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Help: Sin City (Gram Parsons) - meaning

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Review: New Gram Parsons film (24)
Chords Req: She (Gram Parsons) (2)


GUEST,woody 01 Aug 06 - 02:27 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 01 Aug 06 - 05:29 PM
michaelr 01 Aug 06 - 07:27 PM
GUEST,guest, woody 01 Aug 06 - 10:58 PM
Richard Brandenburg 02 Aug 06 - 02:45 AM
Richard Brandenburg 02 Aug 06 - 03:07 AM
Lonesome EJ 06 Aug 07 - 05:17 PM
GUEST,Dblugras 06 Nov 10 - 09:07 AM
GUEST 06 Nov 10 - 10:18 AM
GUEST,Ebor_Fiddler 06 Nov 10 - 05:12 PM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Nov 10 - 05:40 PM
GUEST,Twickfolk 26 Jan 11 - 06:56 AM
GUEST,Clive Pownceby 26 Jan 11 - 11:35 AM
GUEST,Noisebender 05 Feb 11 - 02:14 PM
GUEST,GP4Ever 05 Feb 11 - 09:32 PM
GUEST,JB 19 Apr 11 - 10:56 AM
GUEST,KS 14 Jun 11 - 03:46 AM
GUEST,KS 14 Jun 11 - 03:49 AM
GUEST,Doug Saum 14 Jun 11 - 01:11 PM
pdq 14 Jun 11 - 02:10 PM
Joe_F 14 Jun 11 - 08:18 PM
Lonesome EJ 14 Jun 11 - 11:13 PM
GUEST,bluesoutpost 13 Jan 12 - 09:12 PM
Bobert 13 Jan 12 - 09:27 PM
judyac 15 Jan 12 - 10:32 AM
judyac 15 Jan 12 - 02:13 PM
GUEST,bluesoutpost 16 Jan 12 - 02:41 AM
GUEST,tblank 22 Jul 12 - 05:56 PM
GUEST,Judith 17 Mar 16 - 12:19 PM
GUEST,Dave 17 Mar 16 - 12:36 PM
GUEST,guitarzan 19 Mar 18 - 10:09 PM
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Subject: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: GUEST,woody
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 02:27 PM

I am looking for the meaning of Gram Parson's "Sin City" lyrics.

I heard the song in the early seventies. I think Emmy Lou was singing it with Gram, and I thought then - "I like that song - I wonder what it's about." I heard it again last month, realized the chords are simple, and learned it. But I still have no idea what it is about.

One guess is that sin city is Las Vegas, and it's about greed and armageddon. Another guess is that "earthquake" is a metaphor for gambling. Another guess is that the guy in the last verse is JFK or Martin Luther King and sin city is Washington, D.C. But none of these offer a clue to the "recruits" and the "green mohair suits"

So ultimately, I love singing this song, but I still have no idea what I'm singing about.

I have never posted to Mudcat before. I am hoping for enlightenment from the Mudcat Community.
Feel free to point me at an existing thread or a google link, it this has alrady been pounded into the ground.

Thank you in advance


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 05:29 PM

Lyrics at www.gramparsons.com/tab/tab_css.php?lyric=drugs

30584 has some discussion: Parsons


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: michaelr
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 07:27 PM

It's about Los Angeles where Parsons lived, a city that's been expected to tumble into the sea in an earthquake for quite some years now. "Green mohair suits" may be a reference to the gaudy Nudie suits the Burritos wore on the cover of "Gilded Palace".

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: GUEST,guest, woody
Date: 01 Aug 06 - 10:58 PM

Thank you, Michael R,
That gets me most of the way there.

Who is the song referring to in the last verse?

The friend who came around and tried to clean up this town ... but they lost the best friend they had.

Thank you in advance,


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: Richard Brandenburg
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 02:45 AM

I recently saw Chris Hillman and Herb Pederson, with Larry Park on guitar (son of the great Ray Park of the California bluegrass duo Vern & Ray, with whom Pederson played banjo and sang) and they performed this song, which Hillman wrote with Parsons.

If I recall it right, Chris said that they were going over the unfinished song and that Gram spontantously came up with the "recruits with their green mohair suits" line.

