We Shall All Be Healed 1

Cover of We Shall All Be Healed Back of We Shall All Be Healed

Released: 2004
Label: 4AD

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Liner notes

I let the mice chew through the bandages. One of them was this brown and white mouse who approached the whole task with a wonderful sense of play. Sparkling little eyes lightheartedly intent on their work. Magnificent. Every little bit helps. I would lie there, in the boiling afternoon, watching the mice come and go, and I would think fondly of you.

Curtis Mayfield "CURTIS / LIVE" 3
Jerry Jeff Walker SELF-TITLED 6
Ready for the World "LONG TIME COMING" 7

I began to compile lists in my head. I remembered having read someplace that making lists was a way of calming the nerves. For me it only made things worse.

Tracy in Portland
Emil 8

I would reach for the telephone and then suddenly retract my hand as though I'd nearly grabbed hold of a snake. That was me: letting it slide. Watching unthinkable things on the stolen VCR hooked up through no small effort to the cheap bolted-down TV. Eating Milk Duds 9 all day. Milk Duds and Charritos. 10 And Royal Crown Cola 11 in bottles. You could get it for cheap up at the Viva. 12 For real.

Chavo Guerrero 13
Ox Baker 14
Al Madril
Eddie "the Continental Lover" Mansfield
Black Gordman 15

In the great heat of the old motel I could feel the part of me that had been resisting the final disconnect beginning to wither. The kind of shrinking we practice turns us into invisible towers of strength. I'm sorry I brought you into this mess but I'm sorrier still that I'm not dumb enough to sink my arms in past the elbows. I have this sick feeling there's something really great past the point of no return. Stupid, huh? I let the mice chew through the bandages. I sat back and let them go about their joyful business. Ripping and tearing. They were setting me free.

West side riders know how we hold it down.

All you people still out on the corner up there by 13th and Taylor near the Greenhouse, 16 this one goes out to you with all the love that's in me. Brave young scavengers in your fabulous black jeans.
Hold on.
Hold on with both hands.


We Shall All Be Healed and Tallahassee both featured microsites on 4AD's Mountain Goats page. As described by 4AD, "Whereas most Mountain Goats records — like last year's 'Tallahassee' — are entirely fictional, all of the songs on 'We Shall All Be Healed' are based on people that songwriter John Darnielle used to know. This, perhaps, accounts for the nervous tension that crackles through the album, as well as the curious tenderness that surfaces from time to time... John has created a microsite which will take you further into the world of the record — click here." While the site is no longer available, much of it is contained at the Internet Archive and most of the text is mirrored here.

If you have a fuller copy, please let me know.

The Mountain Goats. 4AD. 2004, retrieved March 24, 2014.

Two singles were released for We Shall All Be Healed. Palmcorder Yajna contains two outtakes, Butter Teeth and Snakeheads; similarly, Letter from Belgium contains Attention All Pickpockets and Nova Scotia. Additionally, several outtakes were released online: Beat the Devil, Deserters, New World Emerging Blues, You & Me & a High Balcony. One final outtake is completely unreleased, We Shall All Be Healed.

Table of contents

  1. Slow West Vultures
  2. Palmcorder Yajna
  3. Linda Blair Was Born Innocent
  4. Letter from Belgium
  5. The Young Thousands
  6. Your Belgian Things
  7. Mole
  8. Home Again Garden Grove
  9. All Up the Seething Coast
  10. Quito
  11. Cotton
  12. Against Pollution
  13. Pigs That Ran Straightaway into the Water, Triumph Of

Slow West Vultures 17

Breaking the signal 'til it's totally unreadable
Drinking the dregs, eating the utterly inedible
We do what we do, all for you
All dressed up, black hat and white cane
Slowing circling the drain
Ready for the future
Ready for the world about to come

Shooting the sequel before the treatment's even finished 18 19
Sanding numbers off the Monojects 20 as our slight returns diminish
We are what we are, get in the goddamn car
Smiling faces, flawlessly rehearsed
We are sleek and beautiful, we are cursed 21
Ready for the future
Ready for the world about to come

Palmcorder Yajna 22 23 24

Holt Boulevard
Between Garey and White 25
Hooked up with some friends at the Travelodge 26
Set ourselves up for the night

Carpenter ants in the dresser
Flies in the screen
It will be too late by the time we learn
What these cryptic symbols mean

And I dreamt
Of a house
Haunted by all you tweakers 27 with your hands out
And the headstones climbed up the hills
And the headstones climbed up the hills

Send somebody out for soda 28
Comb through the carpet for clues
Reflective tape on our sweatpants 29
Big holes in our shoes

Every couple minutes
Someone says he can't stand it anymore
Laugh lines on our faces
Scale maps of the ocean floor 30

And I dreamt
Of a camera
Pointing out from inside the television
And the aperture yawning and blinking
And the headstones climbed up the hills
And the headstones climbed up the hills

If anybody comes to see me
Tell 'em they just missed me by a minute
If anybody comes into our room while we're asleep
I hope they incinerate everybody in it

And I dreamt
Of a factory
Where they manufactured what I needed
Using shiny new machines
And the headstones climbed up the hills
And the headstones climbed up the hills

