The Trouble With Normal

Bruce Cockburn - The Trouble With Normal  - 1983
The Trouble With Normal

RELEASE DATE: 1983 / 2003
PURCHASE: iTunes | True North

* Bonus tracks on the remastered CD version released by Rounder Records in 2002.

Strikes across the frontier and strikes for higher wage
Planet lurches to the right as ideologies engage
Suddenly it’s repression, moratorium on rights
What did they think the politics of panic would invite?
Person in the street shrugs — “Security comes first”
But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse

Callous men in business costume speak computerese
Play pinball with the Third World trying to keep it on its knees
Their single crop starvation plans put sugar in your tea
And the local Third World’s kept on reservations you don’t see
“It’ll all go back to normal if we put our nation first”
But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse

Fashionable fascism dominates the scene
When ends don’t meet it’s easier to justify the means
Tenants get the dregs and landlords get the cream
As the grinding devolution of the democratic dream
Brings us men in gas masks dancing while the shells burst
The trouble with normal is it always gets worse

June 30, 1981 – Toronto, Canada

Also On:
Rumours Of Glory – 1985
Waiting For A Miracle – 1987
Rumours Of Glory box set – disc 3 – 2014

Sun climbs toward high noon,
Glints metallic off the bowl of the spoon
Sliding through the air toward parted lips
Watch the expression when the straight taste hits
Face crumples, tongue’s quickly withdrawn
I hate to tell you but the candy man’s gone

Oh sweet fantasia of the safe home
Where nobody has to scrape for honey at the bottom of the comb
Where every actor understands the scene
And nobody ever means to be mean
Catch it in a dream, catch it in a song
Seek it on the street, you find the candy man’s gone
I hate to tell you but the candy man’s gone

In the bar, in the senate, in the alley, in the study
Pimping dreams of riches for everybody
“Something for nothing, new lamps for old
And the streets will be platinum, never mind gold”
Well, hey, pass it on
Misplaced your faith and the candy man’s gone
I hate to tell you but the candy man’s gone

December 3, 1981 – NYC, Boston

Also On:
Waiting For A Miracle – 1987

Tokyo jetlag evening walking
Out of my throat appears this chuckle
A true 20th Century sound
A little crazed and having no tonal centre

The echoes of this laugh fade for a long time
Snaking among those jumbled pedestrians
Following that struggling Cedric taxicab
Sliding over the seeming infinity of white light and neon

With no warning, mind’s eye winks like a lifespan
And opens again on memory flash of prairie Indian
Dancers — they’re on a stage, all jigging motion
And flare of bright feathers, surrounded by white faces
Floating on a sea of mind
Hoop dancer struts in front — drum and voices blend with endless rain

There’s a time line
Something like vertical, like perpendicular
Cutting through figures shuffling on horizontal plane
Cutting through the survival pride of the dancers
Through the guilty, sentimental warmth of the crowd
Through to some essence common to us, to original man
To perhaps descendants numberless … or few

Where it intersects the space at hand
This shaman with the hoops stands
Aligned like living magnetic needle between deep past and looming future
Butterfly pierced on each drum beat, wing beat, static spark, storm front, energy circle delineated by leaping limbs

1st man last man dancing man man dancing
Hoops in hand trampled grass circle spreading
Voices flame above crazy coyote heartbeat drum

I see sunrise on the plains big river at dusk
Perpetual pillar of dust on prairie rim and always overhead
those wings — circling, turning

He’s the earth he’s the egg he’s the eagle always circling
Always turning — always comes back to the centre

Hoops whirling, now transparent feet touch down on anaconda
Streets and on the next leap dissolve slowly into the moving lights

Rainbow steps, jerking universe
Goodbye, man-in-time
And just beyond the clatter and cars the last long notes of wild voices ring
Like Roland’s horn

September 5, 1979 – Tokyo

Body lines fluid in static heat
Thoughts buzzing like flies around meat
Land here — land there —
Quick circles in the air
I’m riding smooth but just a little slow
Waiting for the moon to show

Leather-faced old men by the cafe wall
Kids in the surf splashing with a soccer ball
I gaze through curved lens
Trying to identify the sky’s end
Little spots on the horizon into gunboats grow
Waiting for the moon to show

Might be a party — might be a war
When those faceless sailors come ashore
Speculation is a waste of time
You want to go have a glass of wine?
Whatever’s coming, there’s no place else to go
Waiting for the moon to show

September 12, 1981 – Lauzarote

Away from the river
Away from the smoke of the burning
Fearful survivors
Subject of government directives
One sad guitar note
Echoes of the wall of the jungle
Seen from the air they’re just targets with nowhere to run to

Children of rape
Raised on malnutrition
Men in camouflage
Filled with a sense of mission
Light through the wire mesh
Plays on the president’s pistol
Like the gleam of a bead of sweat in the flow of a candle

Hear the cry in the tropic night
Should be the cry of love but it’s a cry of fright
Some people never see the light
Till it shines through bullet holes

The tropic moon
Bathing a beach fringed with palms
Glitters on shells
And beach tar and coke cans
And on the night-coloured boat
And on the barrels of guns
In the rage in the hearts of these men is the seed of a wind they call
Kingdom Come

Hear the cry…

June 4, 1982 – Sardegna

Also On:
Rumours Of Glory – 1985
Waiting For A Miracle – 1987
Rumours Of Glory box set – disc 4 – 2014

Moon across the valley
Squatting on the roof
Of the dirty gray bank
Like a cop with no proof

We were lying in bliss
Love was cooling into sleep
There was a dream on the horizon
And a punch-up in the street

We were lying on the mountain
by the satellite dish
Humming with the tremors of
Every envy, rage and wish
Orchids and radar
In the dazzling night
The stars were all racing like satellites

