Sylvie Simmons and Don McGlashan and Leonard Cohen: “at the unpopular edge of pop music … where the most interesting stuff is”.

Last night Sylvie Simmons, Leonard Cohen’s biographer, and the awesome Don McGlashan joined forces. They sang their songs – and a few Cohen numbers. Sylvie played ukulele and Don the guitar, and they were introduced by music journalist Nick Bollinger.

In between the songs was discussion on Cohen, songwriting, and White Valiant for you McGlashanites. Don admitted he doesn’t usually like rock biographies as the are all “and then there was another amazing party and you weren’t invited”.

Highlights of this rather chilled out and beautiful evening:

  • Don enjoying doing an unplugged gig: “I normally wouldn’t tell that story, because there’d be a drummer behind me saying FFS.”
  • On Keith Richards writing Satisfaction after a dream, Sylvie said wryly: “I haven’t woken up to satisfaction for a long time”.
  • Sylvie on Leonard’s songcraft and constant honing of his songs: “He will just be perfectionist for ever and eternity”.
  • Leonard Cohen reading lyrics to Suzanne Vega, women on sun loungers moving closer to hear.
  • Don explaining White Valiant, and saying “I am at the unpopular edge of pop music … where the most interesting stuff is”.
  • Don playing the euphonium (not, as I suggested “blowing into an upside down tuba”). I think this was done on a verse of Famous blue raincoat, but correct me if you were there …
  • Don’s song Marvellous year. I am a huge fan of songs with lists (a la We didn’t start the fire by Billy Joel), and this is up there:

    We had Democracy, Dentistry, Waist-band elastic, Rhythmic Gymnastics, The Rule Of Law, The Rule Of Thumb, Fire, The Wheel, Rugby Union, The Petrol Engine, The Old-Age Pension, The Fire Of Hades, The Briscoes Lady, Dental Floss, Motorcross, The Koran, The Torah, Interflora

  • Don giving his guitar some astonishing effect pedal action on Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne.

Set list:

  • This is London (Don)
  • Midnight Cowboy (Sylvie)
  • Sisters of Mercy (Leonard Cohen)
  • The Captain (Leonard Cohen)
  • Famous blue raincoat (Leonard Cohen)
  • Queen of the Night (Don)
  • A hard act to follow (Sylvie)
  • Marvellous year (Don)
  • Who knows where the time goes when it flies (Sylvie)
  • Suzanne (Leonard Cohen)

One thought on “Sylvie Simmons and Don McGlashan and Leonard Cohen: “at the unpopular edge of pop music … where the most interesting stuff is”.

  1. Bibliobishi 20 May 2013 / 11:41 am

    Thanks for great report. You make it so that I wanted to be there, even if it did mean I would have had to write an excellent blog such as yours.

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