Suzanne & Hope

Leonard Cohen

Remember the giddy days when this blog used to be about music, rather than futile attempts to influence political machinations incomprehensibly bigger than ourselves? It was only a week ago, but it feels like fucking ages.

I don’t have a lot of new music to post at the moment, so I thought I’d mention this interesting little snippet. Last night on my Fresh Air show I played a couple of (relatively) obscure songs, along with the popular songs which they had inspired. Which, In fact, they Inspired so very much that writing credits were given to the writers of the first song, so heavily was it borrowed from.

The first one was pretty obvious: Creep by Radiohead borrows so heavily from The Air That I Breathe by The Hollies that they were credited on the album cover to Pablo Honey, and apparently everyone but me knew this until quite recently.

The second one, however, was a little more obscure. I bought R.E.M.’s Up back when it was released, in about 1998. I loved it then, and I still do; in fact I think it might be just about their most under-rated album. They had lost drummer Bill Berry and instead of trying to paper over the cracks, they seem to have decided to turn a potential failing into a virtue. The album is shot through with synths and drum machines, successfullly embracing the fact that it is largely drumless instead of just fudging through and hoping no-one would notice Bill was gone.

About halfway through this record is a song called Hope, which I think is brilliant, but when the sharp-eared (not in a Star Trek sense) young lady I was seeing at the time made some throwaway comment about it being pretty much a Leonard Cohen cover, I was completely baffled. I just couldn’t hear any Leonard Cohen in there, so we went back through his album and eventually tracked down Suzanne. It’s such a classic I am more than a little surprised I couldn’t hear the similarities to begin with, but you know what, I still can’t. If I hear them one after another then it’s pretty obvious, but if I try and just listen to hope in isolation I genuinely can’t make the leap in my head, even though I know it’s there.

R.E.M. actually credited Cohen for his influence on the song in their inlay card. I love both, frankly, and the French version of Suzanne by Francoise Hardy is also gorgeous. Enjoy.

Leonard Cohen – Suzanne
R.E.M. – Hope
Francoise Hardy – Suzanne

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