In the last blog post I mentioned that the new Rock’n’Roll Romantic album would not be released this fall, as originally planned, but in 2016. This is basically due to the 4 going on 5 months that the DownTown Mystic on E Street EP has taken up. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be another release before the end of the year. To help bridge the gap, Sha-La Music is releasing the Soul’d Out Single, which includes the legendary Brian Jones.
I’ve always been a Rock’n’Roll Romantic at heart. Love the sound of old recordings and the rhythm…it’s the rhythm of my life. There’s a certain sense of style and flair that goes with the music. When you come right down to it, it’s a love of all things HIP—music, clothes, sex, etc. It’s a certain frame of mind that helps to keep one young on the inside, if you follow. There’s a definite sense of “taste” associated with being a Rock’n’Roll Romantic.
Which brings me to “a man of wealth and taste”, the original Rock’n’Roll Romantic—Brian Jones, the man who formed The Rolling Stones. Brian was the trendsetter for Swinging London in the 1960s. It’s been said that Brian lived the life that Mick and Keith only wrote about. For me, it was Brian Jones who caught my attention when I first saw The Stones, just as it had been John Lennon who I immediately gravitated to when first seeing The Beatles. Now there are 2 Bad Boys to idolize! 🙂
There have been many books written about Brian’s short life and demise. The most recent is Paul Trynka’s excellent book, Brian Jones—The Making of The Rolling Stones. In the UK the book is called Sympathy for the Devil! One of the main points made in the book is that Brian was far more important in not only starting the band, but in the overall British Blues explosion that changed the UK music scene. I found it to be the best account of what it must have felt like being around The Stones in the early days. This was not a bunch of school chums getting together to form a band, but rather a group of individuals who could be very calculating with each other. For Brian, you get the feeling that none of them really had his back. But you also sense that Brian played a big part in setting that in motion.
It feels a bit odd talking about Brian and The Stones as being together because the band has been around for so long as the current entity that it’s hard to picture Brian in this band. When you looked at The Stones, Brian was the odd man out. He was his own brand for sure. Even with Mick Jagger out front singing and bopping around, it was Brian who would catch your eye…by simply standing there! Over the years there’s been a good deal of revisionism in The Stones camp as it pertains to the band’s history, with Brian’s role being minimized to that of a bit player. The truth is something that has gotten, shall we say, muddled.
The real story is an epic tragedy, almost Shakespearean in its unfolding. But as I write in my song Brian Jones, he did not understand his circumstances and certainly never took responsibility for his actions. He was a mojo man who fathered 6 kids with 6 different girls! He had an innate talent for playing musical instruments and he left a distinct imprint on the recordings that he played on. He gave The Stones sound an extra dimension that other bands didn’t have. But he also lived a decadent life, like nobody else around. They had to coin the term sex, drugs & rock’n’roll to describe his lifestyle!! 🙂
There are many who put Brian’s downfall on Mick and Keith. Did Mick and Keith, along with manager Andrew Loog Oldham, deliberately plot against Brian to take the band away from him? Maybe…probably…but the reality was that The Stones wanted to be in the same arena as The Beatles. That meant they needed to write their own songs and become more pop oriented. Oldham’s choice of putting Mick & Keith together as the main writing team has proven to be an inspired one. Given the personalities involved, Brian certainly saw the writing on the wall for himself.
My views of Brian are well chronicled so I don’t need to elaborate on them here. But part of the problem is that we always tend to see our idols or heroes in 2 dimensions. We see them live in concert or on TV, and we read what other people write about them. We don’t know them personally and what they’re really like, so we form our opinions based on assumptions based on a 2 dimensional portrait. There’s a whole school of “oh poor Brian” this and “oh poor Brian” that, but in the end we don’t really know him and what he brought on himself.
In his book, Paul Trynka writes that nobody saw much of Brian in the last year of his life. He went on drug binges for longer and longer stretches and was seen nodding out on quite a few occasions, even in the studio when he did show up. Just look at the changes in his physical appearance from 1965 to 1968. He goes from being the trendsetter for the hip and beautiful people of Swinging London to an overweight drugged out mess in just 3 years! Take a look at the photos on Between The Buttons, one of my fave Stones albums. Brian looks totally out of it and disconnected from the rest of the band.
I think the real reason they shelved the Rock’n’Roll Circus TV show in 1968 (Brian’s last public appearance with the band) was because of Brian’s physical condition. He was a train wreck! Mick, Keith and Brian had already been busted by the police for drugs. They were public enemies to the UK Establishment, so the last thing that was needed, was for any of them to show up on BBC TV (the only TV in the UK) looking completely stoned! If you’ve ever been in a band with one of the members always being fucked up, you’ll know what I’m talking about. They’re unreliable and bring everyone down. At any rate, whatever went down between them personally is their business.
I once spent an afternoon talking with David Dalton, a Stones biographer, about Brian. He said an interesting and somewhat telling thing—that Mick and Keith would get very uptight at the mention of Brian’s name. I’m sure, deep down, they harbor some guilt. As for all the conspiracies about murder in Brian’s death, I don’t think he was murdered. However, I do think he died of un-natural causes. Actually, I think 1 of 2 things occurred on the night he joined the 27 Club.
Before I continue, there’s 1 thing that can’t be emphasized enough—DRUGS. Since it was the 60s, there’s a kind of playing down of the amount of DRUGS that were being consumed back then. Like tee-hee (yes I used tee-hee), everybody was getting high back then…NO! The amount of drugs involved with this particular individual was almost inhuman. Brian took more and did more of everything in massive quantities. Eventually, this had a serious impact on him. So contrary to the lore about Brian being in shape and getting ready to form a super group with the likes of Hendrix, he had no interest or ability in forming another band.
Brian was done.
Scenario #1…Brian had abused his body to such extent that all he needed was to have a nightcap and then float in his pool, that was heated at 80-90 degrees, nod off and float away. It’s real easy to fall asleep in a pool like that totally straight. Brian may have shown a bit of wear on the outside, but his inside was worse. The autopsy revealed that his liver was shot and that he had the flabby heart of a 60 year old man despite being only 27. I’d say that qualifies as un-natural! This is something that most people seem to overlook, his actual physical condition. He took drugs by the handful and drank on top of it, and everyone thought he was immortal. He wasn’t. There’s a physical toll to be paid.
Scenario #2, which feels right to me, and again, the 3rd dimension that most people don’t know…The Stones had been Brian’s band and he hung on as long as he could until they fired him. He was not going to quit and I think it really bothered him more than he might let on. He had to have known that they were going to play a free show in London’s Hyde Park in a couple of days to introduce his replacement—Mick Taylor. This had to have been eating at him. That event would make his firing official to the world. In his fragile frame of mind, I can see Brian thinking he could give Mick & Keith one final F U and steal their thunder by having his death in the headlines. He played his final card…or chord if you find it more poetic. 🙂
Nobody really knows what happened that fateful night, but murder seems unlikely. It’s somewhat ironic that the conspiracy theories have helped to keep Brian’s name alive and create a legend. One thing is known—in his short life, Brian burned bright and then burned out like a comet falling to earth in true Rock’n’Roll Romantic fashion. 🙂