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Unleashing the Musical Genius: A Tribute to Brian Jones

Brian Jones, a young musician with a passion for blues and a thirst for adventure, left his hometown in Cheltenham and headed to the vibrant music scene of London.

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brian jones

Brian Jones, a young musician with a passion for blues and a thirst for adventure, left his hometown in Cheltenham and headed to the vibrant music scene of London. In the company of fellow musicians like Alexis Korner, Paul Jones (future Manfred Mann singer), Jack Bruce (future Cream bassist), and others, he embarked on a musical odyssey that would shape the course of rock ‘n’ roll history.

Jones, in his pursuit of blues music, briefly adopted the stage name “Elmo Lewis” and showcased his prowess on the slide guitar. During this time, he co-founded a group known as the Roosters with Paul Jones. However, in January 1963, both Brian Jones and Paul left the band, making way for another legend, Eric Clapton, to step into Jones’s shoes as the guitarist.

The Formation of the Band

In the early days of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones played a pivotal role in bringing together a group of talented musicians. He posted an advertisement in the 2 May 1962 edition of Jazz News, inviting musicians to audition for a new R&B group at the Bricklayer’s Arms pub. Pianist Ian Stewart was the first to respond to the call, marking the beginning of a legendary journey.

Soon after, singer Mick Jagger joined forces with this budding band. Jagger and his childhood friend, Keith Richards, had previously crossed paths with Jones when he and Paul were performing Robert Johnson’s “Dust My Broom” with Alexis Korner’s band at the Ealing Jazz Club. Jagger, recognising the extraordinary potential of this musical collaboration, brought Richards into the mix.

The acceptance of Richards and the Chuck Berry songs he introduced was a turning point in the band’s evolution. It coincided with the departure of blues purists Geoff Bradford and Brian Knight, who had little tolerance for the direction the band was taking.

The Birth of the Name

As legend has it, the name “the Rollin’ Stones” (later with the ‘g’) was coined by Brian Jones while he was on the phone with a venue owner. In a moment of panic, he glanced at the floor and spotted “The Best of Muddy Waters” album, with track five, side one titled “Rollin’ Stone Blues.” The name stuck, and the Rollin’ Stones played their debut gig on 12 July 1962 at the Marquee Club in London. The lineup featured Jagger, Richards, Jones, Stewart, bassist Dick Taylor (who later joined the Pretty Things), and drummer Tony Chapman.

The Edith Grove Connection

From September 1962 to September 1963, Jones, Jagger, and Richards shared a flat at 102 Edith Grove in Chelsea, a place Keith Richards fondly referred to as “a beautiful dump.” In this humble abode, they were joined by James Phelge, a future photographer whose name appeared in some of the group’s early “Nanker/Phelge” writing credits. It was during this time that Jones and Richards spent countless hours playing the guitar and immersing themselves in blues records by artists like Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Howlin’ Wolf. Jones even took on the role of teaching Jagger how to play the harmonica.

Completing the Lineup

With a burning desire to create their own unique sound, the Rolling Stones set out to find a bassist and drummer. After various auditions and lineup changes, they finally settled on Bill Wyman for bass due to his spare VOX AC30 guitar amplifier, a constant supply of cigarettes, and a bass guitar he had crafted himself. After jamming with a few different drummers, the band convinced the jazz-influenced Charlie Watts to join their ranks.

Charlie Watts was highly regarded by his fellow musicians, and his addition completed the formation of the classic Rolling Stones lineup. Watts later recalled Brian Jones’s crucial role in those early days, describing him as the driving force behind getting the band on stage and into the world of R&B music.

The Leadership Dilemma

Brian Jones, in addition to his musical talents, took on the role of the band’s business manager. However, a disparity in earnings created tensions within the group. Jones received £5 more than the other members, which translated to £111 in today’s currency. This inequity, compounded by the perception that Jones considered himself the band’s leader, led to resentment among the rest of the members. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, in particular, were surprised to learn that Jones saw himself as the leader, especially since others, such as Giorgio Gomelsky, appeared to handle the booking aspects of the band’s business. This marked the beginning of a complex journey for the Rolling Stones, as they navigated the dynamics within the group and charted a course for their legendary career.

The Multi-Instrumental Virtuoso

Brian Jones, a gifted multi-instrumentalist, possessed unparalleled proficiency with a wide array of musical instruments. Prior to his departure from the Rolling Stones in 1969, Jones showcased his talent by playing an impressive range of instruments, from drums and guitars to piano and bass, all of which were standard in rock music at the time. His exceptional ability to master such a diverse set of instruments shines through on iconic albums like “Aftermath” (1966), “Between the Buttons” (1967), and “Their Satanic Majesties Request” (1967).

