- 11 Nov 16
As the music world continues to come to terms with the death of Leonard Cohen, Hot Press delved into the archives to retrive our 1988 interview with the legendary singer. Sex, drugs, the craft of songwriting, spiritual turmoil and the spectre of death were all on the agenda when Joe Jackson sat down with the iconic star.
“This is pure fantasy. Never heard of the man mentioned here.” This was the playful message Leonard Cohen wrote in the margin of a 1968 New York Times profile, when it was re-printed in the songbook The Songs Of Leonard Cohen. My own response was similar as I read the reviews of Cohen’s recent sell-out concerts in Dublin’s National Stadium.
All this talk about Cohen still being synonymous with bedsits, slit wrists and self-indulgent despair now really is ‘pure fantasy’. Indeed the pin-striped suited, synthesiser-playing Leonard Cohen we heard at the Stadium, with songs joyfully pulsing out through the new techno-pop arrangements, really is as far removed from the safari-suited singer/songwriter that first stood in the Stadium in 1972, as this issue of Hot Press is from that profile in the New York Times.
Though Leonard Cohen and Elvis Presley seem to occupy different time-zones in the history of rock, they were born within a year of each other. And Cohen, like Lennon, Dylan, Springsteen and so many others, vividly remembers the ‘shock of recognition’ he felt when he first heard Presley in the ’50s. “I was relieved that all the stuff we’d been feeling for so long found expression in Presley and in rock in general,” he reflects now, “I was playing his records all the time to friends when they’d come over. I’d say, ‘This guy is a great singer’ – and they thought this was some kind of inverse snobbery. But it wasn’t. Presley had that special kind of voice which makes your heart go out to a singer.”