The Gilded Palace of Sin

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The Gilded Palace of Sin
Left to right: Chris Ethridge, "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow, Gram Parsons, and Chris Hillman, wearing Nudie suits in a desert scene
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 6, 1969 (1969-02-06)
RecordedNovember–December 1968
StudioA&M, Hollywood
GenreCountry rock
  • The Flying Burrito Brothers
  • Henry Lewy
  • Larry Marks
The Flying Burrito Brothers chronology
The Gilded Palace of Sin
Burrito Deluxe

The Gilded Palace of Sin is the first album by the country rock group the Flying Burrito Brothers, released on February 6, 1969.[1] It continued Gram Parsons' and Chris Hillman's work in modern country music, fusing traditional sources like folk and country with other forms of popular music like gospel, soul, and psychedelic rock.

Although it was not a commercial success, peaking at #164 on the Billboard 200, The Gilded Palace of Sin has been widely regarded as an important album in 1970s rock. It was included in Robert Christgau's "Basic Record Library" of 1950s and 1960s recordings, published in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981).[2] It is also listed at number 192 in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in the 2012 edition and number 462 in the 2020 edition, keeping the same position on the 2023 small review.[3][4]


We went down to Melrose Avenue to see the Flying Burritos. [...] There were odd things going around town. There were rumors. There were stories. Everything was unmentionable but nothing was unimaginable. This mystical flirtation with the idea of "sin"—this sense that it was possible to go "too far," and that many people were doing it—was very much with us in Los Angeles in 1968 and 1969. A demented and seductive vortical tension was building in the community. The jitters were setting in. I recall a time when the dogs barked every night and the moon was always full.

After spearheading the Byrds' foray into country music with the influential Sweetheart of the Rodeo album, Gram Parsons fell out with the band when he refused to accompany them on a tour of South Africa in 1968. Two months later bassist Chris Hillman left the Byrds as well and joined Parsons to form the Flying Burrito Brothers. As stated in the documentary Beyond Nashville, "Gram Parsons was passionate about country music's simple poetry. He was equally passionate about rock music. At a time when they were poles apart, he alone thought they belonged together."

Recording and composition[edit]

The Gilded Palace of Sin was recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood and produced by Larry Marks with Henry Lewy engineering. The sessions featured a variety of drummers. With harmonies that reveal the influences of the Everly Brothers and the Louvin Brothers, the songs on the Burritos' debut attempt to marry country music with the soul sound associated with Otis Redding's Stax-Volt label and singers like Percy Sledge.

Another significant characteristic of the album is "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow's unorthodox steel guitar playing, which provides an almost continuous commentary throughout some of the songs. As guitarist Bernie Leadon (who wasn't a member of the band yet when this LP was recorded and released) explains to Meyer in Twenty Thousand Roads, "Sneaky uniquely played an eight-string Fender cable pull steel tuned to B6 instead of the more common C6. He played [a] usually more jazz or swing tuning in a style that most other players use an E9 tuning for. His rationale was: B is the 'five chord,' or dominant chord, to the key of E. This resulted in absolutely-to-Pete steel licks. And no one else thinks like him anyway." Kleinow also utilized a fuzzbox and played the instrument through a rotating Hammond Leslie amplifier, adding a psychedelic touch to several songs.

Most of the songs were written by Parsons and Hillman at a house in the San Fernando Valley dubbed "Burrito Manor." "Sin City", co-written by Hillman and Parsons and called a "loping lament" and a "cautionary dirge", mentions The Byrds's manager Larry Spector ("a gold plated door") and Robert F. Kennedy ("tried to clean up this town").[5] It may have been influenced by The Louvin Brothers.[6] In the 2004 documentary Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel, Hillman recalls writing the song with Parsons: "Gram was sleeping. I woke up and had this idea, 'This old town's filled with sin, it'll swallow you in.' I got the first verse and most of the chorus and then I said, 'Gram, get up! I got somethin' here.' And he got up and we wrote that song in about thirty minutes. It actually wrote itself." In the same documentary bassist Chris Etheridge adds, "I told Gram I had a couple of old melodies from back when I was growin' up...I played 'em for him and we wrote the two songs that day, the "Hot Burrito #1" and the "Hot Burrito #2," and then that night went into the studio and cut 'em." "My Uncle" and "Hippie Boy" address then-contemporary countercultural concerns: the draft and the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots. Parsons later explained to Fusion magazine, "We kept saying we got to do a song called 'Hippie Boy' about Chicago, and it's got to be a narrative song, and Chris Hillman has to do it...It was the toughest challenge on the album." The two R&B standards covered on the album, "Dark End of the Street" and "Do Right Woman", are examples of a country-soul fusion that Parsons would often refer to as "cosmic American music."

