I honestly don't know what to make of Larry Norman. Larry is one of Christian music's pioneers, and I believe he had genius in his early years, and then. . . well I don't know what happened to him. But nevertheless, he had genius. I mean, take this song, for example, called "Nightmare" (from So Long Ago the Garden) a/k/a "Nightmare #71":
last night i had that same old dream it rocked me in my sleep
and left me the impression that the sandman plays for keeps
i dreamed i was in concert in the middle of the clouds
john wayne and billy graham were giving breath mints to the crowds
i fell through a hole in heaven i left the stage for good
and when i landed on the earth i was back in hollywood
the california earthquake it tore the land in half
while san andreas cleared her throat i heard tsunami laugh
the ground began to tremble the land began to sway
and people in the other states they were glad they'd moved away
but suddenly california just floated in the breeze
while every state that wasn't sank down into the seas
and soon i saw atlantis rumble and rise high
and the great egg of euphrates came down out of the sky
and out stepped shirley temple with guy kippee who was dead
and that communist bill robinson whom shirley called black red
they have a marionette of harpo marx they said it was an inside joke
but when i honked his horn he came alive and these were the words he spoke
"with the continents adrift and the sun about to shift
will the ice caps drown us all or will we burn
we've polluted what we own will we reap what we have sown?
are we headed for the end or can we turn?
we've paved the forest killed the streams
burned the bridges to our dreams
the earth is bursting at the seams
and in pain of childbirth screams
as it gives life to what seems
to either be an age that gleams
or simply lays there dying
if this goes on will life survive how can it
out of the grave oh who will save our planet?"
i said i'm pleased to meet you i always thought you were a scream
he said "have you ever thought of having helen keller in your dreams
i said errol flynn dropped by but he tried to steal my girl
the she ran off with ronald colman said something about a new world
now i'm stuck with my own cooking hey i'm lonely can't you see
well he grabbed my leg and said exactly eighty nine words to me
"let the proud but dying nation kiss the last generation
it's the year of the pill, age of the gland
we have landed on the moon but we'll clutter that up soon
our sense of freedom's gotten out of hand
we kill our children swap our wives
we've learned to greet a man with knives
we swallow pills in fours and fives
our cities look like crumbling hives
man does not live he just survives
we sleep till he arrives
love is a corpse we sit and watch it harden
we left it oh so long ago the garden"
the strings snapped briskly then went slack the marionette lay dead
while hoover played with the motorcade the body slumped and bled
the man who held the camera disappeared into the crowd
i said the hope of youth, fictitious truth, lays covered in a shroud
then up walked elmo lincoln and he said i beg you pardon
but we left it oh so long ago, the garden
Oh my. It's even wilder to hear it. This apocolyptic dream manages to put John Wayne, Billy Graham, and Erroll Flynn all in one. Harpo Marx shows up, and Shirley Temple, and Ronald Coleman saying something about a new world, and we're stuck with our own cooking. What a song!
I don't know what's wrong with Larry Norman. Some say a piece of a plane fell out of the sky and hit him in the head. He has medical problems. He needs money for his medical treatments. He can't come outside. He won't touch people for fear of germs. He thinks the "United States is becoming a totalitarian society." I wonder if he 's like Bob Dylan who interviewed once like this:
Q. Do you have any children?
BD. Every man with medical problems has children.
Q. What are your medical problems?
BD. Well, there's glass in the back of my head. I'm a very sick person. I can't see too well on Tuesdays. These dark glasses are prescribed. I'm not trying to be a beatnik. I have mercuryesque eyes. And another thing -- my toenails don't fit.
He's said a lot of things that alienated him from people. He keeps reissuing records with "lost tracks", "found" tracks, "remastered" tracks, and more, and sells them at excessive prices to a small but rabid (and aging) fan base. He doesn't seem to be able to write a song like "Nightmare" anymore. These are all things that have been said about Larry.
I don't know what's true or false about all these claims about Larry, but I do think I know what's wrong with him. He needs to be made whole again. We both do.
"We sleep till he arrives." Keep the faith, Larry.