Thursday, September 19, 2013

40 Year Itch: An Hour of Darkness

At 12:30 AM on September 19, 1973 Gram Parsons was pronounced dead by a doctor in the Yucca Valley emergency ward. The man credited with inventing country rock had spent the night binging on drugs and alcohol at the Joshua Tree Inn in Twentynine Palms,California. He'd fallen unconscious, turned blue, was resuscitated and then died of an overdose of morphine, cocaine and barbiturates. His blood alcohol level was 0.21%. 

What a waste. Had he been able to shake his demons and apply himself to his art, Parsons might recorded some great albums in the league with his Flying Burrito Brothers debut. His solo albums GP  and Grievous Angel , which he'd finished recording days earlier, are good. Some songs are very good. 

But nothing yet matched the brilliance of "Hot Burrito #1" and "Hot Burrito #2". Still, when you're as good looking as Parsons and you die young, leaving behind a collection of songs sung with the saddest voice anyone will ever hear, the legacy is going to grow.

   The days following Parsons death read like a comedic heist movie starring James Franco and Seth Rogan as manager Phil Kaufman and roadie Michael Martin . Remembering Parsons's wish to be cremated in Joshua Tree National Park, the pair steal his body before it can put on a plane bound for New Orleans. The slosh 5 gallons of gas on an open casket and toss a match. BOOM! A funeral pyre that could be seen 5 miles away.

(No sooner do I write these words than I discover there WAS a movie about the heist: Grand Theft Parsons starring Johnny Knoxville, Christina Applegate and is that Michael Shannon? )

    Because there weren't any laws regrading the theft of human bodies, the authorities could only arrest Kaufman and Martin for stealing a casket and burning it without a permit. They paid a $1300 fine.

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