- 06 Feb 19
The Flying Burrito Brothers' classic debut album turns 50 today. The country-rock band's lineup included legendary musician Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, a founding member of the Byrds. To celebrate The Gilded Palace of Sin's big birthday, we're revisiting Chris Hillman's 2005 interview with Hot Press's Colm O'Hare.
He might not be a household name but in rock and roll circles Chris Hillman is a bona fide legend. A founder member of The Byrds - one of the most influential of all sixties bands - he wrote (or co-wrote) five songs on their classic Younger Than Yesterday album, including ‘So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’ and ‘Have You Seen Her Face’.
Later he went on to form The Flying Burrito Brothers - the band that single-handedly invented country-rock - penning songs such as ‘Sin City’ and ‘Wheels’ with the late, great Gram Parsons. When the Burritos folded he became a key part of Manassas, an early seventies supergroup featuring Stephen Stills. He then joined the short-lived Souther-Hillman-Fury band before forming the highly rated Desert Rose Band scoring several country number ones in the 80’s and 90’s.
These days he performs mainly with sidekick Herb Pedersen playing songs from the throughout his 40-year career. Their latest album The Other Side features new interpretations of classics like 'Eight Miles High’ and ‘It Doesn’t Matter’ as well as some new songs.
One of the longest serving members of the constantly changing line-ups of The Byrds and the Flying Burritos, Hillman seemed to stick around while others came and went.
“Yeah, sometimes I felt I was the glue that held it together in both bands,” he says. “I guess I did feel some kind of a professional responsibility. But I was just the bass player who is the ugly step-child in any band. Roger [McGuinn] was the main guy in the Byrds, he was the consummate musician. We were there to enhance what he was doing.
Both The Byrds and The Burritos are still highly regarded - how does he feel when constantly confronted with his past?
“People ask me to sign albums which I don’t mind doing at all. In fact I’d feel pretty lonely if they didn’t come up to me to talk about those bands. I think I took a lot for granted back then. I feel like I should have taken what I was doing more seriously. I probably would have gottten better results some of the time.
“But Bernie Leadon [ex Burrito Brother] said to me recently that when we were young ‘we played without fear’. What a great line! It’s like you just jump into the river and you swim across. You’re not thinking ‘will I make it’ or ‘am I swimming the right way.”
How does he feel about the new crop of Americana and alt-country outfits claiming influences from Hillman and his former associates?
“This will probably get me in trouble but I don’t think they’re doing anything different or better than the Burrito Brothers were in 1969. I know I haven’t heard another ‘Sin City’.
Listen to The Flying Burrito Brothers' 'Hot Burrito #1' from The Gilded Palace of Sin below: