The gravelled voice, the minor chords

Jamie Jauncey
Jamie Jauncey

1969. A small, draughty farmhouse in the Aberdeenshire hinterland. It’s the Doric that’s spoken hereabouts by the local loons and quines. ‘Fit like?’ the perennial greeting. ‘Nae bad,’ the perennial response, come rain, shine or shitstorm. But in the farmhouse, a more urbane tongue speaks to the five inhabitants. Amid the unwashed dishes and empty bottles, roach-filled ashtrays, pieces of dismantled motorbike, climbing boots, study books and other undergraduate paraphernalia, Songs of Leonard Cohen and Songs from a Room—on alternating repeat—strike a new note of sophistication. The gravelled voice, the minor chords, the darkly soulful sentiments hang like smoke, linger in corners, insinuate themselves into our collective consciousness until the words of Suzanne, Sisters of Mercy, So Long, Marianne, ­Bird on a Wire—so knowing, so wise, so … elevating—are on all of our lips, all of the time; the soundtrack to our adolescent rite of passage.

~ Jamie Jauncey

Leonard, a remembrance from early Dark Angels

John Simmons
John Simmons

From John: Up early, showering, dressing, packing, then carrying my belongings of the week across the courtyard to my car.
At six o’clock in early March it was still dark. Stuart and Damian had a plane to catch at Bristol Airport and I needed to drive them there.

We were not an exuberant trio as we drove along with the sun rising over Dartmoor. Perhaps it was the Leonard Cohen music I had
chosen to play, moody and atmospheric but encouraging refection. Perhaps it was the early hour; I am not made for conversation at breakfast,
particularly when I have had no breakfast. But more likely it was the impact of the week, satisfaction mingled with sadness that it had come
to and end; and the realisation that it would be good to be home but that home was still many hours driving away.

Stuart Delves
Stuart Delves

Stuart: That was driving away from the very first Dark Angels course. (That mood the same every time.) I still remember that first journey, and the music as John describes. Leonard Cohen has always been a part of Dark Angels – channeled through John, gratefully received by all.
So many of us remember that album, with that moody cover, at a significant moment of growing up: those songs. So long Marianne…and later, much later, him still with us – just – those last words of his, to her, so beautiful.

 

And Who Shall I Say is Calling?

 

Richard Pelletier, Dark Angels
Richard Pelletier

She was a Connemara girl. Red hair. The red was bottled, but still. A wonder. Talk about stories, talk about language, talk about deprivation. She’d grown up so poor she took to school hunks of stale bread thrown together with slices of orange in between. She was so poor the nuns beat her. At eighteen she got out. Became someone else.

could go in one end of a henhouse and come out the other end with a man,” said her friend years later. It was true. I was the man.

“For fuck’s sake,” she would say. “I could muurder a feckin’ beer,” she’d say. “Lovey? I’m down the pub with a few of the lads and we’re philosophizing,” she’d say over the phone. “Will you come?” Music was her joy, her salvation. Mary Black. De Dannan. Van. Hothouse Flowers. Dolores Keane. Richard Thompson. Dylan. Leonard.

“For fuck’s sake, Richard, you don’t know Leonard? Who’s been minding you, ya por thing? He is grand entirely.” Homemade cassette tape slides into tape deck. Wine glass, already full, topped off. Then.

And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of may,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?

The chorus, those voices, that story. That song.

Our love was doomed, born as it was on charm and booze and loneliness. But that music. Talk about the dimming of the day. Talk about a soundtrack for love and its discontents.

She was my wife once
the poor girl from the bogs
with the jam jars of tea
and the red hair and the stories
who ran away to London
to become a nurse
who found Leonard
and for a while
a man to love her.

~ Richard Pelletier

 

My path to Leonard

Gillian Colhoun
Gillian Colhoun

By the time I made it to Uni I was already pretty pleased with my taste in music. Dylan, Van, Springsteen. For faux irony, I’d throw in a bit of Freddie or Neil Diamond. 

The guy who lived on the floor below me was elusive. I liked his habit of wearing brown cardigans. I knew he was clever because he carried a notebook, wore glasses and never made eye contact with anyone. 

I made it my business to break into the inner circle of ‘Dom’. 

He didn’t take to me at all. That’s ok, I thought, I’m a grower.

By mid-term, he permitted me to smoke the odd joint with him. But only in his room, and only ever the two of us.

There was no attraction between us. I simply wanted to know him.

He tolerated me and my limitless capacity to talk about ’things’. Any things. Music, politics, art, poetry, drama – the usual pretentious hogwash that comes with being 18, curious and giddy with the notion of being an adult.

Mostly we listened to music. Dom had a B&O stereo. Unheard of extravagance, even during those heady days of student grants. 

We listened to all kinds of stuff. Everything from Wagner to Whitesnake. But we each had our go-to albums in times of stress or reflection.

Mine was Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. Dom’s was Grace by Jeff Buckley.

The first time I listened to Buckley sing Lilac Wine, I cried. I still do.

But when I heard him sing Hallelujah, it took me to a different part of my brain. It still does.

That was my path to Leonard Cohen. 

I owe Dom big time. 

For letting me in. For the weed. For the philosophical wank. And for Leonard.

RIP

~ Gillian Colhoun

“Leonard, I will miss you.”

You Want it Darker

John Simmons
John Simmons

Leonard Cohen’s last great song, released just weeks ago. His words have inspired and uplifted me for nearly 50 years. Leonard, I will miss you. But your words remain and they are as powerful as ever.

Hineni = ‘Here I am’ in Hebrew. Like Bowie, Leonard left a song to mark the fact that he was about to leave us and was ready.

Leonard’s first record – Songs of Leonard Cohen – was given to me by Linda very early in our relationship. For me Leonard is always the poet of powerful positive emotions, but especially of love. Hate might win a few battles, but love endures, love always wins the peace. Leonard’s words and music are the soundtrack of a love that lasted 50 years and, like his songs, will continue.

A few months ago, his former lover and muse Marianne was dying and he wrote her a beautiful letter. A letter that we might now apply to Leonard Cohen himself.

‘Well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.

And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

~ John Simmons