Please explain the lyrics of "$1000 Wedding".

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On another thread, someone just named Gram Parsons "$1000 Wedding" as a song that makes them cry.

And I agree. It makes me cry too, almost every time. It's a song of almost overwhelming emotional force and resonance.

Except for one thing.

I don't understand it.

Because it feels like all the action is off-camera, and no-one has quite told you what is going on. In this respect, you can sympathise with the bewilderment of the groom, to a certain extent. Has the bride died? Has she eloped with someone else? Was she pregnant? Have her family snatched her away? Was there a still-birth? What's going on here?

Your explanations are welcomed.

mike t-diva (mike t-diva), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 14:14 (seventeen years ago) link

It was a $1000 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

I hate to tell you how he acted when the news arrived
He took some friends out drinking and
It's lucky they survived
Well, he told them everything there was to tell there along the way
And he felt so bad when he saw the traces
Of old lies still on their faces
So why don't someone here just spike his drink
Why don't you do him in some old way
Supposed to be a funeral
It's been a bad, bad day

The Reverend Dr. William Grace
Was talking to the crowd
All about the sweet child's holy face and
The saints who sung out loud
And he swore the fiercest beasts
Could all be put to sleep the same silly way
And where are the flowers for the girl
She only knew she loved the world
And why ain't there one lonely horn and one sad note to play
Supposed to be a funeral
It's been a bad, bad day
Supposed to be a funeral
It's been a bad, bad day.

mike t-diva (mike t-diva), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 14:14 (seventeen years ago) link

I guess back then, that was a fairly pricey wedding.

mark grout (mark grout), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 14:23 (seventeen years ago) link

I always took it as meaning that the girl "left him at the altar", but I gotta say I ain't sure either.

Reading the lyrics makes me realize how much of the emotion is NOT in the words, but in the presentation. What is it about the combination of his flattish/"plain" voice and Emmylou's???

peepee (peepee), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 15:00 (seventeen years ago) link

meaning: heartbreak & death are apocalyptic

Snappy (sexyDancer), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 15:17 (seventeen years ago) link

Snappy pretty much nails it, but here's a longer explanation. Apologies - it's a while since I read the autobiog. Although the song isn't straight autobiographical, it's strongly informed by his own troubled family life. Gram married his young girlfirend when she got pregnant. Clearly there was pressure put on them to get hitched. There was some business with his alcoholic stepfather getting into a fight at the wedding... Help me out someone - I can't quite remember the story.

stew, Tuesday, 1 February 2005 15:56 (seventeen years ago) link

I remember reading somewhere that there were originally some extra verses which got cut out, which might have helped to make the narrative add up....?

Incidentally, I don't MIND if the lyrics don't make sense ... it's just that if a coherent meaning CAN be extracted, then I'd like to know about it.

mike t-diva (mike t-diva), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:00 (seventeen years ago) link

It's told from the point of view of the church.

Snappy (sexyDancer), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:02 (seventeen years ago) link

I always took it that he gets jilted at the altar. The key is poeple passing notes while he's standing there and everyone except our naive groom acting like its a funeral.

laticsmon (laticsmon), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:07 (seventeen years ago) link

girl leaves him at the altar, he goes on a bender.

is the third verse a non-sequitir? is it the reverend officiating at the wedding. the "same beasts" thing just seems like an elliptical way of describing a fire-and-brimstone sermon. but it does seem as though he's actually referring to a funeral in the third verse, doesn't it?

crazy gram.

much of it is a riff on that cliché "hey, cheer up, everyone, this isn't a funeral!"

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:11 (seventeen years ago) link

i think the $1000 means it's a cheap wedding, perhaps even a shotgun wedding. or perhaps the drabness of the wedding itself adds to the poignancy of it being unfulfilled.

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:12 (seventeen years ago) link

in any event it's the change just before the third verse that makes the song.

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:14 (seventeen years ago) link

i also like these lines, which are--like the whole song--a bit elliptical and open to interpretation:

And he felt so bad when he saw the traces
Of old lies still on their faces

perhaps there were things his friends thought they should have told him before the wedding, but didn't? did the girl run off with someone else? somehow despite all the missing info my picture of the night of the wedding (the bender) is unusually vivid, with this self-destructive groom being trailed by guilty-looking friends concerned for his safety.

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:16 (seventeen years ago) link

this is one of the greatest things ever recorded, and I have no problem saying it's the greatest "country" song ever made. Has anyone else in "country" ever done anything like this? Not that I can recall.

it's pretty straightforward, at least to me. she's gone and the groom showed up anyway. maybe the bride had some history with the groom's friends, hence "old lies." the reverend don't get the score--his proscriptions are "silly" and he doesn't get the fact that the bride-to-be needed to get out and see the world. I think Parsons is comparing the funeral scene, which is a different event, to the wedding, and points out that the platitudes of the Rev don't get at why the bride needed to not show up to the funeral. Parsons shows compassion for both bride and groom.

it's a masterpiece--Parsons's masterpiece, as far as I'm concerned.

es hurt (ddduncan), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:16 (seventeen years ago) link

but i also like how those lines place us for a moment in the groom's interiority, which mitigates the way the rest of the song presents the whole fiasco as a spectacle. i think that's indicative actually of the way gram sort of revised country music clichés by merging different modes of country song in unusually and unexpected ways. sorry for the possible banality of that statement.

xpost

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:17 (seventeen years ago) link

eddie i think the last verse is too elliptically for your "straightforward" interpretation. unless there's an intertextual (referential) element i'm missing. but the idea of the bride "needing to see the world" is intriguing. i'll think about that.

