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Music / Brian Jones

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Brian Jones circa 1964, with his signature Vox Mark VI guitar. (And, yes, he is Flipping the Bird.)

"When this you see, remember me
And bear me in your mind
Let all the world say what they may
Speak of me as you find"

Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones (28 February 1942 3 July 1969) was an English musician from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire who formed and named The Rolling Stones in 1962.

Jones was the Stones' original leader (which is evident in many of their early interviews), and at the start it was clearly his band. Even after he lost the leadership position to the songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, he was still an integral part of the band musically right up through at least 1967. With the Stones, he recorded eight studio albums (ten American albums), one live album and three EP's. His years with the Stones are generally considered (along with their first few years with his replacement Mick Taylor) to be the band's classic era. A natural musician, his primary instrument was the guitar (as well as the harmonica) until roughly 1966, after which Jones became an impressive multi-instrumentalist and musical colourist. Such Stones albums as Aftermath, Between the Buttons, and Their Satanic Majesties Request would simply not have been the same without him, particularly his more out-of-left-field contributions like the marimba part on "Under My Thumb" or the dulcimer on "Lady Jane".

In 1967, Jones wrote and performed the score for the German crime thriller film A Degree of Murder, which starred his then-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg. Unfortunately, it hasn't received an official release to this day.note  The following year, Jones discovered—and recorded with—the Master Musicians of Joujouka, a Sufi folk-music collective from Morocco. The resulting album, Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka, was released posthumously in 1971, and is Jones' only official solo album.

However, Jones had some serious personality issues that led to something of a Creator Breakdown and a diminishing role within the Stones. By 1969, he was barely contributing to their music, and it reached the point where he was forced to leave the band he'd founded. Less than a month later, he drowned under suspicious circumstances, in the swimming pool of his house at Cotchford Farm in East Sussex (originally owned by A. A. Milne). Conspiracy theories as to whether or not Jones was murdered by Frank Thorogood—a builder who was doing property renovations for him at the time of his death, and evidently the last person to see him alive—remain popular to this day.

Jones was the first of the '60s rockers to join the infamous "27 Club". He would be followed by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, among others. His main legacy—The Rolling Stones—is now a truly legendary rock band that has been going strong for sixty years and counting. Despite Jones's personal flaws, and the troubles that plagued his too-brief life and career, his erstwhile bandmate Bill Wyman has said of him: "As the years go by, I become even more convinced that he's entitled to that free pardon. 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."

Solo Discography:

Brian Jones provides examples of:

  • Biopic: Stoned (2005) centers on Jones's life, career, and death, albeit with embellishments.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Jones was very intelligent, and a famously talented multi-instrumentalist, but personal issues, both within himself and with Richards and Jagger, made him lose faith in the Stones and their musical direction, going from the leader of the band to "that guy with the weird instruments", since he refused to play guitar or write any songs by the end. In his earlier years, one of his childhood friends said, "He was a rebel without a cause, but when examinations came he was brilliant."
  • Broken Ace: A highly intelligent guy, talented enough to learn basically any instrument by picking it up, who also happened to suffer from major personality issues, substance abuse, and increasingly poor mental health, all leading to his musical decline, departure from the Stones, and very untimely death.
  • The Casanova: In his time, Brian was behind only Bill Wyman within the Stones in the number of girls he slept with.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Jones was a brilliant multi-instrumentalist, but he either couldn't or wouldn't write songs. When Jagger and Richards stepped up to the plate to write original material for the band, Jones's role diminished considerably, especially since a lot of the new material was guitar-based, and Jones had gotten bored with guitar. Supposedly, before he left the band, Jones asked what he could play during a recording session that was otherwise progressing fine without him, to which Jagger sneered, "I don't know, Brian. What can you play?"
  • The Dandy: Brian loved fashion, and really embraced the androgynous style of the time.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Brian had a little sister, named Pamela, who died of leukemia at the age of two (he was just three at the time). Reportedly, Brian's parents told him that she'd been sent away for misbehavior, and told him that he'd also be sent away if he didn't behave. Several people who knew Brian in his youth have stated that Brian's parents could be very cold and domineering, and it's more than likely that Brian grew up in a household without demonstrative love. Additionally, when he was four, he suffered a bout of croup that resulted in lifelong asthma.
  • Demoted to Extra: Originally the Stones' leader, Jones was relegated to an increasingly secondary role as the '60s progressed, due to such factors as Andrew Loog Oldham taking over the band's management (Jones and Oldham didn't particularly like each other), the emergence of the Jagger-Richards writing partnership (Jones couldn't or wouldn't write usable songs for the group, which made him far less important as their commercial ambitions grew), deteriorating relations with his bandmates (exacerbated by a Love Triangle between Jones, Richards, and Anita Pallenberg), and his own personal problems (including severe drug and alcohol abuse and a corresponding deterioration in his physical and mental health). As a result of all this, Jones contributed little to the Stones' music after 1967; his final album with the band, Let It Bleed, features him on just two tracks (congas on "Midnight Rambler" and autoharp on "You Got the Silver").
  • Determinator: Part of the reason the Rolling Stones survived their earliest days was Brian's creativity, resourcefulness, charisma, and above all, his sheer tenacity.
  • Domestic Abuse: Jones was allegedly a sexual sadist who got his kicks doing things like beating women with chains (without consent), accompanied by raping them.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Brian's real first name was Lewis, but he eventually started going by his middle name (well, the one that he found less embarrassing).
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Intentionally. Brian, who already was quite conventionally "pretty", also became heavily interested in androgynous styles, and wore his hair longer than his bandmates.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: In a memoir of his time living with the group in the early '60s, one-time Stones crony Jimmy Phelge relates how Jones had a strong aversion to his middle name (Hopkins) and tried to keep it a secret from the others.
  • The Gadfly: He occasionally took on this role. One classic example came during the Stones' first U.S. television appearance, on The Mike Douglas Show in 1964. While chatting with the band between numbers, the host asked which of them was the most popular with female fans. Brian cheekily declared that Mick was "more popular with men", prompting titters of laughter from the audience and leading Douglas to hastily declare that Jagger didn't do anything for him.
    • He once dressed up in a full Nazi SS uniform for a photoshoot in a German magazine.
  • Glorified Sperm Donor: Brian had five kids by the time he was twenty-three, and those are just the ones we know about.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: When the Stones were first getting started, Jones would pay himself an extra £5 a week while acting as the band's manager. When the others found out about this, they were incredibly pissed at him, since they'd been under the impression that everybody was earning an equal amount. The whole debacle wound up being the first in a long chain of events that would lead to Brian's gradual estrangement (and eventual dismissal) from the band.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: As mentioned elsewhere, Brian was very conventionally attractive in his youth, and remained so throughout much of the '60s. However, by the time of his death in July 1969 it's exceptionally clear that drugs and alcohol had taken a major toll on his physical health.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Jones supposedly came up with the name of The Rolling Stones while trying to get a club booking on the telephone. When the venue's manager asked Jones what his newly-formed group called themselves, he looked at a Muddy Waters album that was sitting on the floor and noticed the first track, "Rollin' Stone Blues".
  • Love Triangle: Him, Anita Pallenberg and Keith Richards. Keith won due to Brian's abusive nature.
  • Mood-Swinger: From the mid-'60s onwards. Depending on what he felt like on a given day, he was reportedly either quite friendly and generous, or the worst person you'd ever meet.
  • Outlived Its Creator: invoked The Rolling Stones have outlived Brian Jones by more than 50 years.
  • Parental Abandonment: Brian, himself, was guilty of this several times over.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: For people who aren't big Rolling Stones fans he's probably better remembered for his early death than his music.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: He became quite the fashion plate as the '60s progressed, arguably more than most of his contemporaries on either side of the Atlantic.
  • Short-Lived, Big Impact: invoked Not just with the Stones, but with the culture of The '60s.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Brian Jonestown Massacre is partially named after Jones.
    • "Monterey" by Eric Burdon and the Animals mentions Jones, among others.
      His Majesty, Prince Jones smiled
      As he moved among the crowd
    • After Jones's departure (and demise), the Stones recorded a tribute song to him called "Shine a Light", which was eventually released on Exile on Main St. in 1972.
    • "Godstar" by Psychic TV is a tribute to Jones about his death.
  • Solo Side Project: Jones wrote the soundtrack to the film A Degree of Murder in 1967, and produced the album Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka, posthumously released in 1971.
  • Special Guest:
    • Jones guested on two songs by The Beatles, contributing backing vocals and sound effects on "Yellow Submarine" and alto saxophone on "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)". The former is available on both Revolver and Yellow Submarine, and the latter on Past Masters.
    • Jones plays percussion on "All Along the Watchtower" from Electric Ladyland by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. He had also originally played piano on the song, but as he was intoxicated during recording, his superb natural musical abilities failed him for once, and his piano playing was eventually mixed out.
      • He also attended (but did not perform at) the Monterey Pop Festival, where he introduced Hendrix to the audience. He can briefly be glimpsed in the 1968 concert film Monterey Pop.
  • Stage Names: In his early days as a musician he performed under the name "Elmo Lewis" after one of his idols, American blues singer and slide guitarist Elmore James.
  • Step Up to the Microphone:
    • Jones sang co-lead vocals on one Stones song: their Cover Version of "Walking the Dog" from their debut album. He also sang backup on a number of their early recordings.
    • Outside of the Stones, Jones contributed the lead vocals (as well as handclaps) to "365 Rolling Stones" by The Andrew Oldham Orchestra.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Probably the most conventionally attractive member of the Stones, but also the one with major issues. It says a lot that Keith Richards — absolutely no slouch in the issues department himself — has stated that for every personal demon he had, he'd wager Brian had forty-five more.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Brian was from a decidedly more upper-middle-class background than his bandmates, not that it stopped him from being a right bastard a fair amount of the time.
  • We Used to Be Friends: His relationship with Jagger and Richards sadly wound up this way.