Linda Blair Was Born Innocent 31 32

Gentle hum of the old machines
Here we come, scrubbed and scoured
Patches on our jeans

When the drone sounds in the cool night wind
We pick up the call
Kick all the traces in

Hungry for love
Ready to drown
So tie down the sails
We're going downtown

Great big drain on the power grid
You may not like Tate's 33 methods
But you've got to admit, she's a real nice kid

We walk light down the wires
Higher than weather balloons
Empty hearts on fire

Hungry for love
Ready to drown
So tie down the sails tonight
We're going downtown

Letter from Belgium 34 35

Martin calls to say he's sending old electrical equipment
That's good, we can always use some more electrical equipment

In the cold, clear light of day down here, everyone's a monster
That's cool with all of us, we've been past the point of help since early April

Susan and her notebook
Freehand drawings of Lon Chaney 36
Blueprints for geodesic domes
Recipes for cake

Yeah, we're all here
Chewing our tongues off 37
Waiting for the fever to break 38

When we walk out in the sunlight we tell everyone we know it hurts our eyes
When the real reason we don't like it is that it makes us wonder if we're dying 39

And Martin's found an old trunk full of stage makeup in the basement
And he's sending it along, we can always use more makeup, yeah
Yeah, more creams
And powders

And Carrie's got the feeling
That the people next door
Will close in like a wolfpack
Should we make one small mistake 40

Yeah, we're all here
Chewing our tongues off
Waiting for the fever to break

The Young Thousands

Boats ease into the harbor bearing real suspicious cargo
And the sunlight on the water sets a switch off in your brain
The things that you've got coming will consume you
There's someone waiting out there in an alley with a chain

Here they come
The young thousands
Here they come
The young thousands

The ghosts that haunt your building are prepared to take on substance
And the dull pain that you live with isn't getting any duller
There's a closet full of almost pristine videotape
Documenting sordid little scenes in living color

Here they come
The young thousands
Here they come
The young thousands

You drive east from the ocean with both hands tied on the wheel
And you go past Garden Grove 41 as the pleasure index rises
The things that you've got coming will do things that you're afraid to
There is someone waiting out there with a mouthful of surprises 42

The ghosts that haunt your building have been learning how to breathe
They scan the hallways nightly vainly searching for a sign
There must be diamonds somewhere in a place that stinks this bad
There are brighter things than diamonds coming down the line

Here they come
The young thousands
Here they come
The young thousands

Your Belgian Things 35 43

The men were here to get your Belgian things 35
They'll store them for you in an airplane hangar
There's guys in biohazard suits, mud caking on their rubber boots
They've come to keep your pretty things from danger

The men were here to get your Belgian things
They'll spend the whole day hauling them downstairs
I shot a roll of thirty-two exposures 44
My camera groans beneath the weight it bears

I can see you in my sleep
Playing the points for all you're worth
Walking gingerly across
The bruised earth

The men were here to get your Belgian things
They waltzed right through the door and went fluorescent 45
Their boots were black and shiny and your treasures gleamed like stars
Bones from deep down in the Fertile Crescent 46

The arteries are clogging in the mainframe
There's too much information in the pipes
I saw the mess you left up in the east bedroom
A tiger's never gonna change its stripes
I guess
I guess
But, Jesus, what a mess
One way in
No way out

The men were here to get your Belgian things
And only I was here to see them do it
I wish you had a number where you are 47
It's hard with no one here to help me through it

I can see you in my sleep
Playing the points for all you're worth
Walking gingerly across
The bruised earth

Mole 48

I came to see you up there in intensive care
They had handcuffed you to your bed
There were tubes going into you and out from you 49
Bright white gauze bandages at your head

I am a mole
Sticking his head above the surface of the earth
I am a mole
Sticking his head above the surface of the earth

And then they said, "Lights out", and it was lights out
And they gave you your medication
I know what you want, and you know what I want
Information, information 50

I am a mole
Sticking his head above the surface of the earth
I am a mole
Sticking his head above the surface of the earth

Out in the desert we'll have no worries
Out in the desert just you and me
I came to see you up there in intensive care 51
Out in the desert we'll live carefree

I am a mole
Sticking his head above the surface of the earth
I am a mole
Sticking his head above the surface of the earth

Home Again Garden Grove 52 41

Wipe down the windshields and roll down the windows
Let's go where the jackals are breeding
Wrap this bandana around your head
Don't let anyone see that you're bleeding

Fire up the scanner and keep your eyes on it
Don't speak unless someone speaks to you
Hands in your pockets and soot on your face
The warm love of God coursing through you

Home again
Home again
Garden Grove
Garden Grove

I can remember when we were in high school
Our dreams were like fugitive warlords
Plotting triumphant returns to the city
Keeping TEC-9s 53 tucked under the floorboards

Now we are practical men of the world
We tether our dreams to the turf
And cruise down these alleys for honey to feed them
Jellyfish riding the surf

Shoving our heads
Straight into the guts of the stove
Home again
Garden Grove Garden Grove

All Up the Seething Coast

I eat a couple Milky Ways 54 for breakfast
I take my coffee light and sweet
Show up for dinner when you tell me to
And I heap the sugar high and white on everything I eat