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:19 (seventeen years ago) link

i like how the melody jumps up an octave (?) and gram's singing gets more insistent at the beginning of the third verse, almost "acting out" (in that ambiguous mode of psuedo-identification that only music can achieve) the role of the preacher.

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:20 (seventeen years ago) link

well, it could be that the groom killed himself, thus the funeral. but it seems to me that the last bit about the Rev is there to point out how religion doesn't have the answers to problems like the groom's, or the bride's.

es hurt (ddduncan), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:23 (seventeen years ago) link

that seems an awfully specific reading; also it presumes of the song a certain didactic quality i don't think it really has.

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:30 (seventeen years ago) link

The narrator is protesting that no one cares for the missing girl, not the family, who act as if she never existed, not the friends, who obviously have dismissed her as a whore, not the preacher who's more concerned with revelations than earthly matters.

Snappy (sexyDancer), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:34 (seventeen years ago) link

I dunno amateurist, I think it's not didactic, but I do think it's fairly specfic...it's country music, you know. The key line in the song is "she only knew she loved the world." Which is what's so great about Parsons, who starts with the usual country assumption that the only thing that matters are traditional values like showin' up at your own wedding, "loyalty," etc., and then explodes them. The bride is the heroine of the song; the groom's out drinking with his worthless buddies--shit, they probably tried to fuck the bride during their engagement--and she's on a bus or a plane to New York.

es hurt (ddduncan), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:39 (seventeen years ago) link

i've always loved this song, it reads like Faulkner.

Amateurist, I think what your mishearing as an "octave jump" is Emmylou's harmony (I don't have the song with me, but that's how I hear it in my head).

gygax! (gygax!), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:50 (seventeen years ago) link

even gram's vocal jumps up way high on the "rev. doctor william grace" line

faulkner is a good comparison. i'm sure gram was familiar with faulkner too.

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:53 (seventeen years ago) link

Faulkner? Flannery O'Connor?

es hurt (ddduncan), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 16:59 (seventeen years ago) link

not grotesque enough

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 17:01 (seventeen years ago) link

Hang on... I feel a theory coming on.

Couldn't "went away" in the first verse be a euphemism for "she died"? With the notes being passed around the church before anyone even gets round to telling the groom up at the altar, the use of the euphemism heightens the sense that people aren't being strictly truthful with the groom - a theme which continues in the second verse, with the "old lies". In fact, I sense that no-one thinks much of the groom (including the bride's "mean old" mother) - maybe it WAS a shotgun wedding, and maybe the bride died during pregnancy?

So the bride is dead, the wedding is cancelled, the groom goes out and gets drunk that night instead of getting married - during which time he realises that the bride has probably been sleeping with his friends. Maybe it wasn't even his child? Maybe he was duped into the marriage?

This means that Verse Three is the bride's funeral, set at a later date.

I agree that we're meant to find the reverend's platitudes fairly lame and inadequate. Take "she only knew she loved the world" - isn't that a mealy-mouthed reference to the bride's pre-marital sexual history? And then, note the plainness of the funeral: no flowers, no music, barely a worthy send-off at all. It seems that she has died in disgrace, pregnant out of wedlock in a conservative rural community.

In which case, the song's sympathies lie primarily with the groom.

Does that all add up?

mike t-diva (mike t-diva), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 17:11 (seventeen years ago) link

the way he sings "the rev dr william grace" contain a hint of something other than scorn or ridicule, though--the song maintains a nice ambiguity about most everything

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 17:15 (seventeen years ago) link

I'll tell you what. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more economical word-picture in song, though I'd like to offer up 'Fancy' by Bobbie Gentry, which has the added advantage of being funky as hell.

laticsmon (laticsmon), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 17:20 (seventeen years ago) link

mike, I think you've got it.

Snappy (sexyDancer), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 17:21 (seventeen years ago) link

The first time I ever heard it was c. August 2000, on a tape of Evan Dando singing it live. It immediately inspired me to pick up my acoustic guitar, sit on a bench in the garden in the sun, and write a wedding-based country song of my own.

It wasn't even a bad song, though I don't claim that it was another '$1000 Wedding'.

the bellefox, Tuesday, 1 February 2005 17:51 (seventeen years ago) link

"(Save a Bit of That) Wedding Cake (for Me)"

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 18:02 (seventeen years ago) link

The thing I like about Parsons at his best is how he never quite comes out and says it, you know? Like in "Big Mouth Blues." "So you just tell me what's the sense of me sittin' here leavin'/When any old day I might get even." That's beautiful, so sly.

"$1000 Wedding": I don't think the bride is dead, I think she's just gone, which is maybe even worse. Parsons asks how come there isn't a funeral if you're going to act that way, and then I think he turns the whole thing into a funeral, why the hell not? The implication is that the girl was wild anyway and that the groom's buddies all had suppressed some information about her wild days, but it all showed on their faces anyway. Which again, in the world of Parsons, is just as bad as death, if not worse. Lying. I think it's possible he saying that if you're going to pontificate about the dead and how "death can be put to sleep some silly way," why not talk about the *living*, like the girl, who just wanted to live, get out of New Orleans or Macon or Waycross? Why give flowers to the dead and not to the living? That's my reading of it anyway. Shit, I love this song.

es hurt (ddduncan), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 19:36 (seventeen years ago) link

That's a great interpretation. I hadn't thought of it that way before.

mike t-diva (mike t-diva), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 21:19 (seventeen years ago) link

Well, I always thought it was mike's interpretation, but this thread is giving me marvellous food for thought. Thanks everyone.

