Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos Day 25
Fri. Feb 3 2012

Chelsea Hotel #1
Leonard Cohen

I just rediscovered this early rendition of Chelsea Hotel recorded live on April 19, 1972 in Tele Aviv. According to Leonard Cohen scholar Dr.HGuy—“Chelsea Hotel #1 focuses on the death of the singer’s (i.e., Leonard Cohen’s) lover (i.e., Janis Joplin), with whom the singer identifies primarily as an admired fellow artist and colleague and only secondarily as an object of affection or, at least, of reciprocated lust.”

Chelsea Hotel #1 is more like an extended version. You can hear why Cohen left out all of those extra lyrics. Chelsea Hotel #2 is a bit more mysterious in #1— we find out who the lover Cohen is crooning about. And here, I always thought Chelsea Hotel was about Nico. But the verses about Tennessee reflect the longing he felt for Janis Joplin.

“♫ Listen all night now/ making your sweet little sound, baby/ making your sweet little sound on the jukebox. […] ♫”

I liken this early rendition as hearing a rough draft from one of the greatest living poets—Leonard Cohen. I love all the added verses. We are so lucky that Leonard recorded this live version. You can find the whole Tele Aviv show online. Chelsea Hotel # 1 is a rare lyrical artifact unearthed for your listening pleasure.