My strongest recollection of working on this song is how many lyric versions I had to work through – by the time we recorded this I had almost 50 different variations in my file. Like other songs of mine, it required key signature changes within the song to feel natural to me, and I experimented a lot trying to find the approach I felt best supported the inherent cadence of the lyric, which seemed to also be in a state of never-ending evolution.
I produced THIS PERFECT DAY with my old friend Roscoe Beck. One day during production Leonard Cohen called Roscoe to see if Roscoe would be willing to produce demos of a couple of Leonard’s new songs the next day. We spent the entire next day at Roscoe’s studio, where the recordings took place. I had just several days before recorded my piano on “Out This Open Window” there and the session with Leonard remains very connected in my mind to this song.
One of Leonard’s brand new songs was “Democracy is Coming to the USA.” Once we started recording, I noticed that with every new take Leonard seemed to be singing different lyrics. At the end of the session, Leonard left his lyric sheet on the music stand and I saw he had numerous alternative verses still in consideration. I somehow I wound up with Leonard’s lyrics and I ran across them years later, after “Democracy Is Coming to the USA” had been released. I discovered that Leonard’s final lyric was different than the versions he was working on that day. I guess no amount of travail is unwarranted if it leads you where you want to go. Just like Disneyland, most of the work lies underground where no one can see it.