Where and when did you first meet Gram?
"For me, it was quite an apocalyptic meeting. I was working as a doctor,
as Sam Hutt. I was working in Exhibition Road, which runs between the
V&A [Museum] and Kensington Gardens. I shared a flat with Jenny Fabian,
who wrote a book called Groupie, and Roger Chapman, who was the lead singer
with Family. I'd come out of doing a General Practice on Ladbroke Grove,
with a man called Ian Dunbar, who had discovered that you could still
prescribe cannabis. He was interested in giving cannabis to junkies who
came off smack. It represented an anti-authoritarian way: not just slapping
them on methadone and keeping them addicted to something. Methadone is
a very dangerous and nasty drug. There are ways of getting people off
heroin that still aren't used now: you can use very large doses of stuff
called Lomotil, a simple anti-diarrhoea thing. If you take vast overdoses
of it - 48 pills on the first day - and decrease them over four or five
days, you come off the smack without any withdrawal. The attitude then
was, if you came off smack so easily, somehow that was bad, 'cos you'd
only go back on it, which is bollocks. This is all relevant to Gram: if
you've given up smack, when somebody says, 'Hey, come on man, have a taste',
you're might say, 'Oh fuck it, I've been clean for three months, I can
handle it.' You're certainly not going to say, 'It was appalling coming
off, I had terrible withdrawal, I won't go on it again.' You either go
back on it or you don't. And for most people, the difficult part is coming
"Anyway, I'm on Exhibition Road, being a rock'n'roll, longhair doctor.
The only drug I would prescribe to people was cannabis, in tincture form.
It looked like thick, green, psychedelic Marmite. At the same time, I
was treating a lot of people homeopathically. But if you wanted Mandrax,
or uppers or downers, I'd say, 'No man - I'm not a grocer. Go and see
the straight-looking doctors in Harley Street.' There was a guy there
I would have sent Gram to for uppers and downers. I was more interested
in your health. "So one day, Gram comes along. I'd seen Marlon [Richards],
Keith's son, for some minor ailment, so Keith knew of me. And generally,
rock'n'rollers came to see me, because there was nothing that was going
to shock me, and I wasn't going to bust them or turn them in. They'd say,
'I've got a terrible painful nose, and it's runny.' And I'd say, 'Well,
do you snort a lot of coke?' 'Yeah.' I'd say, 'Well, you're a silly fucker.
Wise up, guy.' "Gram had been referred to me, and he came along with Gretchen,
for an appointment. I wouldn't say why they came to see me. It wasn't
drug-related; it was a perfectly simple, minor medical problem. For her,
not for him. He just came along with her. "I worked in the front room
of the flat, in the afternoons. That became my surgery. And they came
in: Gram was wearing that nice sort of buckskin jacket he wore - beautifully
cut, small fringes, Navajo designs on it - and I saw Gretchen. On my record
player, I had Fred Neil playing - and at that time, Fred Neil was very
culty. With those kind of people, when you meet someone else who knows
about them, it's a mixture of 'Great! You know about them too!' and 'Get
off my land'. Gram said, 'Hey, that's Freddie Neil.' I turned round and
said, 'How do you know Fred Neil?' He said, 'Man, I played with him.'
I said, 'Whaaat? You played with Fred Neil? What's your name?' He said,
'Gram Parsons', and I nearly fell off my chair. I was listening to Flying
Burrito Brothers at that time. "I'd been a huge Byrds fan, of Younger
Than Yesterday in particular. I didn't like Sweetheart Of The Rodeo: it
was, 'This is fucking country music, who wants to to know about that?'
But the clever thing Gram did was, he fooled people like me and Keith
Richards. Because they [the Burritos] had a rock'n'roll lifestyle, and
because the playing was kind of loose and a bit druggy, and Gram's voice
was cracked up and fucked - he had a heroin voice - you could like it.
It was a way in for an awful lot of rock lovers. He fooled us into thinking
it wasn't really country."
So the penny dropped...
"This was Gram who did the Gilded Palace Of Sin. And he picked up my guitar,
and played You're Still On My Mind. And that was it: my road to Damascus.
