"Last Night Of The World" shows Cockburn's sensitivity to the everyday
circumstance that Guatemalan refugees face.
"When I say that the experience 'broke me open' it refers to the process of
beginning to recognize the centrality of love. Those people that I saw showed
an incredible amount of courage, self-discipline and restraint.
I've never seen anything like that and it was an experience that
I had no parallel for. It was a hard look at humanity and much more
representative of how most of the world lives. You and I, the luxuries and
way we live is in the minority."
-- from "Walking the Line With Bruce Cockburn", Indie-Music.com, circa 1999, by Heidi Drockelman.
"In the last verse I was thinking specifically of refugees I had encountered back in 1983 in the south of Mexico. They had fled terrible things, were being starved and dying of disease. It couldn't get much worse, yet they faced their plight with discipline and this eternal flame of hope. It was such a poignant thing to witness. It made a huge impression on me. Whenever I get the feeling that things in life are hopeless, I only have to think of that. If those people could have hope in their circumstances it's ridiculously decadent for us not to have it. In that sense it 'broke me open' - put a big crack in the cynicism and lowered expectations that we grow up with in a culture like ours. * Flor de Caña is the world's best rum. It comes from Nicaragua and Honduras, and every now and then somebody brings me a bottle."
-- from "Bruce Cockburn, Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu", Ryko press release, undated, circa August 1999. Submitted by Nigel Parry.
24 August 1999
BC: "Just a note of explanation in the first line of the song it mentions Flor de Caña, Flor de Caña is the best rum in the world and it comes from Nicaragua. I'm not saying anything about Florida, which some people have thought, or anything about Canada so (mumbles) that's what I'm saying when I say that line, I just thought you'd know this early in the morning, in case my annunciation's a little tired..."
Laura Ellen: "So I gotta know, I heard that song for the first time and I thought OH that's the millenium song"
BC: [laughs] "I guess!?....everybody's doing it!
LE: "I guess! Well, it does actually, if you've got to do one that's a nice one to do. But, oh good, finally somebody did one that we kind of play..."
BC: "Well, it seemed to me, you know, with all the fuss being made, I'm not sure I was really thinking this when I wrote the song, but it certainly has occured to me since, that, you know, with all the fuss that everybody's making about it, everything from, you know, going out and burying gold in your backyard, to going off and living in a cave with a big pile of ammunition, ehh, you sort of, it's kind of missing the point, you know, I mean if it really IS the end of things as we know it, there are other responses that might be more, more appropropriate and one of them, would be to, to live to fullest, between now and then, you know, including right up to the moment and that's sort of, its, you know, it's kind of in response to that panic thinking I think, you know, there's uh there's an end of the world for each of us, at some point that we won't know is coming until it gets there..."
LE: "So that millineium thing actually gives you a sense of security.Thinking that's going to be the last, I mean, you know....right?"
BC: "Well, I don't know that I'd quite ascribe to that notion but (laughs) but it certainly doesn't give me much of a sense of insecurity, let's put it that way, I don't think it's about that, um, I also don't think it's going to be as bad as people think it is on this continent at least anyway, there might be parts of the world where it is."
-- from an interview/live performance with Laura Ellen, "Live in the Sty" programme, KPIG radio station, Freedom, California, 24 August 1999. Anonymous submission.
24 August 1999
John Fisher/Mike West: ....the details of this song sound so meticulous and specific that it really sound like you really were sitting somewhere sipping Flor de Caña, is that what it is?
BC: Yeah, that's Nicaraguan rum, it's the finest rum in the world and I was lucky enough to have some of it on that occasion.
JF/MW: And, the radio's playing Superchunk and the Friends of Dean Martinez, which are very odd bands to conjure up! Were you really listening to that on the radio?
BC: Yeah, yeah! I never make anything up, I'm just a reporter.
JF/MW: And the fruitfly was, uh...
BC: The fruitfly was busy on the..trying to get into my wine and oh, into my rum, rather and uh, that's a problem in Toronto in the summertime, there's always lots of fruitflies.
JF/MW: Oh, okay...
BC: But the song actually came from, out of a conversation with Sam Phillips, one point we were walking along, and it might even have been in Seattle and um, I was carrying this bag of stuff that I always carry around, this knapsack with whatever, you know, notebook, flashlight, toilet paper...
JF/MW: ...the essentials..
BC: ...rope, Power Bars, all that stuff [laughing] and uh, we were walking up some hill somewhere and she is going: What do you carry in that thing anyway? And I said: Oh, it's everything I need for the Apocalypse! And, and, Sam just stopped and looked at me and said: What do you need for the Apocalypse besides champagne and a couple of glasses? And I [thought] man, that's a song you know, there's a song in there for sure! It took me a few years to figure out what it was but that's what really triggered the sentiment in Last Night of the World.
JF/MW: And if nothing else I think you're ready for Y2K also, there Bruce!
BC: Well, that's right, ya know? I mean and once you're ready for it, you can ignore it!
