RELIVE THE MAGIC OF THIS ICONIC ALBUM EVERYWHERE YOU ENJOY MUSIC
SONGS OF LOVE AND HATE LIVE PERFORMANCES
Songs of Love and Hate was Leonard Cohen’s 3rd studio album, and released on March 19th, 1971. Although this album was not an immediate commercial success, this album quickly became a milestone in Cohen’s career, and was considered “iconic”, even now, 50 years later. To celebrate this important history, we gathered here a few anecdotes on the songs of this album:
The first song on the album, “Avalanche” was produced by Bob Johnston. Johnston also produced Leonard’s previous album, Songs From A Room. The song made Rolling Stone’s’ “25 Songs That Are Truly Terrifying.” The song “finds Cohen playing his classic role of stygian bard to perfection. Over rolling flamenco guitar and swelling strings, he portrays a hunchback living at the bottom of a gold mine: ‘Your laws do not compel me/To kneel grotesque and bare,’ he sneers. Even as the song edges into dark obsession and, eventually, pure horror (‘It is your turn, beloved/It is your flesh that I wear’), Cohen’s voice maintains a trancelike composure.” – Rolling Stone, October 15, 2019
Artist Nick Cave first covered the song on his 1984 album From Her To Eternity. Consequence of Sound said about the cover, “This time around, Cave opts for a more minimalist approach, paring away the dark atmosphere of the first cover to leave a delicate piano ballad brimming with melancholy.” – January 10, 2015
When asked by Steven Blush who has done the best job with his music and who has butchered it, Leonard turns the question on its head. He said, “There have probably been some who have butchered it, but I’ve generally liked the job that people have done with it. I guess you could say Nick Cave butchered my song, ‘Avalanche,’ and if that’s the case, let there be more butchers like that.” — Seconds, June/July 1993
2. LAST YEAR’S MAN
London’s Corona Academy provided the children’s vocals on “Last Year’s Man.” Leonard has never performed this particular song in front of a live audience.
On the back cover of 1975’s The Best Of Leonard Cohen, Leonard says, “I don’t know why but I like this song. I used to play it on a Mexican twelve-string until I destroyed the instrument by jumping on it in a fit of impotent fury in 1967. The song had too many verses and it took about five years to sort out the right ones. I like the children in this version. I always wait for them if I have to listen to it.”
In Pitchfork’s review of the album, they name “Last Year’s Man,” along with “Avalanche” and “Famous Blue Raincoat,” demonstrating Leonard in “his finest, subtlest form…[These songs] alone justify the album’s classic status. Despite its relative flaws, it’s an indispensable document in the development of one of the 20th century’s most enduring artists. Cohen potently captures the pull between safety and the unknown, love and freedom, spirituality and sensuality: a panoramic view of human experience, rendered through the work of one exceptional artist.” — Brian Howe, May 4, 2007
Sputnik Music says, “’Last Year’s Man’ uses the chord sequence to great effect. The major chords are immediately countered with the minor chords in such a way that it leads the listener on an emotional rollercoaster; the major chords are placed in the sequence in a way that lifts the soul, whereas the minor chords brings it crashing back down; and the fact that soul was lifted just seconds previously makes the crash all the more bitter. The lyrics are depressing in nature; it talks about failure, and desperation amounting to nothing. It is very hard not to be moved at some core point of the soul by this song (as long as you pay attention to the lyrics), and the chords echo the lyrics to tremendous effect. This song really does leave the listener very low.” – Gur Samuel, October 9, 2005
3. DRESS REHEARSAL RAG
“Dress Rehearsal Rag” was featured in the 2003 film The Favourite Game by Bernar Hébert, based on the novel by Leonard Cohen. The film was produced by Michel Ouellette for Cine Qua Non Films.