I saw the soul, and knew it was country music, immediately. My understanding,
even going back to Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, was suddenly illuminated.
He played more songs - I can't remember which ones - and we talked. For
a while, he was hanging out with The Stones in the South Of France, and
then came back: he was living in quite a flash house in Kensington. We'd
hook up, and he'd play me more songs, and we'd play together. He'd play
me some George Jones, which was his great love."
What was Gretchen like?
"To say, 'A blonde American rock chick' would be to do her down. She was
strong, determined, seemed to know what she wanted: to enjoy the style
of life that she enjoyed with Gram, as a very rich man - and to try against
all odds to keep him on the straight and narrow. I recall a kind of hardness
about her. But if you're going to have to deal with someone like that,
you have to be strong, and you have to be hard."
How often did you hook up with Gram?
"Now and then. We became quite strong buddies, because he loved his role
as a proselytiser, an evangelist for country music. We saw each other
enough that after I spent four months in Canada, and came back and resolved
to make country album with Rick Grech for Robert Stigwood, I called Rick
up one day and said, 'You know who should co-produce this? Gram Parsons.'
He said, 'I know Gram well', and called him up. And Gram came over. "This
was 1972. I did a demo with Rick on bass, Mike Kellie from Spooky Tooth
on drums, Mike Storey on piano, and Pete Townshend on lead guitar. Glyn
Johns was the engineer. I could have been forgiven for thinking I'd made
it. But the whole thing fell apart. Gram came over, we spent a couple
of days at Rick's house going over the songs, but it fell apart because
of heroin. Rick and Gram just got really stoned, and I didn't take heroin.
I hated it. Rick was so wrecked, he couldn't get his recording machine
to work. For hours and hours, he and Gram would get higher and higher,
and nothing happened. Nothing was put on tape. "Actually, that time, he
brought with him George and Tammy's new duets album We Go Together. And
that was Gram's role model for him and Emmylou."
Going back to when Gram was in London, I guess you saw him before
he went to France and after as well. What were your first impressions
"Very charismatic. Very astrological. We were both scorpios. And he loved
heroin and cocaine. I was aware of that from the off."
Was he in reasonable shape at that point?
"When I first saw him he was in reasonable shape. It deteriorated. And
there were times when I'd be called round to the house in an emergency.
That happened three times. He'd be on the lav, or sitting in chair, going
blue. Once, he was lying there with the needle hanging out of his arm.
Really terminal; really getting himself to the edge. And we'd always pull
him back: there were heroin-antagonists that you'd give to people, and
you'd slap them around a lot, and give them lots of black coffee, and
pull them back. To me, that was one of his darker sides: getting as out
of it as he could, and everybody working around him, showing him how much
they loved him. It was a very distorted way of finding out how much people
loved him. That was my take on it, rather than any kind of deathwish."
Gretchen wasn't using heroin at all, right?
"No. She was clean. Women are often the people who save us. They spend
their lives trying to make us better. And that was her role with Gram.
But he would abuse that role, and go further and further." Did you talk
to him, as a friend, about him not doing that any more? Was he receptive
to that? "No, because you can never tell a junkie not to. It's like the
fact that there's no point in me telling someone to stop smoking cigarettes.
I can say, 'I'd love if it if you did.' And that's how I would talk to
Gram: 'Oh man, what are you doing to yourself? Why do have to go out that
far?' 'Ah man, I just love it, you know what I mean?' People take heroin
mostly because they love it. They also take it to make the world go away."
You mentioned Lomotil earlier on. Did you prescribe that to Gram?
"I did. He took it, and cleaned himself up for a while."
Do you recall how you found out that he'd died?
"I don't recall where I was. There was a kind of horrible inevitability
about it. You can't go that far to the brink, and keep going and keep
going, without one day not coming back. It'll do for you one day. It's
not difficult to kill yourself. The other side of that is, he had fantastic
resilience not to have done it long before. It was a sad philosophical
sigh. There was also a feeling of, 'You silly fucker. What a waste. What
How tall was Gram Parsons?
"About six foot, I'd say."