Bumfluff, Tuesday, 1 February 2005 21:22 (seventeen years ago) link

Ha, I actually thought about starting this very thread once. I guess I've always thought she died (went away) but was never entirely sure. I just listened to it and it made me well up a bit. Amazing piece of music that can continue to do that even when you've heard it a bunch. Greatest country song? Hmm, I don't know ... I think George's "Wine Colored Roses" is way up there too. Man is that ever a depressing song. "He Stopped Loving Her Today"? I dunno. One of the great things about "$1000 Wedding" is just the music though, specifically that descending two note phrase that recurs throughout ( underneath "like to see / her mean old" and "old lies / still on their faces" and "only knew / she loved the world" ...) That just totally makes the song for me.

Stormy Davis (diamond), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 22:00 (seventeen years ago) link

Hey can we do "One Hundred Years From Now" next???

I want to know what kind of trouble we're in...

Stormy Davis (diamond), Tuesday, 1 February 2005 22:01 (seventeen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
I'm still unconvinced about the interpretations given so far. Surely the lyrics contrast the groom's feeling that something bad has happened to the bride with the reaction of the rest of the community which doesn't seem to acknowledge this. The groom feels the lack of flowers and the absense of a funeral with its ceremony. He's not pitying himself, he's thinking about the girl. The question is what could have happened to her that the community doesn't want to talk about? If she'd gone off to a happier life leaving him alone surely his response would be more self-pitying?

Also we can't be sure that 'old lies' refers to the girl's hidden relationships with his friends. They may refer to the cliches that people regurgitate to try to provide comfort when bad things happen.

Amarga (Amarga), Friday, 18 February 2005 11:09 (seventeen years ago) link

The only thing I'm certain about with this song is how it makes me feel. That it does this without me knowing specifically why makes it more remarkable, I think.

peepee (peepee), Friday, 18 February 2005 17:55 (seventeen years ago) link

i think a lot of the lyrics serve more of a formal function than anything else, they're just playful (like the use of the whole funeral motif), or even plain old red herrings. i think part of the point is to keep you guessing. i guess it's an old pasttime, and sometimes fun, but i don't really feel the need to impose a unity on the song that isn't necessarily there.

in other worse, what "peepee" said.

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Friday, 18 February 2005 23:10 (seventeen years ago) link

in other *words* obviously

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Friday, 18 February 2005 23:10 (seventeen years ago) link

ok what i meant to write is that i think some of the stuff in here (like the permutations of the funeral motif) are deliberately misleading.

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Friday, 18 February 2005 23:11 (seventeen years ago) link

two years pass...
Ed's reading of this amazing song is right for me. I agree with Amateurist that the vagueness of the lyric creates the song's devastating effect, but in the end, the clues are all there, and it boils down to a pretty straightforward story (no less heartbreaking for that).

As far as the funeral motif goes, my own take on this is that Gram switches from a third person account, to speaking from a first person perspective, *as the groom*, at the end of each verse. The groom is deeply confused (and possibly drunk), and he has just seen his wedding turn into a funeral (in as much as everyone feels that way). Hence 'supposed to be a funeral, its been a bad bad day'.

Note too, that the lyrics also move freely in *time*, between a past-tense, retrospective, factual, third-person perspective ('It was a $1000 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') and the first person, present tense ('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'), where the groom speaks directly to us as if we were wedding guests.

I'd even venture that Gram switches to a weird, new perspective with these lines: 'So why don't someone here just spike his drink/Why don't you do him in some old way/Supposed to be a funeral/It's been a bad, bad day'. I don't think there's a name for this perspective, but for me he is still speaking from the groom's perspective, despite his use of the third person, which to me, suggests that the groom has become disassociated from himself (he is drunk, and is speaking of himself in the third person, perhaps because he 'no longer feels like himself'). A more literal reading would be that Gram is suggesting that *he* (Gram) thinks someone should kill the groom, to put him out of his misery. But this makes less sense to me (where is Gram at this point in the 'narrative'? Sitting drinking with the groom? Or observing the groom and his buddies? Perhaps he identifies with the groom to such an extent that he feels entitled to suggest killing him, out of pity: it's not the sort of thing that most people would suggest as a remedy for another person, but its exactly the sort of thing someone might say about himself). Suffice to say, that at this point, Gram has 'become' the groom, to the extent that he 'speaks for him', if he is not actually singing the groom's own words.

The last verse is more surreal, and I can't really explain it as such, but it piles on a lot of imagery very effectively. The beast beaing put to sleep could be the groom, or the groom's pain: recalling someone spiking his drink and doing him in. The reverend has a different palliative (the singing of the saints), but the intention is the same.

At the end, we are left with the bald fact that the bride didn't want to get married, because she 'loved the world', which also suggests that the wedding might well have been *her* funeral (at least metaphorically), had she gone through with it.

Richard Graham, Wednesday, 21 March 2007 12:40 (fifteen years ago) link

several people have mentioned emmylou, but isn't it Linda Ronstadt who is singing the background vocals? or is it both? i mean, some of those notes are just too powerful sounding for emmylou. they sound more like ronstadt cause she has that cannon for a voice.

QuantumNoise, Wednesday, 21 March 2007 13:35 (fifteen years ago) link

No, it's Emmylour. Ronstadt only sang on In My Hour of Darkness I think.

Stew, Wednesday, 21 March 2007 14:47 (fifteen years ago) link

has anyone ever heard the supposedly 8-10 minute piano demo of this song? am I dreaming up the existence of such a thing? i think i read about it being on a bootleg sometime. and it didn't show up on the GP box set they put out last year.

tylerw, Wednesday, 21 March 2007 14:55 (fifteen years ago) link

Supposing it was the bride that died?