Thanks to Q for the clicky back to the Parsons thread. Great stuff there for readers who wonder what all the fuss is about.

Herb and Chris are a continuing treasure.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: Richard Brandenburg
Date: 02 Aug 06 - 03:07 AM

Oh, and I wouldn't overthink the lines about the man who came around... let it just evoke. I enjoy it as one of Parsons' gospel nods, and I like that about him.

Like the lines in "Wheels"(another Hillman co-write):

...And when I feel my time is almost up
And destiny is in my right hand
I turn to Him who made my faith so strong
Come on Wheels make this boy a man

The Cosmic aspect seemed to include an earnest reference to the concerns of Gospel Music in Country, and I like it that during a time when it would have been easy to be ironic or snarky about those references, he wasn't. Who knows what he believed, but I like the mesaure of respect he offered up while he was gleefully messing with Nashville's heads.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 06 Aug 07 - 05:17 PM

Regarding the words from Wheels, they work on at least two levels. At first hearing, they imply that the singer is at the end of his rope, so to speak, and that "destiny is in my right hand" may refer to holding a pistol. But in the context of the song as a hymn to Gram's Harley, the image that works best is the rolling grip of the throttle, and the exhiliration and danger of riding a motorcycle at high speed.
The fact that both images are complementary and applicable is especially interesting.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: GUEST,Dblugras
Date: 06 Nov 10 - 09:07 AM

Perhaps, Gram wrote the song is about the original City of Sin; San Francisco.

This may help you to understand the significance of Joshua II, The Nudie Suits, etc.-

http://symonsez.wordpress.com/2010/04/18/1906-san-francisco-quake-day-after-curse-by-nudist-prophet/

Perhaps, the 31st floor is a testament to the 315 ft tall "Call Building" which was the tallest west of the Mississippi River in 1906. 315 ft would be about 31 floors in today's calculations, but the building only had 12 floors according to historical accounts....

Again, these are only my speculations based on the facts, details, and historical accounts of the original City of Sin!

Time to fire up the Harley and take a ride,
Dblugras


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Nov 10 - 10:18 AM

My understanding of the 31st floor reference is that the executive offices of Columbia Records are located on the 31st floor of the the Columbia building in LA. I think they also have a Gold Plated door, although they never invited me to go up there.

But I could be wrong.

Bob.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: GUEST,Ebor_Fiddler
Date: 06 Nov 10 - 05:12 PM

"The people from Sin City, when they couldn't sin no more,
Used to go on up to Noah's house and laugh at poor old Noah."

From Flanders and Horowitz's "Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo" written in the late fifties/early sixties, before The Flying Burrito's - sorry folks!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Nov 10 - 05:40 PM

I think I read somewhere that the lines about "A friend came 'round tried to clean up this town" was maybe about Bobby Kennedy, who was shot the year before "Sin City" was released.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: GUEST,Twickfolk
Date: 26 Jan 11 - 06:56 AM

I've loved this song for over 35 years....both Gram's version with the Burrito Brothers (duet with Chris Hillman) and later Emmylou Harris' version with the Hot Band (duet with Herb Pedersen).

Today I stumbled by chance across a version with Gram and Emmylou together....it actually feels like a miniature 'Holy Grail' moment. It was released as a bonus track on a Rhino compilation of GP's work three or four years back.

Anyone registered to Spotify can hear it over there....though rough and ready it's actually rather wonderful. Accompanied only by a solitary acoustic guitar (presumably played by Gram himself)
Sounds as if it was from a radio session somewhere in California on the ill-fated Fallen Angels tour just before Gram died. Some of the time there's a third harmony added by a guy called ND Smart which gets in the way a bit (he sounds as if he's closest to the microphone)


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: GUEST,Clive Pownceby
Date: 26 Jan 11 - 11:35 AM

I recall reading that the "friend who came around" alluded to Christ. Oh, and I'm sure the city in question IS Los Angeles and not San Fran.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: GUEST,Noisebender
Date: 05 Feb 11 - 02:14 PM

I see it this way... They left for Vegas cuz the West Coast was going to slide into the Ocean. They considered San Fran cuz they had friends there however Harvey Milk got shot.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: GUEST,GP4Ever
Date: 05 Feb 11 - 09:32 PM

Check out Gram Parsons on Facebook.com/gramparsons or twitter.com/gramparsons - you can get help for lyrics and more from the community there!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: GUEST,JB
Date: 19 Apr 11 - 10:56 AM

The last verse can be specific as in Bobby K or mythical as in Jesus - and Sin City equally is LA or anywhere in space and time you fancy.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: GUEST,KS
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 03:46 AM

In an interview published in the LA Times, Hillman eludes to the song being about LA, and the manipulative influences of greedy recording execs.

