweet Judy Blue Eyes – My Life In Music by Judy Collins. In the book the caption is “With Leonard Cohen, Forest Hills, New York, 1968.  It seems likely this photo was taken on June 29, 1968, the date Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie performed at the Forest Hills Music Festival. 3

Previous Judy Collins Posts

  1. Judy Collins. Crown Archetype, October 18, 2011 []
  2. Note: It gives me no joy to point out the bitterness Judy Collins expresses in this passage. I have been and continue to be an admirer of Judy Collins and have repeatedly acknowledged the pivotal role she played in jump-starting Leonard Cohen’s career as a singer-songwriter.  As evidence of this, I offer, at the end of this post, a list of previous blog entries I’ve written about Collins for the reader’s review. Sadly, evidence of her anger and feelings of betrayal seems glaringly obvious in the words she wrote. []
  3. It’s All The Streets You Crossed Not So Long Ago []

“Winter Lady” By Joni Mitchell & “Winter Lady” By Leonard Cohen – The Video

The Leonard Cohen – Joni Mitchell Match-up

Note: Most of today’s Heck Of A Guy entry is drawn or adapted from “Winter Lady” By Leonard Cohen Meets “Winter Lady” By Joni Mitchell, which I posted here almost three years ago. There is, however, one significant addition – a video which includes Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, each performing his or her own song with the title, “Winter Lady.” (At the time of the original posting, I was unaware of the availability of the Joni Mitchell version on a bootleg.)

Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell have much in common. Both are Canadian, both are respected singer-songwriters who came of age professionally in the late 1960s, both have roots in the folk movement, and both ran with the same Bob Dylan-Judy Collins group of colleagues.

And, it turns out, for a brief time in 1967, they also shared the same bed during a short-lived romantic liaison described at Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell: Just One Of Those Things.

And, in 1966 Joni Mitchell wrote and sang a song called “Winter Lady,” a ballad which was never released on an album. while  Leonard Cohen, in 1967 (the year Mitchell and Cohen met and had their fling) copyrighted and performed a different song called “Winter Lady,” which was released on his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, in December 1967.1

Quelle coincidence, eh?

“Winter Lady” By Joni Mitchell And “Winter Lady” By Leonard Cohen – The Video

This video includes a recording of Joni Mitchell singing “Winter Lady” live at the Second Fret Club in Philadelphia on March 17, 1967 followed by Leonard Cohen performing “Winter Lady” from his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, released in December 1967.  The music playing during the introduction is Joni Mitchell’s “Rainy Night House,” which is based on a visit she and Leonard Cohen made to his parents’ home in Montreal while his mother was out of town.

Winter Lady – Joni Mitchell & Leonard Cohen Versions

Video from DrHGuy

Comparison and Contrast Of Mitchell’s And Cohen’s Respective Versions Of “Winter Lady”

The lyrics to both songs are available at

Rather than perform a tedious, line by line literary and psychological comparative analysis of the two sets of lyrics (and be assured/warned that I have repeatedly proven myself up to the demands of that task, especially the tedious part), I will content myself with a few observations on the differing themes of the two songs and urge readers to perform a side by side reading of the two sets of lyrics, a project requiring less than 5 minutes for which the rewards are ample.

Joni Mitchell’s “Winter Lady”

Key to grasping the Joni Mitchell rendition of “Winter Lady” is its point of view: the song is written as though it were sung by a man beseeching a woman.2

I contend that this perspective is significant but not because of the musically transgendered role of a female vocalist singing a song written for a man. After all, Mitchell’s predecessors in the folk movement, such as Judy Collins and Joan Baez, began performing folk songs meant for men in the early 1960s, sometimes changing pronouns from masculine to feminine and sometimes singing them as originally written. And, there are similar examples in every imaginable genre, including but not limited to opera, blues, Broadway musicals, and rock. Janis Joplin’s 1970 role-reversal of “Me and Bobby McGee” was such a hit that many listeners forgot that Kris Kristofferson had originally written it to be sung by a man. Heck, I’m personally fond of Lizzie West’s cover of Cohen’s irredeemably masculine “I’m Your Man.”3

The more impressive aspect is that Joni Mitchell seems to have scripted the lines she longs to have sung to her, the lady with “hair all soft and loose like snowing.” This reading is not just the inevitable extrapolation from the woman-singing-a-song-written-for-a-man issue. Another of Mitchell’s own songs, for example, written from a man’s point of view which she (famously) sang, “Free Man In Paris,” is not addressed to a woman but is a man’s free-standing soliloquy of his own thoughts and feelings.4

And what is it that Winter Lady/Joni Mitchell wants to hear from the man? The answer is in the chorus:

“Oh Winter Lady I won’t hurt you
I won’t cheat you, I won’t desert you
Winter Lady you need loving
I need loving too
I need loving you”

Those lines are repeated twice, first preceded by “Do you [The Winter Lady] dream or wish on stars / To hear him [her lover] say, …” and at the end of the song by “Love’s too late, you’ve changed your mind / And it’s my [the narrator's] turn to sing, … .”

