By JOHN KRYK -- Sun Media
In 1962 Brian Jones formed the Rolling Stones, named the band the
Rolling Stones, picked the songs the Rolling Stones played, hustled
all the gigs for the Rolling Stones, chartered the musical direction
and non-conformist vision for the Rolling Stones -- and was the
unquestioned leader of the Rolling Stones.
Seven years later, he was fired by the Rolling Stones.
A month after that, he was dead.
Of all the 40-year-anniversary musical and cultural milestones you'll
be blasted with this summer, the story of the enigmatic Jones -- who
died 40 years ago this week -- is one you probably won't read much
Magnetic, sympathetic, adorable, deplorable, handsome, heartless,
self-assured, self-absorbed, talent-rich but insecure -- Brian Jones
was all these things rolled into one. Out of all that, he became
arguably the first patron saint of "sex, drugs and rock and roll."
Sex? He fathered three children out of wedlock before even forming
the Stones, then quickly had another, all before age 20. He once
claimed to have bedded 64 groupies in one month. Sixty-four!
Drugs? He was the first Stone to try all the hard ones, and he was
burned out before most people had even heard of Timothy Leary.
Rock and roll? Well, Jones formed the Stones as a blues and R&B band.
But later, when singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards began
producing their own rock compositions, Jones contributed some of the
most memorable rock sounds of the 1960s.
Jones also was a fashion pioneer, paving the way for the
gender-blurred glam-rock statements of the early 1970s.
He even beat Jimi, Janis, Jim, Duane and all the rest up the stairway
to rock 'n' roll heaven.
But back to the band's beginning.
It was in April 1962 when Mick Jagger, a university economics major
who sang blues only on weekends, and his quiet, ambition-free friend
Keith Richards first laid their eyes and ears on Brian Jones. It was
at a blues gig, and Jones was showing off his acumen as the first
great slide guitar player in England.
Mick and Keith were awestruck by Jones that day, and were ecstatic to
be asked by Jones to join the blues band he was forming. The trio
eventually lived together in squalor in a seedy London flat, as Jones
started pulling the whole thing together. He and Keith were the tight
ones, while Jagger attended classes or studied. By December 1962,
Jones allowed bassist Bill Wyman to join. A month later, Jones'
pestering paid off when highly regarded jazz and blues drummer
Charlie Watts agreed to come aboard.
By May 1963, the Stones were the hottest London-based band. And Jones
was getting as many squeals from the girls as Jagger.
Young hotshot producer/promoter Andrew Loog Oldham signed the Stones
to Decca, and Stones-mania in England began in earnest. These were
the absolute best of times for Brian Jones.
But by the end of 1963 the power base within the band began to shift,
thanks to two situations.
First, at an October tour stop in Liverpool, Jones let it slip to the
other Stones that he was planning on staying in a nicer hotel than
the rest of them.
"He had an arrangement ... that, as leader of the band, he was
entitled to this extra (five pounds a week) payment," Richards
recalled. "When we discovered this, everybody freaked out, and that
was the beginning of the decline of Brian."
Second, producer Oldham correctly was panicking that the Stones'
shelf-life would be short if they couldn't come up with original
material, like the Beatles. Jones, Richards and Jagger all tried to
write bluesy pop songs and failed miserably. Jones especially
struggled. As the legend goes, Oldham locked Jagger and Richards in a
kitchen until they produced a decent song. The Glimmer Twins were born.
Over the next two years the Stones shot to worldwide fame, thanks in
large part to their 1965 monster hit (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction --
a Jagger/Richards composition. It was a song on which Jones had
almost no musical role, which pained him. Jones would act out,
screwing over the others in little ways, but also in big ways, such
as missing concerts and recording sessions.
By the end of 1965, with Mick clearly the leader on stage and in the
press, and Keith now the leader in the studio, Jones was becoming an
after-thought. Crestfallen, he turned to drink.
"Brian was in bad shape, far away from the rest of the band,"
Richards told Playboy in 1989. "He needed to be in a f---ing
hospital. He needed help. Then he turned up with Anita."
