$1,000 Wedding - Gram Parsons
So, in 1968 Gram Parsons left the Byrds while they were in England and went to the South of France to hang out with the Rolling Stones where he can be credited with fanning the flames of Keith Richards' interest in country and western. However Jagger and co considered him to be a bad influence on Richards - imagine that, how bad do you to have to be to be a bad influence on Keith Richards? - what with his heroin addiction and high consumption of alcohol, and got shot of him. Back in the states Gram formed the seminal, brilliant and spectacularly unsuccessful country band "the Flying Burrito Brothers" with ex-Byrd Chris Hillman. After a tumultuous two years and two albums with the band, punctuated by disappearances where he tried in vain to link back up with the Stones, he was sacked after turning up blind drunk for a gig. After this he embarked on a solo career and produced two sparkling albums "GP" and "Grievous Angel" (released posthumously) before dying in in 1973 from an overdose of morphine and alcohol.
In his solo career he nearly always performed and recorded with the young and comparatively innocent Emmylou Harris for whom he had a strong musical affinity and strictly platonic love. Much is made of their pure but romantic love even now, 45 years later.
He was a complete rebel rouser, druggie and twit, but musically he possessed an extraordinary talent, was the pioneer of "new country" and was capable of moments of incredible tenderness in his songs, tenderness that suddenly takes you by surprise. It's hard to pick a top song by Parsons, nearly all of the tracks from the Burrito's "Gilded Palace of Sin" album and the solo LPs are terrific, and either you get him, or you don't, he's one of those guys.
So I'm picking this, the tragic story of a man stood up at the altar, a beautiful song with premonition of his self destructive tragedy lurking in every line. What makes his words so different from the average country song are the jumps in the lyrical imagery, one step further than you expect, here comparing the aborted wedding to a funeral and then running with it:
"Was a thousand dollar wedding, supposed to be held the other day and with all the invitations sent the young bride went away when the groom saw people passing notes, not unusual, he might say but where are the flowers for my baby I'd even like to see her mean old mama and why ain't there a funeral, if you're gonna act that way"
and now she's gone, he knows their love is dead:
"oh it's supposed to be a funeral
it's been a bad, bad day"
Cheer up Gram, it's the end of the world.