Monday, January 26, 2009

Off to see Leonard

*Sings*

'To-night's the night ...'

*Does little dance*

I'm spending the morning packing the picnic supper and the other things we hippygrandmas need to survive outside for six or seven hours on a 35 degree day/evening: 30+ blockout, litres of mineral water, Nurofen Plus, personal Aerogard, a good big hat, and, since my mates are driving down from the other direction, a novel and an Itty Bitty Book Light for the wait to get out of the car park (thanks to Laura for the tip). Because at around 2.30 I'm hitting the road for the drive down the coast to the paradisal landscapes of the Southern Vales for the Leonard Cohen concert.

In 1970, when I was seventeen and he was thirty-six, I bought my first Leonard Cohen Songbook and learned a lot of fairly easy chords (you want hard chords, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell are the go-to persons; I still have the bloodstained guitar from that era) to accompany the wild imagery of his early lyrics. I had very little idea what I was singing about, but the songs had a sort of reach into the subconscious that I now think of as Jungian; they appealed on some level well beyond, or perhaps above or possibly below, personal experience.

The music I listened to that year was Cohen and Mitchell, the Beatles, a young Jimmy Webb, a very young Elton John, and Fairport Convention with the quite incredibly young Richard Thompson already writing even-more-visionary lyrics than Leonard's. I learned more about how to use language from their lyrics (well, in Elton's case, Bernie Taupin's lyrics) than I had thus far taken in at school. When I think of being seventeen I'm always in my bedroom with the door shut, sitting on the floor with the record player on, and Joni is singing 'I could drink a case of you / and I would still be on my feet', or Leonard is singing 'No moon to keep her armour bright / no man to get her through this very smoky night', or -- the clearest moment, one of those defining memories -- the 23-year-old Elton John is singing
And I came down to meet you
in the half-light the moon left
while a cluster of night-jars sang their song out of tune
and the bright light shone down from the room
It was from these people that I also learned some things about how to be an adult, and what to expect all the way through my 20s and 30s, and oh dear these people did not lie. Or perhaps their prophecies were simply self-fulfilling.

For some mad reason I was not expecting to spend this morning being haunted by 1970 and all its works, but there you go. I haven't followed Cohen's career in the way I've followed Mitchell's, but every now and then he has popped up and I've thought Oh my yes, he's still got it -- 'First We Take Manhattan', 'Dance Me to the End of Love', 'Alexandra Leaving', 'Hallelujah'.

Photos tomorrow.

7 comments:

Amanda said...

Have a brilliant time. I know you will!

Pavlov's Cat said...

Thanks Amanda -- Laura at Sills Bend and Sophie Cunningham both had a fab time and have posted pix. You know far more about Leonard than me so I'm looking forward to v v detailed posts from you as well.

Amanda said...

I don't know much about Leonard, but I know what I like.

M-H said...

I remember his voice in 1971 most often on crappy portable record players in bedrooms of student flats; groups sitting round, smoking whatever, the others chatting or zoning out and and me leaning over, trying to catch the words. "I lit a thin green candle/ to make you jealous of me/ But the room just filled up with mosquitoes/ they heard that my body was free..." The brutality of "The song of Isaac", the lilt of "'Suzanne".

Enjoy.

Helen said...

That Bernie Taupin song you quoted is exquisite isn't it? I love that album and that song, even though I find the rest of EJ's oeuvre kind of ho-hum.

ThirdCat said...

and? how was it? or are you still recovering?

Zarquon said...

Not going to see LC, I'm going to see Triffids

My eyes are filled with light
My feet can't touch the ground...