"It'll swallow you in, if you've got some money to burn" refers to the "sin"-full lifestyle prevelant in the music industry at the time...which Parsons did get swallowed into, eventually overdosing.

The Byrd's manager was Larry Spector whom Hillman refers to as a thief. He had a condo on the 31st floor and had a garish painted gold door.

"The scientists say, it'll all wash away" most likely is reference to LA sliding into the ocean with the long predicted "earthquake".

He says the reference to the "recruits in their mohair suits" is a statement on how the industry viewed music as fashion, not art.

I found the interview to be very inlightening, having always thought that the song was about Vegas...which didn't totally jive with the words. Now it all makes so much more sense.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: GUEST,KS
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 03:49 AM

Oh, and he also says the last verse is refering to Bobby Kennedy.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: GUEST,Doug Saum
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 01:11 PM

From WWII through the 50's and 60's (maybe longer) US military uniforms were a blend of wool and mohair. GP is probably referring to the returning soldiers from Viet Nam. Ironically cautioning them to beware of LA sucking them in when they think they are safe at home. "Three years of pay" would be the wages earned on the tour of duty. The song seems to me a swirling mix of ominous apocalyptic warning to the yet innocent from the fundamentalist country boy simultaneously shocked and entranced with the city of sin. DS


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: pdq
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 02:10 PM

GUEST,KS has it right.

Remember, Chris Hillman is as much this song's writer as Gram Parsons.

1968 was a important year for both of them, with Sweethart of the Rodeo being recorded early that year and the first Burrito Brothers record being worked on late the same year.

Also a big year for social unrest, rock concerts, drugs and more. The man who died was Bobby Kennedy who was shot in Los Angeles in June. Much of the rock community supported Kennedy.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: Joe_F
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 08:18 PM

I presume irrelevantly, there is a town so called in Massachusetts. Wikipedia informs us:

Due to a reputation for high crime that has persisted since the beginning of industrialization, a taunting rhyme about Lynn has been known throughout Eastern Massachusetts:

    Lynn, Lynn, city of sin
    You never come out the way you went in
    Ask for water, they give you a gin
    the girls say no, but always give in

A motorcycle dealer there calls itself Sin City Cycles.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'sin city', 'gram parsons'
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 14 Jun 11 - 11:13 PM

Well, Doug, the line is "take it home right away/ you've got three years to pay/ but Satan is waitin' his turn", which in my mind is a tongue in cheek comment on the whole American consumer attitude of buy now, pay later, and don't worry about it. Whatever "green mohair suits" meant at the time, it's probably the one line that really dates this song to the late 60s when mohair was a style statement.

I buy into the Bobby Kennedy/ Jesus Christ connotation of the "friend", especially since Hillman says so.

Was "sin city" a term applied to Las Vegas prior to this song? I really don't believe it was.

The line about the gold-plated door that won't keep out the Lord's burning rain is probably the best line in the song and reflects not only Parsons' abiding Christian faith, but the hippy concept that wealth was inherently corrupting, and the rich had it coming to them. Oddly enough, I think that line was written by Hillman.