Carry an apple in my pocket
I write reminders on my skin
Clip meaningless pictures from old magazines
I tape them to the walls, it's a bad place I'm in

And nothing you can say or do will stop me
And a thousand dead friends can't stop me

I go back to places I remember
See what's been going on without me
Stare down the strangers at the bus stop
Pretend they've been gossiping about me

White sugar by the spoonful
Cantaloupes and grapes and watermelons
I force it down like it was medicine
Anybody asks, you tell 'em what you want to tell 'em

But the best you've got is powerless against me
And all your little schemes break when they come crashing up against me

Quito 55 56

When I receive the blessing I've got coming
I'm going to raise a nice cold glass of water
And toast the living and the dead
Who've gone before me and my head
Will throb like an old wound reopening

When I get off the bus down there my children
They all are going to greet me at the station
Like gypsies they will dance around me and
The choral droning sounds their voices make will
Saturate the evening

When I get off the wheel I'm going to stop
And make amends to everyone I've wounded
And when I wave my magic wand
Those few who've slipped the surly bonds 57
Will rise like salmon at the spawning

Cotton 58

This song is for the rats
Who hurled themselves into the ocean
When they saw that the explosives in the cargo hold
Were just about to blow
This song is for the soil
That's toxic clear down to the bedrock
Where no thing of consequence can grow
Drop your seeds there, let them go
Let them all go
Let 'em all go

This song is for the people 59
Who tell their families that they're sorry
For things they can't and won't feel sorry for
And once there was a desk
And now it's in a storage locker somewhere 60
And this song is for the stick pins and the cottons 61
I left in the top drawer
Let 'em all go
Let 'em all go

I want to sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give
I saw you waiting by the roadside
You didn't know that I was watching
Now you know
Let it all go
Let 'em all go
Let 'em all go

Against Pollution 62 63 64

When I worked down at the liquor store
Guy with a shotgun came raging through the place
Muscled his way behind the counter
I shot him in the face 65

This morning I went down to the Catholic church
'Cause something just came over me
Forty-five minutes in the pews
Praying the rosary 66

When the last days come 67
We shall see visions 68
More vivid than sunsets
Brighter than stars
We will recognize each other
And see ourselves for the first time 69
The way we really are

Decorative grating on my window
Gets a little rustier every year
I don't know how the metal gets rusty
When it never rains here

A year or so ago I worked at a liquor store
And a guy came in
Tried to kill me, so I shot him in the face
I would do it again, I would do it again

When the last days come
We shall see visions
More vivid than sunsets
Brighter than stars
We will recognize each other
And see ourselves for the first time
The way we really are

Pigs That Ran Straightaway into the Water, Triumph Of 70

"The story of the pigs who ran straightaway into the water, and their great triumph." 71


You're gonna send me back to where I came from
Please don't send me back to where I came from
Let me go
Where the white magnolias grow

You're gonna fit me for that orange jumpsuit
Please don't fit me for that orange jumpsuit
Let me ride
Where the dragonflies glide

Yeah, but you're going to do
What you want to do
No matter what
I ask of you
You think you hold the high hand
I've got my doubts
I come from Chino 72 where the asphalt sprouts

Big bus headed southeast from the courthouse
But I'm not headed southeast from the courthouse
Let some mysterious chunk of space debris
Puncture the roof and set me free

And even if I have to go to Claremont 73
Well I guess I'll just have to go to Claremont
Let me go
Let me lie low

Yeah, but you're going to do
What you want to do
No matter what
I ask of you
And you send your dark messengers
To tempt me
I come from Chino so all your threats are empty

  1. We Shall All Be Healed, Nall, accessed March 24, 2014.


Thanks as always to Caliclimber, whose Flickr page provided the album art and who sent photos of the liner to allow transcription. Thanks as well to AKM Adam for his help with the film reference in Your Belgian Things and the identity of Tate, to Mairead Beeson for her thoughts on allusions to the works of Jacques Lusseyran and Thomas Hardy in Against Pollution, to Tim Mitchell for adding some missing liner notes, and to Matt Keeter for adding to the quotes for Palmcorder Yajna.


  1. Set in Southern California, this album describes John's experiences using methamphetamine in Portland as a teenager, and to some extent, his use of heroin previously in Claremont.

    "So, I set the whole next album in Pomona, California, but just between you and me, most of the people, or a fair number of them, are actually people I knew in Portland up around 13th and Taylor... The title's kind of a joke because we shall not be healed. That's what's kind of sad, but funny in a bad way about it." — Berbati's Pan, Portland, October 3, 2003. See also the Dennis Kucinich benefit, San Francisco, February 11, 2004; City Arts and Lectures, Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, February 24, 2009.

