Friday, June 27, 2014

Guest post by Don Berg: Evolution of Bruce Cockburn lyrics part 4: "Night Visions"

by Don Berg
Night Visions (1973)
In 1973 Bruce reaches his “Moment of Surrender.” His album Night Visions is suffused with dark images of a man in crisis. A man who is trapped in visions of the night, looking for the dawn. The songs “Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long”; “Clocks Don’t Bring Tomorrow, Knives Don’t Bring Good News”; “When the Sun Goes Nova”; and “The Blues got the World...” paint the picture of descent into crisis of the singer. Even the song Foxglove, and instrumental is named after a toxic plant (which in it’s own moment of surrender can be synthesized into the life-saving drug digitalis. I find a lot of parallels between this album and the U2 song “Moment of Surrender.”

Bruce sings:
I've been in paris doing what the frenchmen do

He says if we burn up the roof from above us
We surely will see the light and maybe more

Bono sings:
I tied myself with wire
To let the horses roam free
Playing with the fire
Until the fire played with me

Bruce reaches his moment of Surrender in the song “You don’t have to play the horses:”
So we wait beside the desert
Nothing left to give away
Naked as the Hanged Man's secrets
Nothing left to do but pray...

Oh God I don't know where to step now
Help me find the right road please

For Bono it comes like this:
I’ve been in every black hole
At the altar of the dark star
My body’s now a begging bowl
That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
To my heart
To the rhythm of my soul
To the rhythm of my unconsciousness
To the rhythm that yearns
To be released from control

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me
And both singers sing of a vision:
Bruce in “God Bless the Children”
With pain the world paves us over
Lord let us not betray
God bless the children with visions of the Day

At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

On a final note I wanted to illustrate the imagery of Cockburns lyrics as here he describes dusk:
Night comes
The mask of the world
Resolves into round bits of silver on the table
Round arrow nocked against the bow
Round fruit devoured by time
While the moon climbs

by Don Berg

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