posted on September 26, 2007 at 2:07 am

imagine all those lovely songs as yet unwritten
think of all the divine music you may never hear
what is a song?
how would you explain a song to an alien?
music n words that go hand in hand
is a bad song still a song?
yes, because people still like bad songs
what is a good song?
a song that is a spell
what is a spell?
to be able to influence people or events
as though you had power over them
what do good songs make you feel?
that youre not alone
what is a song that many people agree is a “good” song
suzanne by lenny cohen
“suzanne takes you down to her place near the river”
by starting with suzanne
the singer implies you already know suzanne
or have at least heard of her
by suzanne being the first word in the song
i am suddenly forced to throw together a rapid image
of her in my mind
yes, the song is called suzanne
but before hearing it
i expected that in the song somewhere
suzanne would be sung about
but i did not necessarily think
it was someone that i already must know
or would get to know
cohen almost sings of her
as if he is passing her on to me
and i already know a lot about her
and her place by the river
the water flows
its incessant journey
its swelling and its diminishing
an exotic place
i can see it
in british columbia or somewhere
its summer
i see the overgrown white apartment
suzanne has a balcony or deck
the trees rustle n move in the warm breezes
its bohemian but its still very upmarket sixties
“you can hear the boats go by
you can spend the night beside her”
notice cohen is saying “you”
not i did this or that
but you
its ambiguity is delightful
is it a prediction
a possibility
or just a manner of speech?
(ie:you can get to canberra in 2 hours these days….
you can buy tickets when you arrive )
and her place is right beside the river if you can hear the boats
and arent you n suzanne just ships in the night as well…
cohen knows you can spend the night beside her too
something in this implies
suzanne maybe a woman of some promiscuity
a free lovin’ hippy
if you want to spend the night beside her…
well you can
i’m also feeling a certain bitterness
cohen spent that night
n now its your turn
he was just another bloke
another notch on suzannes bedpost
“and you know that shes half crazy
but thats why you wanna be there”
ok now hes really casting aspersions
on her
and you
the woman is a little unbalanced
cohen realised that himself
and it turned him on
and he also reckons itll turn “you ” on
this half mad free loving woman with her groovy pad
next to that lovely churning river
with its beautiful n mysterious boats
whose destinations are unknown to us
suzannes lunacy is attractive in some sick(ly) way
oh i guess weve all met people like that
but im starting to feel a bit nervous about her
am i just exploiting her madness?
am i too straight for her glorious insanity?
“she feeds ya tea n oranges that come all the way from china”
like shes hand feeding ya the oranges
popping those juicy segments into your mouth with her fingers
those expensive chinese oranges…they must costa fortune
and the sweet tea
the ceremony
the feeling of ritual in its preparation n serving
“and just when you mean to tell her
you got no love to give her”
oh oh youre backing out now
youre looking for an escape route
maybe suzanne is crazier or dirtier than you imagined
maybe you aint got love for her or anyone
you were just looking for a night in her bed
you dont want anything serious
now you had the night
the tea
the oranges
the half craziness
its enough
youre getting ready to say some stumbling excuse
“she gets you on her wavelength and lets the river answer
that youve always been her lover”
suzanne totally outmanoevres you here
shes crazy and psychic
she saw your bullshit coming and shes cutting you short
she tunes right into your mind
wavelength…a particularly “sixties” word
a crazy hippy nympho term
man, suzannes got yer number tho
she anticipates you
and then
the river itself
her permanent companion n neighbour
the great flowing river that carries men hither n thither
the river who has seen the whole thing
the river who has flowed since time immemorial
who meanders over deltas
and rushes in the mountains
the river speaks for suzanne
the river answers your excuse
before you have even said it
and it says
in its watery tongue
which it insinuates in your mind somehow
youve always been her lover
as a thing which truly understands the word always
the river utters these winged words
always been her lover
you are more than a one night johnny, mister
youre connexion is so deep
ha you dont even realise
you never see the layers of reality
the deep implications
but suzanne has fucking shocked you
shes telepathic with a talking river
which is in cahoots with this…..witch
and the river says
man tho i am myself verily deep
druid you are in deep with ms suzanne
you and her go way back
you may have forgotten
but suzanne herself
remembering through her lives
and i
the eternal river
flowing since gods beginning
we have not forgotten
arent you in awe of this woman?
do you know what youve gotten yourself into?
this musta happened like this for lenny too
cos hes warning you in his weary voice
its a prediction, after all, isnt it
these things will happen to you
as they did to me
and presumably a whole host of men
connected to suzanne
as she gently manipulates them
for her own crazy (hmmm, is she really?) ends
“and you want to travel with her
and you want to travel blind
and she knows that she can trust you
cos youve touched her perfect body
with your mind”
now youre convinced
now you wanna know and go wherever she wants
where to?
what kinda voyage would it be being blind?
or will you travel willy-nilly
with no care for arriving anywhere
and once again cohens slightly bitter accusation
(now in the past tense)
that youve touched her perfect body
(and who would know better than him how perfect)
but you touched it with your mind
but you touched it with your fingers too
lenny somehow implies
there was an exchange
a body for a mind
suzanne let you have her
cos youre vaguely interesting
although cohen and the river
see right through you

