The Birthday of Charles John Wagner, Violinist, Poet, Singer, Painter, Sculptor 

Today, April 24, is my brother’s birthday. Charles John Wagner, founding member of The Little Wretches. Violinist. Singer. Painter. Sculptor. Poet.

TIGER PAJAMAS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zgSijrXvUs


He was just a child in tiger pajamas, 
Complete with a tiger’s tail, 
Hiding in the closet when his dad came home from work. 
Grrrrr.  Grrrrr. 
Uh-oh, I think I hear a tiger. 
Uh-oh, There’s a tiger in there. 
Oh, no! Someone save me from that tiger! 
Don’t worry, dad. It’s just me, your little boy. 

Never was a child so in need of being loved. 
But how much love is enough? 
Oh, God, why’d you do that to my brother? 
God, why’d you do that to him? 
Oh, God, why’d you to that to my brother? 
I thought you said you loved him? 
I thought you loved him? 
I thought you said you did? 

When he was nine-years old 
And his birthday came, 
Even mother and father forgot. 
We ran out to the store to buy a baseball glove 
As though the fairy-boy would start to like sports. 
Some cake and some ice-cream. 
The kid never knew. 
Then again, he had to have known. 
He was the spoiled kid, 
But the forgotten kid, 
The kid who grew up on his own. 
He was the kid with chipped teeth 
and a couple of scars, 
Always crashing into something, 
Always going too hard. 
The queer one, the bitchy one, 
The girly-boy child. 
But how you gonna hate someone so reckless and wild? 

He liked to smoke. 
And he liked to get high. 
And he liked to drink. 
My, could that kid drink. 
He used to drink even the biker-dudes under the table 
in those soggy, druggy, smelly redneck bars. 
People used to say he showed them his poetry. 
People used to say he played them his songs. 
Well, I know he could sing. 
But he never showed nothing to me. 
Too precious, too private, too strong. 
That’s the problem with faeries, 
Always hiding themselves. 
Afraid you might find out the truth. 
He was my brother.
His enemies were my enemies.
But we pretended that nobody knew.

Never was a child so in need of being loved. 
But how much love is enough? 
Oh, God, why’d you do that to my brother? 
God, why’d you do that to him? 
Oh, God, why’d you to that to my brother? 
I thought you said you loved him? 
I thought you loved him? 
I thought you said you did? 
Oh, God, why’d you do that to my brother? 
His enemies are my enemies. 
So how am I supposed to avenge what You did to my brother?

Sitting on a Gold Mine 

I spent most of this morning transferring tracks from CD to my laptop to prepare to send them off for mastering. In the process, I came across recordings and mixes I didn't know existed, versions of songs with alternate lyrics. For example, Chuck Parish had mentioned that he recalled a recorded version of You Just Can't Hide It with Rosa on lead vocals. Found it! Along with it was a version of Rosa singing lead on Call Your Name. I also found a full-length project I did by myself at Michael Ketter's COMPLEX VARIABLES Studio. 

When Rosa, Andy Hoke and I were performing as The Mercenes, I prepared a limited-edition of hand-made copies of a beautiful batch of songs, WHEN IT SNOWS. That's going to be coming out. 

The edition of The Little Wretches with Rosa, H.K. Hilner, John Carson, Mike Madden and Robert Andrew Wagner recorded two albums. One was released in a very limited edition, maybe 100 copies. It was recorded at Cycling Troll Studio in Erie by Tom Hitt, and we called it, PLUMS. Another project was recorded by Dave Granati, and I never pressed any copies because it was obvious the band wasn't going to tour or build a substantial following in our region, and any money spent would have been money wasted. 

Both will be sent out for mastering and will hopefully be available for download soon.

Not sure what to call them. Melodramatic titles appeal to me. The Granati-sessions will probably be titled from a line in the song, "All of My Friends." I think I'll go with UNDESIRABLES AND ANARCHISTS. As for PLUMS, I'm not sure. Its title was originally inspired by the William Carlos Williams poem, "This Is Just to Say." 

I'm also preparing the last batch of songs Dave Losi and I were working on before he left the band to raise his family. I was thinking of calling it, DROPPED A LANTERN. It includes Straight into the Center, Since I've Been Riding, and Call Your Name.

And lastly, we're finally going to unveil the batch of songs that appeared only on the cassette, WHY WERE THEIR POETS SILENT. Those sessions featured gorgeous lead-guitar work by Jon Paul Leone, and Dave Losi sat in on piano. Angelo George is constantly reminding me how proud he is of those recordings, and Jon Paul Leone lamented before he died that he had no "signature" work of his own. For me, the POETS tape is Jon Paul's signature project.

