Forward Thinking: Driving with Laughing Len

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It would sigh in a deep baritone at your misturns: 'You don't have much sense of direction, do ya?'. Photo / Supplied
It would sigh in a deep baritone at your misturns: 'You don't have much sense of direction, do ya?'. Photo / Supplied

On the way to the final Big Day Out, we had Leonard Cohen's new album Old Ideas on in the car. It wasn't intentional. I had just left the TimeOut promo CD in the player on permanent rotate. On initial listens, his first album in eight years following his 2008-2010 world tour which came to Auckland twice, is very good.

But as the day was already sad enough with this being the last BDO - oh you heard? - Laughing Len didn't make it all the way to the Penrose off-ramp. Being a singer-songwriter of such lyrical nuance, he's not really a listen-in-the-car kind of guy anyway. That's unless you drive a Prius. And I would guess the hybrid-to-Cohen-fan ownership ratio is unusually high.

Though as his wise and ancient voice rumbled through the speakers in that talk-sing way of his, he did inspire a thought. One, which all the TimeOut team gathered in the vehicle, agreed should be turned into this very column.

So if any of the rest of this doesn't make sense, blame them.

The thought was this. Mr Cohen went back out on that extensive tour - which has neatly helped build up anticipation for the new album - because his former manager allegedly made off with the now 77-year-old's retirement fund.

He needs another income stream and please Lord, don't let that be the royalties from yet another cover version of Hallelujah.

He has already conquered poetry and music. Now, it's time he embraced the future (no not The Future, the very good title track of his 1992 album).

His is a voice which just seems to inspire one to ease off on the gas and contemplate one's direction in life, so Cohen would be the perfect voice of an in-car GPS system.

It would sigh in a deep baritone at your misturns: "You don't have much sense of direction, do ya? ...

It would offer zen counselling when stuck in traffic: "Waiting for the miracle/ there's nothing left to do ..."

And of course it would politely accept being powered-down when you didn't want that golden voice offering navigation : "If it be your will/ that I speak no more ..."

It is likely there will be a few early software bugs for New York users, many pondering why having set their GPS for Manhattan, they find themselves near the Brandenburg Gate. Or, alternatively, passing the Chelsea Hotel again and again.

And it would, of course, be called the I'm Your Navman.

In other almost related matters ... the Herald's Sideswipe column has been having much fun of late with people's misheard lyrics.

This can be an occupational hazard when writing about music - I was reviewing and reporting for the Herald at the Sweetwaters festival in 1999.

The big question of the day at the financial disaster of an event was "is Elvis Costello going to play?" He hadn't been paid and had gone to the media about it earlier in the day.

But somewhere near midnight and the final edition deadline, Costello did show and his first song was The Beatles' You Never Give Me Your Money. I duly shouted this fact down a phone to the news editor. The next day's paper reported that Costello opened with You Never Give Me Your Monday. Sigh. Interviewing Costello a few years later, I told him this and asked him if he would consider writing a track called You Never Give Me Your Monday because it's not actually a bad song title. He laughed but politely declined.

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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