Famous blue raincoat (1970-1994)

It's one of the better tunes I've written
but lyrically it's too mysterious, too unclear.

(Leonard COHEN,Interview,January 93,magazine "Details For Men")
read the complete interview

This comment was spoken in the middle of the song ,following an untimely clapping

I wrote this in NY you know..and I really mean this one because you know this is...What is it on the guitar? Sometimes the guitar mutinates, you know. The rebellion of a guitar. This is a song that I really wrote recently. You heard two verses of it and really it's not mercyful to interrupt into this course of creation but this is one of those songs that I really mean it's against the greatest tyranny that I myself experienced. I feel many kinds of tyranies that almost everytime men brute themselves together. I flash their tyranies.. but this is not the government or anything, this is the tyranny that I feel myself which is the possession of women and women's possession of men. I know those chains have to be broken before aything can happen. All the manifest all the demonstration will change nothing until we start unslaving each other, especially within the sexual embrace.....

It's a common place to say it today but it's a song that was written for two people,for a woman and a man and especially for a woman whom i had to share with another man.But you know it's true when they say that there won't be free men until there are free women.

I had a good raincoat then, a Burberry I got in London in 1959. Elizabeth thought I looked like a spider in it. That was probably why she wouldn't go to Greece with me. It hung more heroically when I took out the lining, and achieved glory when the frayed sleeves were repaired with a little leather. Things were clear. I knew how to dress in those days. It was stolen from Marianne's loft in NY sometime suring the early seventies. I wasn't wearing it very much toward the end.

This is a song of another struggle. I mean the great struggles passes away like smoke and then we are left with the real struggle that takes place in the living-room and in the bed-room.

I finished the lyric for that song in NY in a loft on Clinton St. I think I mention Clinton St. "There's music on Clinton St all through the evening". I began the melody for that song around 1968. I remember playing it for my mother in her kitchen before it had a lyric. She said she liked the tune. The lyric developed somewhat later. I think it was in the early 70's, maybe. I was living with Marianna in a loft on Stanton St and I remember the notebook, it was a blue covered notebook. And I began writing. In fact I have the notebook over there I think.

That was written on Clinton Street. I never felt I really sealed that song; I never felt the carpentry was finished. That song and "Bird on the Wire" were two songs I never successfully finished, but they were good enough to be used. Also, with the poverty of songs I have for each record, I can't afford to discard one as good as that. It's one of the better tunes I've written, but lyrically it's too mysterious, too unclear.

That was one I thought was never finished. And I thought that Jennifer Warnes' version in a sense was better because I worked on a different version for her, and I thought it was somewhat more coherent. But I always thought that that was a song you could see the carpentry in a bit. Although there are some images in it that I am very pleased with. And the tune is real good. But I'm willing to defend it, saying it was impressionistic. It's stylistically coherent. And I can defend it if I have to. But secretly I always felt that there was a certain incoherence that prevented it from being a great song.

* read the complete interview

The trouble with that song is that I've forgotten the actual triangle. Whether it was my own...of course.I always felt that there was an invisible male seducing the woman I was with, now whether this one was incarnate or merely imaginary I don't remember, I've always had the sense that either I've been that figure in relation to another couple or there'd been a figure like that in relation to my marriage. I don't quite remember but I did have this feeling that there was always a third party, sometimes me, sometimes another man, sometimes another woman. It was a song I've never been satisfied with. It's not that I've resisted an impressionistic approach to songwriting, but I've never felt that this one, that I really nailed the lyric. I'm ready to concede something to the mystery, but secretly I've always felt that there was something about the song that was unclear. So I've been very happy with some of the imagery, but a lot of the imagery...   The tune I think is good, I remember my mother approving of it, I remember playing the tune for her, in her kitchen, and her perking up her ears while she was doing something else and saying "that's a nice tune".

Joan Baez recorded live "Famous Blue Raincoat" in 1989 (Bilbao)