February 14, 2006

I Said, "I Am Kris Kristofferson"

Chelsea Hotel #1 / Leonard Cohen [live in Tel Aviv, 1972-04-19]

Chelsea Hotel #1 / Leonard Cohen [live 1972 from "Golden Voice" comp]

In Korea, on Valentine's Day the boys and the men are not obliged to do anything. Valentine's Day is for girlfriends and wives to give presents to their significant others. Korean guys get to wait until "White Day" on March 14th before they have to reciprocate. Not a bad deal, but I'm still gonna share a gift today.

"Chelsea Hotel #2" is one of my top 10 favorite songs of all time. It's like a #2 value meal from McDonald's: a true classic. You get everything you want, plus a second cheeseburger. That makes "Chelsea Hotel #1" the Big Mac meal. Original and tasty, but not as plain or as perfect as the #2.

In this case, the "original" is about as tough to find as a Leonard Cohen tune can get. He never recorded it, and only a few bootleg versions are available. This one from 1972 is far and away the best. It's both an early version and a different song entirely. The melody and the lyrics are still hypnotic, but a little off like the special sauce. Cohen hasn't yet realized the desperate simplicity of "I need you / I don't need you / I need you / I don't need you." He hasn't yet discovered that he can get away with "all of that jiving around" in a love song; as long as it's a love song about how things only become eternal by leaving, he is free to use all the '60s anachronisms he pleases. Instead he sings, "Making your sweet little sounds..." He sings, "My friends of that year, they were all getting queer / And me, I was just getting even." He sings, "Racing the midnight train all naked..." He sings like he's waiting for a great song to emerge, and it's just about there.

1 comment:

wesley snipes said...

i've totally been looking for kris kristofferson too!