-- Silver Wheels --
21 July 1976. Burritt's Rapids.

Found on:

In The Falling Dark (1976) & (2002)

Resume (1981) [compilation album]

Mummy Dust (1981) [compilation album]

Waiting For A Miracle, Singles 1970-1987 (1987) [compilation album]

Bruce Cockburn Live (1990) & (2002) [live album]

Rumours of Glory - box set Disc 2 (2014) [compilation album]

Greatest Hits (1970-2020) (2021) [compilation album]

High speed drift on a prairie road
Hot tires sing like a string being bowed
Sudden town rears up then explodes
Fragments resolve into white line code
Whirl on silver wheels

Black earth energy receptor fields
Undulate under a grey cloud shield
We outrun a river colour brick red mud
That cleaves apart hills soil rich as blood

Highway squeeze in construction steam
Stop caution hard hat yellow insect machines
Silver steel towers stalk rolling land
Toward distant stacks that shout "Feed on demand"

100 miles later the sky has changed
Urban anticipation -- we get 4 lanes
Red orange furnace sphere notches down
Throws up silhouette skyline in brown

Sundogs flare on windshield glass
Sudden swoop skyward iron horse overpass
Pass a man walking like the man in the moon
Walking like his head's full of irish fiddle tunes

The skin around every city looks the same
Miles of flat neon spelling well-known names
Fat wheeled cars squeal into the sun

Radio speakers gargle top 40 trash
Muzak soundtrack to slow collapse
Planet engines pulsate in sidereal time
If you listen close you can hear the whine

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

  • 1986 - "A lot of transcontinental travel at the time- this song came out under the impact of Ginsburg's 'The Fall Of America' and a record I kept hearing on CHUM-FM in my truck which had a doubled acoustic guitar part I liked. I can't remember who the band was- Queen maybe."
    -- from "All The Diamonds" songbook, edited by Arthur McGregor, OFC Publications 1986. Submitted by Rob Caldwell.

  • 23 April 1995

    There's a song called 'Silver Wheels;' it goes back a ways, and it is basically a list of things unfolding as they unfolded, which is a thing that you encounter in the poetry of Alan Ginsberg, for instance, and also in the poetry of a French poet named Blaise Cendrar who, I think, probably influenced Ginsberg as well. He's got marvelous travel poems that span the globe and have a kind of mythic quality. Ginsberg, of course, goes less for the myth and more for the gritty reality...and this is kind of in between, I think.
    -- from Interview, Various Artists: In Their Own Words: a bunch of songwriters sittin' around singing, Vol. 2 by David Dye, The Bottom Line, NY, NY, April 23, 1995. Submitted by James Sobczak.

  • 2021

    "Notes from a headlong westward plunge across the prairies, head full of Ginsburg's The Fall of America, Going to the Country on amphetamine..."

    ~ 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.