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Subject: RE: Help: Sin City (Gram Parsons) - meaning
From: GUEST,bluesoutpost
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 09:12 PM

Great topic on Sin City, lyrics and interpretations! Along with Hickory Wind, Wheels and Grievous Angel, Sin City has long been a favorite of mine. Outstanding song writing! I had always thought of the last verse (A friend came around..) as referencing Jesus and the Crucifixion. However, reading the above posts and revealing the Bobby Kennedy scenario blew me away! And, verified by Chris. Love it! Great feedback from all.
As a long-time country-rock enthusiast and musician, I'd like to offer my version of Sin City, which I recorded in 2007. The original version was done in 3/4 time; my version is done in 4/4 time, and I add a 6-minor chord to the chorus. The song is on my player at ReverbNation, and is presented with my utmost respect for the song, and for Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman. Best regards, Roger Maki

http://www.reverbnation.com/tunepak/3536902


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Subject: RE: Help: Sin City (Gram Parsons) - meaning
From: Bobert
Date: 13 Jan 12 - 09:27 PM

I always thought it was about California getting wiped out by an earthquake:

"Well, the scientists say
It'll all wash away
But we don't believe in them
Anymore..."

"This old earthquake
Is gonna leave me in the poorhouse..."

As for the 31st floor and all that I think he was sayin', Hey, let us work... No fears... Just get over it... We need the work...

That's my take...

B~


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Subject: RE: Help: Sin City (Gram Parsons) - meaning
From: judyac
Date: 15 Jan 12 - 10:32 AM

Here is the link to the L.A. Times article mentioned above, with a great photo Gram & Chris.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-ca-socala22apr22,0,7353923.story

Sid Griffin's book "Gram Parsons: A Music Biography" says the photo was taken in 1970 by Ed Caraeff.

Here are a couple of book references to Booker T and the MGs wearing green mohair suits when they performed at Monterey Pop in 1967. Maybe this is where Gram got the idea for the line in the song.

http://www.google.ca/search?tbm=bks&tbo=1&q=Booker+T+and+the+MGs+%22green+mohair+suits%22&btnG=


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Subject: RE: Help: Sin City (Gram Parsons) - meaning
From: judyac
Date: 15 Jan 12 - 02:13 PM

Here is one of my favourite versions of "Sin City", by Billy Bragg and Hank Wangford (aka Dr Sam Hutt). Gram met Sam Hutt in London in 1971 when he needed a doctor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOzBK6sgNlM

Billy Bragg has "Sin City" on the album "talking with the taxman about poetry".


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Subject: RE: Help: Sin City (Gram Parsons) - meaning
From: GUEST,bluesoutpost
Date: 16 Jan 12 - 02:41 AM

To judyac - Thank you for that link to the LA Times article on Sin City! The song Sin City means so much to me, that you can't imagine the smile on my face after opening that link! Excellent historical piece that will be firmly anchored in my music bookmarks. Thanks and best regards,
Roger Maki


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Subject: RE: Help: Sin City (Gram Parsons) - meaning
From: GUEST,tblank
Date: 22 Jul 12 - 05:56 PM

As a rock/bluegrass crossover fan, I've finally gotten 'round to exploring the Gram Parsons catalog. Sweet. I'm also into the Austin Lounge Lizards. Their song "Rock n' Roll Lawyer" also references the 31st floor and the gold-plated door. Hilarity ensues. :-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Sin City (Gram Parsons) - meaning
From: GUEST,Judith
Date: 17 Mar 16 - 12:19 PM

Rose Maddox recorded this song in the 1940.s. I wondered about the green mohair suits and researching this I found that back in history, only the very wealthy could afford this type of suit, in fact the history stated that the three musketeers wore the green mohair suits, so I do not think a lot of this song pertains to the later date of Los Angeles as sin city. Perhaps it goes back to Sodom and Gomorrah, I believe the friend that came round was Jesus Christ.
So many mysteries in this song.


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Subject: RE: Help: Sin City (Gram Parsons) - meaning
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 17 Mar 16 - 12:36 PM

Rose Maddox recorded this song in 1994, not the 1940s.


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Subject: RE: Help: Sin City (Gram Parsons) - meaning
From: GUEST,guitarzan
Date: 19 Mar 18 - 10:09 PM

The reference to an LA music companies gold plated door makes sense, but beyond that, the lyric seem to speak to the greed and corruption in the entertainment business and the USA and world generally. Jesus forbade the renting of money, but "you've got three years to pay" and then "Satan is taking his turn." Green mohair suits and IDs at the door could be just poking fun at concerts and the promoters who clean up financially. The friend we lost could be JFK, RFK, or both. JFK was poised to challenge the Federal Reserve Banking system which is the ultimate scam on taxpayers.


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