Wednesday 3rd July 2019 marked 50 years since the untimely death of the effervescent Brian Jones. To mark the occasion we look to celebrate his essential contribution to The Rolling Stones and their back catalogue.
The Rolling Stones' beginnings centre around The Ealing Jazz Club and Alexis Korner, affectionately known as the father of British Blues. Both Jones and original Stones keyboardist Ian Stewart had been members of Alexis' band Blues Incorporated - as was Charlie Watts although he wouldn't join the band until a little later down the line.
Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and original bassist Dick Taylor (later of The Pretty Things) had been performing together as a group called Little Boy Blue & The Blue Boys and in 1962 they headed to London to start jamming with Blues Incorporated. After meeting Jagger, Richards and Taylor at The Ealing Jazz Club, Jones invited the trio to join him and Stewart and form a band and thus The Rolling Stones were born.
Brian Jones didn't just bring the band together, he is also the one credited with naming them too - after the Muddy Waters song 'Rollin’ Stone'. As Keith Richards tells it, he panicked whilst on the phone to either a venue or somebody in the media when they asked what the band were called and the first thing he saw was a Muddy Waters record on the floor. In fact, The Rolling Stones first billing at The Marquee Club in '62 was as The Rollin' Stones, with the 'g' dropped as per the Muddy Waters track.
Jones and Richards also developed a style of guitar playing they called the ancient art of weaving after being inspired by the teamwork between musicians whilst they were listening to some old Jimmy Reed records. Weaving is essentially interplay between two guitarists; where the lead and rhythm guitar parts are not distinguished and interchangeable throughout a track. Guitar weaving is now considered a band trademark and was a cornerstone of the Stones sound. Richards would continue this style of playing with Mick Taylor and Ronnie Wood following Jones departure.
In those early days, Jones had also served as the bandleader and business manager alongside Giorgio Gomelsky, until Andrew Loog Oldham officially signed on as the band's manager in ’63. Over the coming years and subsequent releases, the emergence of the Glimmer Twins as a writing partnership saw a reduction in blues covers that Jones preferred. This, coupled with the band's popularity and success flourishing under Oldham's management is what led to Jones feeling marginalised and his influence within the band diminished.
However, Jones' musicianship and multi-instrumentalist capabilities were key to the development of The Rolling Stones' sound. Evolving beyond their blues roots and entering the ensuing era of experimentation. While The Rolling Stones' 1966 album 'Aftermath' is often noted to be the first album comprised entirely of Jagger/Richards written songs, it is Jones' explorations and his inclusion of instruments like the sitar, dulcimer, marimba and koto that made this record stand apart and be cited as not only the culmination of their stylistic development but also be hailed as a soundtrack to contemporary, swinging London.
The Stones' next two releases were 'Between The Buttons' and 'Their Satanic Majesties Request' were released in 1967. Both are considered the band's most adventurous works with Brian Jones' musical versatility again playing a pivotal role. These two albums saw Jones introduce and play a staggering range of woodwind, brass, percussion and string instruments; including the organ, kazoo, trumpet, mellotron, saxophone, theremin, mouth harp and sarod to name just a few. Richards once said of Jones in a documentary that "Brian could walk into a studio and no matter what instrument was lying around, even though he had not played it before, he'd be able to knock something out of it very very quickly."
The Rolling Stones' 1968 album 'Beggar's Banquet' is where you find Jones' last major contributions to an album. Jagger once stated that his slide guitar work on 'No Expectations' was the last time he truly contributed something meaningful and with care. Jones' disillusion with bands artistic direction, increased substance abuse and his suffering with poor mental health meant he was becoming difficult to work with missing many recording sessions altogether.
Jones was asked to leave the band during the recording of 'Let It Bleed' in 1969 with him being allowed to issue the statement to the public and the press. In it, he declared that the split was amicable, reasoning that his departure was because he wanted “to play my kind of music, which is no longer the Stones' music".
Less than a month later Jones tragically died at his home in Sussex, after being found motionless in his swimming pool. 'Let It Bleed' was eventually released in December 1969. Jones' final contributions to The Rolling Stones amounted to the autoharp on 'You Got The Silver' and percussion on 'Midnight Rambler'.