As a guitarist, Jones made a mark with his distinctive style. In the early days, he favoured a white teardrop-shaped electric guitar produced by Vox, a preference that translated into mesmerising live performances. However, he didn’t limit himself to just one instrument; he explored a wide range of electric and acoustic guitars from renowned manufacturers like Rickenbacker, Gibson, and Fender. As a slide guitarist, he excelled in open E and open G tunings.

Examples of Jones’s exceptional guitar work can be found in tracks like “I Wanna Be Your Man” (1963), “I’m a King Bee,” “Little Red Rooster” (1964), “I Can’t Be Satisfied” (1964), “I’m Movin’ On” (1965), “Mona” (1965), “Doncha Bother Me,” and “No Expectations.” His contribution extended to Bo Diddley-style rhythm guitar in tracks like “I Need You Baby,” “Please Go Home,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” and the memorable guitar riff in “The Last Time.” Jones’s versatility even led him to explore unique instruments like the sitar, organ, marimba, recorder, saxophone, kazoo, Appalachian dulcimer, Mellotron, and the autoharp on various Rolling Stones’ songs.

The Harmonica Virtuoso

Brian Jones’s talents extended to the harmonica, and his harmonica skills graced many of the Rolling Stones’ early tracks. You can hear his harmonica magic in songs like “Come On,” “Stoned” (1963), “Not Fade Away” (1964), “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Now I’ve Got a Witness” (1964), “Good Times, Bad Times” (1964), and more.

The Versatile Musician

In addition to his guitar and harmonica skills, Jones showcased his versatility as a musician. He played the recorder on tracks like “Ruby Tuesday” and “All Sold Out” and the saxophone on “Child of the Moon” and “Citadel.” He added a unique touch to songs with instruments like the kazoo, Appalachian dulcimer, Mellotron, and the autoharp. Moreover, Jones was responsible for the oboe/soprano sax solo in “Dandelion.”

Backing Vocalist

In the early years, Brian Jones often served as a backing vocalist, lending his voice to tracks like “Come On,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “Walking the Dog,” and many more. He even contributed backing vocals as late as 1968 on “Sympathy for the Devil.” Jones’s musical repertoire wasn’t confined to instruments; he showcased his whistling skills on “Walking the Dog.”

The Birth of Guitar Weaving

Keith Richards once attributed the concept of “guitar weaving” to their listening sessions with Jimmy Reed albums. They aimed to understand the teamwork and intricate guitar work on those records, learning how two guitars could sound like four or five. This approach, characterised by Jones and Richards playing rhythm and lead without rigid boundaries, became a signature of the Rolling Stones’ sound.

Changes in Band Dynamics and Estrangement

The dynamics within the Rolling Stones went through significant changes over the years. Their manager, Andrew Oldham, recognised the financial benefits of band members writing their own songs, much like Lennon-McCartney, and desired to make Mick Jagger’s charisma and flamboyance the focal point of their live performances. This shift led to a decrease in blues covers, a style Jones favoured.

As the band’s direction evolved, Brian Jones saw his influence wane, with Jagger/Richards originals becoming more prominent. Additionally, Oldham increased his managerial control, further distancing Jones from the decision-making process. The toll from relentless touring, financial success, and the growing sense of alienation from the group took its toll on Jones, leading to his overindulgence in alcohol and drugs.

Relationship Strain

Jones’s personal life was also in turmoil. His girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, left him for Keith Richards in 1967, exacerbating the strained relations within the band. His tensions and substance abuse began to affect his musical contributions, and he started to lose interest in the guitar. He explored exotic instruments and became increasingly absent from recording sessions.

Legal Troubles

Jones’s legal troubles added to the band’s problems. He was arrested for drug possession in 1967 and faced charges that could have led to a long jail sentence. This incident strained his relationship with the band, making it difficult for him to obtain a US work visa for their 1969 US tour. His erratic attendance at rehearsals and recording sessions further alienated him from the group.

The Decline

Jones’s last significant contributions to the Rolling Stones occurred in the spring and summer of 1968, when they produced “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the “Beggars Banquet” album. However, he had already become a minor presence in the band’s music. Jones’s behaviour and physical condition had deteriorated to the point where he could barely make music. His final photo session with the Rolling Stones took place on 21 May 1969, just before he officially departed from the band.

Legal Issues and Departure

As the Rolling Stones planned their North American tour in 1969, legal issues, including Jones’s past convictions, posed a significant obstacle to his participation. At the suggestion of Ian Stewart, the band decided to add a new guitarist, and on 8 June 1969, Jones was informed that the band would continue without him. Although it appeared as if Jones left voluntarily, the truth was more complex.

Brian Jones released a statement on 9 June 1969, announcing his departure, stating that he no longer saw eye-to-eye with the others regarding the direction of the band. He was replaced by the 20-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor, formerly of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.

Jones’s Post-Stones Aspirations

During his decreasing involvement in the band, Brian Jones explored the idea of forming another band. He contacted various musicians and even demoed a few of his own songs. Sadly, this phase of his life was cut short.