“’Dress Rehearsal Rag’… contains the sort of symbolistic lyrics that makes one wonder how the hell Cohen manages to get through life. It was certainly very depressing, with the use of incredibly screwed-up images. Cohen’s voice was its usual melancholic self, but seemed more hypnotic than ever. The overall quality of the track was brilliant.” – Roy Hollingworth, Melody Maker, January 2, 1971
Leonard met with Judy Collins in the mid-1960s hoping she would record one of his songs. He played Collins three different songs, “She promptly snapped up one for her next album: ‘Dress Rehearsal Rag.’ ‘Talk about dark,’ she told [Sylvie] Simmons, ‘a song about suicide. I attempted suicide myself at fourteen, before I found folk music, so of course I loved it. We were desperately looking for something unusual for my album and when I heard ‘Dress Rehearsal Rag,’ that was it.” Collins released the song in 1966. – I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen
“There are songs like ‘Dress Rehearsal Rag’ that I recorded once and I will never sing. Judy Collins did a very beautiful version of it, better than mine. I would never do that song in concert, I can’t get behind it.” – Leonard Cohen, SongTalk, April 1993
4. DIAMONDS IN THE MINE
Prior to his performance of “Diamonds In The Mine” in Munich in March 1985, Leonard explained that the song was “an old song about how little there is. Even when there was a lot, there was little. But now that there is little, there’s even less.”
Background vocals for “Diamonds In The Mine,” as well as all other songs on the album were provided by Corlynn Hanney and Susan Mussmano. Both women also toured with Leonard in 1970. “Diamonds In The Mine” appears on Leonard’s album, Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970, on both record and DVD.
Francis Mus points out in her book, The Demons of Leonard Cohen, that normally Leonard just uses his background singers to “..enhance certain passages or to support his voice, but every now and then they are brought into the universe of his songs as fully fledged characters. In ‘Diamonds In The Mine’ he wants to inform his audience that his relationship can no longer be salvaged. ‘You tell them now,’ he sings in a commanding tone of voice, and to reinforce his message he has his backing singers repeat the verse.”
5. LOVE CALLS YOU BY YOUR NAME
“Love Calls You By Your Name” was a minor rewrite of an unpublished 1967 song called “Love Tries to Call You by Your Name.” Leonard introduced the song “Love Calls You By Your Name” to his Berlin audience in 1974 by explaining, “Here’s a song that searches out the middle place between the beginning and the end of things.”
Allegedly, in the song when Leonard calls out “Where are you, Judy?” and “Where are you, Anne?”, these were references to women he had relationships with in the mid-1950s. — Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years
The string arrangement was provided by Paul Buckmaster, who provided both the string and horn arrangements for songs on the album and acted as conductor.
6. FAMOUS BLUE RAINCOAT
In 1976, Cohen tells the tale of his blue raincoat. “I had a good raincoat then, a Burberry I got in London in 1959. Elizabeth thought I looked like a spider in it . . . . It hung more heroically when I took out the lining, and achieved glory when the frayed sleeves were repaired with a little leather . . . . I knew how to dress in those days. It was stolen from Marianne’s loft in New York sometime during the early ’70s. I wasn’t wearing it very much toward the end.” – Vogue, November 11, 2016
Speaking about the song “Famous Blue Raincoat,” Leonard told the BBC “The problem with that song is that I’ve forgotten the actual triangle. Whether it was my own – of course, I always felt that there was an invisible male seducing the woman I was with – now whether this one was incarnate or merely imaginary, I don’t remember… but secretly I’ve always felt that there was something about the song that was unclear.” — Leonard, BBC Radio 1 programme broadcasted August 7, 1994.
