This is Cohen's most controversial song - it speaks out against America. Cohen is a Canadian citizen.
The liberal left particularly dislikes the song, especially with respect to its opening line, "Step into my church and pray for a nation growing dumber every day," plus its expressed admiration for soldiers and police. Cohen contends that the reference to "church" is metaphorical, not literal, insofar as "his church" being one of social philosophy in favor of resurrecting neglected heroes (nurses, firemen, teachers, police, soldiers, etc.). Although a Jew, Cohen believes God has manifested his form and voice through all religions.
After completing the recording, Jeanette Turner, former wife of Ike Turner, contacted Cohen and requested her vocals be removed as she felt they were off-key. But Cohen persuaded Turner that her fierce passion delivering the provocative lyrics would leave listeners spellbound and nobody would notice any tiny errors of pitch.
Cohen designed the song to be his angriest and, to that effect, included a hostile rap. However, Cohen did not feel up to the task so Producer Henry Iglesias located a young rapper, Ben "Mobius" Simoff to mirror Cohen's philosophical sentiments. When it came time to deliver the rap in-studio, unfortunately, Cohen found Simoff to be "emotionally lukewarm," so Cohen set about angering Simoff, mocking his manhood in front of attractive background singer, Vessy Mink. Producer Iglesias was so unnerved by Cohen's usage of method technique to get the proper performance that he thought he might have to intervene if Simoff and Cohen came to blows. But, in the end, Simoff came through with the requisite rage to take the song to its proper climax.
Cohen's sing-song rant was a last minute improv suggested by Iglesias because, although he agreed with Cohen that he could not rap, he felt Cohen's feverish rage on the state of contemporary America should be expressed somehow.
Guitarist James Lum perceived tone similarities between Cohen's piece and The Doors "The End," so he injected a variety of eerie guitar effects into the arrangement.
Suggestion credit: Arnie - Los Angeles, CA, for all above