-- Berlin Tonight --
February 1985. 2 Germanies.

Found on:

World of Wonders (1986)

Rumours of Glory - box set Disc 4 (2014) [compilation album]

Dull twilight spits hesitant sulphur rain
Sky been down around our ears for weeks
Only once -- gap-glimpsed moon over that anal-retentive border wall
As we laughed through some midnight checkpoint under yellow urban cloud

Weeks of frantic motion -- petrol veins of Europe pumping
Through scratchy acid-bitten transparent winter trees
Through brownish haze that makes a ghost of the horizon
I'm rushing after some ever-receding destination

Berlin tonight
Table-dancing in black tights
Waving a silver crutch in the blue lights
Shapechanging over glass
On the front line of the last gasp

Green shoots of winter wheat and patches of snow
Russian walks dog in Saxon field
From the top of a solitary tree like the one on the flag of Lebanon
Unblinking eye of hawk follows traffic on the autobahn

Tank convoy winds down smokestack valley
Pround chemical pennants wave against the sky
Turret gunner laughs when I throw up my hands
I'm all glasses and grin to him under my "commie" fur hat

Berlin tonight
Table-dancing in black tights
Waving a silver crutch in the blue lights
Shapechanging over glass
On the front line of the last gasp

Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this song, by date:

  • Early 1985

    "The border guards were giving us a pretty hard time until they realised that we were musicians. At that point they started getting friendly and we passed through, pretty unscathed."

    - Cockburn on crossing the border from West to East Germany, in response to a backstage question about how he was treated behind the Iron Curtain. From Ann Arbor, Michigan during the Stealing Fire tour, early 1995. Submitted by Marshall Bicer.

  • November/December 1999

    BC: If you look at what I wrote in the seventies, it's full of sunlight. "Sunwheel Dance," for example. There's sun imagery all over the place. Yet it was a period when I was searching but very unaware of my own inner workings. There was all this optimism, even though the songs themselves may have been going in different directions. But the imagery of light was there--a lot.

    Things got a little darker through the eighties. The focus shifted from nature and the spiritual to people and the spiritual. It was more outward directed. The light shifted; there was a lot less light. Stuff like "Berlin Tonight" comes to mind, where light's either not an issue or it's a darker kind of light, much more metallic. In a way, The Charity of Night was the culmination of that whole line of looking at things.

    - from "Fire in an Open Hand" by Susan Adams Kauffman, The Other Side magazine, November/December 1999. Submitted by Nigel Parry.

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    This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.