Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones (28 February 1942 – 3 July 1969) was an English musician and one of the founding members of the rock group The Rolling Stones. Jones was known for his use of multiple instruments, his flamboyant attire and his recreational drug excesses.
Jones was born in the Park Nursing Home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on 28 February 1942. An attack of croup at the age of four left him with asthma, which lasted for the rest of 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 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 Cannonball Adderley's music, which inspired his 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 September 1949 to July 1953 and Cheltenham Grammar School for Boys, which he entered in September 1953 after easily 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-level passes. Despite academic ability, however, he found school regimented and he refused to conform. He disliked the school uniforms and angered teachers with his behavior, though he was popular among students. His hostility to authority figures resulted in his suspension from school on two occasions. According to Dick Hattrell, a childhood friend: "He was a rebel without a cause, but when examinations came he was brilliant."
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. Corbett later married one of Jones's friends, author Graham Ride.
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's girlfriend Pat Andrews gave birth to his third child, Julian Mark Andrews. Jones sold his record collection to buy flowers for Pat and clothes for the newborn and lived with them for a while. On 23 July 1964, Linda Lawrence gave birth to Jones's fourth 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 of his sons Julian in tribute to the jazz saxophonist Julian "Cannonball" Adderley.
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. Jagger brought guitarist Richards to rehearsals; Richards then joined the band. Jones's and Stewart's acceptance of Richards and the Chuck Berry songs he wanted to play coincided with the departure of blues purists Geoff Bradford and Brian Knight, who had no tolerance for Chuck Berry.
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. Jagger initially stood still while singing — mainly by necessity, as their early stages hardly provided enough room to move.
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.
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's 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 backing vocalist; notable examples are "I Wanna Be Your Man", "Can I Get a Witness", "Walking the Dog" and "Money (That's What I Want)."
Richards maintains that what he and Jones called "guitar weaving" emerged from this period, from listening to Jimmy Reed albums: "We listened to the teamwork, trying to work out what was going on in those records; how you could play together with two guitars and make it sound like four or five." Jones's and Richards's guitars became a signature of the sound of the Rolling Stones. It involved both playing rhythm and lead without clear boundaries between the two roles. This is also known as the Chicago style, heard on albums by Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, with Hubert Sumlin as one of the main exponents.
From 1966 onwards Jones's contributions in the recording studio were more as a multi-instrumentalist than as a guitarist. His aptitude for playing a wide variety of instruments is particularly evident on the albums Aftermath (1966), Between the Buttons (1967) and Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967): he plays instruments ranging from recorder, kazoo and accordion through sitar and marimbas to theremin and mellotron. Jones appears less frequently on Beggars Banquet (1968) and only briefly on Let It Bleed (1969).
Estrangement from bandmates
Andrew Loog Oldham's arrival marked the beginning of Jones's slow estrangement, his prominent role gradually diminishing as the Stones' center shifted from Jones to Jagger and Richards. Oldham recognized 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. When the first tours were arranged in 1963, Jones traveled separately from the band, stayed at different hotels, and demanded extra pay. According to Oldham, Jones was very emotional, and felt alienated because he was not a prolific song writer and his management role had been taken away. Jones "resisted the symbiosis demanded by the group lifestyle, and so life was becoming more desperate for him day by day. None of us were looking forward to Brian totally cracking up."
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's 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. Although many noted that Jones could be friendly and outgoing, Wyman commented that Jones could also be cruel and difficult. By most accounts, Jones's attitude changed frequently, one minute caring and generous, the next making an effort to anger everyone. As Wyman observed in Stone Alone: "There were two Brians... one was introverted, shy, sensitive, deep-thinking... the other was a preening peacock, gregarious, artistic, desperately needing assurance from his peers... he pushed every friendship to the limit and way beyond."
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's girlfriend of two years, left him for Richards when Jones was hospitalized during a trip the three made to Morocco, damaging the frail relations between Jones and Richards. Pallenberg claimed Jones was hospitalized after a fight in which Jones hit her and broke his wrist; although as Richards remembers it, Jones simply "fell ill."
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. In the film, Jones appeared uninterested and intoxicated. While introducing concert pianist Julius Katchen, he slurred his speech. During the Stones set, he appeared distant 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.
Departure from the band
Jones was arrested a second time on 21 May 1968, for possession of cannabis, which Jones said had been left by previous tenants of the flat. 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." The jury found him guilty, but the judge had sympathy for Jones; instead of jailing him, he fined him £50 plus £105 in costs and told him: "For goodness sake, don't get into trouble again or it really will be serious."
Jones's legal troubles, estrangement from his bandmates, substance abuse and mood swings became too much of an obstacle to active participation in the band. The Rolling Stones wanted to tour the United States in 1969 for the first time in three years, but Jones was not in fit condition to tour and his second arrest exacerbated problems with acquiring a US work visa. In addition, Jones's attendance of rehearsals and recording sessions had become erratic; and when he did appear, he rarely contributed anything musically, or his bandmates would switch off his guitar, leaving Richards playing nearly all the guitars. According to Gary Herman, Jones was "literally incapable of making music; when he tried to play harmonica, his mouth started bleeding."
This behavior 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?" From this point, he made himself scarce, rarely attending sessions. By May, he had made two contributions to the work in progress: an autoharp on "You Got the Silver" and percussion on the epic "Midnight Rambler", which remains inaudible on the released version. Jagger informed Jones that he would be dismissed from the band if Jones did not appear at a photo shoot for the compilation album Through The Past Darkly. 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." Jones was replaced by 20-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor (formerly of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers).
