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BRIAN JONES

BRIAN JONES

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    Brian Jones was an extravagantly talented musician who could play any instrument that took his fancy, and frequently did. The three Stones albums that span the mid-to-late sixties - Aftermath, Between The Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request - all bear tribute to his versatility.

    This musical inventiveness led The Rolling Stones into some strange new pastures, which are not always fully recognised or appreciated, because of their difference to both the original derivative R 'n' B sound of the band during their initial 'cover band' era, and to the definitive, Jimmy Miller-produced era which followed and defined The Rolling Stones as 'The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World'.

    That classic, heavy, tuneful rock sound remains The Rolling Stones' great contribution to the evolution of rhythm and blues music; but it emerged only during Brian Jones' swansong, on Beggars Banquet, and was not to reach its mature peak until after he'd left the band, and died.

    This timing lends an ambiguity to Brian Jones' contribution to The Rolling Stones. It's clear that his original vision, talent and drive were essential to getting the band going; and in no small part to their original success between 1963 and 1966. Listen to the guitar solo on 'I Wanna Be Your Man', which he performed spontaneously, unrehearsed, in one take, and weep at what The Stones and their fans lost with Brian's demise.

    But it's also plain that he was part of the spell that saw a decline in the power, inventiveness and popularity of the Stones' musical output; and that there were some specific, non-musical, Brian-related factors at work during this period.
    Brian Jones was also a lifestyle pioneer. His early adoption of increasingly outlandish fashion, along with relatively overt and extreme recreational drug abuse, made him a poster boy for the new youth culture - a cosmically inappropriate piece of 'casting', as it turned out.

    While Keith Richards, for example, as has been demonstrated over 48 hard-living years, has proved equal to the challenge of living the louche side of the rock 'n' roll dream while always prioritising and delivering the music, the mentally fragile Jones simply wasn't suited to the lifestyle.

    As the drug busts, mental and physical health problems took their toll, his contribution to the band diminished and dwindled to nothing, and then worse than nothing. He became a negative drag on a group of hardworking musicians who desperately wanted to fulfil their potential.

    As The Stones regrouped and kicked back to top form with a new producer (Jimmy Miller) and a back-to-form new album (Beggars Banquet, the last record on which he was to play a significant part) Brian fell apart, and he and the band parted company on June 8, 1969.

    Within a month Brian Jones was dead, drowned in his swimming pool on the night of July 2nd 1969 in circumstances that remain mysterious. On July 5th, The Rolling Stones played a free concert for an estimated 300,000 people in Hyde Park, London, dedicating the performance to their deceased band mate.

    Brian Jones was clearly a complicated man, not always popular even with his closest friends and ultimately not cut out for the demands of the band leadership he craved; or the pressure of writing hit singles and best -selling albums; or super-stardom; or the extreme work hard, play hard life of a touring and recording musician in a sixties rock band.

    But his love and mastery of performing blues-based rock 'n' roll - and, over time, of other forms of music - remains as a powerful legacy to the band he founded and named. The concept of guitar weaving, which involves dual guitars playing both lead and rhythm/harmony lines in the same song, which became a fundamental part of The Rolling Stones sound and persists to the present day, was developed by Brian and Keith Richards in the band's early days.

    He collaborated widely outside the Stones, playing alto sax with The Beatles on 'You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)', as well as composing and recording film scores and, most notably, producing Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Jajouka with the Master Musicians of Joujouka and Philip Glass.

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