Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Brian Jones: The Forgotten Stone

Brian Jones
Cover of Brian Jones
By Robert R Richardson

Brian Jones is not mentioned much after his death by drowning (some say murder) in 1969, at his estate in Sussex, England. However, he, more than anyone else, is responsible for the creation of the most famous rock-n-roll group in history.

Born February 28, 1942 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, Brian Jones learned to play piano, clarinet, saxophone and guitar at any early age with help from his musically inclined parents. Hostile to all authority figures in his youth, young Jones had several children out-of-wedlock which ultimately led to his leaving home with his guitar on his back and eventually ending up in London.

In the spring of 1962, he founded and named The Rolling Stones with pianist Ian Stewart, singer Mick Jagger and his friend Keith Richards. Bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts would soon join the band.

By all accounts, Brian was the band's leader and most important musical force by far. Brian Jones' love and mastery of performing blues-based rock-n-roll and, over time, of other forms of music remains as an integral part of the initial formation of the band now known the world over.

His bad boy image and womanizing ways along with his mod-dress attire with his highly photogenic nature made him more than any of the others in the group the one to give the Stones commercial viability.

His musical genius was evident on tracks with the sitar on "Paint it Black", the recorder on "Ruby Tuesday", the marimba on "Under My Thumb", the piano on "Let's Spend the Night Together", the dulcimer on "Lady Jane", and gave the Rolling Stones music the pop appeal they desperately needed to compete in the mid-60's.

Brian actually managed the band in the early years until the group hired Andrew Loog Oldham as manager, which marked the beginning of Brian's gradual estrangement from the band. His excessive use of drugs and alcohol and subsequent arrests further alienated him.

Jones was highly intelligent (135 I.Q.) and was gifted musically but had a paranoia regarding song-writing. He did contribute on some early tracks but was generally not credited with any songs of substance.

Oldham recognized the financial benefits very quickly of the group writing their own music; the Jagger-Richards songwriting duo added to the growing isolation from Brian and the growth of the other members.

In June of 1969 it is said that the Rolling Stones released their founding father and allowed him to explain it to the public however he desired. It is reported that Jones had contacted Ian Stewart and some others and was actually in the initial stages of putting another band together.

On July 2-3, 1969 Jones was found in his backyard pool and his death was officially ruled "Death by Misadventure". However, his girlfriend who was present at the time, Anna Wolhin, published a book describing how Brian and his contractor, Frank Thorogood had been at odds with each other and basically believes Thorogood held him underwater until he drowned.

We may never know the truth. What we do know is that Brian Jones started the "27 club" which later included Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and Jim Morrison. We also know that without the forgotten Stone, Brian Jones, the Rolling Stones would have never existed.

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