1942 – Born on this day, Brian Jones, guitar, Rolling Stones, (1966 UK & US No.1 single ‘Paint It Black’, plus 5 other UK No.1 singles and 3 UK No.1 albums). Jones died on July 3rd 1969 after drowning in his swimming pool under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
Jones was born in the Park Nursing Home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, during World War II. Supposedly he suffered from asthma all his life. His middle-class parents, Lewis Blount Jones and Louisa Beatrice Jones were of Welsh descent. Brian had two sisters: Pamela, who was born on 3 October 1943 and who died on 14 October 1945 of leukemia; and Barbara, born in 1946.
Both Jones’s parents were interested in music — his mother Louisa was a piano teacher — and this had a profound effect on him. In addition to his job as an aeronautical engineer, Lewis Jones played piano and organ and led the choir at the local church. Jones eventually took up the clarinet, becoming first clarinet in his school orchestra at 14.
In 1957 Jones first heard the music of jazz musician Cannonball Adderley, which inspired his lifelong interest in jazz. Jones persuaded his parents to buy him a saxophone, and two years later his parents gave him his first acoustic guitar as a 17th birthday present.
Jones attended local schools, including Dean Close School, from 1949 to 1953 and Cheltenham Grammar School for Boys, which he entered in September 1953 after passing the Eleven-plus exam. He was an exceptional student, earning high marks in all of his classes while doing little work. He enjoyed badminton and diving but otherwise was not skilled at sports. In 1957, Jones reportedly obtained nine O-levels passes. Despite academic ability, however, he found school regimented and he refused to conform. He was known to eschew wearing the school uniforms and angered teachers with his behaviour, though he was popular among students. His hostility to authority figures resulted in his suspension from school on two occasions.
In the spring of 1959, Jones’s 14-year-old girlfriend, a Cheltenham schoolgirl named Valerie Corbett, became pregnant. Supposedly Jones encouraged her to have an abortion, but she placed the baby boy up for adoption with an infertile couple.
Brian quit school in disgrace and left home, supposedly traveling through northern Europe and Scandinavia for a summer. During this period, he lived a bohemian lifestyle, playing guitar on the streets for money, living off the kindness of others. While Jones was fond of telling others about his trip throughout Europe, it remains uncertain how much of his descriptions were embellishment. Other friends claimed Jones merely stayed with friends and relatives outside the UK.
Jones grew up listening to classical music, but he preferred blues, (particularly Elmore James and Robert Johnson). He began playing at local blues and jazz clubs in addition to busking and working odd jobs. He was also known to steal small amounts of money to pay for cigarettes, which tended to get him fired.
In November 1959, Jones went to the Wooden Bridge Hotel in Guildford to see a band. He met a young, married woman named Angeline, and the two had a one-night stand that resulted in a pregnancy. Angeline and her husband decided to raise the baby together.
In October 1961, Jones fathered a third child, Julian Mark Andrews, with his girlfriend Pat Andrews. Jones sold his record collection to buy flowers for Pat and clothes for the newborn and lived with them for a while.
Forming The Rolling Stones
Jones left Cheltenham and moved to London where he became friends with fellow musicians Alexis Korner, future Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones, future Cream bassist Jack Bruce and others who made up the small London rhythm and blues scene that the Rolling Stones would soon come to dominate. He became a blues musician, for a brief time calling himself “Elmo Lewis”, and playing slide guitar.
Jones placed an advertisement in the 2 May 1962 Jazz News (a Soho club information sheet) inviting musicians to audition for a new R&B group at the Bricklayers Arms pub; pianist Ian “Stu” Stewart was the first to respond. Later singer Mick Jagger also joined this band; Jagger and his childhood friend Keith Richards had met Jones when he and Paul Jones were playing Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” with Korner’s band at The Ealing Club.
As Keith Richards tells it, Jones came up with the name “The Rollin’ Stones” (later with the ‘g’) while on the phone with a venue owner. “The voice on the other end of the line obviously said, ‘What are you called?’ Panic. The Best of Muddy Waters album was lying on the floor — and track one was ‘Rollin’ Stone Blues'”.
The Rollin’ Stones played their first gig on 12 July 1962 in the Marquee Club in London with Jagger, Richards, Jones, Stewart, bass player Dick Taylor (later of The Pretty Things) and drummer Tony Chapman.