Mark G, Wednesday, 21 March 2007 15:15 (fifteen years ago) link

I'm not sure, but it doesn't seem as though the bride died at all. Just went away. And es hurt's reading seems the most OTM so far.

POV is basically that of the groom, presented by an only slightly distanced third-person narrator. Mostly dispassionate, but occasionally breaking through to a nearly first-person identification with his emotions ("So why don't someone here just spike his drink / Why don't you do him in some old way" and "And where are the flowers for the girl / She only knew she loved the world / And why ain't there one lonely horn and one sad note to play").

We dont' know anything about the "old lies" that the groom sees on his friend's faces. I assume she slept around, simply becayse it explains and gives a nice spin to line about loving the world.

In asking "Where are the flowers for the girl," the groom is really asking why she isn't dead. If he feels so miserable, if everybody feels so miserable, why isn't she lying in a box? Thus, the seeming empathy in the following line ("She only knew she loved the world") is just black humor. An accusation of infidelity presented as the sort of thing you might say in a speech about the deceased.

Pye Poudre, Wednesday, 21 March 2007 15:35 (fifteen years ago) link

By that last paragraph, I mean that the groom is asking this: "how come the b***h ain't dead?" He's not just making the observation that it feels more like a funeral than a wedding, he's coming very close to demanding that she actually be dead.

Pye Poudre, Wednesday, 21 March 2007 15:42 (fifteen years ago) link

I like the Faulkner analogy - use of the untrustworthy narrator. Gram's changing of point-of-view, with the disorientation of the narrator gives this song its trippy quality, and its power.

So why was this thread idle for 2 years, then suddenly active? Weird.

Barringer, Thursday, 22 March 2007 14:36 (fifteen years ago) link

It's a bit like the Sex Pistols' "Bodies" then!

Mark G, Thursday, 22 March 2007 14:48 (fifteen years ago) link

I always thought the girl died but now after reading all this I'm not so sure ... "she only knew she loved the world" I thought was talking about her sinning (in contrast to the rev's sermon) maybe to the point of fatality (kind of like Uncle Tupelo's line "too much living is no way to die")

Hey can we do "One Hundred Years From Now" next???

I want to know what kind of trouble we're in...


now THAT one I think is about a drug deal gone bad

oh no wait! I'm thinking of "Nothing Was Delivered"

dmr, Thursday, 22 March 2007 14:56 (fifteen years ago) link

No, it's Emmylour. Ronstadt only sang on In My Hour of Darkness I think.

yes! thanks for the clarification. i was confusing the two.

funny someone should wonder why a thread revival. i don't know why, but the revival of this thread has coincided why my revived interest in Gram. I dug him so hard in college, and then for years, I said he was overrated. But now I'm coming back around. I don't think he's the seconid coming (like I did when I was 19), but damn, he made some great music.

QuantumNoise, Thursday, 22 March 2007 14:59 (fifteen years ago) link

Why this thread woke up after a two year sleep... I was looking for some discussion on $1000 Wedding, which I've just 'discovered' (along with GP himself) and I love to bits. It's definitely my fave lump-in-throat tune now, replacing even 'For No One', which I've loved since I was a kid.
I found this website, which I also didn't know about. And I thought the discussion was really interesting, so thought I'd add my 2c worth.

Richard Graham, Thursday, 22 March 2007 17:03 (fifteen years ago) link

one month passes...
i need to listen to this song again, and i admit to not always quite "knowing" what gram was on about lyrics-wise, but oh what great music

gershy, Friday, 18 May 2007 07:18 (fifteen years ago) link

four weeks pass...

And as to a line no one else addressed:

"And why ain't there one lonely horn and one sad note to play"

The grieving process--perhaps this song itself--is about coming to this place or this perspective, summing it up and moving on. Grief and emotions (at least according to Sartre) were about not being about to put things in perspective. Grief is a response to something we have not figured out how to respond to. I think this song was highly personal to Parsons (he went through something like it himself) and this is a result of long years commiserating over it.

rbslo, Saturday, 16 June 2007 19:01 (fifteen years ago) link

I believe that's a reference to Kierkegaard's Repetition:

The young man sank down sadly
Bright tears from his eyes did rain
He sat him down upon a stone
And his heart it broke in twain

Long live the post-horn! It is my kind of instrument for many reasons, but mainly because you can never be sure of getting the same note out of it twice... If oyu give your friends post horns instead of an answer, you will have told them nothing but explained everything. Praised be the post-horn!

Parsons studied Kierkegaard at Harvard.

eater, Saturday, 16 June 2007 19:15 (fifteen years ago) link

one month passes...

I mean, yeah, wow, Jesus Christ. This song is absolutely killing me lately.

i've always loved this song, it reads like Faulkner.

That's gotta be why I like it so much. The religious shift in the third verse is hell of Faulknerian.

Is there ANY other country music with lyrics that can be "read" to this extent? The Flatlanders come close but this song is like totally in a class of its own.

call all destroyer, Wednesday, 15 August 2007 19:18 (fourteen years ago) link

"I hate to tell you how he acted when the news arrived
He took some friends out drinking and
It's lucky they survived"

^love that part

bnw, Wednesday, 15 August 2007 19:44 (fourteen years ago) link

two months pass...

Here's my $1000 worth - one way to look at it.

