"Iodine" as written by Leonard Cohen and Phil Spector....
I needed you, I knew I was in danger
Of losing what I used to think was mine
You let me love you till I was a failure,
You let me love you till I was a failure
Your beauty on my bruise like iodine
I asked you if a man could be forgiven
And though I failed at love, was this a crime?
You said, Don't worry, don't worry, darling
You said, Don't worry, don't you worry, darling
There are many ways a man can serve his time

You covered up that place I could not master
It wasn't dark enough to shut my eyes
So I was with you, O sweet compassion
Yes I was with you, O sweet compassion
Compassion with the sting of iodine

Your saintly kisses reeked of iodine
Your fragrance with a fume of iodine
And pity in the room like iodine

Your sister fingers burned like iodine
And all my wanton lust was iodine
My masquerade of trust was iodine
And everywhere the flare of iodine


Lyrics submitted by afbailey

"Iodine" as written by Phil Spector Leonard Cohen

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Iodine song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentWoa, seriously? Nothing? That's surprising. I mean, i can understand why people might be a bit put off by this album, but this song is amazing and I can't believe I'm taking the first stab at it. This is nice - clean slate.

    To me (cause lets be honest, unless a songwriter has gone on record about what a certain song is about, it's all interpretation) the really simplified explanation seems to be, this guy f'ed it up, and badly, and everything about the situation and her just points out all his shortcomings and flaws - highlights them and draws them into sharp relief - like iodine on the skin. Leonard, no stranger to innuendo (and some of the finest i might add) even gets a little going here - maybe their problems were predominantly of a sexual nature....maybe....doesn't have to be....but there's definitely a possibility.

    A great tune for a repentant man at a bar, wishing he hadn't a said what he said, or did what he done, or had what he up and lost and there's no one else to blame but himself.
    StickityWicketon March 24, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's about incompetence in bed.
    sun_gianton March 28, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is about Cohen falling in love with a photographer but not really loving her enough to fully pay attention to her. Iodine salts are used in black and white photography. Hence also the reference to a dark place and a room.
    Also, failing at love does not necessarily imply sexual incompetence... "love" could also mean establishing a relationship, but that´s just my romantic side talking.
    mayucioon July 14, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIn keeping with the theme of the record (the "death of the ladies man"), it's a song about impotence. Much of the first side of the record is about emasculation (impotence, cuckoldry, voyeurism, rejection) building to a depressed and demented male libido and ego on the B-Side. The metaphor here is that iodine is used to treat wounds, and the woman's (a sex worker?) compassion to him in his moment of humiliation feels like a wound being treated.

    "I needed you when I knew I was in danger/ Of losing what I used to think was mine" is perhaps an indication that the woman's role is a service role, ie sex work, and what he is worried about losing is his masculinity. "You covered up the place I could not master/ It wasn't dark enough to shut my eyes" the place being his penis, which remains embarrassingly flaccid and out of his control, and the lights being on indicating that this is likely a casual or procured sexual encounter.

    Like the next song, "Paper Thin Hotel," the narrator learns that what he had feared, losing his perceived manhood, is possibly a blessing. "And all my wanton lust was iodine/ My masquerade of trust was iodine," indicates that he was using his masculine posturing and sexuality to cover up deeper wounds in his character. He's learned something about being a better person, and a better man, we may guess).
    Caecuson March 02, 2019   Link

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