Brian Jones, the one who formed the Rolling Stones. Brian Jones, the one who had the vision of what he wanted the band to sound like. Brian Jones, the one who was behind giving the Stones different sounds when they were needed at a time the music was changing.
Brian was only with the Stones until 1969, at that time the Stones were on their rise to get even bigger, their music was changing and their status as a band would become iconic over the years to come. Would the Stones have achieved this success without Brian? Hard to tell. For this article I want to focus on the early years of the Stones, the time of those early hits and innocent pop songs which they would no longer produce after “Between the Buttons”.
For those of you who are not aware of Brian watch this great video, which gives you a brief overview of his life and his years with the Stones. At the end of the video there is an overview of who was interviewed for this programme.
Throughout his life Brian (and not only Brian for that matter) was being picked on by the authorities and the media. Think about how the world was in the early to mid 1960s: The whole idea of rebellion, use (and abuse) of substances was relatively unheard of. Certain parts of the establishment felt they had to crack down on some of the abusers. There were the drugbusts around Brian, Mick and Keith. Overal the media did their very best at keeping up the image of the Stones as the bad boys. Indeed Andrew Loog Oldham (their producer during those early years) thought it was a good idea for the Stones to play around with that image, but after a while it may have felt like a silly idea to keep this image up.
When you listen to Brian, in this early interview here, you can notice how articulate he is and what kind of ideas he has about marriage in the modern age and his ideas of using other media for his creations. Do his words sound like here is a wild man at work?
Here is another video from those early days where it is clear who is the outspoken of the Stones:
Throughout their career the Stones were very keen to use other musicians on their recordings. It is the help of those other players which pushed the music even further, added that much needed detail to make it stand out from the ordinary. The credits on those early alblums (and even on the later albums!) were often missing or very poor. In the beginning it was Brian who added much of that musical detail.
Listen to Buddy Hollies’s “Not Fade Away”
Now have a listen to what the Stones did with that song:
How much impact did Brain have on the arrangement of this song? Hard to tell, as the Stones also had assistance from Phil Spector, Allan Clarke, Graham Nash and Gene Pitney during the batch of songs they were recording at that time. The fact that Brian plays the harmonica on this song tells the tale of a whole story.
Even though Brian did have so much impact on the sound of the songs during the early years, his voice is not heard often with one exception: the backing vocals on the studioversion of “walking the Dog” from the first album. His voice sounds more raspy and edgy than Keith’s who can usually be heard on backingvocals. Maybe Keith was absent for that particular recording session, who knows??
When it comes to songwriting why did Brian not show any of his songs to the Stones? Did he feel his songs would not fit in the setting of Stones? We will never know and we can only guess. As time moved on Brian was playing less and less guitar with the Stones, he became more interested in ethnic instruments and how you could mix them in the setting of a traditional pop/rock/blues instrumentation. Was he his time far ahead? It would be years later when World Music would be mixed with Pop and Rock. The Stones would have a go at this later on in 1973 with the “Ghost’s Head Soup” album and “Steel Wheels” from 1989
In 1966 Brian created the music for the German film “A Degree of Murder” This video shows some of the highlights, there are quite a few more on Youtube, check it out for yourself if you are interested……….
When Brian died in 1969 there was a lot of mystery around the circumstances of his death, and this mystery remains with us even today. There are a lot of different theories and new evidence seem to appear from time to time. I do not want to go into detail in any of these theories as you can check them out for yourself. Truth is, it remains a sad fact that Brian left us all to soon.
Catch soon again,