Inner City Front

Bruce Cockburn - Inner City Front - 1981/2002
Inner City Front – 1981 / 2002

RELEASE DATE: 1981 / 2002
PURCHASE: iTunes | True North (deluxe version)

* Bonus tracks on the remastered CD version released by Rounder Records

Woman cry — chase man down street crying “No Chuckie, no, please don’t”
Another girl comes they run along St. Andrew, turn south on Kensington
Meanwhile Chuckie beats it down the alley by the chicken packer’s
By the time I reach the corner they’ve all vanished
Just a deaf kid talking like Popeye to a large fleshy laughing man in a blue shirt

You pay your money and you take your chance
When you’re dealing with love and romance

Down the alley past the fire escape a woman is talking on the telephone
Kitchen light spills out, laughter riding on its beam
In the maze of moebius streets we’re trying to amuse ourselves to death
Under the deep sky that’s squatting so close over us tonight
You’d think it was trying to hatch us
The numb and confused
The battered and bruised
The counters of cost
And the star-crossed

You pay your money and you take your chance
When you’re dealing with love and romance

Confused and solo in the spawning ground
I watch the confusion of friends all numb with love
Moving like stray dogs to the anthem of night-long conversations,
of pulsing rhythms and random voltage voices
In spite of themselves, graceful as these raindrops creeping spermlike across the car window
Stay or leave, give or withold, hesitate or leap
Each step splashing sparks of red pain in every direction
And through it all, somehow, this willingness that asks no questions

You pay your money and you take your chance
When you’re dealing with love and romance

released 1981

Also On:
Waiting For A Miracle – 1987
You Pay Your Money And You Take Your Chance – 1997
Rumours Of Glory box set – disc 3 – 2014

Isn’t it hard
To be the one who has to give advice?
Isn’t it hard
To be the strong one?

I see the skyline blurred through the plastic on your back screen door
Not unlike the faces of the people who keep turning up in the places we go
The ones we’d never see if things weren’t going so well
When I was a torn jacket hanging on the barbed wire
You cut me free
And sewed me up and here I am

Isn’t it hard
To be the one whose phone rings all day everyday?
Isn’t it hard
To be the strong one?

Mouths move without vision — without regard for consequences
Eyes fill with memories poisoned by intimate knowledge of failure to love
Sometimes, sometimes, doesn’t the light seem to move so far away?
You help your sisters, you help your old lovers,
you help me but who do you cry to?

‘Cause isn’t it hard
To be the one who gathers everybody’s tears?
Isn’t it hard
To be the strong one?

released 1981

Blue billboard on the roof next door
Makes a square of light on the kitchen floor
Smokes rises from a cigarette
There’s a dull glisten where the table’s wet
Soft breath rises from the bed
A thousand question marks over my head

Turn on the tube but there’s nothing new
The usual panic in red, white and blue
“Military advisors” marching in the square
Knife-sharp trouser creases slicing air
Private armies on suburban lawns
Shoulders braced against the tidal dawn
All’s quiet on the inner city front
I don’t know why I should but I feel content

Bell in the fire station tower
Rings out the measure of the racing hours
I slip through the door to the roof outside
To gaze at the sign hanging in the sky
That sailor on the billboard looks so self-possessed
Doesn’t have a thing to forgive or forget
All’s quiet on the inner city front.

released 1981- Toronto, Canada

Also On:
Rumours Of Glory – 1985
Rumours Of Glory box set – disc 3 – 2014

Instrumental

released 1981

Neon flame on the window of an upstairs room
Helicopter beats across the face of the moon
Got a hunger that sprawls like this galaxy
Want to wrap my arms around you — draw you right inside me

I want to go walking
With you Judy
Through the movie
Of the world

No matter what I do I feel your presence everywhere
I’ll be just standing around and your scent comes at me
Out of nowhere
I see your face on the wall — in the magazine too
Next thing you know the billboard out my window will be you

I want to go walking
With you Judy
Through the movie
Of the world

Today was a dog licking crap in the gutter of the street
Tonight is a dancer oscillating on weightless feet
So the fortune teller said you wouldn’t end up with me
Last I heard only God gets to say what has to be

