musical portraits and cinematography of the soul, defend the weak, fight the bad guys
Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

The Little Wretches: Music

All of My Friends (full band, one take, recorded by Dave Granati)

(The Little Wretches)
February 7, 2010
Robert A. Wagner
I just finished watching a film about The Weather Underground, and a little chapbook, titled “Sing a Battle Song—poems by women in the weather underground organization,” has been at my bedside for months.

In the film, various members of the organization lament how the righteousness of their convictions led to actions they’ve come to regard as atrocious. One guy keeps coming back to the notion that all of this—the bombings, the vandalism, the abandonment of traditional values—was put into play by the Vietnam War.

When those responsible for teaching you right from wrong deliberately do wrong then lie about it, you have no choice but to abandon their leadership and try to lead yourself. And in the process, you’re going to have to reinvent and rediscover things that should have been obvious. And when it’s all over, you can make excuses and point fingers, but the only one accountable for your actions is you.

It is this process that I was trying to capture/evoke when I wrote “All of My Friends.”

I had not abandoned the leaders and teachers in my life; they had abandoned me. My father eventually died of systems failure after decades of alcoholism, my long-battered mother having gone into hiding with her lesbian lover to escape his abuse, she herself winding up dead of an overdose. Many of my friends used drugs, suffered from mental illness or got involved in some form or other of “underground” activity—drugs, crime, sexual perversion, politics, etc.

And all the while, the most fucked up and damaged people have been, at times, the most humble, fearless, graceful, forgiving, and even Christ-like. Imagine that.

I first performed this song as part of a songwriters circle with Sam Flesher and Dave Wells at The Smoky City Folk Festival.

The full-band version was not released (except as it is available here FOR FREE). John Carson on bass; Mike Madden on drums; H.K. Hilner on keyboards; Rosa Colucci on background vocals; Robert A. Wagner on guitar and lead vocals.

All of my friends turned into fanatics
With terrible secrets hidden up in their attics,
Closets full of skeletons and old bones
They only bring out to play with when nobody’s home.
All of my friends are on somebody’s list
Of undesirables and anarchists.
It’s not even safe to admit that you’re one of my friends.

All of my friends know cause and effect.
We’re notably known for abuse and neglect.
We’re natural targets we’re perfect to blame.
None of my friends ever runs out of shame.
All of my friends have taken some kind of rap,
But your biggest weapon is your handicap.
Nothing much good ever happens to none of my friends.

Carving a niche ‘tween the dust and the ether,
Walking in circles, limping along,
Stuck in a ditch, but I’m a believer.
I don’t know much except right from wrong.
Oh, what comedy. Oh, what torture.
Oh, what stories we will tell
Someday. Someday.

None of my friends ever has to lose face.
We’re walking in beauty, walking in grace.
Marching like sheep to the slaughterhouse blade,
We’re the prize-winning herd at the Macy’s parade.
None of my friends ever made the first team.
If you’re going to hell, why not go to extremes?
Gently down the stream go none of my friends.

A vanguard of vultures in rarefied air,
With the high-priest of culture,
We kneel down for a prayer
For the lesbian couples with their turkey-basters
And the amateur connoisseur cyanide-tasters.
All of my friends, wind-scattered and blown,
Never get too close to the foot of the throne,
But they’re the best people I’ve ever known.