No cold panic, no alarm
The pubs rang out with "Auld Lang Syne" as a politician tossed a coin
It was normal
Before the end, the children played while old men watched them from the shade
Bemoaned the heat, the price of tea, discussed perverse psychology
Before the end, in a darkened room, Tom waited for his best girl June
Fingers crossed, he quietly prayed
"Lie down," he whispered; she obeyed
It was normal
Ring a ring of roses, a pocket full of posies
A tissue, a tissue, all fall down
'Cause we're normal
Before the end, in a crowded store, Miss Demeanor broke the law
Shifty eyes, sleight of hand, slipped up a sleeve a sardine can
Naughty (tsk tsk) but normal
Before the end, in a cramped bedsit, George slid a razor cross his wrist
Bloody jeans, tearful eyes, unhooked the phone, fed the mice
Before the end, in a cushioned pod, Mr
Dial-a-Prophet looked for god
Flaming throne to slice the sky for mankind's last united cry
"We're normal! Can't happen to us! We're normal!" (It can't happen to us!)
Before the End (1)
Before the end, the town was calm. No cold panic, no alarm. (2) The pubs rang out with "Auld Lang Syne" as a politician tossed a coin. (3) It was normal. Before the end, the children played while old men watched them from the shade. Bemoaned the heat, the price of tea, discussed perverse psychology. (4) Normal... A-OK. Before the end, in a darkened room, Tom waited for his best girl June. Fingers crossed, he quietly prayed. "Lie down," he whispered; she obeyed.(5) It was normal. Ring a ring of roses, a pocket full of posies. A tissue, a tissue, all fall down. 'Cos we're normal. (6) Before the end, in a crowded store, Miss Demeanor broke the law. Shifty eyes, sleight of hand, slipped up a sleeve a sardine can. Naughty (tsk tsk) but normal. (7) Before the end, in a cramped bedsit, George slid a razor cross his wrist. Bloody jeans, tearful eyes, unhooked the phone, fed the mice. Nasty. (8) Before the end, in a cushioned pod, Mr. Dial-a-Prophet looked for god. Flaming throne to slice the sky (9) for mankind's last united cry. "We're normal! Can't happen to us! We're normal!" (It can't happen to us!) (10)
(1) What "End" does this song refer to? Certainly there is a large amount of apocalyptic imagery in Edward Ka-Spel's lyrics, in the sense of apokalupsis eschaton - usually misrepresented as the end of the world. So is this a portrait of a town before the end of the world? Further along we find that the pubs in this town are ringing out with "Auld Sang Lyne", which means "For old time's sake", and is traditionally sang to ring in the new year. So then, this appears to be a town shortly before the end of the old year. However, with lines like "mankind's last united cry" things seem a bit more weighty than merely being the end of a year.
Combining both ideas, and keeping in mind the song was written some 20 years before the turn of the millennium, the "End" that the song refers to could be the phenomena that occurs whenever the Gregorian method used to count the years reaches a thousand mark. This concept is usually referred to as 'Millennium Madness". This phenomena carries a large amount of belief with it that the world will somehow end at that point, even though there are many other calendars that use completely different numbering systems. Certainly Edward expresses an interest in such things - see, for instance the interviews with him around the actual time of the turn of the Millennium, or the press release for 1999's "The Blue Room".
(2) So, before this "end", this town is calm. No alarm is being rung. Everyone appears to be going about their routine as they usually do. No one seems to be using this chance to do anything differently than they might usually.
(3) A politician tossing a coin could be referring to the way that politicians gamble or waste away the money of the people that make up the area they are supposed to be serving. Definitely no different than the last thousand years...
(4) Perversion is a concept describing those types of human behavior that are perceived to be a serious deviation from what is considered to be orthodox or normal. Although it can refer to varying forms of deviation, it is most often used to describe sexual behaviors that are seen as abnormal or excessive. Perversion differs from deviant behavior, since the latter can refer to a recognized violation of social rules or norms (although the two terms can apply to the same thing). It is often considered derogatory and in psychological literature the term paraphilia is now used instead, though this term is controversial. Psychology, of course, is the study of the mind. So these old men are watching children play and discussing Perverse Psychology. These are commonly referred to as "Dirty Old Men". These guys have definitely been around for a while...
(5) Tom and June. This couple could reflect an age old scene of the male dominated society, in this instance in the bedroom. The obedient wife. Though this is still prevalent amongst many pockets of society, this at least seems to be changing since the advent of the sexual revolution and the women's liberation movement from the 1960's. Tom, however, is hoping he'll get "lucky" - a pattern that happens with most teens - and whispers his command, so perhaps this is a different (though still continuing) pattern.
(6) Edward then quotes the old nursery rhyme, "Ring a ring of roses". Many have associated the poem with the Great Plague of London in 1665, or with earlier outbreaks of bubonic plague in England. Interpreters of the rhyme before World War II make no mention of this; by 1951, however, it seems to have become well established as an explanation for the form of the rhyme that had become standard in Britain. The invariable sneezing and falling down in modern English versions have given would-be origin finders the opportunity to say that the rhyme dates back to the Great Plague. A rosy rash, they allege, was a symptom of the plague, posies of herbs were carried as protection, sneezing was a final fatal symptom , and “all fall down” was exactly what happened. So, why would this be "normal"? That children have made a game out of something so awful? That we all simply accept that things are the way they are and thus "fall down" when the change actually comes?
(7) Miss Demeanor is a rather funny play on words. Demeanor is someone's outward manner or behaviour towards others, but this character is a petty shoplifter, which is not a felony offense in most western countries - it is merely a misdemeanor charge. Though it is against the law, it happens all the time, and is thus a "normality".
(8) This George character is obviously committing suicide. Interesting, that although this happens, and is something in life to be faced - Edward here does not sing the implied line "normal".
(9) I am uncertain if there were phone hotlines like Dionne Warwick's [That's what] Psychic Friends [are for] when this song was written, but surely there were television and radio evangelists. Groups of people would get exposed as scammers in the mid-eighties due to the activities of those like Tammy and Jim Baker and movies like "Margoe." This is what Dial-a-Prophet could refer to - tuning in a television or radio broadcast of one of these people who take the money of the gullible and naive. Happens all the time, still...
Flaming Throne seems to refer to Daniel 7:9 "I beheld till thrones were placed, and one that was ancient of days did sit: his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and the wheels thereof burning fire." Not certain why this is included, except to extend the prophet/god reference. The Book of Daniel certainly has apocalyptic elements to it...
(10) Who is really normal? All of humanity seems to be full of infinite diversity in infinite combinations (to use a Star Trek Vulcanism). Therefore, paradoxically, the only norm seems to be that there is no norm. Even ideologies within churches will vary from person to person when questioned. Here, humanity is united in their differences by crying out together "We're normal!" "It can't happen to us" seems to place humanity in a position of denial that anything could ever come along and end their daily routines...