From Sylvie, released in 2014 on Light In the Attic Records.
Sylvie Simmons is one of my favorite music journalists. I’ve been reading her stuff in Mojo for over a decade. She almost singlehandedly made me despise Lou Reed after reading her 2005 interview with him.
It’s rare for a rock critic to cross over to the other side and make decent music. Have you ever heard any of the songs Lester Bangs recorded? Not great. But “Hard Act to Follow” succeeds because it doesn’t sound like it’s trying too hard. Simple strummed ukulele and direct vocals that sound honest and comforting. This song came out a few years ago but it was just featured in the new Nicky Hornby movie, “Juliet, Naked” so Simmons made a video for it.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a big downtown movie theatre to see a new movie called “Juliet Naked.” It’s a romantic comedy based on a book by Nick Hornby, a former rock critic, directed by Jesse Peretz, a former rock musician (remember the Lemonheads?) and featuring a soundtrack that includes songs by Marianne Faithfull, Chrissie Hynde, Robyn Hitchcock, M.Ward… and me!
I sat watching the movie and listening hard, because I didn’t know what scene it was going to be in, but after a while I got into the story and forgot all about my song. Then, during a scene shot in the Tate Modern in London, one of my favourite places in the world, suddenly out of the giant speakers there I was, singing “Hard Act to Follow.” I almost jumped out of my seat.
So to celebrate my song getting its first major movie role, I decided to make it its own little film, working with San Francisco video maker, Carlos Forster.
It’s really good!
In 2011 Simmons visited Leonard Cohen at his home in Los Angeles to talk to him for Mojo about his new album, Old Ideas. It was his only interview to promote the album, granted to Simmons because she was writing his biography, eventually published as I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen (Harper Collins, 2012). That interview made me love Cohen as much as that prior interview had made me hate Reed. Here’s the quote that has stuck with me ever since:
“Think about this seriously before you answer,” says Leonard. “Would you like a scoop of ice cream in your coffee?”
Leonard Cohen lived his life to the fullest. If you’ve never tried a scoop of ice cream in your coffee, you don’t know what you’re missing.