Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Driving from VEGAS to LA, we stopped for a night in Joshua Tree, staying in Room 8 at the Joshua Tree Inn, where Gram Parsons sadly partied out back in 1973. For those who don't know the backstory: Gram (short for Ingram, awesome name alert) was a country rocker who played with the Byrds, the Rolling Stones and both solo and with his own band The Flying Burrito Brothers. I've always had a soft spot for Gram, ever since a cute boy called Simon, who had a hare lip, put Hot Burrito #1 on a mixtape for me when I was about sixteen. But I digress.
I'd popped my head around the door of The Joshua Tree Inn years earlier but felt a bit like a death tourist. I'd always regretted not staying there though, so when we needed somewhere to stay on this trip I look it up and lo; the room was for rent, in its original condition and with its link to Gram actually celebrated. So I booked it. In the nights leading up to staying there I was slightly apprehensive, thinking I'd be creeped out and wouldn't be able to sleep.
Au contraire. On the night we rolled up from Vegas it was just getting dark as we arrived. The owners had left us a note taped to the door telling us to go straight 'round the back to our room. Picking our way past the aloes and cactus, we found room 8, which opens onto a pretty courtyard, and let ourselves in.
There were framed pictures of Gram all over the room as well as plectrums, notes and little bits of memorabilia fans had left, guestbooks filled with tributes and a stereo with mix CDs. There was a door that opened on to a small little yard with loungers and chairs. Time for a party, basically!
We walked over the highway to the shop for supplies. Tequila and a six pack later, we laid outside listening to Gram, staring up at the stars. Between us we saw six shooting stars. It was so incredibly awesome. I totally felt like I was partying with Gram, the energy in the room was incredible. Passing out early, I got the best night of sleep I'd had in ages. (Btw, this isn't soft-focus, I think there was suncream on the lens!)
Then a morning in the beautiful desert sun with this as my view as I showered next to the pool...
There is a lot of myth surrounding what happened to Gram after his death. His family wanted him to be buried in South Carolina and the body was taken to the airport, however his mates knew that would not be what he wanted and so, completely drunk, they drove to the airport in a hearse, stole his body and took it out to the Joshua Tree National Park, apparently giving him an impromptu cremation, a huge fireball, at a rock called Cap Rock. We drove out to visit his memorial. This is Cap Rock.
Tributes to Gram.
Engraved in the rock.
Isn't he gorgeous? I've got the biggest crush on him, especially now we've hung out. I'm especially loving this album of his at the moment, Another Side of This Life, recorded in Greenwich Village in the early sixties, very influenced by Fred Neil, another big favourite of mine... This song in particular is wonderful, it's almost jazzy. I don't need to say RIP, this dude is still partying out in Joshua Tree...
Edited to add: I found this amazing footage of Gram singing my favourite of his songs, Hot Burrito #1. Stick with it. The bit where he puts his sunglasses on slays me!