From mid-1962 to late 1963 Jones, Jagger and Richards shared an apartment (referred to by Richards as “a beautiful dump”) in Chelsea, London at 102 Edith Grove, Chelsea, with James Phelge, a future photographer whose last name was used in some of the band’s writing credits. Jones and Richards spent day after day playing guitar while listening to blues records (notably Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf). During this time, Jones taught Jagger how to play harmonica.
The four Rollin’ Stones went searching for a bassist and drummer, finally settling on Bill Wyman on bass because he had a spare VOX AC30 guitar amp and cigarettes. After playing with Mick Avory, Tony Chapman and Carlo Little, in January 1963 they finally persuaded jazz-influenced Charlie Watts to join them. Watts was considered by fellow musicians to be one of the best drummers in London; he had played with (among others) Alexis Korner’s group Blues Incorporated.
Watts described Jones’s role in these early days: “Brian was very instrumental in pushing the band at the beginning. Keith and I would look at him and say he was barmy. It was a crusade to him to get us on the stage in a club and be paid a half-crown and to be billed as an R&B band”.
The group played at local blues and jazz clubs, gaining fans despite resistance from traditional jazz musicians who felt threatened by their popularity. While Jagger was lead singer, Jones, in the group’s embryonic period, was leader — promoting the band, getting shows, and negotiating with venues. Jones played guitar and harmonica. During performances, and especially at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, Jones proved to be a more animated and engaging performer than even Jagger.
While acting as the band’s business manager, Jones received £5 more than the other members, which did not sit well with the rest of the band and created resentment.
Fame and fortune
On 23 July 1964, Jones fathered another child out of wedlock, this time to girlfriend Linda Lawrence. Jones named this child Julian Brian Lawrence. Julian adopted the surname Leitch after Linda Lawrence married folk singer Donovan on 2 October 1970. Jones is said to have named both sons Julian in tribute to the jazz saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley.
Throughout his career, Jones showed a musical aptitude, able to play an array of instruments on Stones’ recordings. As soon as the Stones earned enough money to record in professional studios like Olympic Studio, the RCA, and Sunset Sound Recorders in Los Angeles, and influenced by The Beach Boys 1966 album Pet Sounds and The Beatles experiment with Indian music (notably George Harrison’s sitar), Jones started experimenting with wind and stringed instruments.
Throughout his years with the band, he played stringed instruments (guitar, sitar, tamboura, Appalachian dulcimer), keyboards (organ, Mellotron), wind instruments (recorder, harmonica) and several other instruments such as the xylophone and marimba.
Jones’s main guitar in the early years was a Harmony Stratotone, which he replaced with a Gretsch Double Anniversary in two-tone green. In 1964 and 1965 he often used a teardrop-shaped prototype Vox Mark III. From late 1965 until his death, Jones used Gibson models (various Firebirds, ES-330, and a Les Paul model), as well as two Rickenbacker 12-String models.
Examples of Jones musical aptitude are his slide guitar on “I Wanna Be Your Man”, “Little Red Rooster”, and “No Expectations”; sitar on “Street Fighting Man” and “Paint It Black”; organ on “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Complicated,” and “2000 Man”; marimba on “Under My Thumb,” “Out Of Time” and “Yesterday’s Papers”; recorder on “Ruby Tuesday” and “All Sold Out”; saxophone on “Child of the Moon”; Appalachian dulcimer on “I Am Waiting” and “Lady Jane”; accordion on “Backstreet Girl”; saxophone, and oboe on “Dandelion”; harpsichord on Lady Jane; Mellotron on “She’s A Rainbow”, “We Love You”, “Stray Cat Blues” and “2000 Light Years from Home”; and for his final recording as a Rolling Stone the autoharp on “You Got the Silver” .
In the early years, also Jones served as a harmony singer, mainly from 1962–1964. Notable examples are “I Wanna Be Your Man”, “Can I Get a Witness”, and “Walking The Dog”. Jones’ raspy and gruff backing can also be heard on “Come On”, “Bye Bye Johnny”, the 12 X 5 recording of “Time Is On My Side”, “You Better Move On”, “”Money”, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”, “Tell Me (You’re Coming Back)” (alongside Jagger, Richards, and Wyman), “Empty Heart” (alongside Jagger and Richards), and “It’s All Over Now” with Richards.
Richards maintains that what he and Jones called “guitar weaving” Examples of Jones and Richards engaging in this style of playing can be heard on the debut album The Rolling Stones and Out of Our Heads.