    "This album is the first autobiographical record I've really ever made. There've been hidden pieces of autobiographical stuff in other records, but they've always been buried underneath these fiction, you know, and these are fictionalized stories, but these stories are based on some time I spent in Portland, Oregon when I was 18 or 19 — 18 and 19 — and I was coming off a very harsh high school relationship into which I had gotten into some hard drugs, then I moved to Portland and got into different hard drugs, I got into speed, and I was just rolling for about nine months. And you meet some very rich — not in the sense of money — but you meet some very deep, rich people, you know, who are very young, and very desperate, and very wounded and, you know, they're not deep in the romanticised sense of that they have anything great to say, that you can hear and take and apply as a philosophy, but there's an energy and a power to that kind of desperation of being young and on speed and hopeless and certain that you are going to die within the next couple of years and so why not do anything. So those were my friends, those were my people." — VPRO session, Zeldzaam Dwars, March 27, 2004. See also the WXDU session, October 1, 2004; KEXP session, May 21, 2004; and the KEXP session, June 16, 2005. For information about the recording process, see the VPRO session, Zeldzaam Dwars, March 27, 2004.

    John clarifies that the names of people in the songs are not people's real names. — KEXP session, May 21, 2004 

  2. Riverside is the name of many cities and regions in the United States. My best guess, given John's history, is that this refers to Riverside, California, a large Inland Empire city in Southern California, near Claremont. 

  3. Curtis Mayfield was a successful rhythm and blues singer and songwriter focusing on African-American civil rights from the late 1950s until his death in 1999. 

  4. Lou Reed was an American singer, guitarist, and lyricist, most famously for the Velvet Underground and as a solo artist. 

  5. Bad Company is a British rock supergroup composed of members from Mott the Hoople and Free, performing from the 1970s through the present. 

  6. Jerry Jeff Walker is a Texan country musician famous for writing the classic country song Mr. Bojangles. 

  7. Ready for the World is a rhythm and blues band from Michigan who primarily recorded music in the mid-1980s and 1990s. 

  8. If you know the significance of any of these names, please let me know

  9. Milk Duds are a brand of caramel and cocoa candy. 

  10. Charrito means "little cowboy" in Spanish. This perhaps refers to the brand of cheap frozen dinners, El Charrito

  11. Royal Crown Cola, or, more commonly, RC Cola, is an American brand of inexpensive cola soft drink. 

  12. Viva means "Live!" in Spanish and several other romance languages, often used as a colloquial shortening of "Long live... !" It could refer to one of any number of stores, and I'm not sure which it would be. My best guess is the chain of Viva Bargain Centers in the Los Angeles and Inland Empire areas. 

  13. Chavo Guerrero was a professional wrestler in Los Angeles. John's childhood love of professional wrestling and Chavo Guerrero in particular is recorded in many places; see the references under Ox Baker Triumphant

  14. Ox Baker was an American professional wrestler, whom John noted for his unintelligent malevolence. See Ox Baker Triumphant for more. 

  15. Al Madril, Eddie Mansfield, and Black Gordman were Southern California wrestlers. For more on John and professional wrestling, see the above footnotes. 

  16. This could refer to several intersections in Portland: SE 13th and SE Taylor is an intersection in the Buckman district of the southeast section, while SW 13th and SW Taylor is an intersection in downtown. I'm not sure which this refers to, and I was unable to find any business named the Greenhouse in the area. If you know more than me, please contact me

  17. "But the last time I was in San Francisco, I went to jail. <laughter> That's kind of what this song is about, if San Francisco were Portland and it was 1985 instead of last year." — Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, May 26, 2004 

  18. A pun, referring simultaneously to injecting a second dose of intravenous drugs before fully coming down from the first, and also to beginning production of a second film prior to even finishing the story preceding the screenplay for the first, known as a film treatment

  19. A number of voices speak here, saying something that sounds like, "I don't care! I don't care whether he comes back to die!" If you know the source of this, please contact me

  20. Monoject is a brand of single-use safety needles and syringes manufactured formerly by Kendall, especially known for their insulin syringes. 

  21. You can hear a bottle smashing here. "... if I remember correctly, someone breaks a bottle on the floor of the recording studio." — Merkin Concert Hall, New York, March 24, 2012 

  22. "Palmcorder is a brand of Panasonic hand-held video camera recorder. Yajna is a Hindi word meaning 'sacrifice'". — Bottom of the Hill, October 23, 2002. 

  23. "It's about all my old friends up in Portland, may most of them rest in peace." — Mains d'Oeuvres, Mofo Festival, Paris, France, June 27, 2003. See also VPRO session, Amstel Festival, December 7, 2002; Mains d'Oeuvres, Mofo Festival, Paris, June 27, 2003.

    "... [This is] a song about methamphetamine abuse." —Troubadour, Los Angeles, December 16, 2011

    "... It's about a bunch of people I used to know. I have moved them from Portland, where I knew them, to Pomona, where I'm glad I didn't know them." — Opolis, Norman, Oklahoma, November 13, 2002

    "This is a love song to a motel room. You know, the kind of room sometimes you got to go to for a couple weeks. People come, and they say, 'What happened to you, man? You didn't strike me like the kind of guy that'd be living here.' And you say to them, 'Why don't you leave me alone? I don't remember this being your business at all.' And they say, 'Yes, but I'm your father.' And you say, 'You can't prove that.' And they give you a funny look and they leave. And you say, 'This calls for a celebration.'" — Attucks Theatre, March 20, 2009