So anyhow, I hope this stuff finds an audience some day some day.

Crying, Waiting, Hoping 

We in the The Little Wretches are optimistic that some of the uncertainty created by the pandemic and quarantine-efforts will have settled down by the month of May. We're planning a show at Pittsburgh's legendary blues club, MOONDOG'S, on the night of Saturday, May 23.

Steve Sciulli and Dennis Childers, our old friends from Carsickness and Ploughman's Lunch, are planning to join us with one of their current projects, STANDING WAVE. Also joining us will be NATE GATES and his rocking little outfit. Nate's albums, GHOST ON THE RIVER and THE BIG PARADE, are really good. He's described somewhere as "Central Pennsylvania blues and roots music with punk attitude." I hate when people compare The Little Wretches to The Beatles and The Velvet Underground because whatever draws fans to those bands is unlikely to be immediately recognizable to people to come to our shows, so I hate to curse Nate with a comparison, but if Steve Earle was from Central Pennsylvania, people would compare him to Nate Gates. How's that?

Unlike our last appearance at MOONDOGS (which by all accounts rocked in spite of our acoustic/unplugged approach), we're bringing our amps to this one. Live-recordings indicate that the band sounded very strong from the point of view of the audience, but up on stage, it was very hard to play with confidence because we couldn't really hear each other or ourselves. All those years of nightly playing paid off, I guess. Without a single rehearsal (though we have played some private gatherings here and there in recent years), we jumped on those tunes. Ellen, Dave, Mike Madden and I caught the groove as soon as Losi started pounding the intro to NO ONE EVER TOLD YOU THAT and held it all night. What did we close with, BAG O'ROCKS? I BELONG? Whatever, it was a great set that left us wanting to do it again.

Everybody keeps telling me (this is Roberto at the keyboard, by the way) that Pittsburgh has undergone a cultural renaissance, that if The Little Wretches were on the scene in the region, the setting would be ripe for us to build our audience. As great as the show at Moondog's was, I could probably have named 90% of the people in the audience. A lot of our old faithful turned out, like Pat and Katie, Mary Kay, Pinto, Tony Norman, Dan Serafini, Ron and June, Mark and Lisa, David Flynn, and others. We saw Sean MacDonald of Red Medicine Recording, Sue S (Carsickness' old sound-person), Mike Psyche, Tom Weber. Billie was still managing the club. Leroy, who ran sound for us a few times back at the Electric Banana or The Decade in the old days, was on the soundboard.

Sounds nostalgic, right?

F#@# nostalgia. We're not about nostalgia. We love our old friends and listeners. We want NEW EARS. You can assist us in this endeavor by sharing our music through social-media posts, recommending us to festivals, hooking us up with like-minded artists, and turning people on to our music.

Hope to see you in May. It'll be Memorial Day Weekend. I think everybody will be in the mood to celebrate.

The Little Wretches on Super Bowl Eve 

I've already told the story. Scott Mervis of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, when he called to do the telephone interview, complimented me, saying the press-release was so well-written he wished he could publish it as is. Scott and I chatted for a good while, and he asked if he could take quotes directly from the press-release. Absolutely. 

Here is a link to the article: https://www.post-gazette.com/ae/music/2020/01/28/The-Little-Wretches-reunite-on-Super-Bowl-eve-Robert-Wagner-Pittsburgh-Devilish-Merry/stories/202001280086

DARK TIMES

 

although in the future 

they'll say these were dark times

although in the future 

they'll say we were violent

although in the future 

they'll say these were dark times

the leaders were deaf 

and their poets were silent

 

although in the future 

they'll say these were dark times

when people with vision 

simply closed their eyes

although in the future 

they'll say these were dark times

the poets were silent 

unless they told lies

 

i'm talking to you always flirting with danger

i'm talking to you titillated by fear

i'm talking to you always flirting with danger

you won't flirt with me you're afraid to come near

i'm talking to you a new wave of voyeurs

a mass of glaucoma and lazy eye

i'm talking to you always flirting with danger

i'm wasting my breath sometimes i don't know why

i'm talking to you but my words fall on deaf ears

maybe it's my words that are deafening

i'm talking to you 'cause i have to do something

and this for the moment is all i can do

 

these were dark times….these were dark times...

 

although i the future 

they'll say these were dark times

they'll be torn between pity and flat disbelief

they'll wonder how we could allow this to happen

the poets were silent and the truth was asleep