While there is much in Joni Mitchell’s childhood history that may or may not be pertinent the wished-for promise not to hurt, cheat, or desert her, the impact of the events of her life just prior to her writing these lines in 1967 is impossible to fully discount:

In February of 1965, she gave birth to a daughter by a college ex-boyfriend. A few weeks after the birth, she married a Toronto folksinger, Chuck Mitchell.5 Shortly afterward, it became necessary for her to give her daughter up for adoption. Then, in the summer of 1965, the Mitchell’s moved to Detroit, where they performed as Joan and Chuck Mitchell. After a year and a half, the marriage broke up, and in. 1967, now known as Joni Mitchell, she moved to New York City.6

Leonard Cohen’s “Winter Lady”

Cohen’s lyrics, on the other hand, immediately and definitively describe an altogether different view of the situation, opening with the same lines that end the song:

Trav’ling lady, stay awhile
until the night is over.
I’m just a station on your way,
I know I’m not your lover.

That this terse, bald declaration, “I’m just a station on your way, / I know I’m not your lover” is sung gently over a fragile melody carried by flute and harpsichord renders it all the more striking.

The first verse is followed by the equally straightforward announcement that previously the narrator “lived with a child of snow” when he was willing to fight “every man for her.”

Now, however, the lines imply, times have changed – or perhaps the narrator himself has – because now his hope is only that the lady will “stay awhile / until the night is over,” having resigned himself to being “just a station on [her] way.” The naiveté of being a “soldier” fighting for an idealized “child of snow”7 of has given way to a world vision in which coming together, even for one night, knowing that nothing further can be promised, is preferable to fantasies that unquestioning, unswerving love, protection, and solicitude can be pledged forever.

By the way, doesn’t that stance sound familiar? I submit that Leonard Cohen’s lines in “Winter Lady” are the cognitive if not the stylistic equivalent of these lines excerpted from a 1964 ditty:

You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who will promise never to part,
Someone to close his eyes for you,
Someone to close his heart,
Someone who will die for you an’ more,
But it ain’t me, babe,
No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe,
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe.

(From “It Ain’t Me, Babe” by Bob Dylan)

The Significance
In this case, I suggest that the significance of these ideas goes beyond my own amusement (although God knows, that has been sufficient justification for any number of entries in this blog), even if my interpretations of the songs are wrong.8

Consider this: Two singer-songwriters quickly develop an intense relationship early in their careers, live together, and, not long afterward, end the liaison. One had written a song called “Winter Lady” in the year or so preceding that relationship and the other writes, either during the relationship or soon after its completion, a recognizably similar “Winter Lady” with a critically distinctive theme. Both were influential in music circles when they wrote these songs and since than time, their impact has surged geometrically.

Such a spontaneously occurring glimpse into the creative process9 rarely presents itself,10 and the opportunity to observe this brief interaction of two parallel artistic universes shouldn’t be missed.

Update: Also see The Resonance Of Joni Mitchell’s “Wizard of Is” With Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”

  1. Cohen’s “Winter Lady” was also featured in the soundtrack for Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller. []
  2. Yes, theoretically, the narrator of the song could be a woman addressing another woman, but Joni Mitchell herself said “This is a love song that actually was intended for a man to sing to a woman. I wrote it that way. And then I decided I like to sing it anyway.” Source: WMMR Retrospective Transcription – January 29, 1974 And, it will require a mighty fancy argument to persuade me that Leonard Cohen wrote his “Winter Lady” as a Lesbian love song. []
  3. Acceptance of men singing songs written for women appears a more iffy proposition. And, I admit that the notion of Leonard Cohen performing, say, “I Enjoy Being A Girl” is a tad off-putting. []
  4. The genesis of “Free Man In Paris” is summarized in The Greatest Songs Ever! Free Man in Paris (Blender):

