I knew it was going to be a very sad times when Leonard Cohen passed away but this is almost impossible. I guess should have known it was coming soon because of what he’s said lately but still it did really totally shock to me. What a week, passed away on Monday and was buried yesterday while the rest of the world realise America is the dumbest nation in the world but can we say anything because in Australia we have a total cockhead running the show here anyway. Over the last month or so since he announced he had a new album I’ve done a few posts here on my thingy but so far they haven’t really had alot of hits but is it going to change now? I’ve wrote about You Want It Darker only a couple of weeks ago, my Top Tens of all his albums and a Classic Albums post about his Songs Of Love And Hate album so today he’s the very first artist who made it twice on that list. It does seem somehow right because Cohen to me is the artists/bands from the 60’s/70’s I love the most, he’s better than The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin or whoever you can say? I’ve not even added any of those big names yet but I will sometime, the point is he’s the most important to me so this is really hard to write. So I’ve come up with away of doing something like this without doing it because he means so much to me, I’m going to write about his classic 90’s album more that anything else today.
It was only the 13th of November in 2013 when I’d seen him live and tomorrow is three years to the day. It was the first date of his Aussie tour and then he when to New Zealand too but those are his last shows now. I say this because I spotted the release date of this album was in the same month but a couple of decades earlier on November 24th 1992 and now it’s November, I guess I’m reading alot into this anyway. I named this album The Future as my fave of all-time in that Top Tens I wrote but had his early 70’s album as the first one into this Classic Albums list of mine, a couple or more really could make it into this list because I love him that much. I guess that one was a good one to put in first because it was my first so that make sense. It was after hearing Nick Cave’s cover on his early 80’s album I had to find who this songwriter was but I was 90’s teenage so this album here become my all-time fave pretty quickly and still is.
That’s the official video for The Future which you don’t see much it anymore, maybe you will now but those beeps are always been there because person who uploaded says it’s from the VHS in the press kit at the time of the release of the album. It such a beautiful album even with the swear words, it make it even more beautiful with dirty words. I don’t why people were so shocked when he sung those word, I was a big deal back then which is just silly to think about. He’s like master songwriter of all-time so why should some word just be of limits because some people don’t like them or whatever. In the context of the rest of the song and what the hell he’s singing about it makes total sense and it’s like those people aren’t even listening to the same song or not even listening to the rest of the words or something. Now it’s going to be really hard not to quote the whole song’s lyrics but then what do you highlight above the rest? It’s really got to be taken as a whole so “I’ve seen the future it is murder” is the words just around that title of the track and I can’t do anymore because it will just end up being all lyrics but it’s one of his greatest and the imagery is so totally amazing.
Some people say it’s apocalyptic track and/or end of the world song but I always seen it as we are never going to get any better than we are right now and off course then it was the 90’s and looking at the same world we live in and this last week of just voting proves the point. I mean we have smart phones and some tech stuff got better since the 90’s but we haven’t evolved anymore and maybe we are never going to because how can we really? Shitty things happen and shitty people are always going to be in the world but then good stuff happens too, it’s just going to go up and down like a yo-yo or something. The world events at the time of writing was Tiananmen Square Massacre, Berlin Wall falling and then just months before was Los Angeles riots too which was where Cohen was finishing the album.
Waiting For The Miracle is another amazing and unbelievable songwriting, I could go on and on but I’ll try and keep it short. I will remind you that and in the context of his own his life at the time with his son in the coma from a car accident for four months. “I haven’t been this happy since the end of World War II” is just the line I’ll quote from this song. Then off course two year later it used in the opening credits for Oliver Stone‘s Natural Born Killers but then both Anthem and The Future was in the same film too.
They’re two songs on this album not written by Cohen himself, you know? Be For Real is written by Frederick Knight and then Always is written by Irving Berlin. Be For Real comes after those two great opening so it really has a hard time to be just as great but I think that’s why it’s thrown it in there, you know what I mean? Put in a cover song to break it up a bit. Then Always is the last song Cohen sings because Tacoma Trailer is an instrumental as a kind-off outro track to finish the album but also throwing in that cover at the end is great move. Both are real great choices, well I think they’re. Always was written in the 1920’s and was played by almost every artist back then and was also very popular with artists in the 40’s and 50’s. Knight wrote Be For Real in 1976 and originally performed by Marlena Shaw on her Just A Matter of Time album.
