First We Take Manhattan (1986) – Leonard Cohen

I love everything 80’s about this track; the synthpop and corny women voices singing ‘I’d really like to live beside you, baby‘. The irony is, it’s an apocalyptic message and Leonard seems to be playing the instigator of this world transformation. There is an eerie pre September 11, 2001 warning in this, when you read the lyrics.
He said in an 1988 interview ‘There’s something about terrorism that I’ve always admired. The fact that there are no alibis or no compromises. That position is always very attractive. I don’t like it when it’s manifested on the physical plane – I don’t really enjoy the terrorist activities – but Psychic Terrorism’.

They sentenced me to 20 years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens (Guided, guided)
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin (I am guided by)
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons (Ooh, ooh)
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

The song has been covered a dozen of times most notably by R.E.M. It is the third song to appear here from Leonard’s ‘I’m Your Man‘ album. It was the eighth studio album from Leonard with many songs having a synthesizer-oriented production. It reached number one in several European countries, transforming Cohen into a best-selling artist. Cohen felt by this time his singing had improved and he said, ‘when I got to I’m Your Man, I was in full stride..I could at last deliver the songs with the authority and intensity required.”

The album includes some of Cohen’s most popular songs and concert staples, including the single “Ain’t No Cure for Love“, “First We Take Manhattan”, and “Everybody Knows”, which was a collaboration with Cohen’s backup singer Sharon Robinson. Although Cohen had earned a reputation among critics and some listeners for excessive gloominess, several tracks on the album displayed his wry sense of humor and playfulness.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Music
4 comments on “First We Take Manhattan (1986) – Leonard Cohen
  1. I didn’t know this song at all, Matthew. It was great! Loved the sort of pseudo-dramatic aspects, and the video visuals were wonderful!

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