The 1966 album Aftermath, the 1967 albums Between the Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request showcase Jones’ multi-instrumental talents throughout. Jones appears less frequently on Beggars Banquet (1968) and only briefly on Let it Bleed (1969).
In November 1968, Jones purchased Cotchford Farm in East Sussex, formerly owned by Winnie-the-Pooh author A. A. Milne.
Estrangement from The Rolling Stones
Andrew Loog Oldham’s arrival marked the beginning of Jones’ slow estrangement, his prominent role gradually diminishing as the Stones’ centre shifted from Jones to Jagger and Richards. Oldham recognised the financial advantages of bandmembers writing their own songs, as exemplified by Lennon/McCartney, and that playing covers would not sustain a band in the limelight for long. Further, Oldham wanted to make Jagger’s charisma and flamboyance a focus of live performances. Jones saw his influence over the Stones’ direction slide as their repertoire comprised fewer of the blues covers that he preferred; more Jagger/Richards originals developed, and Oldham increased his own managerial control, displacing Jones from yet another role.
According to Andrew Loog Oldham in his book Stoned, Jones was an outsider from the beginning.
The toll from days on the road, the money and fame and the feeling of being alienated from the group resulted in Jones’s overindulgence in alcohol and other drugs. He frequently used LSD, pills, cannabis, and he drank heavily. These excesses had a debilitative effect on Jones’s physical health, and according to Oldham, Jones became unfriendly and anti-social at times. His health problems caused him to be hospitalized on a number of occasions.
Jones was arrested for drug use on 10 May 1967, shortly after the Redlands incident at Richards’s Sussex home. Authorities found marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine in Jones’ flat. He confessed to marijuana use but claimed he did not use hard drugs. Reacting in a manner similar to the arrests of his bandmates, protesters appeared outside court demanding that Jones be freed, and he was not kept in jail. He was fined, given probation, and ordered to see a counsellor.
In June 1967, Jones attended the Monterey Pop Festival, with singer Nico, with whom he had a brief relationship. There he met Frank Zappa and Dennis Hopper, and went on stage to introduce the Jimi Hendrix Experience, then unknown in the U.S. One review referred to Jones as “the unofficial ‘king’ of the festival”.
Hostility grew between Jones, Jagger and Richards, alienating Jones further from the group.
As tensions and Jones’s substance use increased, his musical contributions became sporadic. He became bored with the guitar and sought exotic instruments to play, though he was frequently absent from recordings. From the 1967 album Between the Buttons until his death in 1969, Jones recorded just one guitar part: the slide guitar on “No Expectations” in 1968.
Jones’s decline started around 1967 and continued until May 1968, when he recorded his last substantial contributions. Clips from the 1967 promotional film for “We Love You” show him slumped over and barely able to keep his eyes open, likely due to the effects of Mandrax (quaalude), a popular drug at the time. However, Jones maintained close relationships with many performing artists outside of the Stones camp, including Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding, Eric Burdon and Steve Marriott.
In March 1967,Anita Pallenberg, Jones’ girlfriend of two years, left him for Richards when Jones was hospitalised during a trip the three made to Morocco,
Jones’s last substantial sessions with the Stones occurred in spring and summer of 1968, when the Stones produced “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the Beggars Banquet album. He can be seen in the Jean-Luc Godard film One Plus One playing acoustic guitar, chatting and sharing cigarettes with Richards, although Jones is neglected in the music-making. The film chronicles the making of “Sympathy for the Devil”. Jones played acoustic guitar for the backing track, and his playing can be heard occasionally in the film through the microphones of the film crew. However, his performance is not recorded on the final released version.
It was clear Jones was not long for the group. Where once he played multiple instruments on many tracks, now he played only minor roles on a few pieces. He played acoustic slide guitar on “No Expectations”, harmonica on “Dear Doctor” and “Prodigal Son”, sitar and tambura on “Street Fighting Man”, and mellotron on “Stray Cat Blues”.
Jones’s last formal appearance was in the December 1968 The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, a part concert, part circus-act film organized by the band. It went unreleased for 25 years because Jagger was unhappy with the band’s performance compared to others in the film, such as Jethro Tull, The Who, and Taj Mahal. and in the DVD of the film his playing is inaudible except during “No Expectations”. Commentary included as bonus material on the DVD of the film indicated that almost everyone at the concert knew that the end of Jones’s time with the Stones was near, and Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who thought it would be Jones’s last live musical performance.
