Leonard Cohen: Songs Of... Production Notes

Production Notes

When Leonard Cohen first entered Columbia's Studio E in New York City with John Hammond in May 1967, the session players the producer had brought with him intimidated this newcomer to the recording process. 'I would tend to listen to the musicians rather than concentrate on what I was doing', Cohen would later admit in a BBC Radio interview.


The musicians took their leave with the exception of experienced jazz bassist Willie Ruff, who 'was one of those rare musicians that play selflessly', Cohen added.

In fact, if the singer-songwriter had got his way, Songs Of Leonard Cohen would have sounded even more stark. Mind you, he did have some interesting ideas: at one point, Cohen expressed a wish to Hammond that he might add 'a kind of "found sound" background' to the pieces, including, on 'The Stranger Song', 'the sound of a tyre on a wet pavement, a kind of harmonic hum'.

Nothing came of this, however, and once John Simon had replaced Hammond in the role of producer, he and Cohen also disagreed on certain points. Simon wanted drums and piano on the record; Cohen had been against them from the start.

But soon they made progress, Simon adding a key element that helped make the record sound so effortless. 'Instead of using horns or strings, I used wordless female voices, sung by Nancy Priddy, my girlfriend at the time'.

As Priddy revealed to American Songwriter, she and Simon also put finishing touches to the songs...

'I added all the harmonies, and we also hit on some tambourines and drums. John came up with all the harmony parts, and directed me. He's quite brilliant. It was an easy session, very casual – took maybe three hours, at the most.'