    "This is a song about how, when sometimes you found it necessary to rob the safe at the restaurant where you work, and it's funny, because your friends who have good jobs say, 'What good can come of that?' And here I quote your friends: 'They only have about two thousand dollars in there.' If you were honest with your friends, you would say, 'Look. Two thousand dollars will buy me a quarter pound of peanut butter crank. And I'll be going for a good ten days, off that — unless I meet up with some friends.' Then you may stop to think to yourself, that you're likely to meet up with some friends. New friends. People you didn't really know until word began to spread in the neighborhood, 'John robbed the safe! And he took all 2k, and he bought a quarter pound! He's in room 10, 253 North Broadway, you can't miss it! Faces Broadway at an angle, across from the Coliseum.' And so there you are with your new friends, listening to King Diamond, as you do, high for three days and beginning to talk nonsense, and you may think to yourself, 'I wish I had a song to sing.' You may only hold this thought for a second or so. But I heard you when you thought that, and that's why I wrote you this song.' — The Independent, San Francisco, March 1, 2008

    Palmcorder Yajna was the first song written for We Shall All Be Healed, and the song that catalyzed John to write an album about his experiences in Portland after strumming and shouting the Holt Boulevard line. It was shortly followed by Slow West Vultures and Linda Blair Was Born Innocent. — VPRO session - Zeldzaam Dwars - 2004-03-27. 

  24. As mentioned above, Palmcorder Yajna was also released as a single

  25. Holt Boulevard is a major east-west road through the Inland Empire region of Southern California, turning into East Holt Avenue and then West Holt Avenue as it crosses first North Garey Avenue and then North White Avenue heading west.

    "I had this A – D progression I was strumming one day, enjoying the sound of it. Well, I didn't have any lyrics to hand, so I start to improvise, which is how half my stuff gets written — I just start playing the guitar, and I'll bark out a lyric or two... When I was a heroin addict, my dealer told me one time while he was selling us stuff, 'If you ever get arrested, they're gonna ask you where you got it.' And this was by way of saying, 'If you turn me in, I'll kill you.' 'Just tell 'em Holt Boulevard and they can't do anything to you. You just tell 'em you bought it on Holt because there's a lot of dealers on Holt.' This is in Pomona... Everything your dealer says, he's like Jesus Christ, so you, 'OK, got that, Holt Boulevard.' So, OK. So within six months, I'm handcuffed to a hospital bed in the ICU, and detectives from Pomona, the police department come in to ask me, 'Who sold you the stuff?' And I mean, I had been comatose for two days. But I was not so comatose that I couldn't remember... And I was lying there, you know, with the black activated charcoal that they put in you to get the drugs out caked on my nose. 'So, where'd you get it?' 'Holt Boulevard! Haha.' OK. So, fast-forward fifteen years, or twenty, and I'm no longer a heroin addict, and I have a real life now, and I'm half-assing my way around this autobiographical stuff, and I'm doing A, and D, and A, and D, and I'm thinking, 'This is going to be one of those songs where you're hiding what you're actually writing about.' And so I went — and I was just joking with myself — 'Holt Boulevard!' <laughs> That's really funny, right? And then I mentioned specifically where, between Garey and White, right, that's a location where you could walk down the street at some point in the 80s and maybe score. Probably not, but — you'd go down to Mission for that." City Arts and Lectures, Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, February 24, 2009. See also the VPRO session, Zeldzaam Dwars, March 27, 2004. 

  26. Travelodge is a chain of cheap hotels throughout the United States. 

  27. A term for a methamphetamine user. 

  28. Also sung, "Send somebody out for cocaine". It's unclear to me if this changes the meaning of the original lyric, perhaps implying baking soda (used to make crack). My best guess is that the original meaning is intended to refer to pop drinks. — Black Cat, Washington, DC, October 11, 2004 

  29. Also sung, "Reflective tape on our trainers", a British English term for sneakers. VPRO session, Amstel Festival, December 7, 2002. 

  30. Sometimes sung, "Laugh lines on our faces like / Scale maps of the ocean floor", clarifying that the latter line is describing the former. VPRO session, Amstel Festival, December 7, 2002. 

  31. Linda Blair is an American actress most famous for her role as the possessed child Regan in the classic 1973 horror film The Exorcist. In her 20s, she struggled with cocaine and other substances.

    Born Innocent was a made-for-television film starring Linda Blair as a sexually and physically abused 14-year-old girl sent to prison, which she continues to be oppressed. The film includes a notorious scene in which Chris Parker, Blair's character, is raped in the showers by the other female inmates. 

  32. "So, I set the whole next album in Pomona, California, but just between you and me, most of the people, or a fair number of them, are actually people I knew in Portland up around 13th and Taylor. And that is in fact is where this song takes place, but that's a secret. It is about our mutual friends, the tweak fiends." — Berbati's Pan, Portland, October 3, 2003. See also Wow Hall, Eugene, June 21, 2005.

    "I challenged myself to not write love songs, and instead to write songs about junkies... I have a lot of dead friends, this is about some of them." — Will's Pub, Orlando, April 9, 2003. See also Black Cat, Washington DC, October 11, 2004.

    "This is a song about the special times you share with the ones you love when the ones you love have a quarter pound of quality bathtub crank." — Bottom of the Hill, June 23, 2005. See also First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia, May 4, 2005. 

