Leonard Cohen
December 20, 2002 1:46 AM   Subscribe

Let Me See Your Beauty Broken Down: Here's an illuminating song-by-song commentary of the work of Leonard Cohen, along with a slide-show of his "Closing Time" notebook; some dodgy drawings; a lot of grainy photos of the great man, and Pico Iyer's liner notes for the recently released Essential Songs. Yeah, right. As if anything he ever wrote or sang or said wasn't. [Cohen fans will forgive the shabby web design. Thank you woods lot for the heads-up.]
posted by MiguelCardoso (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Neat link. Especially cool to see Iyer's notes -- I've enjoyed a couple of his books and it's always fun to run across his writing here and there.

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.

Now if someone could put together something similar for the songs of Tom Waits. And for Elvis Costello. (yah, there are sites, but none as illuminating on a song-by-song basis.)
posted by Vidiot at 2:54 AM on December 20, 2002

Fantabulicious post, Miguel. I will save all my ribbons for thee.

I can't believe that Suzanne from "Suzanne" wanted money from Cohen because she inspired the song. Eeew. Really: Eeew.

Some of the most interesting bits are Cohen's onstage rants, such as this one in Frankfurt:

"I came here to make love. No really I want to ask you seriously. Would you rather hear me sing, or make love?

Audience: "Make love !"

"Okay, make love then. I'm not the mad one you know. And I've taken nothing, you know. Just a little Mandrax and a little wine. And a little acid. I mean I know where I am. I know that when I come into a place like this, I come here to make love, I come here to feel other people; the possibility of them making love. I'm sorry, that's the way it is with me. I started to sing with an idea that my songs could bring people into that. We live in cities, we pass thousands of strangers every day. The only way that cities will ever be redeemed, is if people can approach each other on the street with the sole and singular purpose of making love.
posted by Ljubljana at 2:58 AM on December 20, 2002

Wow - what great links Miguel - these will be fun to explore. Been awhile since I've heard Suzanne or Sisters of Mercy...and I'm with you Vidiot, if we could have a site like this for Elvis Costello, I would be in heaven.
Ok Miguel, it's on you if I just stay here all day on this site and my poor old mom gets no christmas present.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:32 AM on December 20, 2002

thanks Miguel. what everyone else said. Personal fave: Famous Blue Raincoat.
posted by condour75 at 5:12 AM on December 20, 2002

am i the only one who finds his non-acoustic solo guitar pieces corny-sounding?

nevertheless, "that's no way to say goodbye" has always been my favorite.
posted by lotsofno at 5:40 AM on December 20, 2002

Cohen fans will forgive the shabby web design.
that page is more appropriate and visually communicative than anything i've ever seen come out of kottke!
posted by quonsar at 5:50 AM on December 20, 2002

As if anything he ever wrote or sang or said wasn't.

"Death of a Ladies' Man" is inessential at best.
posted by andrewzipp at 6:18 AM on December 20, 2002

Death of a Ladies' Man is my favorite Cohen album. I'm Your Man being my second favorite
posted by corpse at 6:51 AM on December 20, 2002

am i the only one who finds his non-acoustic solo guitar pieces corny-sounding?

Nope, I've always considered Leonard Cohen to be more of a poet/writer than a musician. I love his work, but musically his last couple of albums have sucked. Tom Waits - there's a musician!
posted by twistedonion at 7:31 AM on December 20, 2002

Twistedonion: "Ten New Songs" had some pretty tough material on it. A majority of the songs should be put in the attic, but tracks 2 through roughtly 5 are really good.

If I had more time I would cite some lyrics.

Back to work!
posted by Tystnaden at 7:41 AM on December 20, 2002

His lyrics are great, Tystnaden. One of my favourite Cohen songs is Anthem - still think the music is a bit boring though. I guess it works for Leonard Cohen because his songs are so strong. A perfect example is the last track on the future, Tacoma Trailer. Really dodgy tune with no lyrics.

Saw a great documentary on him a week or two ago. The man has class!
posted by twistedonion at 8:41 AM on December 20, 2002

Oh man. What a great link.

I've been a huge Cohen fan for a long time. I really savor the bootlegs I have of his, because you get the feel of his attitude toward the music, the audience, everything.

He does some great little lead-ins, like before Chelsea Hotel he tells how Janis Joplin thought of him as "writing songs for old women".

Some of his songs are ones I'd take to the island (Famous Blue Raincoat, The Partisan, Joan of Arc) and some I frankly can't even listen to (the beep-boop-beep keyboard numbers).

All in all, a great and fascinating resource. I think you get one free chatty MeTa post for this, Migs.
posted by Kafkaesque at 8:43 AM on December 20, 2002

Thanks Miguel, perfect timing! I was just reading this Iyer article about Cohen's ordination as a Zen monk at the Mt. Baldy Zen Center. I only recently learned about this period in his life and I was thinking of making an FPP on it, but it fits here nicely. There's more on the subject here.
posted by homunculus at 10:41 AM on December 20, 2002

While Cohen is proud of his own songwriting abilities ("My songs usually last about as long as a Volvo -- about 30 years") he pointed to his friend Bob Dylan as the world's master tunesmith.
"He is the Picasso, I am the Matisse," he said, drawing more laughs. "I love Matisse, but I am in awe of Picasso."
Here's that 1969 article "Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan : Poetry and the Popular Song Love them both!
posted by Mack Twain at 11:02 AM on December 20, 2002

That Don't Make It Junk

I fought against the bottle,
But I had to do it drunk –
Took my diamond to the pawnshop –
But that don’t make it junk.

I know that I’m forgiven,
But I don’t know how I know
I don’t trust my inner feelings –
Inner feelings come and go.

How come you called me here tonight?
How come you bother
With my heart at all?
You raise me up in grace,
Then you put me in a place,
Where I must fall.

Too late to fix another drink –
The lights are going out –
I’ll listen to the darkness sing –
I know what that’s about.

I tried to love you my way,
But I couldn’t make it hold.
So I closed the Book of Longing
And I do what I am told.


Almost straight philosophy (in a way).
posted by Tystnaden at 12:29 PM on December 20, 2002

me too, mack twain. thank you, everybody. half off topic: i wish i had the internet cafe time to put together a fpp on pico iyer. any takers?
posted by n o i s e s at 12:39 PM on December 20, 2002

sorry, Tystnaden, didn't mean to ignore you & i guess i'm more than half off topic about pico iyer, sorry.
posted by n o i s e s at 12:43 PM on December 20, 2002

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