He's waiting at the altar and the atmosphere isn't right - "Well, why ain't there a funeral, if you're gonna act that way?" He's the last to know that his bride isn't going to show, and when he finds out, he tries to drink her off his mind.

But after pouring out his soul, he finds out that his friends are somehow involved - the final kick in the teeth. If the whole world's against him, someone might as well just do him in. This was supposed to be the 'funeral of his wedding' but instead he finds that he’s been betrayed by his friends.

Now cut to what would appear to be her actual funeral - we can't know how long after - and the only person that seems to have forgiven her is the protagonist. Everyone else feels some kind of shame or guilt relating to her; no one’s even concerned about her at all: “where are the flowers for the girl?” They’re busy dwelling on their individual mistakes or hers, when they should be together in their sadness: "why ain't there one lonely horn and one sad note to play?"

In all the situations, people are tangled up in their guilt instead of offering their sympathy or sharing their feelings.

That's how it seems to me, more or less.

I’d never analysed the narrative of this one in great depth before – I was always intrigued by the fact that he sings “It’s supposed to be a funeral” when it was clearly supposed to be a wedding. And I love the fact that the flowers for the girl come into it twice. I guess you can read it slightly differently to the way I’ve described above but really the specific details are unimportant. It’s an incredible song.

andysz, Saturday, 27 October 2007 11:20 (fourteen years ago) link

two years pass...

^^^

bear, bear, bear, Saturday, 18 September 2010 10:16 (eleven years ago) link

the way I see it, the bride-to-be ran away with another man, vowing never to return, and the friends/wedding guests quietly condoned her infidelity and maybe even aided her in her flight. the groom is totally oblivious. his friends feel guilty knowing that they'll be implicit in his suffering when he finally hears the bad news. for some perverse reason, they think he'll be less miserable believing that his fiance is dead than knowing that she's smashing another man.

therefore they devise a plan. they let the wedding run its course, feigning happiness but acting nervous and shifty in spite of themselves — hence the note-passing and the groom's curious "funeral" remark. when it's clear (to the groom; everyone else already knows) that the bride is a no-show, someone enters the church and announces, according to plan, that the bride died tragically while preparing for the wedding. perhaps the story goes that the limousine crashed, killing the bride but sparing her "mean old mama" and whoever else rode with them. the groom is devastated, and the wedding guests force out a few tears.

the groom tries to drink away his grief before (or maybe even during) the funeral, and his friends nearly kill themselves trying to keep up with him. he tells them "everything there was to tell", i.e. he repeats all the lies he was told about the bride ("the coroner said she didn't suffer", "she's in heaven now"). he can tell from his friends' expressions that they're not being completely straight with him, but he certainly doesn't realize that the bride isn't really dead. some of his friends, however, suspect that the groom is onto their scheme, and they toy with the idea of murdering him before he gets a chance to exact revenge. it's a miserable day for the groom and an unpleasant one for his friends as well.

the funeral is, by necessity, a closed casket affair. the preacher tries to comfort the groom with images of angels and baby Jesus. but he knows that the funeral is a sham, and he can't help but insinuate, in coded biblical language, that the groom's friends deserve to be punished for their deceitful ways. the line about putting beasts to sleep may be a reference to 2 Peter 2:12, in which dishonest false prophets are condemned to die like cattle at the slaughter. in spite of his moralizing, the preacher is no less guilty than the rest of the conspirators.

the groom is upset that the wedding is such an empty, half-assed gesture, lacking the tender music and decorations his beloved deserves. his plea for flowers parallels the same plea he made at the wedding. here the flowers represent honest, unselfish compassion, which his friends lack. the fact that the groom expects his friends to supply the flowers suggests that he is utterly dependent on them for emotional support at the best and worst moments of his life. they, of course, have let him down completely.

I don't know if "$1000 Wedding" bears any relation to "Hundred Dollar Funeral", which Porter Wagoner released seven years earlier. for what it's worth, here are the lyrics to the latter.

tickle me lmao (unregistered), Saturday, 18 September 2010 20:29 (eleven years ago) link

My favourite part:

So why don't someone here just spike his drink
Why don't you do him in some old way

Hymie in Galveston (admrl), Saturday, 18 September 2010 20:33 (eleven years ago) link

Is there ANY other country music with lyrics that can be "read" to this extent? The Flatlanders come close but this song is like totally in a class of its own.

Porter Wagoner's 'George Henry Chickashea' stands up to hella analysis, but a "Please explain the lyrics of 'George Henry Chickashea'" would probably turn into a race-related clusterfuck within half an hour, assuming that a good number of ilxors have heard it.

tickle me lmao (unregistered), Saturday, 18 September 2010 20:34 (eleven years ago) link

(the "George Henry Chickashea" lyrics I linked to above are full of dumb mistakes. there's a better transcription here, not that it really matters)

tickle me lmao (unregistered), Saturday, 18 September 2010 20:37 (eleven years ago) link

Stupid question but did Gram (or Emmylou) ever offer their thoughts on the lyrics?