The Nudie suit of Parsons in the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville

Album artwork[edit]

The album cover features the band in Nudie suits.[7] Parsons had taken the band to designer Nudie Cohn to have custom sequin suits made for all the band members especially for the photo shoot, but Parsons' was most unusual, featuring a naked woman (rendered as an old-school sailor's tattoo on each lapel), red poppies on the shoulders, deep-green marijuana leaves on the front, and embroidered Seconal and Tuinal pills scattered elsewhere. Parsons asked that a flaming red cross surrounded by radiating shafts of blue and gold light cover the back of the jacket. The suit now hangs in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Tom Wilkes, who was the head of the art department at A&M at the time, explained to director Gandulf Hennig in 2004, "We decided to take them out to the desert and do something kind of surreal with the Nudie suits. And they looked great anyway. They looked funky and kind of country western and kind of rock. I felt that look was great. They didn't really need the Nudie suits." The album cover was shot by Barry Feinstein.


Professional ratings
Review scores
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music[9]
Rolling Stonepositive[11]

At the time of its release, John Firminger wrote in Country Music Review that the album "quite clearly stands as a complete definition of the term country rock, using a heavy instrumental approach combining strong country roots." Allan Jones, writing in the influential British rock weekly NME, raved, "Let me discourse on the sheer magnificence contained within the micro-grooves of Gilded Palace of Sin." In the original Rolling Stone review of the album, Stanley Booth called it "one of the best records of the year" and the best, most personal music Parsons had ever done. When Rolling Stone asked Bob Dylan to name his favorite country-rock album, he answered, "The Flying Burrito Brothers. Boy, I love them. Their record instantly knocked me out." The album has since become regarded as one of the most groundbreaking of the 1960s. Rolling Stone included it on their list of "The 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time", writing that "in many ways, Gilded Palace picks up where the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo left off...Together, the mercurial Parsons and the levelheaded Hillman concocted a crazily coherent statement of irony-fueled hillbilly anthems, inventive covers and achingly beautiful two-part harmonies, all underscored by Sneaky Pete Kleinow's radical pedal-steel guitar." In a 5 star review, AllMusic's Mark Deming raved, " one ever brought rock and country together quite like the Flying Burrito Brothers, and this album remains their greatest accomplishment." In his article "The Lost Boy", John Harris of Mojo writes that the album "remains an absolute delight, founded on the poetry that came from the juxtaposition of country music's air of sincere honesty with songs that drew much of their inspiration from the synthetic expanse of Los Angeles."


Like Sweetheart of the Rodeo, The Gilded Palace of Sin was not a commercial success. To date, the RIAA has not certified it gold. However, its impact on popular music has grown over the years, influencing, for example, the Eagles. During the 1980s, the New Traditionalist movement in mainstream country music was influenced by The Gilded Palace of Sin, with artists such as Travis Tritt, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Clint Black and Randy Travis. Today, The Gilded Palace of Sin continues to influence the alternative country movement, often referred to as "alt-country." Bands like Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Son Volt, Whiskeytown, and the Jayhawks, as well as such musicians as Dwight Yoakam, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris (Parsons' one-time singing partner), and Steve Earle all have recorded music that bears traces of The Gilded Palace of Sin. Non-country artists like Elvis Costello have cited the album as a particular favorite, with Costello covering several cuts during his career; similarly, Dinosaur Jr. have covered the song "Hot Burrito #2" on their album Green Mind. In the liner notes for the 1997 reissue, Sid Griffin wrote that while Gilded Palace only sold 50,000 copies, " the first album by the Velvet Underground, it would seem everyone of those 50,000 went out and formed a band inspired by what they'd heard."