I want to walking
With you Judy
Through the movie
Of the world

released 1981

Also On:
Rumours Of Glory – 1985
Waiting For A Miracle – 1987

Midnight flight
Fullmoon light
Laughter in the air
It’s a party all right
Slate-blue clouds
Iridescent sea
I’m heading for you
And you’re headed for me

and we dance and we dance
and we dance…

Down there in the realm of power
Somebody’s manicured hands
Play the Ace of Influence
Against the Jack of Demands
I reach of the deck —
Draw the seven of hearts —
Doesn’t mean the world
But it’s a better place to start

and we dance and we dance
and we dance…

Paradox and contrast
Variety and change
History repeats
But it’s never the same
We’ve got this time
We’ve got this rhythm
Till the whole thing comes apart
Like light through a prism

and we dance and we dance
and we dance…

released 1981

7. Justice (4:49)

What’s been done in the name of Jesus?
What’s been done in the name of Buddha?
What’s been done in the name of Islam?
What’s been done in the name of man?
What’s been done in the name of liberation?
And in the name of civilization?
And in the name of race?
And in the name of peace?

Everybody
Loves to see
Justice done
On somebody else

Can you tell me how much bleeding
It takes to fill a word with meaning?
And how much, how much death
It takes to give a slogan breath?
And how much, how much, how much flame
Gives light to a name
For the hollow darkness
In which nations dress?

Everybody
Loves to see
Justice done
On somebody else

Everybody’s seen the things they’ve seen
We all have to live with what we’ve been
When they say charity begins at home
They’re not just talking about a toilet and a telephone
Got to search the silence of the soul’s wild places
For a voice that can cross the spaces
These definitions that we love create —
These names for heaven, hero, tribe and state

Everybody
Loves to see
Justice done
On somebody else

released 1981

Also On:
Rumours Of Glory box set – disc 3 – 2014

Way out on the rim of the galaxy
The gifts of the Lord lie torn
Into whose charge the gifts were given
Have made it a curse for so many to be born
This is my trouble —
These were my fathers
So how am I supposed to feel?
Way out on the rim of the broken wheel

Water of life is going to flow again
Changed from the blood of heroes and knaves
The word mercy’s going to have a new meaning
When we are judged by the children of our slaves
No adult of sound mind
Can be an innocent bystander
Trial comes before truth’s revealed
Out here on the rim of the broken wheel

You and me — we are the break in the broken wheel
Bleeding wound that will not heal

Lord, spit on our eyes so we can see
How to wake up from this tragedy

Way out on the rim of the broken wheel
Bleeding wound that will not heal
Trial comes before truth’s revealed
So how am I supposed to feel?
This is my trouble —
Can’t be an innocent bystander
In a world of pain and fire and steel
Way out on the rim of the broken wheel

released 1981

Also On:
Bruce Cockburn Live – 1990/2002
Rumours Of Glory box set – disc 3 – 2014

9. Loner (7:38)

Down at the bus station
Shark grins and sandpaper conversation
Men’s faces women’s bodies on the magazine stand
And a headline about Sarajevo and Tehran

They are radiant angels, they are earthly slaves
They are predators moving in their endless days
Days of striving, nights of novocaine
Never going to bring them freedom from their pain

I’m a loner
With a loner’s point of view
I’m a loner
And now I’m in love with you

Wild shadows, acid verbs
Eyelids opening dans mon coeur
Tu me touche comme la pression
Des etoiles sur les tenebres*

In the elevator and the empty hall
How am I ever going to hear you when you call
I’m always living and I always die
on the event horizon of your eyes

I’m a loner
With a loner’s point of view
I’m a loner
And now I’m in love with you

released 1981

Also On:
Mummy Dust – 1981

I was up all night, socializing
Trying to keep the latent depression from crystalizing
Now the sun is lurking just behind the Scarborough horizon

And you’re not even here
On the coldest night of the year.

I took in Yonge Street at a glance
Heard the punkers playing
Watched the bikers dance
Everybody wishing they could go to the south of France

And you’re not even here
On the coldest night of the year.