Going up against chaos
Going up against chaos
Two hearts full of tough love

We were bodies of light
Like we’ll be someday
The sirens and the curses
Were light years away

We were Lot on the mountain
We were Noah on the Ark
Flying hand in hand
From the doghowl dark

Going up against chaos
Going up against chaos
Two hearts full of tough love

August 8, 1981 – Toronto

Also On:
Rumours Of Glory – 1985

Don’t need the everlasting trade expansion
Don’t need the cold white heroin breath
Don’t need Pizzarro or the Inquisition
No berserk worship of a hero’s death
Don’t need reactionary politicians
Don’t need the gunfight at the O.K.
Don’t need no Reverend Paisley hate-masturbation
Don’t need no Jihad or no IRA

We need to put our hearts together
Set up a rhythm in combination
And if we put our hearts together
We get a rhythm that will shake creation

Who needs supremacy of pink people
There’s no such thing as a pure racial strain
It takes all colours to make a rainbow
Takes every part to make a working brain
The whole of history is a growing together
If you want pure, you’re gonna have caves again
Anyway who needs a geek like the Grand Dragon
So full of shit his breath makes acid rain

We need to put our hearts together
Set up a rhythm in combination
And if we put our hearts together
We get a rhythm that will shake creation

Woman-in-kitchen, man-in-palace
Worshipping the performance of the phallus
Gaming for power till their hearts grow callous
As if a human’s just an animal with malice
Limp lance, phallocrat, finger on the trigger
Go ahead and stay small while everything gets bigger
It’s a bully’s game and I don’t want to play
Why don’t you think about the better way

We need to put our hearts together
Set up a rhythm in combination
And if we put our hearts together
We get a rhythm that will shake creation

January 3, 1983 – St. Vincent

I need a helmet to protect my head
I need earphones to hear what gets said
I need a miracle to keep this little thread from snapping

I know a lot about alienated man
But we’ve all heard as much about that as we can stand
It’s just what happens when you let the time span catch you napping

Two forward and one back
Blind fingers groping for the right track
What’s to do when a stab and a pat on the back look like the same thing?

Civilization and its discontents
When all’s been said and all the money spent
Trying to beat the system of the world’s events
Gets you nowhere.

Tired faces with the bus stop blues
Man on a bench with a blanket of news
The young Jamaican joking with the old Jew about women

So many people so lost you feel sorry
But too much pathos just makes you angry
And even though I know who loves me I’m not that much less lost

Black outline, sliding gray scale
Subtle variations of dark to pale
Pearl sky raining light like hail, come on and pierce me
Raining light like a vision of the holy grail, come on and pierce me

Civilization and its discontents
When all’s been said and all the money spent
Trying to beat the system of the world’s events
Gets you nowhere.

July 2, 1981 – Toronto

Stare into the moonlight
Silver fingers press my eyes
Probing in my heart with longing

These footprints by the sea’s edge
Disappearing grain by grain
Lose their form but keep their substance

As the waves roar on the beach like a squadron of F16’s
Ebb and flow like the better days they say this world has seen

Government by outrage
Hunger camps and shanty towns
Dignity and love still holding

This bluegreen ball in black space
Filled with beauty even now
battered and abused and lovely

And the waves roar on the beach like a squadron of F16’s
Ebb and flow like the better days they say this world has seen

Each one in our own heart
Desperate to know where we stand
Planet of the clowns in wet shoes

September 9, 1981 – Tenerife

Also On:
Rumours Of Glory box set – disc 4 – 2014

Instrumental

Languid mandala of the ceiling fan
moving air like a slow stroking hand
music drifts in like the embassy
of afternoon’s sullen sensuality
i wanna dance with you

African voices in an opium dream
magenta waves on a sea of bluegreen
i wanna dance with you til the sky gets clear
dance til the calluses fall off my ears
i wanna dance with you

Hours get shorter as the days go by
you never get to stop and open your eyes
trouble with the nation, trouble with the relations
where you gonna go for some illumination?
i wanna dance with you

Autumn ’81 – Toronto



Bruce Cockburn’s political activism is immediately apparent on “The Trouble With Normal”, an album bristling with anger and outrage.

Album Info:

Words and music by Bruce Cockburn
Published by Golden Mountain Corp. (BMI)
Traduction by Marcel Mousette
Recorded at studio Manta Sound, Toronto, September 1982 – January 1983
Engineer: Gary Gray
Mastering: Sterling Sound, New York
Produced by True North Productions

The Musicians are:
Bruce Cockburn: Guitar and voices
Bob DiSalle: Drums
Jon Goldsmith: Keyboards
Hugh Marsh: Violin and mandolin
Dennis Pendrith: Bass and stick
Dick Smith: Percussion
Background vocals on ” Put Our Hearts Together”: Sharon Lee Williams, Shawne Jackson, Collina Phillips

All songs written by Bruce Cockburn ©1983 Golden Mountain Music Corp. Used by permission.

Art direction: Micheal Wurstlin
Photography: George Whiteside
Direction: The Finkelstein Management Company Limited
151 John Street, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5V 2T2
(416)596-8696 Telex: 065-24566

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: Originally released in 1983, “The Trouble With Normal” is yet another gem from the Bruce Cockburn catalog. Explicit politics dominate the record, led by the weighty title track, whose lyrics, like those of so many of Cockburn’s political songs, still ring true today. This remastered version of the album contains two bonus tracks, both recorded during the sessions for the album: the romantic “Wanna Dance With You,” a reggae number, and “Cala Luna,” a moody instrumental. “The Trouble with Normal” is a rich testament to Bruce Cockburn’s timeless, sophisticated sound-and worldview. Produced by Eugene Martynec.