Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free"
—Bird on the Wire
Songs from a Room is the second album by Leonard Cohen, released in 1969. It has a lighter, folkier feel than its predecessor, Songs of Leonard Cohen, and is the nearest Cohen got to a Country Music album it was produced in Memphis by Bob Johnson after sessions produced by David Crosby in Los Angeles failed to work out. The lightness of tone on the surface is deceptive however; songs on the album probes deeper into the themes of religion, despair and suicide that were evident in the earlier album. Along with "Suzanne" from his previous album, the opening track "Bird on the Wire" was probably the most-covered of Cohen's songs before "Hallelujah".
- "Bird on the Wire" - 3:28
- "Story of Isaac" - 3:38
- "A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes" - 3:18
- "The Partisan" - 3:29
- "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy" - 3:41
- "The Old Revolution" - 4:50
- "The Butcher" - 3:22
- "You Know Who I Am" - 3:32
- "Lady Midnight" - 3:01
- "Tonight Will Be Fine" - 3:53
Tropes associated with this album:
- Alliterative Title: "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy".
- Anti-Love Song: "Tonight Will Be Fine"Sometimes I find I get to thinking of the past.We swore to each other then that our love would surely last.You kept right on loving, I went on a fastNow I am too thin and your love is too vast.
- As the Good Book Says...: Of the Old Testament variety, as befits Cohen's active Judaism.
He said, "I've had a visionAnd you know I'm strong and holyI must do what I've been told."So he started up the mountainI was running, he was walkingAnd his axe was made of gold.
- "Story of Isaac"
Was I supposed to praise my Lord,Make some kind of joyful sound?
- "The Butcher"
Sometimes I need you nakedSometimes I need you wildI need you to carry my children inAnd I need you to kill a childYou know who I am.
- "You Know Who I Am"
- Bilingual Bonus: Parts of "The Partisan" are in French. Being a Québécois Cohen handles French just fine.''Les Allemands étaient chez moi"''Ils me dirent "résignes-toi"''Mais je n'ai pas peur"''J'ai repris mon arme."
- Broken Record: "Tonight Will Be Fine"Tonight will be fine, will be fine, will be fine, will be fine...
- Character Title: "Story of Isaac", "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy"
- Courtly Love: "Bird on the Wire"Like a knight in some old-fashioned bookI have saved all my ribbons for thee
- Cover Version: "The Partisan", a translation by Hy Zaret of a 1943 French song "La Complainte du Partisan" by Anna Marly and Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie, about the French Resistance in WW2. One of very few cover versions in the early part of Cohen's career.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The cover is in stark black and white.
- Driven to Suicide: "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy"It seems so long agoNancy was aloneA forty-five beside her headAn open telephoneWe told her she was beautifulWe told her she was freeBut none of us would meet her inThe house of mystery.
- Face on the Cover: Confined to a small box, perhaps echoing the spartan room in "Tonight Will Be Fine", with the contrast turned Up to Eleven so that all detail is washed out.
- Heroic Sacrifice: "The Partisan"An old woman gave us shelterKept us hidden in the garretThen the soldiers cameShe died without a whisper.(...)Un vieil homme dans un grenier notePour la nuit nous a caché noteLes Allemands l' ont pris noteIl est mort sans surprise note
- Job Title: "The Partisan", "The Butcher".
- La Résistance: "The Partisan" is a song about the French resistance during World War II, originally completely in French, but Cohen sings it in English, thus leaves a few lines in the original language.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Tonight Will Be Fine" sounds rather jolly. It's about loneliness, depression and drug addiction.I choose the rooms that I live in with careThe windows are small and the walls almost bareThere's only one bed and there's only one prayerI listen all night for your step on the stair
- Non-Appearing Title: The album title doesn't appear in any of the lyrics. The song title doesn't appear in the lyrics of "Story of Isaac", "A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes"note , "The Partisan" or "The Butcher"note .
- Ode to Intoxication: "Tonight Will Be Fine".
- Offing the Offspring: "Story of Isaac". Though as the song is narrated in the first person it's clear the father doesn't go through with it.
- One-Woman Song: "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy".
- Real Life Writes the Plot: "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy" is based on the life and death of a real Nancy that Cohen once knew. This article may shed some light on the real story.
- Shout-Out: Some lines from "Story Of Isaac" are quoted in the song "Everybody's Weird" from dEUS' album The Ideal Crash (1999). The band's lead singer, Tom Barman, is a huge fan of Cohen.I will help you if I mustI will kill you if I can(...) I will kill you if I mustI will help you if I can
- Team Title: "A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes"
- Word Salad Lyrics: As with many Cohen songs there is a lot of symbolism which isn't easy to penetrate. This is less evident on this album, however, than with most. Averted with "The Partisan" which is blunt and to the point. Possibly also with "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy".
- A World Half Full:
Oh, the wind, the wind is blowingThrough the graves the wind is blowingFreedom soon will comeThen we'll come from the shadows.
- "The Partisan". The narrator seems confident that all will be well in the end.
But I know from your eyesAnd I know from your smileThat tonight will be fineWill be fine, will be fine, will be fineFor a while.
- "Tonight Will Be Fine"