clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

#2: Gram Parsons-"In My Hour Of Darkness"

Let's get back to the countdown of songs that manage to be MORE inappropriate for an Angels 7th inning stretch than the current self-aware disaster, The Foundations' "Build Me Up Buttercup". We're stuck with that song for the foreseeable future, but this countdown is here to remind you that it could always be worse.

Today is all about Gram Parsons, The Grievous Angel, and his early demise, as well as the way we can relate his tragic story to others from the franchise that we've lost too early: Donnie Moore, Lyman Bostock and Nick Adenhart. Can the fallen Angels find a place in our hearts alongside those that left on much more staggering and surprising terms? After the jump: Gram Parsons-"In My Hour Of Darkness"



Gram Parsons...The Grievous Angel. A man born into means and money, as well as a fractured and confusing family tree, who went from playing in his high school band to playing with The Byrds, and then starting up The Flying Burrito Bros., before heading out on a short but legendary solo career. He melded country and rock and roll in a way that America hadn't quite heard before. When he sang ballads, you felt his pain. He wasn't called The Grievous Angel for nothing. There was a pain in his heart that he tried to quell with various opiates, as well as copious amounts of booze and marijuana. Gram Parsons...The Fallen Angel. He spent a good deal of his last few years alive in Joshua Tree, sometimes gone for days in the desert, alone and high on LSD or psychedelic mushrooms...looking for peace and/or UFOs. The Fallen Angel wouldn't make it past 26 years old, as he would eventually overdose in the Joshua Tree Inn, on September 19, 1973. His music all of a sudden took on another layer of heartbreak, as if his songs weren't already laden with enough sadness and melancholy as it were. It's sad to think about how many of rock's legends are born in this manner. I'm now older than a number of music's icons were when they not only recorded the bulk of their material, but also when they were taken from us all too soon. Gram Parsons was no different, and I can't help but think how he would've affected the world and his fans had he chose to take it easier on himself; to not beat himself up over things which were out of his control. That's a tricky position to take, however, because sometimes you just can't have the art without the tortured artist. It adds meaning behind the chords, the words, the shaking in the voice. This is a real person, who is touching your heart, tugging on it's strings. And they're gone, and can't come back.

In my hour of darkness, in my time of need
Oh Lord, grant me vision, oh Lord, grant me speed

Once I knew a young man, went driving through the night
Miles and miles without a word with just his high-beam lights
Who'd have ever thought they'd build such a deadly Denver bend
To be so strong, to take so long as it would till the end



Donnie Moore...The Fallen Angel. By now, we all know that it wasn't the Dave Henderson home run that ended his life. It may have been the beginning of the end, sure, but it wasn't what killed him. It's quite the dramatic re-telling, no doubt, but Angels fans know there were at least a few other people that could have the blame equally put upon them for losing that game, and eventually the series, to Boston. The stories told about the icy reception he'd receive at various Angels games after 1986 are gut wrenching, given that we now know what would ultimately happen. Donnie Moore...a Fallen Angel, took his own life in Anaheim Hills on July, 18 1989. He was 35. He was going through a myriad of problems in his life, from career issues to marriage woes. His choices he made that day cause a certain amount of consternation, along with the requisite anger and heartbreak. Still, like Gram Parsons, it's hard for me to discount the man completely, as he was obviously hurting a great deal. And we still talk about him today, to put a microscope on why we, the fans, love the game so much. Donnie Moore's story puts the proverbial face on a state or emotion that we've all felt, solitary or communal, when our hopes are deflated, defeated. Donnie Moore just amplifies that exponentially, showing us that what we think of as a game can become so much more, and not always in a good way. Another young man, pushed past his limits, testing the bounds of reality. He's gone, and can't come back.

One more night like this would put me six feet under
But my heart will still be fighting for your love
Just remember, little darling, that I love you
And kiss the children for me, please, before you go.

So don't play this crazy game with me no longer
Cause I won't be able to resist my rage
And the gun that's hangin on the kitchen wall, dear
Is like the road sign pointing straight to satan's cage.
And the gun that's hangin on the kitchen wall, dear
Is like the road sign pointing straight to satan's cage.


Gram Parsons and Donnie Moore...The Fallen Angels. Two men gone from this Earth far, far too early, but also gone by their own means and self-destruction. Angels that were cast out of Heaven, left to wallow in their own shortcomings, filial strife, drug abuse, dwindling careers, failed marriages and expectations on their shoulders that would eventually sink them. Can they find redemption, though, in this world, or perhaps the next? Or are they forever tarnished in our heads, as fans or loved ones?

The other Angels we've lost along the way share just as tragic of a trajectory as Gram Parsons and Donnie Moore, but in an entirely more sympathetic and head-scratching way. Lyman Bostock was gunned down in head-spinning set of circumstances that could be best described as a nightmarish version of an O.Henry story. Nick Adenhart as murdered in a drunk driving incident, along with two friends of his. They were just kids. A shrine to Nick, as well as Henry Pearson and Courtney Stewart, began to grow in front of the Big A, and stayed there throughout the year to again remind us all that this game can take on a meaning that's utterly impossible to grasp until we are face to face with tragedy.  Two Fallen Angels, both taken from the world entirely too soon, but not of their own volition...instead, merely by fate, or whatever you'd prefer to call it. I like to think there is a place in our hearts for them, but also Donnie Moore.

Out with the truckers and the kickers and the Cowboy Angels
And a good saloon in every single town

Oh, and i remember something you once told me
And i'll be damned if it did not come true
Twenty thousand roads i went down, down, down
And they all lead me straight back home to you


This old earthquake's gonna leave me in the poor house
It seems like this whole town's insane
On the thirty-first floor a gold plated door
Won't keep out the Lord's burning rain


I like to think of a speculative meeting between Gram Parsons and Gene Autry, sometime in 1970...or maybe it would've been 1971. They would happen upon each other in small, roadside coffee shop, near Banning. It would be late at night, with Gram and Gene on their way out of the big city, and towards the desert: Gene Autry headed to Palm Springs, Gram Parsons headed to Joshua Tree. Their cowboy hearts would set off internal alarms in each of them; a kindred, cosmic link, realized without speaking a word. As they set down together and enjoyed a cup of coffee, they would tell each other what they do, respectively. Gram would be quite familiar with Gene. Gene, not so much with Gram, but he finds him fascinating, and lonely. Perhaps The Singing Cowboy could instill some comfort in The Grievous Angel, let him know that the lonely cowboy life, while yielding an untold amount of creative spark and authentic feeling, will always swallow you up in the end. It's a tough life to live. And then Gene Autry, and the rest of the world, may never had to have gotten the news that we lost another Angel, through the cracks and into despair. Or at the very least, Gene would've recognized Parsons' cherub like face in the paper as he read of the overdose, and thought to himself how he was a nice kid; troubled, but a true spirit of the west...not too many of those left around.

Cowboy Angels, Fallen Angels, The Grievous Angel and The Singing Cowboy...souls that could be compared endlessly, and that as linear narratives their lives would run parallel for the most part, with the minor digressions here and there, of course. From the dusty, sun baked terrain of Joshua Tree, with the Heavens beaming down in the form of sunshine and starlight, to the Orange County coast and in between, these are Angels we've lost and now have only via memories, songs and highlights. If we never forget them, their good and their bad, the Fallen Angels will find redemption, and The Singing Cowboy will comfort them the best he can: singing a song of Cosmic Americana, fireside, and watching over scores of hearts and minds faithful to The Halos.