Monday, January 5, 2015

"Brian Jones" by Paul Trynka (2014)

Brian Jones is almost the “forgotten” Rolling Stone; and yet he was the founding member. A strong case can be made for Ian Stewart holding that position, but it was Brian Jones relationship with Alexis Corner which spawned the Rolling Stones. It was also Brian who named the band after the Muddy Waters hit of the same name.

A devoted champion of the blues way before Clapton or even John Mayall; an early explorer of the sitar at same time as George Harrison; and  even the open tunings which Keith Richards uses today and credits to Ry Cooder ; all came from Brian Jones. You can listen to the early albums and hear for yourself. And the African drums on Midnight Rambler; just a few months before his death; were his, in idea as well as execution.

He virtually wrote the final music for “Ruby Tuesday”, “Under My thumb” and “Paint It Black”; never receiving written credit or royalties for any one of those iconic recordings; which would both become smash hits and earn millions for Jagger-Richards. The early Nanker-Phlege musical collaboration; which was named by him and incorporated all of their musical efforts; was conveniently abandoned, further diminishing his perceived role in the group; and marginalizing him in his own eyes, as well as the public’s.

Slide guitar playing was the provence of African-American blues up until that time.  Championed by Jones long before anyone else was doing it in Europe, he influenced everyone around him and set the course for pop music’s entry into serious blues. He even introduced Howlin’ Wolf on American TV during prime time on “Shindig”.

Style wise, his clothes sparked the fashions of Oxford Street as he exchanged clothing with anyone; male or female; he met during the day. This resulted in an array of styles which became iconic of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, as well as the uni-sex fashions which emerged at the time. His “pageboy like” haircut was the basis for The Byrds hairstyle; not the Beatles. Even Ringo Starr copied that long pageboy look from Brian Jones for a short while in 1965. And let’s not forget to mention the granny glasses and vests predating Sonny Bono’s.

But in the bands history; chronicled for the 5oth Anniversary of its founding; his influence has been minimized, and in some cases erased altogether. Even in the book “Life” by Keith Richards; which is one of my favorite autobiographies; he is reduced to almost a side note; never receiving his just due.

The celebrated drug busts by Detective Sgt. Pilcher and the Flying Squads; who counted John Lennon and George Harrison among their other celebrity conquests; also hit the guitarist in a hard way. The harassment of Mr. Jones by Scotland Yard rivals any of the later problems faced by Keith Richards.

The controversy surrounding his death and the resulting conspiracy theories are explored and debunked. The deathbed confession of the man who claims to have drowned him in the swimming pool does seem to be as Mr. Richards describes it in “Life”; just something that can never be verified.

Jones had 4 children; all born out of wedlock.  Linda Lawrence; who was pregnant with Jones child when she married Donovan; provides some interesting insights into the way the guitarist dealt with relationships at the time. How he avoided paternity suits and legal actions concerning support for those children is a mystery to me. He even had one father coming to his house demanding money for support of one of his children. Surely, this is no flattering portrait of Mr. Jones, which makes the book all that more credible.

If you enjoyed Keith Richards “Life”, then you owe it to yourself to read this book. They belong side by side. It will not detract from the former; rather it will give you a clearer picture of what happened to one of the most talented of the original Rolling Stones; the one who actually put the ad in the paper which resulted in Ian Stewart meeting Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, and which gave birth to the band.

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