Songfacts®: You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.
If you're a bit puzzled by this song, that might be the point. Cohen took a shot at explaining it in the April, 1993 issue of Song Talk. The Canadian singer/songwriter explained: "I felt for sometime that the motivating energy, or the captivating energy, or the engrossing energy available to us today is the energy coming from the extremes. That's why we have Malcolm X. And somehow it's only these extremist positions that can compel our attention. And I find in my own mind that I have to resist these extremist positions when I find myself drifting into a mystical fascism in regards to myself. [Laughs]
So this song, 'First We Take Manhattan', what is it? Is he serious? And who is we? And what is this constituency that he's addressing? Well, it's that constituency that shares this sense of titillation with extremist positions. I'd rather do that with an appetite for extremism than blow up a bus full of schoolchildren."
Before Cohen's own version was released, his former backing singer Jennifer Warnes recorded this on her Leonard Cohen covers album Famous Blue Raincoat. Other cover versions include Joe Cocker on his 2000 album No Ordinary World and R.E.M. on their 1991 Leonard Cohen tribute album I'm Your Fan.
dUg Pinnick of King's X
dUg dIgs into his King's X metal classics and his many side projects, including the one with Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam.
Jim McCarty of The Yardbirds
The Yardbirds drummer explains how they created their sound and talks about working with their famous guitarists.
Neal Smith - "I'm Eighteen"
With the band in danger of being dropped from their label, Alice Cooper drummer Neal Smith co-wrote the song that started their trek from horror show curiosity to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.