Inside cover of Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka a recording of Master Musicians of Joujouka
In 1966, Jones produced, played on and wrote the soundtrack for the film Mord und Totschlag (also called A Degree Of Murder), an avant-garde German film with Anita Pallenberg. He hired musicians to play on the soundtrack, among them guitarist Jimmy Page. Jones and Pallenberg attracted controversy during the making of the film when Jones posed in a Nazi uniform while standing on a naked doll for a photograph, along with Pallenberg.
Jones played alto saxophone on a Beatles song, “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number),” not released until after his death.
In summer 1968, Jones recorded the Morocco-based ensemble, the Master Musicians of Joujouka. In 1971, Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, was released posthumously; it remains a World Music landmark.
Jones was arrested a second time on 21 May 1968, for marijuana possession. Jones claimed the marijuana was left by previous owners of his home. He was facing a long jail sentence if found guilty, owing to his probation. Wyman commented, “The fact that the police had secured a warrant with no evidence showed the arrest was part of a carefully orchestrated plan. Brian and the Stones were being targeted in an effort to deter the public from taking drugs”.
Jones’s legal troubles, estrangement from his bandmates, substance abuse, sporadic contributions, and mood swings became too much. The Stones wanted to tour the United States in 1969 for the first time in three years, but Jones’s second arrest exacerbated problems with US immigration, and he could not acquire a work visa.
In addition, until this juncture, the Stones’ music had been heavily based on the two weaving guitars; Brian’s penchant for exotic instrumentation worked to complement Richards’s guitar work. Now, however, Brian rarely came to the studio; when he did, he rarely contributed anything musically, or his bandmates would switch off his guitar, leaving Richards playing nearly all the guitars. According to Gary Herman, he was “literally incapable of making music; when he tried to play harmonica, his mouth started bleeding”.
This behaviour began to wreak havoc during the Beggar’s Banquet sessions but had fully flourished by the time the band commenced recording Let It Bleed. While the band was recording “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, Jones meekly asked an agitated Jagger “What can I play?” Jagger’s terse response was “I don’t know, Brian, what can you play?” Looking frail, he showed.
The Stones decided that following the release of the Let it Bleed album (scheduled for a July 1969 release in the US), they would start a North American tour in November 1969. However, the Stones management was informed that Jones would not receive a permit due to his drug convictions. At the suggestion of pianist and road manager Ian Stewart, the Stones decided to add a new guitarist, and on 8 June 1969, Jones was visited by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts, and was told that the group he had formed would continue without him.
To the public, it appeared as if Jones had left voluntarily; the other band members told him that although he was being asked to leave, it was his choice how to break it to the public. Jones released a statement on 9 June 1969 announcing his departure. In this statement he said, among other things, that “I no longer see eye-to-eye with the others over the discs we are cutting”.
Ironically, this would come as the Stones were returning to their blues roots, which Jones had always emphasized. Jones was replaced by 20-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor (formerly of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers).
At this point, Jones stayed at Cotchford Farm, with intentions to form another band. He did visit Olympic Studios the next week to discuss the future with his former bandmates, Bill Wyman noting that he was “excited about his own plans”.
There is uncertainty as to the mental and physical state Jones was in at this time. The last known photographs, taken by schoolgirl Helen Spittal on 23 June 1969, shortly after his departure from the Stones, are not flattering; Jones appears bloated, with deep-set eyes.
At around midnight on the night of 2-3 July 1969, Jones was discovered motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool at Cotchford Farm. His Swedish girlfriend, Anna Wohlin, is convinced he was alive when they took him out, insisting he still had a pulse. However, by the time the doctors arrived, it was too late, and he was pronounced dead. The coroner’s report stated “Death by misadventure”, and noted his liver and heart were heavily enlarged by drug and alcohol abuse
Wohlin claimed in 1999 that Jones had been murdered by a builder who had been renovating the house the couple shared.
Many items, such as instruments and expensive furniture, reportedly were stolen from the home after Jones’s death, most likely by Thorogood, driver Tom Keylock, and others who worked on the property.
