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Tunes

Best tunes of 1992: #7 Leonard Cohen “Closing time”

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Believe it or not, “Closing time” was the song that first turned me on to Mr. Cohen: the poet, novelist, singer, songwriter, and Canadian Icon. I loved his voice right from the start and his easy sing-speak delivery and his cool demeanour. Shortly afterwards, I connected Cohen to that awesome song that Christian Slater’s character used to open his pirate radio show in the film, “Pump up the volume” and well, a lifelong love affair was born. I didn’t know this then but “Closing time” was one of two singles released off what would be the last album he recorded before entering a Buddhist monastery, touching off a prolonged break. “The future” is now considered a classic album in his catalogue but it was a struggle to create for the man from beginning to end.

“Ah we’re drinking and we’re dancing
and the band is really happening
and the Johnny Walker wisdom running high”

Around the time that “Closing time” was making the rounds on MuchMusic, I was taking a driver’s training class with Young Drivers of Canada. I was getting my license later than many of my friends, mostly to beat the implementation of graduated licensing (yes, I’m that old), and yeah, so many of those in the class were a few years younger than I was. I remember there being a teen girl in the class who wore a Leonard Cohen concert T-shirt to class one day and we all ribbed her to no end. Leonard wasn’t a “cool” choice amongst all the alt-rock kids but a few of us in the know, came to her defence after things got carried away. No one should have to pay for being a fan of Cohen. I’m sure all those kids know that now as adults.

“All the women tear their blouses off
and the men they dance on the polka-dots
and it’s partner found, it’s partner lost
and it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops”

It was also around that time that my older brother Andrew came back to live at home for a while. After years of living in the States, he had been indoctrinated into listening to Country music, yes, he wore cowboy boots and the whole bit. Interestingly, “Closing time” got its hooks into him, perhaps it was the fiddle, which was part of what got its hooks into me. Unfortunately, though, that meant that the cassette tape I had this on was always in the player and he would replay it to the point where I was almost sick of it. Then, he would drag me out with him to country bars to pick up women, none of whose companions I was ever remotely interested in, and then, drunkenly sing the few lines he knew of “Closing time” over and over again as we were staggering home in the early hours of the morning.

“Yeah we’re drinking and we’re dancing
but there’s nothing really happening
and the place is dead as Heaven on a Saturday night
And my very close companion
gets me fumbling gets me laughing
she’s a hundred but she’s wearing
something tight”

I only recently learned that “Closing time” is Leonard Cohen’s love poem to Toronto’s famous dive/after hours bar, The Matador, sadly now defunct (though I hear plans to resurrect it are in the works). I have only ever been to the Matador once in my life and that was on my friend Tim’s birthday, probably more than a decade ago now. We were all rather drunk already, which made a surreal experience all the more surreal. Nobody seem to know its precise address but the mere mention of the name to the cab driver got us all there without incident. Once there, we stood in line for an unknown amount of time but I distinctly remember our friend Mark saying to me, “If they ask you if you’re a cop, just say ‘no’.” There are plenty more stories that I could tell of that evening inside The Matador but I’ll leave those for another evening over beers. Let’s just say that when closing time actually rolled around, we stumbled out blinking in the morning sun and into waiting cabs bound for our beds.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.

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Tunes

100 best covers: #71 Pixies “I can’t forget”

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Leonard Cohen was a great songwriter. He was a poet that wrote poems and those poems became songs when he decided to sing them, instead of just read them aloud.

Of course, when you write excellent songs, you’ll have numerous other excellent bands and solo artists lining up to cover your work. And some of them might even transcend your original versions in popularity and commercial success. Such as it is with Leonard Cohen, who has been covered many times over, and even had just the one of his songs covered thousands of times (I’m sure you can guess of which song I speak). If you ask my wife, though, she’ll tell you that Mr. Cohen is tops on the list of artists that should never be covered and that no one can come close to touching his versions. Conversely, my friend Tim has said to me on more than one occasion that he likes Leonard Cohen’s songs, but only when someone else performs them.

And I’m pretty near certain that these words were first uttered by him whilst listening to the 1991 tribute album, “I’m your fan”. This excellent 18-song compilation was put together French music magazine, “Les Inrockuptibles”. The album’s title is a play on Cohen’s 1988 album, “I’m your man”, and its track listing included varied versions of Cohen tunes by artists such as Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch, House of Love, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Lloyd Cole, John Cale, James, R.E.M., and of course, this excellent cover by the Pixies.

Recorded in the same year as “Trompe le monde”, their final album before dissolution, the Pixies’ version of “I can’t forget” was unsurprisingly more upbeat and hard-hitting than the original. Indeed, it could almost be mistaken for one of their own tunes, if it had only been a bit more weird and off-kilter. Cohen’s original was recorded a mere three years earlier for the aforementioned album, “I’m your man”, and while all of its songs were great – classics now – it took me a while to get over its production and instrumentation, which were synth heavy and definitely of their time and place.

Sorry Victoria. I think I’d take the heavy guitars, faster rhythm, and Frank Black’s yelp and Kim Deal’s chiming backup over the easier listening marimba synth-programmed hangover, even if it does include Cohen’s inimitable, rich sing-speak vocals.

What about you? What are your thoughts?

Cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

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Playlists

Playlist: New tunes from 2019, part three

Now that we’re just about halfway through December and nearing the top three albums of my favourites of the year, I thought I’d share part three of my series of playlists of tunes that got me through 2019. If you missed them, you can browse, and perhaps even enjoy, parts one and two here and here.

The last time I posted one of these, I was bemoaning the length of time it took for my city to shake the dregs of winter from its cockles and here we are, almost winter again. In fact, we’ve already had snow here and though it has melted away now, have had plenty of the icky white stuff on and off since the beginning of November.

I had planned on doing one of these lists for each quarter of the year, at twenty-five songs a-piece, to have a total of 100 songs across the playlists. However, I was only successful at staying on target for half of the year and lost my the thread somewhere this summer. I upped the ante and managed to fit forty tracks in this particular playlist, bringing the total up to 90 songs for the year, a number with which I have to be contented.

Still, the size of the playlist is not meant to deter you, there has been some amazing music released in the last half of the year, particularly in September and October. And I can almost guarantee you’ll find something to like within.

Highlights include:

    • “Shine a little light”, the opening track off the first new album in five years by Akron, Ohio’s The Black Keys
    • “All my happiness is gone”, a song that along with the rest of the eponymously-named album, may have foreshadowed the suicide of Purple Mountains’ frontman David Berman
    • A bright spot (for me, anyways) off Lana Del Rey’s latest album was “Mariners apartment complex”, an album I found a tad long to be worthy of all the universal acclaim
    • “Lord Randall’s bastard son”, the lead off track off the self-titled debut by The Walker Roaders, a new project led by James Fearnley (accordionist of The Pogues), Ted Hutt (founding member of Flogging Molly), and Marc Orrell (founding member of Dropkick Murphys) – you pretty much know what you’re getting here
    • “Sunshine” by Blushing, one of the many standouts off the self-titled debut by this shoegaze revivalist group, whose sound owes quite a bit of debt to Lush
    • “Heavenly” is Cigarettes After Sex doing what they are doing on their excellent, late night, slow-burning sophomore album, “Cry”
    • Leonard Cohen’s son Adam finished off a bunch of songs started during the sessions for “You want it darker” and released a posthumous album last month, of which “Happens to the heart” is just one of the great tracks

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist:

1. “Shine a little light” The Black Keys (from the album “Let’s rock”)

2. “Bulletproof” The Soft Calvary (from the album The Soft Calvary)

3. “Hard to kill” Bleached (from the album Don’t you think you’ve had enough?)

4. “All my happiness is gone” Purple Mountains (from the album Purple Mountains)

5. “Alewife” Clairo (from the album Immunity)

6. “Leona” Strange Ranger (from the album Remembering the rockets)

7. “the one” Marika Hackman (from the album Any human friend)

8. “Sister Rosetta” Frank Turner (from the album No man’s land)

9. “Don’t cling to life” The Murder Capital (from the album When I have fears)

10. “A golden year” Lillie Mae (from the album Other girls)

11. “Clouds of Saint Marie” Ride (from the album This is not a safe place)

12. “Entitlement crew” The Hold Steady (from the album Thrashing thru the passion)

13. “Mariners apartment complex” Lana Del Rey (from the album Norman Fucking Rockwell)

14. “At the party” Black Belt Eagle Scout (from the album At the party with my brown friends)

15. “Desert man” Bat For Lashes (from the album Lost girls)

16. “Highwomen” The Highwomen (from the album The Highwomen)

17. “This is my fate” Pixies (from the album Beneath the eyrie)

18. “Dream reader” Frankiie (from the album Forget your head)

19. “The mother road” Chelsea Wolfe (from the album Birth of violence)

20. “Most of all” Vivian Girls (from the album Memory)

21. “Work of fiction” The High Dials (from the EP Primitive feelings, part 2)

22. “Lord Randall’s bastard son” The Walker Roaders (from the album The Walker Roaders)

23. “Terms of surrender” Hiss Golden Messenger (from the album Terms of surrender)

24. “Shockwave” Liam Gallagher (from the album Why me? Why not.)

25. “Stars are the light” Moon Duo (from the album Stars are the light)

26. “Sunshine” Blushing (from the album Blushing)

27. “Colossus of Rhodes” The New Pornographers (from the album In the morse code of brake lights)

28. “The sound of silence” Chromatics (from the album Closer to grey)

29. “Devoted to” Lightning Dust (from the album Spectre)

30 .”Skin game” DIIV (from the album Deceiver)

31. “All mirrors” Angel Olsen (from the album All mirrors)

32. “Never understand” The Building (from the album PETRA)

33. “Dexter & Sinister” Elbow (from the album Giants of all sizes)

34. “Hollywood ending” Starcrawler (from the album Devour you)

35. “Forgotten eyes” Big Thief (from the album Two hands)

36. “Digger” Great Grandpa (from the album Four of arrows)

37. “Shelter” Mikal Cronin (from the album Seeker)

38. “Heavenly” Cigarettes After Sex (from the album Cry)

39. “In the air tonight” Lucy Dacus (from the EP 2019)

40. “Happens to the heart” Leonard Cohen (from the album Thanks for the dance)

Cheers.

Finally, if you’re interested in checking out any of the other playlists I’ve created and shared on these pages, you can peruse them here.