    “I wrote that in Paris for David Geffen,” Mitchell has explained, “taking a lot of it from the things he said.” Geffen and Mitchell went a long way back. He had been her agent at the start of her rise to fame in the ’60s, and by the time she wrote “Free Man in Paris,” he owned the record label for which she (along with the Eagles, Jackson Browne and Dylan) was recording. The pair were such close friends that they even shared a house, but despite wide speculation about a romantic entanglement, theirs was more akin to a Will & Grace relationship. The same article notes that When Joni Mitchell played the finished tapes of her 1974 album Court and Spark [which included "Free Man In Paris"] for her Asylum Records labelmate Bob Dylan, the venerated spokesman of his generation fell asleep. “I think Bobby was just being cute,” is how Mitchell figures it. []

  5. Interestingly, one of the two covers of Mitchell’s “Winter Lady” is by that same Chuck Mitchell []
  6. Source: Songwriters Hall Of Fame []
  7. OK, it’s possible that the “child of snow” is not the young, naive, idealized version of the “Winter Lady,” but a different woman altogether (e.g., Marianne Ihlen, with whom Leonard Cohen lived on the Greek island of Hydra prior to moving to New York), but that explanation carries the hint of tediousness, which I’m bound by oath to avoid in this post []
  8. Don’t worry; my interpretations aren’t wrong. I’m just being grandiosely modest again. []
  9. My hypothesis, I realize, presupposes that Leonard Cohen’s “Winter Lady” was written as a consequence of his exposure to Joni Mitchell’s “Winter Lady.” It is possible, I suppose, that, instead, both were inspired by a third and still earlier song (I’m thinking something in Middle English around Chaucer’s era) or that both wrote their songs independently in a bizarre coincidence or that Cohen originally set out to write a tune called “The Vintner’s Ladle” but after many revisions the title was corrupted into “Winter Lady.” Nonetheless, until someone points out that obscure 8 year old string in an forgotten corner on a forum in one of the Leonard Cohen Big Blogs that negates my entire thesis, my money is on Cohen’s “Winter Lady” being a consciously crafted response to Mitchell’s. []
  10. The only other example that comes to mind is Neil Sedaka’s “Hey Carol” and “Oh Neil,” the song Carol King wrote in response. This set belongs in the category of “answer songs,” i.e., songs that refer directly to another song, which doesn’t seem to be the same kind of phenomenon as the two “Winter Lady” songs. []

Joni Mitchell On Philadelphia & Fayetteville NC Audiences, Engelbert Humperdinck, And Her Search For A Promotion-minded Record Company

1967 Interview With Joni Mitchell Unheard For 42 Years

In1967, between sets at The Second Fret, a club in Philadelphia, Joni Mitchell recorded a 15 minute interview in which she is as earnest as always but much less defensive and  more vulnerable than she was to become later in her career. Forty-two years later, the interview is again available.

She discusses technical issues involved in singing her songs, her departure from the folk genre into rock and roll with songs like “Both Sides Now,” cross-over hits, evolving lyrics, audiences in Philadelphia, Fayetteville, Detroit, and Flint, and more.

There are even passing references to her husband, Chuck, with whom she sang duets, the Johnny Preston hit, “Running Bear,” and the length of her hair (within three inches of her waist).

This delightful interview is available for download at JoniMitchell1967

Credit Due Department:  Adrian du Plessis, personable manager for Allison Crowe, alerted me to this interview and placed the download link at Allison Crowe’s web site.

Adrian discovered the interview via the JMDL (Joni Mitchell Discussion List):

Date: Sat, 26 Dec 2009 20:06:55 -0700
From: “Les Irvin”
Subject: Interview unheard for 42 years now available

On Friday evening, March 17, 1967, Ed Sciaky went to the 2nd Fret (operated by Manny “Money” Rubin) in downtown Philadelphia (on Sansom Street) and recorded an interview with Joni Mitchell. Recorded between sets, this recording was mastered at 7 and a half IPS on Shamrock recording tape, a cheap brand of audio tape but all that college student Ed Sciaky could afford. It was recorded on an Amex 354 mono tape recorder with an RCA 44 microphone. Ed Sciaky spoke into one side of the mic and Joni into the other. Since Joni spoke softly, her level was lower than Ed. The interview was engineered by Mike Biel, a student executive at the station at that time.

The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia (of which Ed is now a member), an organization of 350 area broadcasters, has recently equalized and adjusted the levels of the interview and the complete audio interview is now available on their website. They are proud to make this priceless interview again available to the public. The entire interview has not been heard since it was aired the next evening, Saturday, March 18th on Ed’s folk music show called “Broadside,” which was broadcast Saturday evenings from 8 pm and 12 midnight over WRTI-FM, the campus radio station of Temple University in Philadelphia. The 1974 airing over WMMR was an excerpt.


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 []