-- from an interview on the Morning Show with John Fisher and Mike West of KMTT, "The Mountain", 24 August 1999. Anonymous submission.
6 February 2000
HANSEN: Oh. We're going to hear an instrumental version of "Mango" in just a
bit because you have your guitar with you and you're going to play it for
us, but I have to ask you: If this were the last night on Earth, what would
BC: (Laughs) In the song "Last Night of the World," which you were
alluding to there, I do whatever I was doing, you know, and try to do it
(Soundbite of "Last Night of the World" by Bruce Cockburn)
BC: (Sings) I'm sitting in Florida Cavern lounges [Editor's note:
The actual lyric is: I'm sipping Flore de Cana] , it's 3 AM, blow
a fruit fly off the rim of my glass, the radio's playing Superchunk and the
"Friends of Dean Martinez"...
With all the millennial doomsday speculations, it's important to remember
that there's an end of the world for each of us, whether we all do it at the
same time or not, and that's the thing you need to prepare for. And I view
it as a kind of graduation; to me, life is a kind of school and when we're
ready, we graduate barring interference with the program by psychopaths and
other sorts of things. And that's really what we should be focusing on.
(Soundbite of "Last Night of the World" by Bruce Cockburn)
BC: and Unidentified Singer: (Singing in unison) If this were the
last night of the world, what would I do? What would I do that's different,
unless it was champagne with you?
The champagne notion, actually, I owe to Sam Phillips, who's a great
songwriter and a good friend. She toured with us some years back and at one
point, she saw me carrying this backpack that I'm always lugging around
loaded with books and useful things: PowerBars, flashlight, rope, you know,
all sorts of stuff, so. And she said, 'What are you carrying in that thing
anyway?' I said, 'It's everything I need for the apocalypse.' And she just
stopped and looked at me and in my mind, I picture her putting her hands on
her hips and kind of giving me this quizzical expression, and she just said,
'What do you need for the apocalypse besides champagne and a couple of
glasses?' And I thought that was the most succinct statement you could
possibly make about the correct attitude toward the end of the world, so
that's where that came from.
-- from "Bruce Cockburn, Musician, Shares History and Songs of his New CD,
Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu" by Liane Hansen, Weekend
Edition Sunday, National Public Radio, February 6, 2000. Submitted by Suzanne Capobianco Myers.
14 May 2000
[parts of "Last Night Of The World" were based on the plight of Guatemalan refugees Cockburn met in Mexico in 1983, an experience that deeeply affected him.]
"They had been through so much and they were living in such desperate conditions, and yet they hadn't given up," he said. "There was this quiet dignity and self-possession about them that was very moving.
"For people who live where we do, in North America or in the developed world anywhere, it's easy for us to sit around and feel hopeless and cynical about things. But it's a luxury, it's a kind of decadence to do that. The vast majority of people in the world can't afford to do that - they're just faced with . . . real life-and-death issues all the time. And these people have a great capacity for appreciating things, for joy, for forgetting their troubles, for getting on with things and moving forward," he said.
- from "Bruce Cockburn: Canadian will bring his band to Whitaker Center," by Kira L Schlechter, The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, PA, May 14, 2000. Submitted by John Peregrim.
29 June 2002
Sedge Thompson: - "Last Night of the World, what memory does that bring up for you?"
BC: "That brings up actually walking through the streets of Arcata, California with Sam Phillips. We went for a walk at night, she was opening shows for us on that tour, and we went for a walk in the dark, looking at amazing old houses and so on and just kind of feeling the place and somehow we got talking about the end of the world. I'm not quite sure what the connection was between Arcata and the end of the world but,"
ST: "end of the continent, at the edge, I don't know?"
BC: "there it came, Oh I know what is was now, I was lugging my backpack around, which I generally lug around and we'd been walking for quite awhile and she sort of noticed that I was lugging this thing and she said, 'What do ya got in there anyway?' and I said it's everything I need for the apocalypse. She stopped, and she just sort of looked at me and she went 'what do you need for the apocalypse but champagne and a couple of glasses?'
It was such a great statement of everything, that, I retained it, and I thought 'Man, if she doesn't use that in a song, I'm going to, so I did. Sam forgot she ever said it, until I reminded her, but the song yeah, Last Night Of The World."
ST: "So what do you carry in your packback now?"
BC: "Well, I'm less concerned about the apocalypse, I don't carry champagne, but just sort of basic stuff, notebook mostly that's the most important thing that goes in there."
-- from Sedge Thompson's interview on West Coast Live, 29 June 2002, at the Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival in Laytonville, California. Transcribed and submitted to the project by Bobbi Wisby.
"Linda Manzer's house. Y2K approaching. Sam Phillips' question in response to my wisecrack that my shoulder bag contained "everything I need for the apocalypse". She said. "What do you need for the apocalypse except champagne and a couple of glasses?"
~ from the liner notes of Greatest Hits (1970-2020)
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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.