The End of an Era

Brian Jones’s departure marked the end of an era in the Rolling Stones’ history. His remarkable contributions as a multi-instrumental virtuoso left an indelible mark on their sound. Although his time with the band had its highs and lows, there’s no denying the immense talent and creativity that Brian Jones brought to the world of music. His legacy lives on in the timeless songs and unforgettable melodies he helped create during his tenure with the Rolling Stones.

The Tragic Demise of Brian Jones

On the night of 2–3 July 1969, a tragedy unfolded that would forever alter the course of rock history. Brian Jones, the enigmatic founder of the Rolling Stones, was found motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool at Cotchford Farm, shattering the world of music and leaving an indelible mark on the annals of rock ‘n’ roll.

Anna Wohlin, his Swedish girlfriend, discovered Jones and was convinced he still had a pulse when he was pulled from the pool. However, despite her hope, by the time the doctors arrived, it was too late. Brian Jones was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital, tragically at the tender age of 27.

The Coroner’s Verdict

The coroner’s report concluded that Jones’s death was a drowning, later classified as “death by misadventure.” It revealed that his liver and heart had been significantly enlarged due to the toll of past drug and alcohol abuse. His untimely demise sent shockwaves through the music world, and it was a sombre moment for fans and fellow musicians alike.

A Musical Tribute

In the wake of Brian Jones’s passing, his fellow musicians paid tribute to his memory. Pete Townshend of The Who penned a moving poem titled “A Normal Day for Brian, A Man Who Died Every Day,” which found its place in The Times. Jimi Hendrix, a musical virtuoso himself, dedicated a song to Jones on American television. Not to be outdone, Jim Morrison of The Doors offered his own poetic tribute with “Ode to L.A. While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased.”

An Uncanny Parallel

Curiously, Brian Jones’s passing was just the beginning of a series of tragic events that unfolded in the rock world. In the subsequent two years, both Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison met untimely ends, marking an eerie and unfortunate parallel in rock history. All three luminaries passed away at the tender age of 27, leaving an enduring legacy of music and myth.

A Tribute in Hyde Park

Merely two days after Brian Jones’s passing, the Rolling Stones had a previously scheduled free concert in Hyde Park on 5 July 1969. Originally intended as the debut appearance of Mick Taylor, their newest guitarist, the band decided to dedicate the performance to Jones’s memory. Mick Jagger took the stage to read excerpts from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Adonais,” a poem about the death of John Keats. The stagehands then released a multitude of white butterflies as a poignant tribute to Jones. The concert featured a performance of “I’m Yours and I’m Hers,” a Johnny Winter song that was among Jones’s favourites, with the band’s newest guitarist, Mick Taylor, on slide guitar.

A Resting Place

To safeguard against trophy hunters, Brian Jones was laid to rest in Cheltenham Cemetery, buried 10 feet (3 metres) deep. His body was embalmed, and his hair was bleached white. He was placed in an air-tight silver and bronze casket, ensuring that his final resting place would be undisturbed.

Regrettably, only two Rolling Stones members, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, attended Jones’s funeral. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, obligated by their contracts to travel to Australia for the filming of “Ned Kelly,” expressed their inability to delay the trip to pay their respects at the funeral.

Lingering Questions

In the aftermath of Jones’s death, questions and theories began to emerge. Some associates of the Rolling Stones claimed to have information suggesting that he may have been murdered. These theories would resurface periodically over the years, with rock biographer Philip Norman noting that “the murder theory would bubble back to the surface every five years or so.”

The Thorogood Theory

One theory pointed to Frank Thorogood, a builder who was working on Cotchford Farm and was the last person to see Jones alive. Thorogood allegedly confessed to the murder to the Rolling Stones’ driver, Tom Keylock, although Keylock later denied this claim. According to the theory, the motive for the alleged murder was a dispute over money. Thorogood had been paid £18,000 for his work at the farm but reportedly sought an additional £6,000 from Jones.

The dramatic portrayal of the Thorogood theory was featured in the 2005 film “Stoned.” This theory alleges that senior police officers covered up the killing upon discovering the mishandling of the initial investigation into Jones’s death by the local police.

A Case Reopened and Closed

In August 2009, Sussex Police decided to conduct a case review of Brian Jones’s death, marking the first such review since 1969. This decision came in response to new evidence provided by investigative journalist Scott Jones, who traced individuals present at Cotchford Farm on the night of Jones’s passing and unearthed previously unseen police files stored at the National Archives.

Despite the review, Sussex Police ultimately chose not to reopen the case. They maintained that “there is no new evidence to suggest that the coroner’s original verdict of ‘death by misadventure’ was incorrect.” The mysteries and questions surrounding Brian Jones’s death persist, leaving his legacy forever intertwined with the enigmatic and tumultuous history of rock ‘n’ roll.