What Everybody Knows

November 1st, 2009

Last Friday, Jasmine and I saw Leonard Cohen play. That’s not a sentence I ever expected to type.

It was an amazing show. Everything conspired against it: lousy cavernous venue, weird crowd, show boating instrumentalists. But it was awesome.

And I was transported back to the first moment I ever heard Leonard Cohen. Those first minutes of Pump Up Volume when “Everybody Knows” comes rolling out of Christian Slater’s pirate radio station, and it was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. Later I wondered how many of us got involved with helping start Indymedia because of that movie.

But that’s not why it stuck with me. You see, when the sound track for Pump Up the Volume came out that song wasn’t on there. Or rather it was, but it wasn’t the right version. I just had a tape of a tape of a tape, sound wasn’t great, and certainly didn’t come with any liner notes explaining that the version included on the sound track was from Concrete Blonde, whoever they were. Disappointment. Really profound disappointment.

And I didn’t know what to do. I was stuck. Transported back to that moment in the early 90s as an adult I could probably find a solution, but honestly I’m not sure. It wasn’t until I got to college, met other people who had been touched by that song, that I ever heard the name Leonard Cohen, and even then it took us a while to obtain a copy of it. Instead we spent a lot of late nights watching “Pump Up the Volume”. Eventually, it was the first MP3 I ever downloaded.

The double barreled revelation really hit me hard. First just to see him play it. Second to remember what I spend most days forgetting, how profoundly the world has changed by the Net and particularly by the Web. It’s trite, and I lived through it, and I live with it everyday, but I rarely get the distance to see how much has changed. And that little distance gave me some hope.

Kind of like the first time I heard that song.

3 responses to “What Everybody Knows”

  1. Aidan says:

    I remember the first time I heard it, too, I think. I remember sitting in mom’s car at the Capitola mall, and you’d just bought an album, I’m thinking “I’m Your Man”. Past my ability to recall when that was, though, or whether it was tape or cd.

    Sounds like my friend Lia was at the same concert!

  2. whump says:

    Of course, now I need to find Concrete Blonde’s cover of “Everybody Knows.”

    Got to see him this past spring in Oakland, and it was an incredible show.

  3. Tim says:


    Had never seen Pump Up the Volume. After reading this post, ordered it from Netflix and really enjoyed it. Loved the idea that is was part of the inspiration for Indymedia.

    M, she who must not be named online, really liked it, and asked me to thank you. We are looking at schools for the kid, and it brought up lots of useful feelings. She is also a Leonard Cohen fan from way back, and she enjoyed the music. Your post was my introduction to his music, and I’ve been listening with pleasure since.

    Thanks, and happy holidays to you and Jasmine.