Fartbritz Sootzveti (Steve Shasta), Saturday, 18 September 2010 23:14 (eleven years ago) link

nowhere that i've seen

bear, bear, bear, Sunday, 19 September 2010 00:36 (eleven years ago) link

fwiw wikipedia sez: "$1000 Wedding", about Parsons' aborted plan to wed the mother of his daughter in ostentatious style, had been recorded in a plodding arrangement with the Flying Burrito Brothers circa 1970;"

tylerw, Sunday, 19 September 2010 17:58 (eleven years ago) link

lol @ "plodding"

p.m.s.b. (pre-mall smoke bomb) (zorn_bond.mp3), Sunday, 19 September 2010 18:08 (eleven years ago) link

has that "plodding" version ever been released, bootleg or otherwise? i haven't heard it. there's a sweet solo piano demo tacked on that burrito bros. live thing that came out a couple years ago.

tylerw, Sunday, 19 September 2010 18:33 (eleven years ago) link

Did a little googling and saw this:

After the Byrds:

Back home, Nancy Ross had recently given birth to a daughter, Polly Parsons. Parsons had planned a large wedding -- a Hank Williams-style media event -- and commissioned a $1,000 wedding dress from Nudie's Rodeo Tailors. Despite, or perhaps because of, the birth of their child, Parsons and Ross had drifted apart. The dress was never used, though it was immortalized years later in the Parsons song "$1,000 Wedding."

Fartbritz Sootzveti (Steve Shasta), Monday, 20 September 2010 01:44 (eleven years ago) link

Everyone is discussing Faulkner and Kierkegaard and failed weddings, but the way I interpret the song all the verses make sense and the message is just a sad story about everyday life. Maybe I'm missing something, but back in the sixties there was a moral question about telling others about a terminal illness. Should a doctor tell you there is no hope or just cover up how bad things really are. That was back when doctors and hospitals had some sense of morals and ethics and didn't hype the nonsense that they could deal with anything and make it all better for several hundred thousand dollars. Anyway, as I see it the girl probably had a terminal illness and either didn't know it or else didn't want the groom to know it. However, it seems everyone else knew it and she died before making it to the wedding. Maybe I'm making it too simple, but looking at it this way it all makes sense. He loved the girl and she loved him and couldn't bear to tell him that they wouldn't have very long together and nobody else wanted to tell him either, even though they knew it. Everything was done out of caring about the couple and it broke his heart. It is a genuine heartbreak country song as only Gram could do. That is how I see it.

trucker47, Wednesday, 22 September 2010 19:37 (eleven years ago) link

eight months pass...

Something just hit me.

Look at the third verse only, as if it were the only verse. It sounds like a sermon being held for a dead child, a baby girl. “She only knew she loved the world” could describe an infant – no complex thoughts, just love of life. The “same silly way” is a phrase fit to a child. “All about the sweet child’s holy face” is self-evident. And maybe the notion of “supposed to be a funeral” is because there is no funeral due to the way the child died (miscarriage?, stillborn?).

Now look at verse 2 by itself. This could surely be about a girl who left him, and his friends covering for “old lies.” Or that the girl died. And it also could be about the death of a child or the child and mother.

Finally, verse one. Given the above explanations for verses two and three, verse one could again be as much about the child as the bride. “Where are the flowers for my baby” could really mean a baby. “I’d even like to see her mean old mama” could be the bride.

I’m not sure I believe the above, but it’s an interesting twist.

Swannekin, Saturday, 11 June 2011 06:51 (eleven years ago) link

"By now Gram had married Nancy Ross and she had become pregnant. Gram didn’t relish the responsibility of being a father and unlike his character in Blue Eyes, he wanted Nancy to have an abortion. She refused and Parsons’ only child, Polly, was born in late 1967. Shortly afterwards, they split up and Nancy moved to Santa Barbara. Gram had revealed himself to be not safe at home and the poor sales of the album led to the submarine sinking."

it's a meme i made and i like (Steve Shasta), Saturday, 11 June 2011 07:06 (eleven years ago) link

four months pass...

i think i will probably never figure this out.

estela, Tuesday, 11 October 2011 09:21 (ten years ago) link

five months pass...

I think that the line:
So why don't someone here just spike his drink
Why don't you do him in some old way
is a reference to how his mom suddenly died in the hospital, leaving him feeling abandoned while others passed notes and gossiped in order to "protect" the naive young man. Later in his life, Bob Parsons told Gram that he had smuggled booze into the hospital and given Gram's mother a drink. Bob's actions killed her. Gram mother's death was on the day of his high school graduation from the Bolles Academy in Jacksonville. If you look at it this way, celebrations mixed with gossip, abandonment and funerals makes sense.

Suzanne, Sunday, 1 April 2012 14:21 (ten years ago) link

two weeks pass...

Tis a thing of beauty. For me it works better if the bride has died. It seems to be about living and dying; and coping with loss. The third verse where the rev spits out his euphoric diatribe juxtaposed with the grooms absolute disconsolation magnifies the grief and mourning. Gram plays with other parallels that seem incongruent like a death and a wedding, a funeral and a party,euphoria with abject loss. Hence it's the saddest song ever. he makes harmony from disharmony. The irony of the line supposed to be a funeral, it's been a bad bad day sums up the lack of empathy and understanding that surrounds him. We sense profoundly his distance. The key changes and the shifts in perspective all lend to the grooms loneliness and loss. It is a work of art. An epic. I doubt there is a better song out there!

ted, Friday, 20 April 2012 03:04 (ten years ago) link

And why ain't there a funeral, if you're gonna act that way

yuppie bullshit chocolate blogbait (contenderizer), Friday, 20 April 2012 03:08 (ten years ago) link

The first time I heard this song, out for a lunch date, time stopped, teared up. Maybe not the saddest song ever but close enough

poxen, Friday, 20 April 2012 03:36 (ten years ago) link

I was only familiar with an outtake version of "1,000 Dollar Wedding" from Gram Parson's Archive Vol. 1: The Flying Burrito Brothers Live at the Avalon Ballroom,, and I only came across this message board after hearing Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield's version and thinking I'd heard Dando sing a different lyric from the one in which I was familiar. On the archive version, Parsons sings, "and with all the invitations sent, / the young bride passed away." Having assumed the whole time the song was about the young bride's death, I searched the lyrics and found the much-more-common "the young bride went away." I think, though, that Parsons himself obviously considered the bride dead and gone,considering the Archive Vol. 1 version. I did enjoy reading everyone's theories and Faulkner/Kierkegaard comparisons, which remain apt.

