Friday, 4 September 2009

Leonard Cohen - Memories

Album: Death of a Ladies Man (Columbia, 1977) Chart pos: N/A

Leonard Cohen collaborating with Phil Spector in 1977 came as a shock to many. A folkie who preferred sparse arrangements collaborating with a borderline crazy Wagner obsessed pop producer was bound to incite of anger from the purists. While Death of a Ladies Man is in my opinion a very good album it does have its flaws like most as like most of Spector’s late period productions it sounds rough and unfinished. This is because Spector locked Cohen out of the sessions before he could properly finish recording the vocals. Around the same time Len also found himself at a mid-life crossroads in a decaying relationship with the mother of his children and floundering career, and much of this personal turmoil comes out in this record.

On Death of a Ladies man the finest moment comes at the tail end of the first side with Memories which was the only song on the album that managed to become something of a live favorite in later years. The combination of widescreen doo-wop backing to Cohens leering vocals works together beautifully to the point that its impossible to think this song would work better in a another context. The lyrics like many of Cohen’s best songs are full of ambiguities, what appears to be a song about a man making lustful advances at a dance is punctuated by allusions to Nazism especially in the opening line which goes ‘Frankie Lane, he was singing Jezebel/ I pinned an Iron Cross to my lapel'. While the song like many others on the album has been criticised for being more overtly sexual than usual. This is an argument which doesn’t hold much weight as Leonard went on to write lyrics like ‘I need to see you naked/In your body and your thought’ on one of his greatest albums 11 years later.

Btw here’s attempt by The Last Shadow Puppets trying to tackle the song

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