Rolling Stones Co-Founder Brian Jones Died 39 Years Ago Today

Thanks to the good folks at MOJO magazine, I was reminded that 39 years ago on July 3, founding member of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones was found dead in his swimming pool.

Here’s a clip of the Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations” which otherwise features on their superlative 1968 Beggar’s Banquet album. The song features Jones’ exquisite slide playing. Despite his troubled and checkered character, he was a stunningly gifted musician.

Brian Jones
Brian Jones

Jones had traveled down to London from his home is Cheltenham, as a solo act working under the name Elmo Lewis. When Jagger and Richards caught his act while looking to form a band, they had to have Jones, who impressed them with his slide playing. One of their early hits, a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster” (AKA “The Red Rooster”), showcases this skill of his very well indeed.

Jones’ skill at being able to pick up nearly any instrument and find a way to get a good sound out of it was his primary contribution to the early Stones singles. And to go along with this, his ear for texture, and his ability to introduce new instrumental additions to singles which were considered off the beaten track for pop records was an undeniable strength. His marimba on “Under My Thumb”, recorder and cello on “Ruby Tuesday”, sitar on “Paint it Black”, hammered dulcimer on “Lady Jane”, and others made great pop records into timeless classics.

But, Jones had a number of personal problems which contributed to a swift decline. First, Jones was a heavy drinker and hard drug-user before the time when this was an accepted fact among rock nobility. All of the Stones dabbled during their early career. But Jones was a dedicated substance abuser, often missing recording sessions, and being generally unreliable while on the road. A growing resentment which caused a power shift in the group would eventually edge him out, and his paranoia was exacerbated to the point where his intoxicated state would make him turn mean. And it was during one of these episodes that Keith Richards and Jones’ girlfriend Anita Pallenberg began their romance, in an effort to get her away from Brian’ erratic and allegedly abusive behaviour. Richards and Pallenberg would have a long-term, drug-addled relationship well into the 1970s.

Although Brian Jones was a member of the band when they recorded the first of their arguably career-plateau albums in Beggars Banquet in 1968, his involvement was minimal. By June of 1969, he was out of the band – fired, in fact, from the group he’d helped to form. And less than a month later, he was dead – drowned in his pool at Cotchford Farm. The Stones honoured him at their outdoor concert in Hyde Park that year, and recruited former Bluesbreaker Mick Taylor to replace Jones on second guitar.

The circumstances surrounding the death of Brian Jones remain to be controversial, and a great many books have been written about the subject along with a not-very-widely released film. Was it murder? Was it the result of an overdose? The questions remain to be unanswered for many. The official death certificate reads “death by misadventure”, which given his predilections for excess is in a strange way a pretty logical conclusion.

RIP, Brian.

A lesser-known Rolling Stones track – “Winter” from Goats Head Soup

The Rolling Stones Goats Head SoupHere’s a song which I always thought sounded like it should have gone directly to Van Morrison’s creative inbox – “Winter” from 1973’s Goat’s Head Soup. This album of course is looked upon by many as the beginning of the band’s decline, when the heroin began to bump the telecaster out of Keith’s hand. Yet, this track and a number of others on this record showed that the group still had plenty of juice.
Check out this clip to hear this tune and judge for yourself. This track on which Jagger performs without Keith Richards (who was absent from the session), and Mick Taylor shines on lead guitar, betrays Jagger’s tendency to be current instead of distinctive, perhaps. Yet, his languid delivery is still pretty compelling.


Interview with Ronnie Wood – Faces, Rolling Stones Guitarist

A guy I know writes for a music magazine called Clash, and he recently directed me to this Q&A with accompanying video with Ronnie Wood. A little while ago, I wrote an article about the Faces which featured Wood as guitarist and writing partner to Rod Stewart, before Wood joined the Stones in 1975.

But Wood also served time in bands before then in the 1960s – the Birds, the Creation (one of the first bands to use a violin bow on a guitar – cue Mr. Page in the next deacde), and (serving as bassist) the Jeff Beck Group. One of the questions covered in the video portion of the Q&A is whether or not the Faces will reform, which is something that has been hinted at for a while but hasn’t come to fruition.

He’s recently put out his autobiography, Ronnie, which includes some of his adventures as a journeyman guitar slinger.

Ron Wood on stage with the Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones Sing A 60s Rice Krispies Jingle

You’ve gotta hear this if you haven’t already. Once again, the good folks at MOJO magazine have found a lost treasure – a mysterious Rice Krispies ad as sung by the Dartford Five.

Have a listen!

Maybe by now you’ve heard this a million times. Hey, I don’t claim to be cutting edge!

The ad was recorded in 1964. If anyone knows more than that, I’d love to hear about it. Doesn’t it sound a bit like ‘Star Star’ from Goats Head Soup? What’s a Chuck Berry riff or two between brand names, eh? Maybe some think that the band sold out. But I like to think that they were merely saying thanks to breakfast cereal that probably sustained them for every meal while they lived in pre-fame squalor in their shared Edith Grove flat.