Jon White, Saturday, 28 April 2012 05:30 (ten years ago) link

i think it's more likely that he played with it

Choc. Clusterman (contenderizer), Saturday, 28 April 2012 05:47 (ten years ago) link

And re-reading the lyrics closely, it seems to be that a $1,000 Wedding has literally turned into a $1,000 funeral, and the bridegroom is not impressed with the service. The bride's mom isn't in attendance, there are no flowers, and the guests are gossiping about the cause of death (passing notes to eachother.) Dr. William Grace even remarks that she died in some silly way. Overdose? Suicide? Accident? Regardless, his platitudes aren't a comfort for the bridegroom. I'm trying to actually analyse the lyrics themselves, although I admit there is enough ambiguity to bring doubt to any anlysis.

Jon White, Saturday, 28 April 2012 05:50 (ten years ago) link

Actually what this song makes me think of literature-wise more than anything is Ford's The Good Soldier - the unreliable narrator, the layers of deception, the odd moments of humor, the declarations of great sadness, etc.

JoeStork, Saturday, 28 April 2012 08:56 (ten years ago) link

five months pass...

JON WHITE IS CORRECT: THE BRIDE DIES ON HER WEDDING DAY. (I'll cite my source at the bottom of this note.) I think it's probably a drug overdose or a suicide. The groom doesn't know what happened & shows up. The bride's family isn't at the wedding because they are dealing with the tragedy at home. The word gradually reaches the people in the crowd -- but not the groom. When the groom sees everybody looking so grim, he makes a joke about it looking like a funeral. Finally, his buddies (who clearly know a lot more about his fiancee's past than he does) tell him what happened. He goes out drinking with them, & as they all get soused, the buddies tell the groom a lot of bad stuff about his intended that he never knew. He can still see the lies on their faces from all the times they could have told him about this stuff but they chose to cover for her instead. The last verse is not a non sequiter: Meanwhile, back at the wedding, it has morphed into an ad hoc funeral. (Hey, they paid their $1,000, right?) It's been a bad, bad day.
My source: I think there are now several official recordings of $1,000 Wedding out. ONLY THE ONE on the Gram Parsons studio album that most of you know doesn't make it clear what's going on.
I recommend the album called: Gram Parsons Archives Vol. 1: The Flying Burrito Brothers Live At The Avalon Ballroom April 4th, 1969. The Burritos were opening for hometown heroes the Grateful Dead, & the recording is from Owsley Stanley's archives. Stanley designed the Dead's sound system (when he wasn't designing perfect LSD, as explained in Steely Dan's "Kid Charlemagne," which is about Owsley). It's a board tape, so you can't hear the audience. The vocals are mixed very loud, so you can the lyrics very clearly. Parsons sings:
A thousand dollar wedding was supposed to be held the other day.
And with all the invitations sent, the young bride passed away.
The groom saw people passing notes..."
There are other tiny differences in the lyrics. I think that by the time Parsons recorded the version on his solo album, he wanted to blur the story just a little bit -- possibly so that all of us would be discussing the song for seven years decades after he wrote it!
One thing that makes the song even sadder when you do understand it is that it foreshadows Parsons' own death (as does Long Black Limousine, which he also performed). Like the bride in the song, he died suddenly & too young. (Interestingly, Elvis Presley also recorded Long Black Limousine. If I were a country rock star & I identified with that song, I wouldn't dare record it! I'd check into Narcotics Anonymous instead!)

Slade Barker, Friday, 28 September 2012 16:21 (nine years ago) link

one year passes...

Thank you Slade Barker.

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Saturday, 26 October 2013 05:39 (eight years ago) link

We Found Parker Slade‎
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Current Address, Phone and Age. Find Parker slade, Anywhere.

buzza, Saturday, 26 October 2013 06:22 (eight years ago) link

four months pass...

I believe the song is autobiographical - that it relates back to the feelings he had as a 12 year old child when his father failed to show up in Winterhaven for Christmas. The adults decided not to tell him or his younger sister that his father had shot himself back in Waycross until after the holidays. He could tell something was wrong but no one would level with him. There was no funeral. It was a bad bad day. Later on in his life, after all the invitations had been sent, his mother failed to show for his boarding school (high school graduation). Again he could sense something was wrong and was ultimately told of her death in a Winterhaven hospital from alcoholism. Not until several years later did his stepfather confess to having provided the alcohol to Big Avis in the hospital that killed her. Lots of old lies still on their faces in this man's young life. Probably very difficult for him to reconcile his parents' tragic deaths to the religious upbringing he would have had in the Deep South at that time. Hard to accept the oft held belief that a father who commits suicide would not have been accepted into heaven. That, coupled with the singers own spiraling descent into alcoholism and drug abuse led to his irreverent views toward religion (I hope you know a lot more than you're believing in "Song for You" and the reverend "Swore the fiercest beasts could all be put to sleep the same silly way"). The beasts that took his mother, father, and soon the singer were not so easily dismissed. And, with all the saints singing, why can't there be one single horn with one sad note to play. There was supposed to be a funeral. It's been a bad bad day.

