Miss Marianne Faithfull:

Miss Marianne Faithfull:
(Born December 29, 1946) Songs she inspired: She Smiled Sweetly, Let's Spend The Night Together, She's Like A Rainbow, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Wild Horses, I Got The Blues, 100 Years Ago, Winter

Miss Anita Pallenberg:

Miss Anita Pallenberg:
(Born April 6, 1942) Songs she inspired: You Got The Silver, Sister Morphine (words by Marianne), Wild Horses, Coming Down Again, Angie, Beast Of Burden, All About You

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hot Burritos

The International Submarine Band, one of Gram's early groups, 1967:The Parsons-era Byrds, who recorded the classic Sweetheart Of The Rodeo:Chris and Gram, the early Burrito days:The infamous Nudie Suits, Gram's idea of course:Photo from the album artwork for The Gilded Palace of Sin:An early Burritos performance (Gram is on the far left):One of my favorite pics of Gram - laughing with Chris Hillman in happier days:Gram, the unequivocal "star" of the Burritos, decked out in his Nudie suit:The very early Burritos with Jon Corneal on drums (left). The girl in the center is Juanita, a friend of Chris Hillman's who inspired the fantastic Burritos tune of the same name:Hanging in LA:On the infamous "Train Tour" of 1969:The band minus Chris Ethridge:Probably my favorite picture of Gram, on stage at Altamont, 1969:What were they thinking? 1970, photo session for Burrito Deluxe:1970:
This post is a belated Happy Birthday to Gram, who would have been 63 on November 5.  I finally got around to scanning the photos from the book Hot Burritos: The True Story of the Flying Burrito Brothers, written mostly from long interviews with founding Bryd and Burrito, Chris Hillman (however, it does include interviews with a lot of others from the group, A&M record execs, etc - it is quite a well-researched book). It was an enjoyable read that I would recommend to any Burritos fan, although it obviously bothers Hillman immensely that Gram is now this cult icon whose posthumous legend he is constantly reminded of, and that tone more or less dominates the book. While Hillman and Parsons were once close friends who channeled their shared vision of playing country music in a rock n' roll type of band into the classic album The Gilded Palace of Sin (which any fan of this blog should own), Chris puts Gram down whenever he can. This is understandable, as I'm sure it is annoying to constantly hear how great Gram was while his own efforts were somewhat thankless, but sometimes I wonder if he tries a little too hard to make sure readers know that Gram was often: lazy, unreliable, drug addled and a guy who ultimately wasted his talent.  These points are made numerous times.  But this book still feels mostly true, and Chris Hillman is, if nothing else, a terribly decent guy and a talented, hard-working musician who has probably never gotten the credit he deserves (and is rightfully a little pissed about it). It's true that Gram and Chris wrote most of the well-known and classic Burritos tunes together; even "Hot Burrito # 1" and "Hot Burrito # 2" weren't written solely by Gram (as I had thought), but by he and Chris Ethridge, and Ethridge's name comes first in the credits, which was even more of a surprise.  I've never listened to the other two Burritos albums (the ones after Gram was fired - yes, fired - the self-titled Flying Burrito Brothers from 1971 and Last Of The Red Hot Burritos from 1972), but this book has definitely made me want to order them and give them an objective listen.  Gram definitely brought the flash and style to the band (the Nudie suits and swagger), and was obviously the best looking of them (although Chris Hillman was kind of cute), as well as these moments of songwriting brilliance, but the band was more than just his would-be star vehicle, and Gram was definitely not the band member who worked his arse off in attempts to make the band succeed.  Hillman often states, and I tend to agree, that although Gilded Palace is a great album, it could have been a lot better if the band was tighter musically, had spent a bit more time on the songs, and they had been recorded better.  But Gram wasn't that kind of guy.  He wasn't an extremely skilled or dedicated musician, and things like rehearsing weren't of considerable interest to him.  Personally, I've always felt a kinship with Gram because I, too, am a spoiled brat who's never had to try too hard or work too hard at anything (he was a trust fund baby who received biannual payments of $25,000 from the Snively orange grove fortune - quite a bit of money in those days). For most people, this type of character is repelling and doesn't lend itself to that much sympathy (unless of course, they die young and tragically), but Gram Parsons had such a unique story and place in popular music, and it's refreshing to read about.  He's one of those lesser-known-about legends, and it's almost criminal that he was never really a "star" when he was alive.  I suppose he was marginally well-known, sort of famous (maybe?), but no where near to the degree that he wanted to be.  Alas, this book is definitely not a Gram biography, and anyone expecting that will be disappointed. I thought maybe there would be some anecdotes about Anita and Marianne (you know, Joshua Tree, Stonehenge, Villa Nellcote!), but besides each of their names being mentioned exactly one time, there's no insight at all. I definitely think I learned a lot about the Burritos and other musicians that I'd previously never heard of or paid attention to (like Sneaky Pete and Al Perkins), and has made me want to also delve into some old country artists who inspired Chris and Gram to write those songs ("Wheels", "Sin City", "Christine's Tune", "Juanita", etc) that I love so much.

PS, Gram singing "You better love me, Jesus Christ" on the tune "Hot Burrito #2" is one of the greatest, most beautifully sung lines in all recorded music.  Also, the Burritos' covers of "Dark End Of The Street" and "Do Right Woman" are MUST-hears.  They're so gorgeous and creatively done.

(all images = my scans from the book Hot Burritos, copyright 2008)

4 comments:

Axe said...

Hail fellow Faces fan - You can be sure to hear rare live Faces footage on AXEFM.

Sildenafil said...

This blog is perfect because I like so much those times, so what captured my attention was the way they were wearing because that's my style.

Anonymous said...

As the daughter of Chris Ethridge, I would like to say that he felt he was not represented accurately in this book by his friend and fellow band mate either. It broke his heart to have to read about a past that was shared by him, in a negative and often derogatory light.
Chris Ethridge is a master song writer and incredible musician. My mother said that he would share credit with other musicians for songs that he primarily wrote. My all time favorite song is called "she". My dad wrote the music, the first section lyrics, and the chorus. Gram wrote the "he" session, and Booker T. wrote the "they" part. My dad is from Meridian, Mississippi, Dixie.
Necia Ethrige

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