Keith Richards remembers Gram Parson on his anniversary

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During that time, Keith Richards & Gram Parsons were close friends– with Gram feeding Richards a steady diet of country music influence.

The Stones Away. A 16 room waterfront mansion that once served as Gestapo headquarters for the Nazis during WWII.  The infamy continued with it now best remembered among rock fans as the grand flop-house where Exile On Main Street was recorded. (Aknowledgemnts https://selvedgeyard.com )stones

French photographer Dominique Tarle chronicled perhaps the most notorious house party ever .And had full access to goings-on over a period of six crazy months.  He later recounted to the New York Times– ”They built a studio in the basement of Keith’s house because the band knew it would be easiest for Keith”. says Dominique Tarlé, who had an all-access pass inside the villa for six months.

 

“Engineers and technicians slept over, illegal power lines from the French railway system juiced their instruments, and when the temperature hit 100, they rehearsed with their pants off.  A carnival of characters paraded through– Terry Southern, Gram Parsons, John Lennon, even a tribal band from Bengal… Dope dealers from Marseille; petty thieves, who stole most of the drugs and half the furniture; and hangers-on, all of them there to witness what was happening.”

exile  During that time, Keith Richards & Gram Parsons were close friends– with Gram feeding Richards a steady diet of country music influence.  They both were pretty wrecked most of the time on anything from marijuana, cocaine, heroine, you name it, to plain ol’ booze.  Keith Richards recalls–

“I first met Gram in 1968, when the Byrds were appearing in London — I think it was a club called Blazes. I knew the Byrds from Mr. Tambourine Man; the Stones had worked some shows in California with them back then.

But when I saw them at Blazes with Gram, I could see this was a radical turn. I went backstage, and we hooked up. Then the Byrds came through London again, on their way to South Africa. I was like, ‘Man, we don’t go there.’ The sanctions and the embargo were on. So he quit the Byrds, right there and then. Of course, he’s got nowhere to stay, so he moved in with me.”

“As a songwriter, Gram worked very much like I do, which is knock out a couple of chords, start to spiel and see how far it can go. Rather than sitting around with a piece of paper and a pen, trying to make things fit neatly together, if you just get on the microphone, things come to you

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“Mick and Gram never really clicked, mainly because the Stones are such a tribal thing. At the same time, Mick was listening to what Gram was doing. Mick’s got ears.

“The drugs and drinking — he was no better or worse than the rest of us. He just made that one fatal mistake — taking that one hit after he cleaned up, still thinking he could take the same amount. And it was too f*cking much. But he didn’t get into dope because of us. He knew his stuff before he met us.  I think he was just getting into his stride when he died (In ’73 Gram Parsons fatally overdosed from a lethal combo of morphine and alcohol).

Gram Parsons starting spending more and more time at a place that had long been dear to him– Joshua Tree National Monument. He’d spend days there on LSD getting lost, chasing UFOs, whatever. Tragically it was there that Parsons overdosed in ’73 at the age of 26.  According to to girlfriend Margaret Fisher’s account in the 2005 biography Grievous Angel: An Intimate Biography of Gram Parsons by Jessica Hundley, the amount of morphine consumed by Parsons would be lethal to three addicts– it’s thought that he’d likely overestimated his tolerance considering his past experience with opiates.

Parson’s stepfather arranged for a private ceremony back in New Orleans, and neglected to invite any of his friends from the music industry.

 

 In a strange turn of events, Parsons’ body somehow disappeared from LAX before it could be shipped to New Orleans for burial. You see, prior to his death Parsons stated that he wished to be cremated at Joshua Tree and have his ashes spread over Cap Rock, a prominent natural feature there.

To fulfill Parsons’ “funeral” wishes, Phil Kaufman and a friend stole his body from LAX and drove it in a hearse to Joshua Tree– where they attempted to cremate it by pouring five gallons of gasoline into the open coffin and throwing a lit match inside.

What resulted was an enormous fireball. Police chased them, but according to one account they were unencumbered by sobriety and got away. The two were arrested several days later. Since there was no law against stealing a dead body, they were only fined around $750 for stealing the coffin, and were surprisingly not prosecuted for leaving 35 lbs of Gram Parsons’ charred remains in the desert.

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