  33. Given the song's title reference to a child actor, and the rareness of the name Tate, this could refer to fellow child star Tatum O'Neal, who similarly became addicted to heroin and cocaine as an adult.

    AKM Adam suggested that this could instead be a reference to Little Man Tate, in which Jodi Foster plays the mother of a child prodigy. Ultimately, I'm not sure — if you have some insight into this, please reach out

  34. As mentioned above, Letter from Belgium was also released as a single

  35. Belgium is a multilingual country in northwestern Europe.

    "The album is sort of a series of snapshots of tweakers, right, speed freaks, which was a very popular thing when I lived in Portland, and — not the speed freaks themselves, but the speed. And speed freaks, like everybody else, but with a particular vengeance, talk about how they're gonna get the hell out of wherever they're at, right, and go to someplace where, you know, it's sort of like the chemical land of milk and honey. Where they're usually gonna go to Amsterdam, right. And I knew one who went to Amsterdam, and then tried to bring stuff back in his pockets, right, and wound up in a European jail. Ah, how can you blow it that bad? You know, he showed up at the airport high as a kite, and they just took him in. But yeah, so, Belgium is sort of my speed freak cast's, their Kubla Khan, you know, that they have in their mind, that they're all going to go to Belgium, but actually, their own personal Belgium is a sort of hellish place. — KEXP session, May 21, 2004  2 3

  36. Refers to either Lon Chaney, a famous silent-era film actor known for his depictions of haunted, tormented characters, such as the Phantom of the Opera, or his son, Lon Chaney, Jr., also a film actor known for horror performances, although not as well received as his father. Rotten Stinking Mouthpiece was written about a role played by Lon Chaney, Jr. 

  37. Bruxism, or grinding one's teeth, is a known side affect of many amphetamines. Winocur E, Gavish A, Voikovitch M, Emodi-Perlman A, Eli I (2003). Drugs and Bruxism: A Critical Review. Journal of Orofacial Pain, 17(2), 99 – 111. 

  38. Hyperthermia is also reported as a possible side effect of methamphetamine use. Buffum JC, Shulgin AT (2001). Overdose of 2.3 grams of intravenous methamphetamine: case, analysis and patient perspective. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 33(4), 409 – 12. 

  39. Photophobia, being pain experienced when perceiving bright light, is another side effect of methamphetamine. Buffum JC, Shulgin AT (2001). Overdose of 2.3 grams of intravenous methamphetamine: case, analysis and patient perspective. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 33(4), 409 – 12. 

  40. Methamphetamine usage can lead to stimulant psychosis, a symptom of which is paranoid delusions. Curran C, Byrappa N, McBride A (2004). Stimulant psychosis: systematic review. British Journal of Psychiatry, 185, 196 – 204. 

  41. Garden Grove is a city in Southern California. Driving east from the ocean through Garden Grove implies that the driver is on State Route 22, the Garden Grove Freeway.  2

  42. John has clarified this lyric: "when you buy heroin on the street, you put the bags in your mouth so that if you get pulled over/hollered at by a policeman, you can swallow it"

    Mountain Goats forums, Question for john?, February 28, 2007, retrieved April 4, 2014. 

  43. "This is a love song for a lot of broken people." — Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, May 26, 2004

    "This is a song about the things that surround you that only you can explain to yourself and that are opaque, unreadable symbols to everybody else." — Barbican, London, April 2, 2012 

  44. I used to think this was a film type, such as the Type 32 format of Polaroid film, capable of shooting color film at an ASA 100 film speed. However, a better explanation was offered to me by AKM Adam, a religious scholar who has written extensively on the Mountain Goats:

    Standard film rolls used to come in reels of 24 or 36 exposures; evidently John shot 32 of the 36 exposures, or rolled his own film (which some of us hardcore photo types used to do to save money). This line bothers me mildly, because 32 exposures is not so much, even in a day when the quantity of film one might use was significantly limited (by limited film rolls, costs of [film] and developing, and so on) — but I suppose the photos he shot were burdensome.

    AKM Adam, personal correspondence, September 18, 2017. Thank you for your help!

  45. Implies use of a black light, which would make light colors turn fluorescent, or the use of Luminol or other chemicals, would make blood and potentially other compounds fluoresce, thus perhaps indicating a forensics scene. 

  46. The Fertile Crescent refers to a region around the eastern Mediterranean, presently held by Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, and other countries. It is notable for being the birthplace of many ancient technologies, allowing the development of civilization as a result of agricultural fertility, domesticatable mammals, and plentiful water. 

  47. Often sung with someone's name, for example, "Rosie, I wish you had a number where you are". Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, May 26, 2004. 

  48. John has explained that he is the person handcuffed to the gurney:

    "This song is a true story, kinda, but I switched the persons, because I didn't want to tell some story about, 'Oh, I was suffering so much...', although I am now writing those songs. But I thought I would just slip in and change the person who is suffering to the second person. This is a story about how I woke up one morning and saw my friend Joel's mother... she's a nurse, and I was in the hospital, and I said, 'Oh, Mrs. Huschle, can you get them to take off the handcuffs?' And she said, 'No, not yet.'" — Bottom of the Hill, May 26, 2004. See also The EARL, Atlanta, October 18, 2004; Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 27, 2012.

