when i was about fifteen, i fell for the line “give me a leonard cohen afterworld, so i can sigh eternally” in nirvana’s “pennyroyal tea“. i asked pa whether he had any leonard cohen albums – he said no but i did find a best of leonard cohen cassette tape in his shelves. and oh. i played it over and over. on a class trip i made my friends listen to it on a walkman. i used the line “we are ugly but we have the music” in an english exam in school. i made friends with so many lines in leonard cohen’s songs. so much so that when someone says “new york is cold”, i can’t help saying “but i like where i’m living“. i learned “hey, that’s no way to say goodbye” on the ukulele with one friend and have sung it with many others since. i read beautiful losers and book of longing, not always following but always inspired. and inspired by the places he went, too. turning from literature to music in his thirties, living in a monastry in his sixties, going on tour again in his seventies.
considering how long he’d been around for, i never thought i’d be able to see leonard cohen play anywhere. until i did. once on my own in stockholm in 2008. i cried and laughed, especially during “tower of song” (you’ll hear some of the wonderful audience giggles, as well as a leonard cohen secret, in this video). and shaking with excitement and surprise at hearing “suzanne” and “avalanche” and “take this waltz” and “the partisan” and “heart with no companion” and “famous blue raincoat” and basically almost every song that means the world to me (look, what a setlist!). leonard cohen also charmingly spoke of walking through stockholm earlier in the day and finding that everyone was taller and more handsome than himself. and in that moment, it was difficult to believe anyone could be. and then i saw him again, with my parents, in berlin in 2010, where he even sang “chelsea hotel” and “lover lover lover” and literally skipped across the stage with such delight that we were all love.
it is awfully sad to lose leonard cohen. 2016, you really have gone too far. but there is so much to remember, to read, to look at, and to listen to. like this lovely bittersweet two pints story on leonard cohen by roddy doyle, this picture of amanda palmer, and these words by first aid kit. like leonard cohen’s last album you want it darker, which is a fine companion for getting lost and finding cracks where light gets in.
we are lonely but we have the music ♥
musician, artist, mama, beekeeper, human. that’s how frazey ford describes herself. her music is as excellent and wide-hearted as that sounds. we’ve been slow to catch up: we’ve missed four the be good tanyas records and two frazey ford albums. the first we heard and saw of her was the video for “done”, a life-buoyant, calmly fierce sea change song accompanied by a laid-back pavement-dance riot (and featuring deadly clothes, giggles, a dinosaur, a hula hoop and an otis redding vinyl). it made us want to dance with frazey. library, backyard, newsagent’s, parking lot – anywhere she wants, anywhere. our first dance turned out to be in a church. sitting down. it was exhilerating.*
13th october 2015, the union chapel in london, candles and hot chocolates. frazey ford in a black jumpsuit, sparkling with wisdom and healing. her lovely band. songs like “september fields”, “bird of paradise”,”the gospel song”, “you’re not free”, “natural law” and “blue streak mama”. “one more cup of coffee” for bob dylan and radiant “the happy song” dum-dums for otis. frazey talking about how her brother is like a “firecracker”. about recording with al green’s band. about how a forty-year-old argument was forgotten over “weather patterns“. i’m terribly grateful to them for playing that song. it helps me breathe. i am also glad my dungarees have lots of pockets to keep all these songs in. i have “weather patterns”, “done” and “if you gonna go” right here in the top pocket. and oh, “ootischenia” (a the be good tanyas song about frazey’s parents running from the vietnam war to communes in canada), how chuffed i am to have made your acquaintance. as i am sitting here remembering how “indian ocean” washed over the wooden benches of the union chapel, i am still wearing my dungarees like a hug, every pocket full of beekeper soul ♫
* apart from the support act david ward, during whose set i felt both ill and ill-tempered. maybe i just didn’t get it. how you can “cobble together” (his words) a dead friend’s poems into a song, how his song “mother” could possibly be about “instinctive human kindness” (his words). how he, by playing his own version of them, managed to prick holes into both bryan adams’s “heaven” (a perfectly good song) and bob dylan’s “i was young when i left home” (which means an awful lot to me and is itself a respectfully inventive and sincerely heartfelt reinterpretation of the traditional “900 miles“/”900 miles from home“, both referenced here in woody guthrie’s version).