Jennifer Warnes singles out “Famous Blue Raincoat” as one of Cohen’s best melodies. “Leonard is not known for his great melodies, but he actually is a great melody writer,” she told Songfacts. “If you take the words off and just listen to the melodies, he’s really, really good. It’s just not known, because we’re so distracted by the poetry.” In 1987, Warnes released an entire album of Cohen’s songs called Famous Blue Raincoat. – Songfacts
Paul Zollo asked Leonard about the song “Famous Blue Raincoat” and Leonard confessed, “That was one I thought was never finished. And I thought that Jennifer Warnes’ version in a sense was better because I worked on a different version for her, and I thought it was somewhat more coherent. But I always thought that that was a song you could see the carpentry in a bit. Although there are some images in it that I am very pleased with. And the tune is real good. But I’m willing to defend it, saying it was impressionistic. It’s stylistically coherent. And I can defend it if I have to. But secretly I always felt that there was a certain incoherence that prevented it from being a great song.” – SongTalk, April 1993
In a Rolling Stone readers’ poll from November 2014, “Famous Blue Raincoat” was voted as the third favourite Leonard Cohen song, only surpassed by “Suzanne” and “Hallelujah.”
7. SING ANOTHER SONG, BOYS
This is the only live song appearing on the studio album Songs Of Love And Hate. “Sing Another Song, Boys” was recorded during Leonard’s performance at the Isle of Wight Festival on August 30, 1970. The performance would later appear on Leonard’s Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 album and DVD.
Before performing “Sing Another Song, Boys,” in Frankfurt in May 1970, Leonard told the audience, “This is a song about a man and a woman… The song pertains to dissect the intimate connections in the ordinary relationship. Coming to no satisfactory conclusions, the author of the melody abandons it and begins another song. Hence the title, ‘Let’s Sing Another Song, Boys.’ At which point, in the author’s mind, he envisions the audience rising to its feet, their throats burning, and singing the new song which speaks of the end of all the tyrannies that we place upon each other in the living room, and the song is completed with a great triumphant march on the Bastille.”
Alan Attwood describes this song as “a raucous, shambolic, ranting wreck of a song, which ends with a well-oiled Leonard chanting instead of singing… But it has these lines:
Ah, they’ll never, they’ll never ever reach the moon,
At least not the one that we’re after.
“Not the one we’re after… I’ve always loved that… I still play the song from time to time. It’s a toe-tapper.” — Stereo Stories, July 1969 (Although the album came out in 1971, Leonard was performing it live in concert prior).
Charlie Daniels plays guitar as well as most others on the album. He also toured with Leonard in 1970 and would go on to form his own band and release the Grammy-award winning hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
8. JOAN OF ARC
Before performing “Joan Of Arc” in Paris in October 1974, Leonard told the audience, “This song was written for a German girl I used to know. She’s a great singer; I love her songs. I recently read an interview where she was asked about me and my work. And she said, ‘I was completely unnecessary.’ Anyhow, I hope she’s not here. This song came through her.” The German singer Leonard spoke of is believed to be Nico, who sang with the Velvet Underground.
“I was thinking more of this sense of a destiny that human beings have and how they meet and marry their destiny… I don’t want to suggest in that song that what she really wanted was to be a housewife. What I mean to say is that as lonely and as solitudinous as she was, she had to meet and be embraced by her destiny… Seen from the point of view of the women’s movement she really does stand for something stunningly original and courageous.” – Leonard in a 1988 interview with John McKenna of RTÉ
“Another track told a tale of Joan of Arc – as she was being burned. Cohen personified the flames, it was all very emotional – again very simple musically – but more effective than anything I’ve ever heard him do.” — Roy Hollingworth, Melody Maker, January 2, 1971
“It was a strange song indeed,” Cohen said of the song, “It was out of myself and contained the notion of reverence. When I recorded that song I will admit to having a strong religious feeling. I don’t think it’ll happen again.” — New Musical Express, March 10, 1973
Kathleen Kendall asked Leonard if “Joan Of Arc” was a sexist song and he explained, “It might be, but I think it is on the side of women. But more accurately, I think it is just a song about the total gift of total giving and the total consummation of the spirit in that kind of experience. It takes in the whole shot to be man and woman.” — WBAI Radio, December 4, 1974