Songs For Rebecca – The Lost Leonard Cohen Album
This is the third and final post in the Songs For Rebecca – The Lost Leonard Cohen Album series. The first post, Leonard Cohen’s Lost Album – Songs For Rebecca: Who’s Rebecca?, focused on the name of the album while the second featured Collaborator John Lissauer On The Project, How It Began, & How It Ended. Today’s entry examines the tracks recorded for this project and offers live performances of those songs.
The Songs Of Songs For Rebecca
Determining which songs were destined for Songs For Rebecca is not an easy task. Lists vary from one source to another, some songs were written specifically for the project, some were revisions of previously recorded songs, the names of some songs changed when they were re-worked later…
William Ruhlmann, writing in The Stranger Music of Leonard Cohen (Goldmine, February 19, 1993) describes the tracks recorded for Songs For Rebecca – and offers support for “The Lost Leonard Cohen Album” part of the title of this series:
After the album’s [New Skin For The Old Ceremony] release, Cohen and Lissauer began work on a new album that has never been released. “We did, I’d say, a side and a half,” Cohen recalls, “I mean, six or seven songs together. I don’t know why I squelched that. It just didn’t have the… It had some great tunes on it, and I finally used one of them, “Came So Far From Beauty,’ on a record [1979’s Recent Songs]. But there were lots of tunes. There was ‘Guerrero,’ that nobody’s ever heard or seen, but we did it on the tour and recorded it. There was an early song called ‘Anthem,’ no relation to this ‘Anthem’ [on The Future]. I can’t find the thing, I can’t find the tapes of it.”
Songs For Rebecca (1974-1975)
Note: Songs for Rebecca is an abandoned album produced and co-written by John Lissauer, recorded in late 1974 – early 1975, after New Skin For The Old Ceremony, but tapes were possibly destroyed. All songs were performed & recorded (except “Anthem of the Broken Hearted”) at The Maint Point in Bryn Mawr (Nov 23, 1975).
Columbia Studio A or Sound Ideas Studio (New York, NY)
- Anthem of The Broken Hearted (Performed in Bryn Mawr 1975/11/23 but belongs to the missing part of the known audience recording – only a partial recording of the concert is in circulation. Exact title of the song is unknown.)
- Came So Far For Her Beauty (Re-worked & recorded later with Henry Lewy for Recent Songs, 1979)
- Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On (Re-worked & recorded later with Phil Spector for Death Of A Ladies’ Man, 1977)
- Guerrero [early Iodine] (Re-worked & recorded later with Phil Spector for Death Of A Ladies’ Man, 1977)
- I Guess It’s Time [early The Smokey Life] (Re-worked & recorded later with Henry Lewy for Recent Songs, 1979)
- The Traitor Song (Re-worked & recorded later with Henry Lewy for Recent Songs, 1979)
In I’m Your Man, her biography of Leonard Cohen, Sylvie Simmons mentions these songs:
These excerpts from Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life by by Anthony Reynolds (Omnibus Press: October 1, 2010) address the same issue [“Marty” in the first line is Marty Machat, Cohen’s manager at the time]:
John Lissauer Q&A
Note: John Lissauer graciously answered my many queries about Songs For Rebecca. Without his help, this and the preceding post would have been incomplete and inaccurate. I am very grateful.
Q: Artists involved in Songs For Rebecca: A photo taken by John Miller of Leonard Cohen recording tracks for Songs For Rebecca also shows backup singer, Lorri Zimmerman, so, I assume that they were part of the recording sessions. Who else was involved?
John Lissauer: Erin Dickins, vocals… Barry Lazarowitz on drums….I played keyboards and horns, and either Jeff Layton on guitar, or perhaps the guitarist from that little tour… his last name was Berg.
Q: The songs: One standard listing of the recorded Songs For Rebecca tracks follows:
- Anthem of The Broken Hearted
- Came So Far For Her Beauty
- Beauty Salon [early version of Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On]
- Guerrero [early version of Iodine]
- I Guess It’s Time [early version of The Smokey Life]
- The Traitor Song
Are those the same songs you would list?
John Lissauer: In addition, we recorded a Reggae version of “Diamonds in the Mine”, as well as a more contemporary (less ethnic) version of “There is a War” and “Lover, Lover”
Q: Anthem of The Broken Hearted is the only song that has not survived in any form, so any recall of it whatsoever would be enlightening.
John Lissauer: That title is unfamiliar to me…. we never recorded it!
Q: Was there a reworked version of “Is There A War” that was intended for Songs For Rebecca?
John Lissauer: I don’t recall doing a new version of “There is a War”….
Q: Some sources list Paper-Thin Hotel as one of the songs destined for Songs For Rebecca. Was it?
Q: I’m told by Leonard Cohen fans that you were once interested in resurrecting Songs For Rebecca. Is there anything to that?
John Lissauer: Well, I still have beautiful ruff mixes of all the songs…. trying to see if there’s any interest in releasing them. It’s probably a bit tricky…. between Sony and LC’s Estate…. will see!
Songs For Rebecca: The Songs
The list of songs planned for the project, as per John Lissauer follows:
- Beauty Salon (became Don’t Go Home With Your Hard On, released on Death Of A Ladies’ Man)
- Guerrero (became Iodine, released on Death Of A Ladies’ Man)
- I Guess It’s Time (became The Smokey Life, released on Recent Songs)
- The Traitor Song ( became The Traitor, released on Recent Songs)
- Came So Far For Her Beauty (became Came So Far For Beauty, released on Recent Songs)
- Lover, Lover, Lover (Reworked from New Skin for the Old Ceremony)
- Diamonds In The Mine (Reworked from Songs of Love and Hate)
Of course, this leaves at least one question unanswered: what about that song Leonard mentioned but is unknown to John Lissauer?
There was an early song called ‘Anthem,’ no relation to this ‘Anthem’ [on The Future]
Songs For Rebecca – Live
The Songs For Rebecca studio recordings are, as per the title of this series, lost, but Leonard Cohen performed the seven songs listed above at his Nov 23, 1975 show at The Main Point in Bryn Mawr, PA. While this audience recording is suboptimal, it does offer a taste of what might have been.
The Songs For Rebecca Series
1. Leonard Cohen’s Lost Album – Songs For Rebecca: Who’s Rebecca? (A consideration of the title referent)
3. Songs For Rebecca – The Lost Leonard Cohen Album: The Songs (Examines and provides live performances of the tracks recorded for this project)
Credit Due Department: The image on my homemade mock-up Songs For Rebecca album cover shows Leonard Cohen in the studio recording tracks for that project. The photo was taken by and is the property of John Miller. Thanks to Maarten Massa, who provided the recordings used in the live version of Songs For Rebecca.
Note: I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted May 21, 2018.
- Sources: Jim Devlin, In Every Style of Passion, 1996: 65; David Sheppard, Music Makers: Leonard Cohen, 2000; Maurice Ratcliff, The Complete Guide to the Music of Leonard Cohen, 1999 : 41. [↩]