For years, the album was never reissued in its entirety on compact disc in the United States. However, in 2000 the complete album was reissued as part of a two-disc set, Hot Burritos! The Flying Burrito Brothers Anthology 1969–1972. In 2002, a new mastering was issued on a single-disc release Sin City: The Very Best of the Flying Burrito Brothers, which packaged The Gilded Palace of Sin with its successor, Burrito Deluxe, as well as a few outtakes from the same period.

In 2003, the album was ranked number 192 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, maintaining the rating in a 2012 revised list and dropping to 461 on the 2020/2023 revision.[12] In 2013, the album was ranked number 99 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time".[13] The album was included in the 2014 Rolling Stone list of the "50 Rock Albums Every Country Fan Should Own".[14] It was ranked number 620 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums, 3rd Edition (2000).[15]


In early 2017, independent record label Intervention Records released a 180-gram vinyl reissue of The Gilded Palace of Sin. The reissue was remastered by Kevin Gray, using a 1/2" safety copy of the original master tapes and includes an "old-style" jacket featuring the original album artwork printed by Stoughton Printing. In late 2017, it was reissued on hybrid SACD by Intervention Records. A standard reissue of the album on vinyl was released worldwide on January 29, 2021.

Track listing[edit]

Side one

  1. "Christine's Tune" [AKA "Devil In Disguise"] (Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman) – 3:04
  2. "Sin City" (Hillman, Parsons) – 4:11
  3. "Do Right Woman" (Chips Moman, Dan Penn) – 3:56
  4. "Dark End of the Street" (Moman, Penn) – 3:58
  5. "My Uncle" (Parsons, Hillman) – 2:37

Side two

  1. "Wheels" (Hillman, Parsons) – 3:04
  2. "Juanita" (Hillman, Parsons) – 2:31
  3. "Hot Burrito #1" [AKA "I'm Your Toy"] (Chris Ethridge, Parsons) – 3:40
  4. "Hot Burrito #2" (Ethridge, Parsons) – 3:19
  5. "Do You Know How It Feels" (Parsons, Barry Goldberg) – 2:09
  6. "Hippie Boy" (Hillman, Parsons) – 4:55


The Flying Burrito Brothers
  • Gram Parsons – lead and harmony vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, organ
  • Chris Hillman – electric and acoustic guitar, harmony, lead and backing vocals, mandolin
  • "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow (misspelled "Sneeky" on the back cover) – pedal steel guitar
  • Chris Ethridge – bass guitar, backing vocals, piano


  • Jon Corneal – drums (tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 7)
  • Thomas "Popeye" Phillips – drums (tracks 8, 9, 11)
  • Eddie Hoh – drums (tracks 2, 10)
  • Sam Goldstein – drums (track 6)
  • David Crosby – backing vocals (track 3)
  • Hot Burrito Chorus – backing vocals (track 11)
  • The Flying Burrito Brothers, Larry Marks, Henry Lewy – production
  • Henry Lewy – engineer
  • Tom Wilkes – art direction
  • Barry Feinstein – cover photography


  1. ^ "The Flying Burrito Brothers: The Gilded Palace of Sin - All Things Music+". February 19, 2020. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "A Basic Record Library: The Fifties and Sixties". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 0899190251. Retrieved March 16, 2019 – via
  3. ^ "500 Greatest Albums: The Gilded Palace of Sin", Rolling Stone
  4. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2020-09-22. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  5. ^ Boucher, Geoff (2007). "'Sin City' The Flying Burrito Brothers – 1969",
  6. ^ "'Sin City'",
  7. ^ Robinson, John (28 February 2004). "Naked talent". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 August 2022.
  8. ^ Deming, Mark. "The Gilded Palace of Sin - The Flying Burrito Brothers". Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  9. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0857125958.
  10. ^ Zoladz, Lindsay (May 9, 2021). "The Flying Burrito Brothers: The Gilded Palace of Sin". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  11. ^ Booth, Stanley (17 May 1969). "Records". Rolling Stone. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc.
  12. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  13. ^ "The 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. 22 March 2013.
  14. ^ "The 50 Rock Albums Every Country Fan Should Own". Rolling Stone. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. 12 November 2014.
  15. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 205. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.

External links[edit]