This has always been my favourite song on the album from first listen, and tbh it still is. Here’s the thing: purple emoticon under the chair time, but I was a bit disappointed by VGPS when I first heard it: after all the accolades, it wasn’t really what I was expecting musically (it wasn’t just the cover I was a bit nonplussed by!) Why? Well I have (and had) a big thing for the very music hall British side of The Kinks late 60s sound, and the way this album is mentioned as the ultimate flowering of that phase, you’d think it’d be busting at the seams with rinderdink eccentric off kilter tracks of that nature. But it’s not. If you want an album that’s actually like that from 1968, get ‘The Birthday Party’ by The Idle Race instead. VGPS is instead musically (not lyrically) probably the most diverse, cosmopolitan collection of pop songs that the group ever assembled, taking in blues, folk, ska, calypso, rock, proto-metal, psyche and several others. I think this is one of the main reasons for the albums endurance and wider appeal, the fact it has that musical eclecticism and richness in a way none of their other LPs quite do. So in such a wide musical spectrum, there can only be a small sliver of space allotted for music hall/vaudeville type stuff: thus ‘Sitting By The Riverside’ and ‘All Of My Friends Were There’ are the only two songs to betray that influence. Perhaps not coincidentally, they’re also 2 songs that were left off the 12 track LP, have (as Mark notes above) no real alternate versions, and (outside of the 2011 Meltdown full album show where Ray had to perform them), never been attempted live by the Davies bros. That and the fact that they’re rarely considered highlights of the album (and are sometimes marked out as lowlights) has led me to kind of group them together as the ‘unloved music hall duo’ on an album that otherwise eskews that idiom. God I’ve digressed a bit too much here. Anyway, about ‘All Of My Friends’ and why I love it: the campy bouncy verse is probably immediately repugnant to a significant per cent of listeners, but it was ‘THIS is what I’m talking about!!’ to me when I first heard it. And it’s really there to set up the contrast with the chorus which is what makes the song. The structure reminds me of the Them hit ‘Here Comes The Night’ with the daffy, nerdy so un-Van Morrison like verse and then BOOM the dark night of the soul wailing on the chorus. The latter wouldn’t have half its power if it hadn’t been preceded by the former. Long shot for comedy, then close up for tragedy. ‘All Of My Friends’ works in a similar way, except here it’s contrasting highly strung internalised nervous tension on the verse with (ultimately) the redemption of communal acceptance on the chorus. When I hear that chorus, I get a filmic image in my head of a slo mo pan across a crowd of happy drunks raising their glasses, captured in eternal carefree revel. It really evokes those moments at alcohol assisted seasonal family gatherings where (if you’re lucky enough) you feel accepted into the bosom of family, warm and safe and all daily stresses forgotten in that bucolic moment, fleeting but always to return on another occasion. To me, that chorus, more than even the title track, is the sound of the soul and essence of this LP.