At this time Jones was living at Cotchford Farm in East Sussex, the residence formerly owned by Winnie-the-Pooh author A. A. Milne which Jones had purchased in November 1968. There is uncertainty as to the mental and physical state Jones was in. 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. People who visited (particularly Alexis Korner) were surprised, however, by Jones's state in late June. Korner noted that Jones was "happier than he had ever been" at this time. He is known to have contacted Ian Stewart, Mitch Mitchell, Alexis Korner and Jimmy Miller about intentions to put together another band.
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. The builder, Frank Thorogood, allegedly confessed to the murder on his deathbed to the Rolling Stones' driver, Tom Keylock; Keylock later denied this. In the book The Murder Of Brian Jones, Wohlin alleges that Thorogood behaved suspiciously and showed little sympathy when Jones was discovered in the pool (he was the last to see Brian alive), but she admits she was not present at Jones's death. Witnesses who claim to have seen the "murder" have been interviewed by journalists; however, these witnesses have almost always used pseudonyms, and none has been willing to go on record or report to the police. A critical witness, still alive, is a man called 'Marty' in the Hotchner book 'Blown Away'. Another builder present, called Mo(rris) passed away a couple of years ago. A third builder present called Jeff is also still around.
Many items, such as instruments and expensive furniture, reportedly were stolen from the home after Jones's death. Rumors also exist that recordings by Jones for his future projects were stolen but nothing has surfaced to date. A watch given by Alexis Korner to Brian, with a personal inscription, surfaced at Christie's in New York.
Upon Jones's death, Pete Townshend wrote a poem titled "A Normal Day For Brian, A Man Who Died Every Day" (printed in The Times), Jimi Hendrix dedicated a song to him on U.S. television, and Jim Morrison of The Doors wrote a published poem entitled "Ode To L.A. While Thinking Of Brian Jones, Deceased."
The Rolling Stones performed at 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, and the band decided to dedicate the concert to Jones. Before the Rolling Stones' set, 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 band 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 by Bob Dylan. Watts and Wyman were the only Rolling Stones who attended the funeral. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull were traveling to Australia to begin filming the movie Ned Kelly; they stated that their contracts did not allow them to delay the trip to attend the funeral. Keith Richards reportedly remained in the recording studio.
When asked if he felt guilty about Jones' demise, Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone in 1995: "No, I don't really. I do feel that I behaved in a very childish way, but we were very young, and in some ways we picked on him. But, unfortunately, he made himself a target for it; he was very, very jealous, very difficult, very manipulative, and if you do that in this kind of a group of people, you get back as good as you give, to be honest. I wasn't understanding enough about his drug addiction. No one seemed to know much about drug addiction. Things like LSD were all new. No one knew the harm. People thought cocaine was good for you."
Unsure and insecure as a composer, Jones was not a prolific songwriter. The 30-second "Rice Krispies" jingle for Kellogg's, co-written with the J. W. Thompson advertising agency in 1963 and performed by the Rolling Stones incognito was credited to Jones; this did not sit well with the rest of the band, who felt it was a group effort and all should benefit equally. Jones was also included in the "Nanker Phelge" songwriting credit, a pseudonym used on fourteen tracks that were composed by the entire band.
According to Andrew Oldham the main reason for Jones not writing songs was that Jones, being a blues purist, didn't love simple pop music enough. 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."
When asked in 1965 if he had written songs, Jones replied: "Always tried. I've written quite a few, but mostly in blues style." Keith Richards stated: "No, no. Absolutely not. That was the one thing he would never do. Brian wouldn't show them to anybody within the Stones. Brian as far as I know never wrote a single finished song in his life; he wrote bits and pieces but he never presented them to us. No doubt he spent hours, weeks, working on things, but his paranoia was so great that he could never bring himself to present them to us." Bill Wyman has stated that Jones was "an incredibly gifted musician, but not a song writer."
However, in 1966 Jones composed, produced and played on the soundtrack to Mord und Totschlag (English title: A Degree Of Murder), an avant-garde German film with Anita Pallenberg. Guitarist Jimmy Page is one of the musicians Jones hired to play on the soundtrack
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.
In summer 1968, Jones recorded the Morocco-based ensemble, the Master Musicians of Joujouka; the recording was released in 1971 as Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka. Jagger and Richards visited Jajouka in 1989 after recording "Continental Drift" for the Rolling Stones album Steel Wheels with the Master Musicians of Jajouka featuring Bachir Attar in Tangier. An homage to Jones entitled "Brian Jones Joujouka very Stoned", painted by Mohamed Hamri, who had brought Jones to Jajouka in 1967, appeared on the cover of Joujouka Black Eyes by the Master Musicians of Joujouka in 1995.
Jones played alto saxophone on the Beatles' "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)," which was not released until after his death.
Public image and legend
Brian Jones was regarded as a fashion icon due to his rebellious and flamboyant style. His style of dress and manner did much to influence the fashion scene of swinging 1960s London.
He was 1.68 meters tall (5'6") with blue-gray 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 two years to the day after Jones). The coincidence of ages has been described as the "27 Club".
Several songs have been written about Jones: The Doors' song "Tightrope Ride" was originally written for Jones by Morrison, but after Morrison's death Ray Manzarek rewrote some of the lyrics so that they apply to both musicians. The Psychic TV song "Godstar" is about Jones's death, as are Robyn Hitchcock's "Trash", The Drovers' "She's as Pretty as Brian Jones Was" and Ted Nugent's "Death by Misadventure". Toy Love's song "Swimming Pool" lists several dead rock icons including Jones (the others are Morrison, Hendrix, and Marc Bolan); he is also mentioned in De Phazz's 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. The Brian Jonestown Massacre was named partially after him. 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.