“Anal Sex” Missing From Lyrics Of The Future During Current Leonard Cohen World Tour1
Update: Why Did Leonard Cohen Change The Future Lyrics From “Anal Sex” To “Careless Sex”? , a further exploration into the issue, including other variations in the lyrics and, more significantly, a consideration of the reasons for the changes, is now online. Plus: Three verified instances of 2010 concerts in which “Give me crack and anal sex” were sung.
One of the few recurrent complaints arising from the 2008-2009 Leonard Cohen World Tour concerts has come from fans unhappy with the change in the original lyrics of “The Future,” which replaces “Give me crack and anal sex”2 with “Give me crack and careless sex” (and other variants; more about that anon).
Even apart from political and cultural issues, this is not an inconsequential change. Musically, “Give me crack and careless sex” doesn’t scan as smoothly as “Give me crack and anal sex” (one of my musicologically knowledgeable friends explains that the reason has to do with a change in the assonance). And the substitution of lyrics also eliminates the joke implicit in following “anal sex” with “Take the only tree that’s left / and stuff it up the hole / in your culture.”
The responses to Leonard’s substitution of an alternative to the published lyrics range from neutral, “how about that” observations that the words sung in concert were not those sung on the album recordings and left-handed approval (e.g., “A bit more tasteful, I suppose”3) to professions of intense grief or vehement anger aroused by the presumed censorship on the part of (choose one or more) local communities, various ordinances, sponsors, any of several levels of government, generic society, record companies, and Leonard Cohen himself.
The History Of Crack And Anal Sex In The Future
A consideration of this phenomenon requires a grasp of the context within which the revision takes place. The original version of that ninth line, “Give me crack and anal sex,” is shown below in bold along with the remainder of the first two verses of the lyrics of “The Future.”
Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life
it’s lonely here,
there’s no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby,
that’s an order!
Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that’s left
and stuff it up the hole
in your culture
Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I’ve seen the future, brother:
it is murder.
Bowdlerized versions of “Give me crack and anal sex” in “The Future” (the lead track on “The Future” album, released in 1992) date back at least as early as 1993. Leonard Cohen’s February 12, 1993 performance of the song on CBC’s “Friday Night with Ralph Benmurgui,” for example, replaces “Give me crack and anal sex” with “Give me speed and careless sex.”
The same substitution of “Give me speed and careless sex” for “Give me crack and anal sex” also takes place in Leonard’s second Austin City Limits appearance (12 July 1993). On the BBC interview show, “Later With Jools Holland,” in 1993, Leonard eschews the “speed” for “crack” exchange, singing “Give me crack and careless sex.”
The official video clip for “The Future,” released by Sony Music Entertainment (Canada) in 1993, takes a different tack altogether. Rather than substitute different words in the lyrics, the video (at least all the video versions I’ve seen) instead beeps out the audio of “crack” and “anal sex” and replaces the interior letters of those same words in the captions with dashes (i.e., “Give me crack and anal sex” becomes “Give me c- – -k and a- -l s-x.” See above screenshot just below the heading, “The History Of Crack And Anal Sex In The Future”).
As one might expect, the original line was used in the soundtrack of the end credits from “Natural Born Killers.”
In the 1993 and 1997 tours, Leonard sang the original line, “Give me crack and anal sex” in at least some, if not all concerts. The original lyrics are sung in bootlegs of performances in Oslo and Zurich in 1993 and in Los Angeles during both the 1993 and 1997 tours as well as in this video of the 1993 Munich concert.
Update: Why Did Leonard Cohen Change The Future Lyrics From “Anal Sex” To “Careless Sex”?: A further exploration into the issue, including other variations in the lyrics and, more significantly, a consideration of the reasons for the changes. Plus: Three verified instances of 2010 concerts in which “Give me crack and anal sex” were sung.
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 Feb 13, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com.
- Alternative title for scholarly journals: “Implications Of Alterations In Attested Preferred Sexual Practices Named In A Conjoined Imperative Coupled With Illicit Stimulants In Performances of The Future By Leonard Cohen In The Context Of The Socioeconomic And Cultural Milieu Prevalent In Canada, Europe, and Australia During The 2008-2009 Leonard Cohen World Tour” [↩]
- I am, by the way, aware that writing about the phrase, “Give me crack and anal sex” entails multitudinous opportunities to lapse into bad taste. I apologize in advance that, given that many possibilities to come off as offensive or puerile, I have, despite my best efforts, no doubt missed one or two. [↩]
- Nice Jazz Festival [↩]