Closing Time was the very last song he played at that gig which was a three hour show too plus those two opening tracks was the other ones he played just from this album. It’s was really great one to finish the gig with that because it’s a bit of party number. The few lines I’ve got to quote which are the ones from the chorus: “I just don’t care what happens next, Looks like freedom but it feels like death, It’s something in between, I guess it’s closing time.” Then the song called Anthem opens with these lines: “The birds they sang at the break of day, Start again I heard them say, Don’t dwell on what has passed away or what is yet to be.” I’ll now stop quoting lines from his lyrics so I’ll just quote what said in an interview about the next song Democracy:
I’ve got about sixty. There are about three or four parallel songs in the material that I’ve got. I saw that the song could develop in about three or four different ways and there actually exist about three or four versions of Democracy. The one I chose seemed to be the one that I could sing at that moment. I addressed almost everything that was going on in America.
This was when the Berlin Wall came down and everyone was saying democracy is coming to the east. And I was like that gloomy fellow who always turns up at a party to ruin the orgy or something. And I said, “I don’t think it’s going to happen that way. I don’t think this is such a good idea. I think a lot of suffering will be the consequence of this wall coming down.” But then I asked myself, “Where is democracy really coming?” And it was the U.S. A. But I had verses:
It ain’t coming to us European style:
Concentration camp behind a smile.
It ain’t coming from the east,
With its temporary feast,
As Count Dracula comes
Strolling down the aisle…
So while everyone was rejoicing, I thought it wasn’t going to be like that, euphoric, the honeymoon.
So it was these world events that occasioned the song. And also the love of America. Because I think the irony of American is transcendent in the song.
It’s not an ironic song. It’s a song of deep intimacy and affirmation of the experiment of democracy in this country. That this is really where the experiment is unfolding. This is really where the races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another. This is the real laboratory of democracy. So I wanted to have that feeling in the song too. But I treated the relationship between the blacks and the Jews. For instance, I had:
First we killed the Lord and then we stole the blues.
This gutter people always in the news,
But who really gets to laugh behind the black man’s back
When he makes his little crack about the Jews?
Who really gets to profit and who really gets to pay?
Who really rides the slavery ship right into Charleston Bay?
Democracy is coming to the U.S. A.
Verses like that.
Q: Why did you take that out?
I didn’t want to compromise the anthemic, hymn-like quality. I didn’t want it to get too punchy. I didn’t want to start a fight in the song. I wanted a revelation in the heart rather than a confrontation or a call-to-arms or a defense.
There were a lot of verses like that, and this was long before the riots. There was:
From the church where the outcasts can hide
Or the mosque where the blood is dignified.
Like the fingers on your hand,
Like the hourglass of sand,
We can separate but not divide
From the eye above the pyramid
And the dollar’s cruel display
From the law behind the law,
Behind the law we still obey
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
There were a lot of verses like that. Good ones.
That’s the best interview I can find him talking about that very misunderstood song. Light As The Breeze is track seven on the album, comes after some pretty intense tracks so I guess here’s the genius of Cohen by having one light and breezy love song. After that is the second cover Always then comes Tacoma Trailer which sometimes gets dismissed because it’s got no words by it’s still a song written by Leonard Cohen. It’s a pretty way the finish this amazing album to so don’t just skip this last one, it’s just as beautiful, wonderful as the rest of the album.
I didn’t write anything about the music, well if you don’t know by now it’s his synth heavy album so some don’t like that and say it’s dated and the like but to me it’s such an even greater album because of it and real he’s done it before this album, in the 80’s he started to work with them so is not that much different and think about that at the time he would have been in his fifties and instead of doing the some old thing musically, he’s making and working with the latest and greatest gear. It’s a great move that late into a music career and it works so great with his words, I’ll go as far as right now saying it works even better that his earlier albums.
The Future track listing and times
1. The Future – 6:41
2. Waiting For The Miracle – 7:42
3. Be For Real – 4:32
4. Closing Time – 6:00
5. Anthem – 6:09
6. Democracy – 7:13
7. Light As The Breeze – 7:14
8. Always – 8:04
9. Tacoma Trailer – 5:57
My Classic Albums are, so far:
The Future by Leonard Cohen
So, this was the reason I started this blog. The idea is simply to write page/post about one of my fave album each that I consider a classic album. Please leave your comments below about each album because I would love to hear what you think about each album too, cheers!