Music Throwback Saturday: The Trouble with Normal

Person in the street shrugs — “Security comes first”
But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse

quote-the-trouble-with-normal-is-it-only-gets-worse-bruce-cockburn-73-7-0789In celebration of the 71st birthday of Bruce Cockburn (pronounced CO-burn) on May 25, I played the one compilation CD of his that I own. To call it a “greatest hits” would be stretching it, since he was not a commercial engine, though a well-regarded singer/songwriter, often covered, who’s been recording at least since 1970.

I DO have three of his LPs, his 9th through 11th, on vinyl, as it turns out, probably a function of hearing the songs on WQBK-FM, Q104 in Albany in the period. Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws (1978) features his one bona fide US hit, Wondering Where the Lions Are, which got up to #21 on the Billboard charts. I did not know this: “While also a Top 40 hit in Cockburn’s native Canada, it was not his biggest hit in that country, where seven of his subsequent singles reached higher chart positions.” I also have the albums Humans (1980) and Inner City Front (1981).

The subsequent album, The Trouble with Normal (1983), I do not own. But the title song got some airplay around here. And almost any time the world seems to be lurching in the wrong direction, I evoke that song.

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

Strikes for higher wages? The politics of panic? “Security comes first”? When was this written, 2015? Certainly after 9/11, one would think.

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

America first. Sounds oddly familiar.

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

He’s still putting out the occasional album. He also performed and co-wrote the theme song to a TV cartoon about a turtle named Franklin, which came out for 78 episodes around the turn of the century, and was rerun until 2009, so my daughter watched it.

Listen to
Wondering Where the Lions Are HERE or HERE

The Trouble with Normal HERE or HERE

Franklin theme HERE

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “Music Throwback Saturday: The Trouble with Normal”

  1. My favorite Cockburn, I think, is “If a Tree Falls,” from the 1988 LP Big Circumstance.

    “What kind of currency grows in these new deserts, these brand new flood plains?”

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