Even before this discovery, records were always an attraction to me. My mother had a treasured plethora of vinyl that included all the classics: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimmy Hendrix and The Doors. My parents would play these to me regularly, but told me not to dance. “You’ll make the needle jump and it’ll scratch the record,” my father would say. My parents were always very protective of her records. And rightly so. When I was seven I pushed the fan heater aside so I could choreograph an aerobic dance routine. Little did I know I had pushed it directly up against their revered vinyl collection, melting many. Guilt filled my heart as my mother tearfully dumped at least five warped records into the trash can.
From this under-house box of buried treasure many new records came. Some were fun and quirky, like the ghost busters soundtrack, or Enya’s greatest hits and some were severely damaged from sitting in the damp for far too long. But amongst the moulded sleeves came a few true gems. One of which is possibly my favourite album of all time.
Songs of Leonard Cohen is an album that should be exclusively played on vinyl alone. Without the hiss and crackle of the spinning needle it just does not sound the same. Of course our copy, slightly warped and buckled played with a crisp crackle that only added to its warm hum.
I would lay down on the living room beach-grass carpet and simply listen. Listen to the entire album. The gentle plucking of the guitar strings and beautiful poetry on The Stranger Song and the delicate coo of his voice on Suzanne. It all warmed my heart gave me the feeling of being wrapped up in bed on a rainy night. I loved the rambling quality of the songs. Teachers took my mind on a dream like journey, like a spectre wafting through the halls searching for a lover.
I’d listen to ‘Hey that’s no way to say goodbye’ with tears in my eyes. Writing out the lyrics on pink strawberry scented paper.
I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm
Your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm
Yes, many loved before us, I know that we are not new
In city and in forest, they smiled like me and you
But now it's come to distances and both of us must try
Your eyes are soft with sorrow
Hey, that's no way to say goodbye
My heart broke for the lovers I was yet to have. I yearned to feel something as strongly this. Leonard Cohen made heartbreak sound beautiful.
As a teenager I continued to listen to the album, but as I grew older the songs grew with me. The lyrics held new meaning, new parallels. I longed to express my feeling with words as beautifully. Poetry became a huge part of my life as did music. But I’ve never felt attracted to artists who over did it or moved to far from raw organic music. As Leonard demonstrates, you need no more than beautiful lyrical poetry, a guitar and sincere vocals.
When I was seventeen my Father poured me a glass of red wine and played me So Long, Marianne. He told me this song was the best advice for how to make a marriage last. It must have worked; my parents have been married for over 30 years.
I still listen to The Songs of Leonard Cohen regularly and it always makes my heart ache in a nostalgic way. Every time I listen I remember; The first time I listened to the album, the moment I fell in love with it. The years spent painting at the dinner table as this record played on a rainy night, the fire crackling along. The night I played it to my husband, seven months pregnant and we agreed on a name.
Our son Cohen is now six years old. When he turns 16 I will wrap up my vinyl copy of The Songs of Leonard Cohen and give it to him for his birthday. Hopefully he’ll be as inspired by his namesake as I have been.