He stood, standing in the shadows like his soul had been sucked from his life. Dark bags hung heavily under his eyes, while he stood, strapped to his Gibson guitar. Brian Jones, the founding member of the Rolling Stones performed on the stage of the Rock and Roll Circus in December of 1968. He would soon be booted from the band, and just seven months later, his body would be found in a swimming pool, dead at the age of 27, on July 3, 1969.
It was 45-years-ago today that Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones died at his home in Sussex, England. Jones was not only a member of the original Rolling Stones band, he was the man who founded them, and gave them their name. While booking shows in the early days, a venue owner spoke with Jones on the phone, and after agreeing to book the band he asked what the name of the band was. A permanent name had not been given to the group from a sleepy London town, so as he was put on the spot, he looked down at a Muddy Waters album and saw the song, “Rollin’ Stone,” so in that moment, he called the group The Rollin’ Stones.
While the events of his death are still shrouded in mystery, the anniversary of his death should not be a time try to piece together the final days, hours and moments leading up to his death. Now is the time to recognize the great Brian Jones for his contributions to the world of rock and roll, and to what he meant as a member of The Rolling Stones.
In the early days, leading back to 1962, Jones was unquestionably the most musically gifted member of The Rolling Stones. Guitarist, and band mate Keith Richards once said, “He was a cat who could play any instrument.” As a multi-instrumentalist, he mastered the art of the harmonica and slide guitar that could easily have crawled straight from the swamps of Louisiana, or the heart of the Mississippi Delta. His slide work on tunes such as “Little Red Rooster,” “I’m a King Bee,” and the classic, “No Expectations,” from Beggars Banquet in 1968 stand out as some of his greatest slide accomplishments.
The versatility of Jones led the band far past its blues roots, delving into an array of sounds, produced by various instruments such as the marimba, sitar, mellotron, tambura, twelve-string guitar, piano, recorder, and numerous percussions. He drove the band into a melodic, psychedelic phase that helped guide the band through the mid 1960’s. He was a true master musician, and with his downfall and death, the music world lost a true artist. Slowed by the devil deep inside, he turned to heavy booze and drug use, robbing the world of more of his brilliance. In his death, he opened the door for guitar virtuoso, Mick Taylor, and an era that would produce one of the greatest musical runs in history, with the release of “Let it Bleed,” “Sticky Fingers” and “Exile on Main Street.” The Rolling Stones would move on to further greatness, but it must be noted that there would be no Stones, if there was never a Brian Jones.
Opinion by Johnny Caito