Friday, 11 November 2016

Listening to Leonard Cohen opposite the Yorkshire Grey on a cold December night in 1967

Now like many I have just heard the news that Leonard Cohen has died.

Me in 1966
I will leave the tributes and the detailed story of his work to others who will do it much better than me.

Instead I want to reflect on the very first time I heard him sing.

It was on an LP featuring the song Suzanne which belonged to the sister of my friend John Coward.*

John was one of those new friends I made when I started at Crown Woods in 1966.

We were just 16 and beginning to see the world in a new way, revelling in every type of music and  poetry and fascinated by the work of Picasso, and the Pre Raphaelites.

I can’t remember the exact night I heard Suzanne, but it must have been sometime in December of 1967.

We were at his house opposite the Yorkshire Grey and with a slight air of conspiracy he said I should listen to the song Suzanne which came from the LP,  The Songs of Leonard Cohen.

The record belonged to his sister and carried a dedication from a friend "who wished he could have written the lyrics."

It was he said her favourite song and I could see why.

It still has the power to move me, but when you are sixteen and everything is more intense than it will ever be again Suzanne took me over.

We must have played it a few times and on the promise of looking after it and returning it the next day I walked out into the night with the song.

I have to confess it was more than a few days before John got the LP back but it was before his sister Susan came down from university so all was well.

We remained friends sharing music and LPs and then in the fullness of  John took up a place at Queens University in Belfast and I moved up to Manchester.

Even now when I hear that particular song I am still transported back to that moment, when we were young and everything was an adventure.

That said 49 years on I still think it is all an adventure and that is a good enough way to close.
Location; Eltham

Picture; me in 1966, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Suzanne, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o6zMPLcXZ8

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