June 16, 2009 – 2:59 am

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.

  1. 22 Responses to “THE FIRST TIME”

  2. Good morning. Great find, though. Sad that except for Jeff Buckly’s rendition of “Hallelujay” that made it’s way to American Idol two season’s ago, Cohen’s songs are all but forgotten in the US. How funny is it that my kid thought I was copying a photo of the Godfather when I was downloading the cover art. Didn’t realize that Cohen looked so much like Al Pachino here.

    By Paul on Jun 16, 2009

  3. This is a fantastic find! The sound is perfect and the performance is beautiful and well done.


    By Sluggo714 on Jun 20, 2009

  4. Incredible! Like hearing it for the first time! Thanks so much!

    By Jake on Nov 10, 2009

  5. Thanks for this - like fresh air. Blessings

    By Knocked out 73 on Aug 18, 2010

  6. Thank you so very much!

    By Oblivia on Sep 30, 2010

  7. Bless the BBC for these shows, lets hope one day more more will surface. In the meantime lets all watch BBC 4 and hope the Coalition public school boys don’t close down or privatise any BBC channels radio or TV.

    By Creatist on Mar 24, 2012

  8. I have been a Leonard Cohen fan since the very beginning. When Judy Collins put out her version of ‘Suzanne,’ she talked of him and I sought out his first Columbia LP. I was still in college. His songs cut right to my soul. And in 1971, when I took off on a year long jaunt around Europe and North Africa (with a trek thru the Greek islands, of course) Leonard Cohen was the soundtrack of my life. Today, I listen to the older songs and each summons up memories of those days. Now I am about to turn 65, and my 22-year old daughter and her friends are big Cohen fans. It started with Hallelujah, of course, but she was stunned to hear all the other stuff he has produced. He is just the greatest.

    By Alex Milstein on Jun 1, 2012

  9. Thank you.

    By carlos on Aug 15, 2013

  10. cant download cohen concert thanks for nothing

    By KEVIN GILL on Jul 4, 2014

  11. Magnificent. Thank you , thank you for sharing!!

    By Peter Stoller on Sep 26, 2014

  12. kevin - its been nearly 3 months since u wrote that u cant dl this item. i kinda wish u had asked for help in a nicer way rather than posting as if u deserved it. there are many here including the one responsible for putting it up in the first place who would be all to happy to help u.
    if u are seeing this.. i will still try if u wish. i need to know if u are still unable to do it. and perhaps what u did in order to dl the tracks. then i can tell u how to do it properly. perhaps u never dl’d anything from here before and u dont know how. we were all new once and thats fine. i dont mind helping anyone providing they appreciate my efforts.
    if u do want help.. just respond by starting your response with darth so i see it.

    By darth on Sep 26, 2014

  13. Many thanks.

    By Denis on Sep 30, 2014

  14. Thanks so much, this is good stuff. Sound quality great, must have had special cassettes at the Beeb.
    Ill try and check the Strawbs link as, amazingly, they still play a bit.

    By Sheppertonian on Feb 6, 2015

  15. Hi! greetings from France. Thanks a lot for your beautiful work! Unfortunately i am unable to download LC at the BBC… I get a message saying (in french) “the video can’t be viewed because the file is corrupted”. I know it’s a mp3 and not a vdo but that’s what the message says… Do you know what the reason is? Thanks a lot

    By philippe on Jun 16, 2015

  16. Hello everyone. Greetings from France. Thanks for this wonderful site. Could you please help me understand what i have to do to download a song? When I click on it i just get the message (in french) Thez video can’t be seen because the file is corrupted” .. And it’s not a video but a mp3…. I don’t get it (??!) Thanks a lot for your help :)

    By philippe on Jun 24, 2015

  17. Philippe move your mouse over the track you want > It will show a line underneath > Then
    right click and save target as.

    By jay on Jul 17, 2015

  18. Splendid! Many thanks

    By skippy on Apr 1, 2016

  19. hey i’m able to download all the songs except “teachers” and “suzanne”. my computer’s saying it’s a network error but i didnt have any issues downloading the other files, so that doesnt make sense to me. if you’re able to help that’d be great. & thanks for putting this up!!

    By roni on Mar 14, 2017

  20. Thanks for the files! But, as the previous comment indicates, it is not possible to download tracks 8 and 10. I also cannot download them. Any chance of making those songs available?

    By John on Apr 6, 2017

  21. hi! I can’t seem to download 3,8,10 ( a sadness indeed because I especially adore songs 3 & 8) but was able to dl the rest =) please help!

    By gala mukomolova on Jul 30, 2017

  22. Greetings, thank you for posting this performance. I came across the post via doom and gloom from the tomb tumblr feed. Unfortunately, I too must report that I cannot download tracks 3, 8, and 10. Track 3 and 10 download to my desktop as mp3 files, but they are small files (271 bytes and 21 bytes respectively), track 8 downloads as a html file. Hope you can work out the bugs.

    By Craig Lane on Oct 4, 2017

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