This BBC recording from 1968 proved Leonard Cohen had the goods right at the beginning - a fully-formed singer-songwriter.
Click on the panels for a better view or to download artwork.
BBC Broadcasts 1968 [JWB Remaster, 1CD]
Live on BBC TV, excellent mono recording.
While Dylan was the transition point for protest music to move towards singer-songwriter, there were others too championing to focus on songs not politics. Canadian Leonard Cohen, with his brooding monotonous voice, was a talented poet who would never have won American Idol. But where he lacked a sweet voice, he made up for it with the intensity of his songs.
Together with younger artists Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro and Paul Simon, singer-songwriters moved to make songwriting an art form. Their efforts were recognised when mainstream acts covered their songs. All this happened in the whirlpool that rock music was creating.
These well-preserved sessions at the BBC in 1968 offer a fly-on-the-wall experience to witness a young Cohen singing practically the entire first album. The voice is fresh and deep, pushing the songs outside the Tin Pan Alley perimeter, and delving into poetry with a richness of words and subject. Today, they still have that raw appeal of a young artist at the peak of his powers.
Suzanne, So Long Marianne and Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye are beautiful love songs without catchy hooks. They got your attention with words and the emotions in the song.
Tagged to this 1968 session are three songs from a Top Gear show hosted by John Peel. The final track is a duet with British folk singer Julie Felix on Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. The quality on these four tracks are still very good.
The origin of this BBC session began when bootleg label Yellow Cat released Leonard Cohen - At The Beeb [YC 018] to a wider audience as a silver-disc bootleg. It ran slow and was a few generations from the master. Then Cohen fan “briggY” shared his much improved version on the Dime site.
Another music fan, JWB, took a copy and improved on the sound. He said: “I’ve remastered this torrent… removed all the pops and clicks (there were several per song and in between tracks)… restored the sound to true mono… and improved the EQ which really cleared up the sound… I did not use any compression or noise reduction tricks… I reduced hiss with some deft EQ moves while still maintaining clarity.”
But the original source was from a fan called “Artery”. This is how he came upon a copy: “This is most probably my transfer from Jim D’s cassette. I did it about 6 years ago. Jim wrote to a man at the BBC who sent him the cassette. He’d made a cassette audio copy for his own use I believe and indicated the videotape had been wiped.”
So for all who wanted to know, the video of this BBC show has been “destroyed”. Artwork for this comes from “luckburz”. Many thanks to all who had a part in preserving this show and improving upon it. By your actions, many others who were not there in ‘68 can now share the experience.
- Professor Red
Note: Click on the highlighted tracks to download the MP3s (these are high quality MP3s - sample rate of 192 kbps). As far as we can ascertain, these tracks have never been officially released on CD.
Due to the size of some of the files, please be very patient when downloading the tracks. It could be that the server was very busy. Please try again later. Kindly email us at [email protected] if you encounter persistent problems downloading the files.
Track 01. You Know Who I Am (5.2MB)
Track 02. Bird On The Wire (6.0MB)
Track 03. The Stranger Song* (8.6MB)
Track 04. So Long Marianne* (11.4MB)
Track 05. Master Song* (11.0MB)
Track 06. There’s No Reason Why You Should Remember Me [improvisation] (2.5MB)
Track 07. Sisters Of Mercy* (5.4MB)
Track 08. Teachers* (5.4MB)
Track 09. Dress Rehearsal Rag (8.1MB)
Track 10. Suzanne* (6.0MB)
Track 11. Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye* (5.2MB)
Track 12. Story Of Isaac (5.7MB)
Track 13. One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong* (5.7MB)
Track 14. Bird On The Wire (5.2MB)
Track 15. So Long Marianne (8.1MB)
Track 16. You Know Who I Am (4.3MB)
Track 17. Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (Duet with Julie Felix) (4.4MB)
* Songs that can be found on Cohen’s 1967 debut album Songs Of Leonard Cohen.
Leonard Cohen - vocals
Dave Cousins and The Strawbs have been mentioned as the backing band at this BBC session.
Tracks 1-13 Recorded Spring 1968 at Paris Theatre, London
Tracks 1-5 Broadcast August 31, 1968 on BBC2 TV (”Leonard Cohen Sings Leonard Cohen”)
Tracks 6-13 Broadcast September 7, 1968 on BBC2 TV (”Leonard Cohen Sings Leonard Cohen”)
Tracks 14-16 Recorded August 11, 1968 & Broadcast on BBC Radio 1 (”Top Gear with John Peel”)
Track 17 Recorded January 27, 1968 & Broadcast on BBC2 TV (”Once More With Felix”)
The 2007 40th anniversary reissue has two bonus tracks. Buy Leonard Cohen’s first album “Songs Of Leonard Cohen” here.