Rob, Saturday, 22 March 2014 13:57 (eight years ago) link

Rob is my new hero.

banjoboy, Saturday, 22 March 2014 15:29 (eight years ago) link

six months pass...

this song is inexhaustible

I dunno. (amateurist), Tuesday, 21 October 2014 05:14 (seven years ago) link

four months pass...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkuf4VzBAUI

here he sings 'passed away' instead of 'went away'.

stof, Friday, 20 March 2015 10:38 (seven years ago) link

https://youtu.be/ZJ_zkGtOAQg?t=1m5s

pplains, Saturday, 21 March 2015 02:46 (seven years ago) link

I'm almost relieved --- no, definitely relieved --- that this textual evidence points to the bride having died unbeknownst to the groom.

I've been scared for years that the real meaning of the song was that the groom found her after "he went out drinking" and heard all those stories and killed her himself - making this song something rather fearful to approach, and I suppose it still is.

One piece of lyric that pointed in this direction was the part where it is suggested that it would have been better if the groom had had his drinked spiked and been "done in some old way." Because at least then the bride who "only knew she loved the world" would not then have been killed. Hmmmm. I think I'm still scared. Not like life doesn't provide us with lots of these kinds of awful stories anyway.

Vic Perry, Saturday, 21 March 2015 05:42 (seven years ago) link

Maybe this song just sucks? I mean, it isn't intended to be inscrutable, I don't think. It's just a mess.

Jimmywine Dyspeptic, Saturday, 21 March 2015 07:08 (seven years ago) link

No need to worry your pretty head over that mess.

Vic Perry, Saturday, 21 March 2015 15:37 (seven years ago) link

four months pass...

I think the 'meaning' of the song is easier to discern if part of the lyrics are moved (as below). As well, there are 2 different perspective during the song; the objective narrator, and the boyfriend who has been stood up.

The first 5 lines are an objective description [by the objective narrator] of what happened that day. The next 3 lines show the meaning of the day has changed [seen from the boyfriend's perspective] from a wedding to a funeral...She's gone (for whatever reason, be it that she died, left him, ran off with someone else etc.), and the day is now like a funeral for him.

It was a $1000 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

The next section (moved forward a little) is just a description of what the reverend said [from the perspective of the objective narrator] after the bride didn't turn up. His words were probably an religious allegory re the death / failure to turn up of the bride, and don't make much sense, or seem silly to the objective narrator.

The Reverend Dr. William Grace
Was talking to the crowd
All about the sweet child's holy face and
The saints who sung out loud
And he swore the fiercest beasts
Could all be put to sleep the same silly way

The rest of the song – the other 2 bits joined together, and which seem to fit together - is about what happened after the bride failed to turn up [from the perspective of the objective narrator]...The boyfriend took some friends out drinking, and they obviously tied a big one on. He told his friends everything, but thought they weren't really telling him everything...(he was probably a bit paranoid / sensitive). He was obviously upset enough that the objective narrator thought he should be put out of his misery. The last 4 lines just reiterate that the day turned into a funeral / wake, whether literally or figuratively.

I hate to tell you how he acted when the news arrived
He took some friends out drinking and
It's lucky they survived
Well, he told them everything there was to tell there along the way
And he felt so bad when he saw the traces
Of old lies still on their faces
So why don't someone here just spike his drink
Why don't you do him in some old way
Supposed to be a funeral
It's been a bad, bad day
And where are the flowers for the girl
She only knew she loved the world
And why ain't there one lonely horn and one sad note to play
Supposed to be a funeral
It's been a bad, bad day
Supposed to be a funeral
It's been a bad, bad day

JukeboxB, Wednesday, 5 August 2015 12:06 (six years ago) link

thanks for that

Ma$e-en-scène (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Wednesday, 5 August 2015 14:01 (six years ago) link

three months pass...

why wasn't her mean old mama at the wedding?

dynamicinterface, Friday, 20 November 2015 01:51 (six years ago) link

three weeks pass...

Hi...Re "Mean old mama". That would be the prospective mother-in-law. In common 'mythology', mother in laws are often depicted as being difficult / mean. If the (prospective) bride had turned up, the groom would have even been happy to see his (mean old) mother in law at the wedding. In this case, the 'mean old mama' / mother in law didn't turn up, because the wedding did not go ahead.

JukeboxB, Monday, 14 December 2015 03:25 (six years ago) link

Re the possibility of the (prospective) bride having died / been killed. The song works because she didn't turn up for the wedding, whatever the reason for that might be. However, it is unlikely she is dead. The lyrics say...

"With all the invitations sent
The young bride went away"

'Went away' clearly indicates she left of her own accord.

Later lyrics state...

"Where are the flowers for the girl
She only knew she loved the world"

I think this should be taken figuratively, in that the wedding has effectively turned into a wake (emotionally) for the (stood up?) groom.

JukeboxB, Monday, 14 December 2015 03:39 (six years ago) link

four months pass...

Listening to Dirty Mind today it occurs to me that "Head" gives a pretty reasonable explanation of what happened.

JoeStork, Friday, 22 April 2016 00:46 (six years ago) link

hahahaahahahahaaha

Neanderthal, Friday, 22 April 2016 01:29 (six years ago) link

Supposed to be a funeral. It's been a bad, bad day.

farmboy, Friday, 22 April 2016 02:55 (six years ago) link

one year passes...

"And he swore the fiercest beasts
Could all be put to sleep the same silly way"

I'm just a little drunk and am jamming this right now but just really i want to bump this thread becauseI i have always found this line so beautiful

dynamicinterface, Friday, 26 January 2018 02:30 (four years ago) link


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