Leonard Cohen Performs One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong At The Bottom Line, 1974 – Judy Collins & Janis Ian Visit

The Mystery Photo: Janis Ian, Judy Collins, Leonard Cohen

Maarten Massa was good enough to offer the photo shown atop this post of the three young musical artists, Janis Ian, Judy Collins, and Leonard Cohen, appending the warning that there was no indication where or when the photo was taken. He speculated that it might have been shot at the July 16, 1967 Newport Folk Festival, a reasonable enough notion (and one with which I concurred), given that Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, and Janis Ian all performed on that occasion (along with Joni Mitchell, David Blue, Mike Settle, Tom Paxton and Eric Andersen).

Maarten also noted that a similar photo, attributed to Peter Cunningham, could be found on the Janis Ian web site (see image on right).

An email exchange with Janis Ian, facilitated by Judy Somers, revealed that Maarten and I were, in Ms Ian’s words, “off by about 6-8 years. It’s probably backstage at the Bottom Line in New York, circa 1974-1975, possibly a year earlier.”

After a number of searches that resulted in only dead ends, I came across this notation in the January 4, 1975 edition of Billboard:

A modicum of research revealed that Leonard Cohen had performed at the Bottom Line in New York City on Nov 29, Nov 30, and Dec 1, 1974 (two shows each night),1 narrowing the possible dates to those three nights.

Update (28 July 2011): In an email received today, Janis Ian writes to let us know that a review of her personal calendars pinpoints the date of the photos shown above to December 1, 1974. She adds that “both [photos are] by Peter Cunningham. In addition to being my ex-boyfriend and (still) close friend, he was the ‘official’ Bottom Line photographer.” Now, figuring out the exact date a photo was taken may not seem to justify a blog entry, but I find myself quite taken by the notion that Janis Ian took the time to review her calendars to answer a question posed by a guy with a Leonard Cohen-focused blog.

Thank you, Janis Ian.

Leonard Cohen Plays The Bottom Line – 1974

This ad for New Skin For The Old Ceremony is from the November 30, 1974 edition of Billboard. The copy also promotes his then impending performances at the Bottom Line (given there as Nov 28-30, 1974). This was a significant event. Almost immediately after its opening February 12, 1974, the Bottom Line became the small venue (capacity: 400) for major performers on the east coast.2

The musicians at this gig were Leonard Cohen (vocals, acoustic guitar, hand whistle), Emily Bindinger (vocals), Erin Dickens (vocals), John Lissauer (keyboards, saxophone, woodwinds), Jeff Layton (banjo, guitars, mandolin, strings), and John Miller (bass, electric bass).3

This excerpt from Leonard Cohen: The Romantic in a Ragpicker’s Trade by Paul Williams, published in the March 1975 issue of Crawdaddy describes one of the Bottom Line shows:

Leonard had just returned from a tour of Europe, thirty-eight concerts in forty-five days, including an outdoor performance in Paris in front of 130,000 people. He’s a superstar in France (“If a girl in Paris has only one record, it’s a Leonard Cohen album” my traveling friend informs me) and all over the continent. His latest album, New Skin For The Old Ceremony, sold 250,000 copies in Europe in its first six weeks.

In the U.S. and in his native Canada, Cohen has not achieved the same kind of acceptance as a performer and recording artist. He is best known as a songwriter (“Suzanne,” “Bird On a Wire”), poet and novelist. Beautiful Losers, his second novel, is a steady seller on college campuses and is even taught in modern literature courses…though ten years ago it was considered almost too filthy to publish.

He’s forty years old.

Leonard Cohen, when I met him in his lawyer’s office, was unsure of his American audience, wondering if they still existed. He was about to do three nights, six shows, at the Bottom Line in New York. “I’ll be interested in seeing what happens in America. I haven’t played any concerts here really for four years. You can completely die out…”

The third night at the Bottom Line was a cold, wet, nasty New York City day. I arrived shortly before the show was to start, wondering if anyone would be there. It was standing room only. There was a line of people a city-block long, huddling against the side of the building, fooling with broken umbrellas, waiting for a chance to buy tickets to get into the second show.

The crowd inside was terrific. So was Leonard and his group of musicians. The new stuff, arranged by Leonard’s new producer and piano-player (“John Lissauer is fantastic, people are going to know about him way beyond the contribution he makes to my scene”), is the best stuff musically that Cohen has ever done. Lyrically, it doesn’t measure up to the astonishing, penetrating cleverness and word-trickiness of Cohen’s earliest songs, but it appeals to me on a different level–the maturity of the vision, the appropriateness of the imagery and irony for our newly non-apocalyptic (but still struggle-filled) lives.

Leonard Cohen Sings, Hand Whistles One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong At The Bottom Line

This is an audience recording of “One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong” from the 2nd show at the Bottom Line on Nov 29, 1974. It opens with an exchange of lines between Leonard Cohen and the audience and ends with an especially exuberant display of hand whistling by Mr. Cohen.4

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 July 26, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.


  1. Is This What You Wanted by Jim Devlin []
  2. Wikipedia offers a partial list of stars who performed at the Bottom Line: Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen, Harry Chapin, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Loudon Wainwright III, The New York Dolls, Lyle Lovett, The Electric Flag, Pat Martino, Todd Rundgren, Graham Parker, Horslips, Dire Straits, Chris Hillman, Dolly Parton, Tracy Nelson, Emmylou Harris, The Pointer Sisters, Betty Carter, Ravi Shankar, Prince, Ramones, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, Mose Allison, Muddy Waters, Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Ray Barretto, Peter Gabriel, Al Kooper, Tom Waits, Melvin van Peebles, Barry Manilow, Neil Sedaka, Billy Joel, Patti Smith, Flo and Eddie, Hall & Oates, Toots and the Maytals, Cheech and Chong, Tower of Power, Tim Hardin, Roger McGuinn, JJ Cale, The Meters, Greg Kihn Band, Ry Cooder, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Sam and Dave and The Ronettes. Financial woes ended the Bottom Line with the last show taking place January 22, 2004, just shy of the club’s thirtieth anniversary. The building now houses NYU classrooms. []
  3. Is This What You Wanted by Jim Devlin []
  4. For more about Leonard Cohen’s hand whistling expertise, see Leonard Cohen Hand Whistling Compendium. []

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