As The Rolling Stones celebrate their fiftieth anniversary, Clash looks back at the band’s forgotten founder member who set out the template for the ‘Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World’.
1. While many consider Keith Richards the epitome of rock ‘n’ roll behaviour, he was still a fresh-faced youngster while Jones was in full debauched stride, even before The Stones had been formed. And Jagger’s hip-shaking, crowd taunting moves? Pilfered from a certain blonde-bobbed guitarist who hit the ground running when stardom came calling.
2. Like all good rock stars Jones gave himself a pseudonym, favouring the nom-de-blues of Elmo Lewis, a corruption of the name of his blues idol Elmore James. James’ song ‘Dust My Broom’ is a key song in the early Stones history, as it was the song Jones was playing with Alexis Korner when Mick and Keith first set eyes on him.
3. It was widely acknowledge that Brian was an incredible natural musician, quickly moving on from his mastery of slide guitar to more exotic instruments like the auto-harp, sitar and marimba. Many credit the Stones’ development from straight-jacketed blues devotees to anything-goes iconic rock group (‘Their Satanic Majesties…’ not withstanding) to Jones’ restless musicianship.
4. Besides founding The Rolling Stones, we can also thank Jones for bringing a seminal piece of world music to the ears of the West via his recording of Morocco’s Master Musicians of Joujouka on the ‘Brian Jones Presents The Pipes Of Pan At Joujouka’ album, released on Rolling Stones Records in 1971.
5. An infamous photo shoot for a German magazine alongside his German girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, saw Jones dressed in a Nazi SS uniform treading on a toy doll. Outraged? Don’t be so gauche! As Brian himself explained, “Really, I mean with all that long hair in a Nazi uniform, couldn’t people see that it was a satirical thing?”
6. The father of six children, Jones wasn’t what you might call a family man. His first offspring was the result of getting his fourteen-year-old girlfriend pregnant. He fathered a son, his third child, in 1961, contributing the name Julian Mark and little more. He then went on to father his fourth in 1963, again naming the boy Julian Mark. Nice.
7. Bosom buddies at one point, Jones’ relationship with Keith Richards soured when, on a road trip to Morocco with Anita Pallenberg, he was taken ill and packed off home, leaving Richards free to seduce Jones’ girlfriend. It was no short-lived fling though, producing two children and a relationship that lasted until 1980.
8. Jones was kicked out of The Rolling Stones in June 1969 as his drug addled behaviour worsened and jeopardised the band’s promotional plans for the just-recorded ‘Beggars Banquet’ album. In the 1989 documentary 25 X 5, Charlie Watts guiltily admitted: “We took his one thing away, which was being in a a band.”
9. Jones’ death, in his swimming pool at the age of twenty-seven, has been the subject of no small amount of speculation and conspiracy with the official verdict of misadventure undermined by various claims of murder, robbery and cover-up. Did a bullying builder working at his house take things too far, dunking the asthmatic rock star underwater for a little too long?
10. Whats makes a person so restlessly creative? Possibly not a loving home environment. His parents were noted for their post war stiff-upper-lip exasperation of their son and, fair enough, having to put up with some of his antics splashed across the tabloids of the day. Jones’ grave stone, erected by his family, bares the oddly cold phrase, ‘In Affectionate Remembrance of…’