Hey look at me now
See the shape I’m in
It’s taken me so long to catch on to what’s going on
Inside this skin
When two lovers really love there’s nothing there
But this suddenly compact universe
Skin and breath and hair

I watched the all night TV show
In the all night bar
I drove all the people home
I was the one with the car

Now I’m sitting here alone and sleepless
and wondering where you are
And wishing you were here
On the coldest night of the year

released 1981

Also On:
Resume – 1981
Mummy Dust – 1981
Rumours Of Glory – 1985
Waiting For A Miracle – 1987
Anything Anytime Anywhere – 2002
Inner City Front – 2002

Shaman clambers up the world dream tree
Looking for clues about what is to be
Chants and trances give his spirit wings for flight
Wings still shackled to history
The chain of events is broken so easily
Oh, let me rest in the place of light

Skull-drum skin stretched tight
Sends out ripples in the gathering night
The deepest darkness breeds the brightest light
Music rising from the bones of saints
From the pungent smell of sad sweet poems and paintings
Oh, let me rest in the place of light

God waves a thought like you’d wave your hand
And the light goes on forever
Through the seasons and through the seas
The light goes on forever
Through the burning and the seeding
Through the joining and the parting
The light goes on forever

Gypsy searches through the cards for clues
Alchemist searches for eternal youth
Human reaching almost makes it but not quite
The soul strikes out at what the wind blows by
You live and it hurts you, you give up you die
Oh, let me rest in the place of light

Fugitives in the time before the dawn
Backed up to the wall with weapons drawn
Like mounted nomads always ready for a fight
This creature that thinks and so can fake its own being
Lightless mind’s eye not much good for seeing
Oh, let me rest in the place of light

God waves a thought like you’d wave your hand
And the light goes on forever
Through the people and through the walls
The light goes on forever
Through who obeys and who does not
Through who gets rich and who gets caught
The light goes on forever

Uptight lawyer on Damascus road
Becomes a nexus where the light explodes
Concentrated, overpowering sight
Two way whirlpool churning up all time
Infinity stoops to touch the human mind
Oh, let me rest in the place of light

God waves a thought like you’d wave your hand
And the light goes on forever
Through the buildings and through the hills
The light goes on forever
Through the struggles and the games
Through the night’s empty doorframes
The light goes on forever
March 25, 1980 – Ottawa

Also On:
Rumours Of Glory box set – disc 7 – 2014



For Bruce Cockburn, the months leading up to Inner City Front’s 1981 release had been fraught with change: his marriage of 10 years dissolved, leading him to switch from country to city life. Taking an an apartment in downtown Toronto, he assembled a band of crack musicians and adopted a more rugged, urban sound. Gone were most traces of the Gentle Folkie of the late 1960s and even the Mystic Christian of the 70’s. In their place was Bruce Cockburn of the 80s – highly politicized and sporting an electric guitar.

Album Info:

All songs written by Bruce Cockburn
© 1981 Golden Mountain Music Corp. (SOCAN)
All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission
Produced by Bruce Cockburn for True North Productions
Associate Producer: Bernie Finkelstein

The musicians are:
Bruce Cockburn: Guitar and Vocals
Memo Acevedo: Percussion
Bob DiSalle: Drums
Dennis Pendrith: Bass guitar
Jon Goldsmith: Keyboards
Hugh Marsh: Violin and Mandolin
Kathryn Moses: Reeds and Background Vocals
Murray McLauchlan: Background Vocals on “Wanna Go Walking”
Ruhollah Khomeini: Additional Percussion on “Justice”
M. Kaddafi: Additional Background Vocals on “The Strong One”

Engineered by Gary Gray
Mastered by George Marino, Sterling Sound, NY
Remastered by Vlado Meller, Sony Music Studio Operations, NY
Recorded at Manta Sound, Toronto, April-June 1981

Art Direction: Bart Schoales
Back Cover Photo: George Whiteside

Special thanks to Shorewood Packaging, Toronto
Thanks for the help, Jimmy!

Remaster Info:
Digitally remastered at the E Room in Toronto by engineer Peter Moore, utilizing 24-bit technology.
New liner note essay written by Nicholas Jennings.
Released by Rounder Records 19 November 2002.

19 November 2002 – From Rounder Records: Bruce Cockburn self-produced the nine tracks of rock, reggae, jazz and folk-fusions that form “Inner City Front”, originally released in 1981. Now re-mastered with two bonus tracks, it could be called the artist’s Toronto album since it reflects so strongly his move to the city and his embrace of both its attractions and tensions. “Inner City Front” contains some of the most carefree love songs of his career, including a B-52s-like rocker “Wanna Go Walking,” the flute-filled “And We Dance,” and the infectious “Coldest Night of the Year,” which finally joins the album for which it was originally intended. “The Light Goes On Forever” is also included as a bonus track, having been previously available only as a B-side. Produced by Bruce Cockburn.