That would be Anita Pallenberg.
A drop-dead gorgeous actress from Germany, Pallenberg defined blond
ambition in Swinging London. Jagger, Richards and just about everyone
else wanted her badly, but she threw in with Jones, giving him a
great boost of confidence at the exact time he needed it.
Unable to write hit songs himself, Jones resolved to embellish the
Jagger/Richards pop-rock compositions by learning to play any
instrument he could procure. With his immense talent, he added vital,
exotic, fresh sounds to the Stones' musical pallet -- from sitar
(Paint It Black) to marimbas (Under My Thumb) to Japanese koto
(Mother's Little Helper) to dulcimer (Lady Jane) to accordion
(Backstreet Girl) to recorder and cello (Ruby Tuesday).
By the end of '66, the Stones -- like the Beatles before them -- quit
touring after three gruelling years. Richards and Jones became tight
again. Brian and Anita's flat was party central for the coolest artists.
But Jones' renaissance was short-lived.
On a group trip to Morocco in March 1967, he sensed Pallenberg was
falling in love with Richards and, in an insane attempt to show her
who was boss, insisted she join him in bed with a couple of Moroccan
prostitutes. When she declined, Jones beat her up.
The next day, Richards and Pallenberg made their dramatic escape,
fleeing the country together. In one fell swoop, Jones lost his best
friend, the love of his life to that best friend, and any last chance
he'd ever have to retake control of his band. Triple catastrophe.
The final two years of his life were, in a word, ruinous. Many photos
of him in '67, '68 and '69 are painful to look at.
Drugs became his grieving soul's salve, but he couldn't handle them.
He took LSD, pot and cocaine, yes, but mostly he gobbled uppers and
downers -- "prescription death," as Pallenberg later called it.
Washed down by lots of alcohol.
Occasionally he could pull himself together long enough to add
splashes of brilliance in the studio -- such as his otherworldly
mellotron on 2000 Light Years From Home, or his whole new style of
country slide guitar phrasing on No Expectations. More often, it got
to the point that Jagger and Richards sometimes wouldn't even turn on
the tape machine in the studio as Jones strummed away on some guitar
part that sounded good only in his head. "He became something you
just sat in the corner," Richards said.
No shortage of people reached out to try to help. But it was a chore.
"He ended up the kind of guy that you'd dread when he'd come on the
phone," John Lennon said in the '70s. "He was really in a lot of pain
... He was one of them guys that disintegrated in front of you."
By April 1969 Jones was no longer bothering to show up at recording
sessions. A month later, guitarist Mick Taylor was picked to replace
him. In early June, Jagger, Richards and Watts drove to Jones' rural
estate to inform him they were kicking him out of, well, his band. He
made it easy for them.
Over the next few weeks, Jones talked excitedly about forming a new
band that would play upbeat, raw, rootsy rock like Credence
Clearwater Revival. Some think former Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer
Mitch Mitchell was on board.
But on the night of July 3, 1969, Brian Jones was found dead at the
bottom of his swimming pool. He was 27.
The coroner ruled it an accident -- death by misadventure -- after
Jones had consumed a large quantity of downers and alcohol. Rumours
and, later, authors alleged he was murdered. No proof.
Years later, after Richards eventually dumped her, Pallenberg
remarked that even though Jones died, his personas have lived on in
the forms of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Think about it: A
serious student before he met Jones, Jagger seemingly becomes more
and more hung up on topping Jones' roguish sexual exploits (Mick is
up to seven children by four women) -- while Richards, a shy,
confidence-lacking layabout before he met Jones, relishes his rep as
rock's baddest bad boy and champion drug-taker.
More than three decades later, Bill Wyman summed up the original
Rolling Stone this way:
"Brian was weak, had hang-ups and at times was a pain in the arse.
But he named us, we were his idea and he chose what we first played ...
"Brian Jones is a legend and his legacy is there for all to hear.
While the Rolling Stones damaged all of us in some way, Brian was the
only one who died."