Closing Time is the second song to feature on the music library project from Cohen’s critically acclaimed The Future album. The other song already discussed was Anthem. The Future was the ninth album written by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and was the longest of his up to that point, almost an hour. The album was recorded with a large cast of musicians and engineers in several different studios; the credits list almost 30 female singers. The album built on the success of Cohen’s previous album, I’m Your Man.
Both the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1992 Los Angeles riots took place while Cohen was writing and recording the album, which expressed his sense of the world’s turbulence. “I was living in L.A. through the riots and the earthquakes and the floods, and even for one as relentlessly occupied with himself as I am it is very hard to keep your mind on yourself when the place is burning down, so I think that invited me to look out of the window.“
According to Ira Nadel’s 1996 Cohen memoir Various Positions, Closing Time took two years to write with Cohen even starting over from scratch on the song as late as March 1992. Cohen explains that it takes him so long to finish songs because “Nothing works. After a while, if you stick with the song long enough it will yield. But long enough is way beyond any reasonable estimation of what you think long enough may be…’Anthem’ took a decade to write.
Closing Time is certainly an enjoyable listen. On my music appreciation gauge I would consider it a mid-tier Cohen track.
The following information about Closing Time is from SongFacts:
It starts off as an euphoric track about a wild party.
The fiddler fiddles something so sublime
All the women tear their blouses off
And the men they dance on the polka-dots
As the song goes on, the scene evolves from the closing of the bar, to the concluding of a relationship, to the end of life.
I loved you when our love was blessed
and I love you now there’s nothing left
but sorrow and a sense of overtime
And I missed you since the place got wrecked
and I just don’t care what happens next
Looks like freedom but it feels like death
it’s something in between, I guess
It’s closing time
Cohen based “Closing Time” on a violin sample that came with a Casio keyboard. “When he first started recording it, the sample was slowed down,” engineer Leanne Unger told Uncut magazine. “It was very moody, with six string bass, very vibey. I loved it.”
She added: “He came in for next weekend and said, ‘It’s all wrong, I’m starting over.’ I was like, ‘Noooooo!’ Devastated. He brought it back in a week later and it was uptempo, jumping, and he had a giant hit with it in Canada. So what do I know?”The song peaked at #70 in Canada. It was Cohen’s second-biggest hit in his native country after “Hallelujah.”
The music video for Closing Time presented below won the Juno Award for Best Music Video in 1993.