    "This is a song about how sometimes you're really afraid they're going to send you to a treatment facility." — Empty Bottle, Chicago, November 15, 2007

    There is a strong relationship between this story and John's explanation of the Holt Boulevard line, which are sometimes told together as being the same story, which they may be. See for example City Arts and Lectures, Herbst Theatre, February 24, 2009. 

  49. Also sung, "They had an IV drip threading into you". Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 27, 2012. 

  50. A reference to the introduction of the 1960s British television series The Prisoner, most episodes of which open with the dialogue:

    Prisoner: Where am I?
    Number Two: In the village.
    Prisoner: What do you want?
    Number Two: Information.
    Prisoner: Whose side are you on?
    Number Two: That would be telling. We want information. Information. Information.
    Prisoner: You won't get it.
    Number Two: By hook or by crook, we will.
    Prisoner: Who are you?
    Number Two: The new Number Two.
    Prisoner: Who is Number One?
    Number Two: You are Number Six.
    Prisoner: I am not a number, I am a man!
    Number Two: <laughs>

    John has confirmed this allusion. William Caxton Fan Club, i've always wondered is the repeat of the word "information"..., retrieved April 4, 2014. 

  51. Occasionally sung with someone's name, for example, "Jackie, I came to see you up there in intensive care". — Bottom of the Hill, May 26, 2004 

  52. "Man, this is a wrong story to tell. Well, it is, because it — you know they say, 'Persons, any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental' — that's not true in the case of this story. This is true thing that somebody else did, so why should I hate on him, right? It's my friend Max. Not Max the photographer, a different guy, you've never met him. But he, like so many of us in those days, you know, and many young men and women of good will, he developed a real taste for black tar heroin and, but, like everybody's dealer, the dealer would go in and out of, you know, 'Ah, I'm getting out of this business, so you can't call me this weekend', and I really have a theory about — I don't know if you know that dealers do this, but smack dealers are into this, it's like, really, like — doing this real cut-you-off-turn-it-back-on-make-you-dependent-on-them thing. Who could have imagined that the person dealing heroin to you would turn out to be an ammoral monster? It's a strange world. So, anyway our dealer is going through one of his periodic I'm-not-going-to-sell-to-you moments, which I'm just assuming means he got enough money and doesn't need anybody hanging around his house, right now, right, so Max drives into Orange County into the housing projects where he knows who can get it, but we don't know what to do once we get there. It's not a thing we know. And I say we — I wasn't with him this day — thank God, because he went and scored, and he was very excited, it worked, so he pulled over on the side of the 57 freeway in Orange County to fix and nod off, instead of, I guess his idea was fix and then get back on the freeway? But he didn't do that 'cause he nodded out, and that's when the California Highway Patrol came up behind him, and asked him how he was feeling with the needle of heroin on the seat, and he went to jail, and so, well, then years later I think, 'Oh man, remember that one time Max went to Garden Grove?'" — Bowery Ballroom, New York City, March 29, 2011. 

  53. The TEC-9 is a semiautomatic handgun, notorious for its role in the Cleveland School, Columbine High School, and 101 California Street massacres in the United States, leading to its ban in multiple states. 

  54. Milky Way is a mass-manufactured brand of inexpensive chocolate candy bar with nougat and caramel, named after a popular 1920s milkshake. 

  55. "Kind of a boneheaded little song about how maybe when you go home they don't really know how things have been for you, you know, so you would tell them, but you prefer to look around and think how stupid they all are that they don't know." — Bottom of the Hill, March 2, 2008 

  56. Quito is the capital city of Ecuador and the highest such city in the world, being located at 9,350 feet above sea level. 

  57. A reference to aviator John Gillespie Magee, Jr.'s famous sonnet High Flight, written shortly before his death in World War II:

    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
    I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air...

    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark nor ever eagle flew —
    And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

    Magee's poem was itself inspired by lines from several other poems.

    Armenti, Peter (2013). John Gillespie Magee's "High Flight". From the Catbird Seat: Poetry & Literature at the Library of Congress. Retrieved April 8, 2014. 

  58. "This is a song about things that you infuse too much of yourself into so that when you have to see them destroyed, or forget where they went, it gets to count as a greater loss than it otherwise might have. If you suffer from a certain type of neurosis-slash-mental-illness, this is a very appealing process to you, i.e. me." — Koko, London, September 9, 2010 