Upon Jones’s death, Pete Townshend wrote a poem titled “A Normal Day For Brian, A Man Who Died Every Day”
The Rolling Stones performed a free concert in Hyde Park on 5 July 1969, two days after Jones’s death. The concert had been scheduled weeks earlier as an opportunity to present the new guitarist. However, critics The band dedicated the concert to Jones. Before the concert began, Jagger read excepts from “Adonais”, a poem by Percy Shelley about the death of his friend John Keats, and stagehands released hundreds of white butterflies as part of the tribute. The Stones opened with a Johnny Winter song that was one of Brian’s favourites, “I’m Yours And I’m Hers”.
Jones was reportedly buried 12 feet (3.7 m) deep in Cheltenham Cemetery (to prevent exhumation by trophy hunters) in a lavish casket sent for his funeral in Cheltenham by friend Bob Dylan.
Unsure and insecure as a composer, Jones was not a prolific songwriter.
According to Andrew Oldham the main reason for Jones not being able to write songs was that Jones simply didn’t love simple pop music enough, as Jones was too much a blues purist. Oldham tried to establish a songwriting partnership between Jones and Gene Pitney after “becoming bored senseless by Jones’ bleating about the potential of half-finished melodies that by no means deserved completion” but after two days of sessions “the results remain best to be unheard, even by Stones’ completists”.
Bill Wyman has stated in interviews that although Jagger and Richards were protective of their role as writers, they would be open to ideas, and he names his “In Another Land” and “Downtown Suzie” as examples. Wyman commented that Jones was “an incredibly gifted musician, but not a song writer”. On the other hand, Ronnie Wood commented in interviews that he is proud that he was able to get about two dozen songs recorded and released by the Stones, and also mentioned the protective nature of the Jagger/Richards partnership.
Only one officially released song is credited to Jones, the 30-second “Rice Krispies” jingle for Kellogg’s, co-written with the J. W. Thompson advertising agency in 1963 and which the group performed incognito. The fact that Jones took sole credit did not sit well with the rest of the Stones, who felt it was a group effort and all should benefit equally. Fourteen Stones songs were credited to “Nanker Phelge”, a pseudonym indicating that all members of the group had a share in the songwriting royalties (a “nanker” was a strange face that members of the group often made; “Phelge” was the surname of a friend who had shared the Edith Grove flat with Jagger, Richards and Jones). They dropped this pseudonym after 1965.
A second song, “Sure I Do”, reportedly written, recorded, and sung completely by Jones in 1963, remains unreleased. A vinyl disc with a label containing the title remains in Wyman’s “Sticky Fingers” restaurant; it is unclear whether the song exists or not.
When asked in 1965 if he had written songs, Jones replied: “Always tried. I’ve written quite a few, but mostly in blues style”. However, he did compose the soundtrack to a German film, A Degree Of Murder; this soundtrack is the only thing the public has heard of a Jones solo recording.
In 1990, Carla Olson was given permission from Jones’s estate to put one of his poems to music and thus created the Jones/Olson song “Thank You For Being There”. It appeared on the album True Voices, performed by Krysia Kristianne and Robin Williamson.
Public image and legend
Brian Jones enjoyed high status as a fashion icon, exemplified by his rebellious, outlandish style.
He was 1.68 metres tall with blue-grey eyes and blond hair.
After he became famous, he was known to walk deliberately in crowded streets until girls would start chasing him, at which point he would run as fast as he could.
His death at 27 was the first of the Sixties rock movement; Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison found their own drug-related deaths at the same age within two years (Morrison dying exactly two years after Jones).
The Psychic TV song “Godstar” is about Jones’s death, as is Robyn Hitchcock’s “Trash”. The Doors’ song “Tightrope Ride” was originally written for Jones by Morrison, but after Morrison’s death fellow Doors member Ray Manzarek rewrote some of the lyrics to apply them to both musicians. Toy Love’s song “Swimming Pool” lists several dead rock icons including Jones (the others are Morrison, Hendrix, and Marc Bolan). The 2005 film Stoned is a fictional account of Jones and his role in the Rolling Stones. The part of Brian was played by British actor Leo Gregory. The Brian Jonestown Massacre was named partially after him. In 2001, Jones was mentioned in the lyrics of De Phazz’s “Death By Chocolate” album in the song “Something Special”. The Master Musicians of Joujouka song “Brian Jones Joujouka Very Stoned” was released in 1974 and 1996. The 40th Anniversary of Brian Jones recording in the Moroccan village was commemorated with a festival called “Master Musicians of Joujouka present Brian Jones 40th Anniversary Festival” in Jajouka on 29 July 2008