Monday, May 08, 2006

Chelsea Hotel No. 2

The Coverville #202 podcast had a nice version of Leonard Cohen's bittersweet paen to Janis Joplin and their one-night stand at The Chelsea (pictured to the left) by a Laura Burhenn. I'm not a huge Cohen fan... a little of him goes a long way, but I had forgotten how much I like this song. I suspect Janis' lines are verbatim.

I always wondered why the original version - which has identical lyrics - on "New Skin for the Old Ceremony" was simply named "Chelsea Hotel," while the version on 1975's "Best of" was titled "Chelsea Hotel No. 2." According to this site, here's the reason:

"Ron Cornelius is a guitarist who played on sessions with many artists, including Johnny Cash, Loudon Wainwright III and Bob Dylan. Before branching out into production and music publishing, he served as Leonard Cohen's band leader for 4 albums. Ron gave us this response regarding his role in writing this song:
'He claims that I helped him with a chord change in writing an earlier version of this song. The truth is that I co-wrote the song with him on an airplane (8hrs) from New York to Shannon, Ireland. The reason it has a No.2 behind it is that he tried to cheat me out of my share by recopyrighting it that way (he changed nothing) - - it was just "Chelsea Hotel." Anyone can check out the writer credits by contacting BMI to get the truthful writer credits. I ran his band for a long time (worldwide), played on his records, and have nothing but honest input to look back on - Leonard can't say that!!!'"

Chelsea Hotel No. 2

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
you were talking so brave and so sweet,
giving me head on the unmade bed,
while the limousines wait in the street.
Those were the reasons and that was New York,
we were running for the money and the flesh.
And that was called love for the workers in song
probably still is for those of them left.

Ah but you got away, didn't you babe,
you just turned your back on the crowd,
you got away, I never once heard you say,
I need you, I don't need you,
I need you, I don't need you
and all of that jiving around.

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
you were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men
but for me you would make an exception.
And clenching your fist for the ones like us
who are oppressed by the figures of beauty,
you fixed yourself, you said, "Well never mind,
we are ugly but we have the music."

And then you got away, didn't you babe...

I don't mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can't keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
that's all, I don't even think of you that often.


---K said...

I'm a pretty big Cohen fan - but most of the music is saved for the times when I have a need to go to that "dark place.." I didn't know Chelsea was about Janis Ian - also a favorite - a much requested part of the repertoire - when I was younger and toting the guitar. "Society's Child" even got me written into a play...

--K said...

DOH - er Janis Joplin... not Ian.. makes more sense since Ian isn't partial to boys.. shoulda had that second cup of coffee this morning...