in the next verse
cohen introduces unexpectedly
like a bolt from the blue
the last person you expected to encounter
in this riverside sensual extrasensual weirdass song
it cant be….. its…
“jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water
and he spent a longtime watching from his lonely wooden tower”
suddenly you feel guilty
you been making out with suzy n
having weird psychic conversations with rivers
and freely enjoying the permissive n groovy free love sixties
when jesus appears
christ, leonards jewish as well
so we picking up lots of things here
the song has exploded wide open
and jesus and the sea of galilee have come through
hang on though
how does lenny feel about jesus though?
the whole of this verse is rather fictional
jesus was a fisherman but not a sailor per se
which wooden tower was he watching from then?
a crows nest or turret aboard a biblical fishing boat 33 ad?
or a lighthouse?
or a fortress?
theres no wooden towers in the gospels i can think of
cohen seems vague on what jesus was purported or not to have done
“and when he was certain only drowning men could see him
he said all men shall be sailors then until the sky shall free them”
this isnt exactly what jesus said at all
but how many could tell you that
cohen sings with such sombre authority
you could believe its the gospel truth…geddit?
imagine those drowners as they go down
seeing the soles of his feet
as he carefully treads the waves
like a surfer with out a board
and suddenly seeing a chance yet at salvation
the drowners furtively pray to him
but jesus wants more than the desperates
he wants your heart before it is an emergency
come out of love
not out of fear
and why shall the sky free them
when the sea is the sailors element?
does he mean freed by heavens judgement?
does he mean the stars in sky which light the sailors way?
“but he himself was broken long before the sky would open
abandoned almost human
he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone”
meanwhile where is suzanne in all this?
shes temporarily forgotten…
and,yes in one way christ was broken before the sky would open
in a way cohen echoes the taunts of the romans n pharisees
why dont yer god save ya now, druid?
as jesus was mercilessly banged up on the excruciating cross
cohen also implies the freedom the skies could grant was rain
going on with the river and ocean
(surely tears cant be far away??!!)
anyway now christ is abandoned
by cohen
by the jews
by the romans
and almost by you
youre almost at the end of this verse
suddenly youre losing interest in the man of sorrows
he who was abandoned by almost everyone
left to his fate
and now
despite cohen telling you his sad story
you have used your “wisdom” to push him away
he actually sinks into your watery subconscious
and on into oblivion
a heavy inanimate object
in the end
although he could once walk on water
he ends up sinking anyway
“and you want to travel with him
and you want to travel blind
you know you can trust him
hes touched your perfect body with his mind”
more travel/voyages
christ and his retinue of saved souls picking up momentum
but always into the unknown travelling blind
now hes touched your body your heart
with his mind his heart
hes saying go back to suzanne now
but a little part of me may go on in you
“suzanne takes your hand and leads you to the river
shes wearing rags n feathers from salvation army counters”
youve left her place
now youre going down down to the river itself
you seem a bit unwilling or unable
or you dont know where youre going
or why else is she leading you
one things for sure
her dress is a bit embarrassing to you
rags n feathers
2nd hand at that
shes a crazy scruff
but somehow she has some of christs attributes
rubbed off from the second verse
you try to understand her bizarre attire
“the sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbour”
ah a beatific vision..
suzanne as whore with a halo
martyred beatnik wisewoman crazybitch
how are you feeling about her now?
a seeress
an angel of destiny
the sunlight is so warm without burning
its a lovely moment
there on the shoreline
the river is now a harbour
and suzanne is its patron saint
she is so much more than you could dream possible
its a photo opportunity
“and she shows you were to look among the garbage and the flowers
there are heroes in the sea weed, there are children in the morning”
like all saints
can let you see the marvellous in the mundane
she needs to show you where to look
otherwise you may not have noticed
the beauty in every single thing
in the 2 extremes of garbage and flowers
in all things
in the seaweed the heroes
what does this mean?
except to look for the miraculous constantly
or is cohen referring back to our drowners n sinking jesus
surely heroes all now down amongst the seaweed
but still worthy of your remembrance
and of course
the children
the future
the innocent ones
the lambs
the ones you could still yet help
suzanne now reveals them
the hope for this dizzy world
suzanne is a voice for the phantom children yet to be born
or are they suzannes own children
running in to mother in the morning
only to find you and or lenny cohen in there too?
“they are leaning out for love
they will lean that way forever
while suzanne holds the mirror”
leaning out of where…the mirror?
leaning out of that symbolically future morning
into the present day?
they like all children need love
they always do and always will
even these children in the future
however suzanne seems to have suspended them there in time
as long as she needs to
forever if necessary
suzanne does things in forevers after all
and only when the love is truly available
from you or any other lover
only if you will love the children you may conceive
will she allow them to materialise

there you go
probably not one of these thoughts occurred to lc
when he wrote it
its just my interpretation

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