  59. Sometimes sung, "This song is for two people..." Koko, London, September 9, 2010. 

  60. "Sometimes I change up a lyric in the second verse... The desk in it is a real desk... the desk is this beautiful, beautiful wooden desk my father — not my stepfather, I always want to make this distinction — my father is the kind of guy who, if he's going to buy a new desk, he goes and looks at the desk over and over, and he discusses it, and he measures it, he goes home and looks at where it might fit, and he looks at some other desks, asks the guy a lot of questions... I'm a speed freak, this used to drive me nuts as a kid. It's like, 'You want the desk? Just buy the desk. If you don't like it, we'll take it in the backyard and chop it up, it'll be great.' So — but he always would hold out for six to eight or nine months before getting some desk — and I got the desk when I moved to Portland for my catastrophic year there... So I had this desk, that had belonged to my father, right, and when I was a child I would watch him working at it and sort of look up with that idolatrous look that a son looks up at his father with — this is my busy, smart dad, hope someday I'm like him and inside of like, two weeks of being in possession of the desk, I'm storing burnt spoons and needles in the upper drawer and feeling that really transgressive — it's like, 'I feel bad about that, but there's really no better place to put them, so.' Anyway, I was in Portland and I thought, 'I know he doesn't have this desk anymore, I've visted him where he lives and I remember he did put it in storage', and I thought, 'Man, this desk is haunting a building around here someplace, and if this was a videogame and I had endless lives I would find the building that has the desk and there would be an awesome cutscene where I talk to it." — Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 27, 2012 

  61. Given the above banter, this refers to the needles and cotton balls used to shoot drugs, specifically methamphetamine. The cotton is used as a filter for particulate while filling the syringe. 

  62. "While a lot of these are drawn from experience, I did not, in fact, ever shoot anybody... The guy is carrying a terrible guilt that somebody came into the store where he was working and he sort of — he's working a liquor store on the night shift, he's not really got a lot going on — and some guy comes in and tries to rob the place, and he shoots and kills him, right. That'd be a heavy burden to carry, I think, unless you were one of those shallow people who'd go, 'Well, I did what I had to do.' But I suspect for most of us in the depths of our hearts that would be a very hard thing to have done. And so the guy is sort of musing on this one very real experience versus, you know, its importance in the long run, and he's thinking a little about God, and he's thinking about redemption... it kind of is the key song as far as the album's title goes." — WXDU session, February 1, 2004 

  63. This title is eerily similar to the title of Jacques Lusseyran's collection of essays, Against the Pollution of the I. Lusseyran was a blind man and a hero of the French resistance against the Nazis due to his formation of the Volontaires de la Liberté, who produced propagandha against Hitler and sheltered Allied soldiers evading capture. He was only 17. Lusseyran was betrayed and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp until his liberation in 1945. His autobiography, And There Was Light, remains a celebrated work about the French resistance and is notable for his optimism and unquenchable spirit.

    Thank you (again!) to Mairead Beeson for noticing this connection. 

  64. Against Pollution is part of the informal series of Biblical references

  65. There is significant overlap between both the tone and phrasing of this song, particularly here, and Thomas Hardy's 1902 poem, The Man He Killed, in which a man shoots his foe "face to face". In the poem, the narrator contemplates and then justifies the killing, similar to in this song. This allusion is far from clear and although John is fond of these sorts of oblique references, I certainly can't prove it. Here is the poem in full so you may judge for yourself:

    "Had he and I but met
    By some old ancient inn,
    We should have sat us down to wet
    Right many a nipperkin!

    "But ranged as infantry,
    And staring face to face,
    I shot at him as he at me,
    And killed him in his place.

    "I shot him dead because —
    Because he was my foe,
    Just so: my foe of course he was;
    That's clear enough; although

    "He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
    Off-hand like — just as I —
    Was out of work — had sold his traps —
    No other reason why.

    "Yes; quaint and curious war is!
    You shoot a fellow down
    You'd treat if met where any bar is,
    Or help to half-a-crown."

    Thank you yet again to Mairead Beeson for this allusion :)

    Hardy, Thomas (2001). The Complete Poems. London: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-94929-3 

  66. John has sometimes sung Biblically-alluded lyrics or quotes from scripture here. See 40 Watt Club, Athens, Georgia, August 10, 2006. 

  67. An allusion to the Christian end times, in which the dead will be resurrected and all people will be judged by God. 

  68. An allusion to Acts 2:17:

    And it will be in the last days, says God,
    that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity;
    then your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    and your old men will dream dreams.

    Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved April 8, 2014. 

  69. This phrase is similar to lines in New World Emerging Blues, however, it's unclear to me if they have a shared origin somewhere. Given the frequent references to Corinthians elsewhere, and the similar imagery, it's possible that this draws from 1 Corinthians 13:12, although the allusion is not as obvious as in other instances:

    For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
    but then face to face.
    Now I know in part,
    but then I will know fully,
    as I am fully known.

    AKM Adam, a theologian and author of a paper describing the Mountain Goats' usage of scripture, supports this thesis (personal correspondence, July 2014).

    Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved July 14, 2014. 

  70. Pigs That Ran Straightaway into the Water, Triumph Of is part of the informal series of Biblical references 

  71. This refers to the Exorcism of the Gerasene, a miracle of Jesus told in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, in which Jesus casts the demons Legion out of the body of a man. At the demons' request, they enter a herd of two thousand pigs, who drown themselves in a nearby lake. 

  72. Chino is an Inland Empire city near Claremont, Southern California. Potentially relevant to the song, it is home to three prisons, one for men, one for women, and one for youth. Chino is the childhood home of Peter Peter Hughes. 

  73. Claremont is a city in the Inland Empire of Southern California where much of the album's action takes place. John attended college here at Pitzer, one of the five Claremont Colleges. See also this footnote