Remembering Brian Jones’ final moments on stage with The Rolling Stones, 1968
We’re digging deep into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a very special moment as Brian Jones took to the stage with his band The Rolling Stones for his last performance before his untimely death. On this day, 52 years ago.
On May 12th, 1968, The Rolling Stones would take to the stage at the Empire Pool in Wembley, London complete with their founding member and original bandleader Brian Jones for the very last time. Below we take a look back at that moment with some fleeting archival footage from the show.
Taking place at one of the capital’s bigger venues, The Rolling Stones were in town as part of the New Musical Express Poll Winners’ Concert, accepting their award for Best R&B Group. The Stones had been keeping their respective heads down since the previous year with the conclusion of their tour and had clearly been focusing on the writing and recording of new music.
New music from Jones’ Rolling Stones was something that much of the music press, a powerful force to be reckoned with in the late ’60s, were wringing their hands in evil delight at. The group had been on a chart decline since 1966’s ‘Paint It Black’ took the top spot and the gathering dark clouds of single review columns were waiting to write them off. It was a scary time to be a part of the British invasion.
From the outside, the issues were creative but inside The Rolling Stones’ inner-circle, the problems that were forming on the horizon were very much personal; Brian Jones’ position within the group was gradually deteriorating. As well as his issues with substance abuse refusing to go away, the creative conflicts between Jones and Keith Richards were cutting, with the blades sharpened by Richards pursuit and courting of Jones’ fiancee Anita Pallenberg the previous year.
It adds up to a potentially uncomfortable evening for The Rolling Stones, yet they answered the questions hanging over them with aplomb. The band’s two-song set at the Empire Pool would see Jagger and Co not only perform a rousing rendition of ‘Satisfaction’, a song they had recorded the previous year, but also see the debut of their new single—’Jumpin’ Jack Flash’. It would be the song to answer their critics and remain a favourite with the group’s audience and the band themselves forevermore.
“It was the best thing we ever did with [producer] Jimmy Miller,” Richards remarked in Keith Richards: The Biography. “As soon as I pick up the guitar and play that riff, something happens here, in your stomach. It’s one of the better feelings in the world. You just jump on the riff and it plays you. Matter of fact, it takes you over. An explosion would be the best way to describe it. It’s the one that I would immediately go to if I wanted to approach the state of nirvana.”
By all accounts, it was a performance that saw the band return to top form and deliver the kind of fire-breathing show that had made them world-beaters just a few years before. Sadly, it would not be enough to keep Brian Jones in the band as his meagre contributions to Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed would see him leave the band in the summer of 1969 and replaced by Mick Taylor. A few weeks later he would be dead.
Though the concert was filmed much of the tape has been lost to analog thriftiness as old tapes were wiped and recorded over. The two songs were featured as part of a Time For Blackburn that showed host Tony Blackburn presenting the band with a gold disc for ‘Jumpin Jack Flash’ but the hunt to find that footage rumbles on.
While we may not have any definitive footage of the show, below is some super 8 footage that has been circling in Rolling Stones forums for some years and although it’s a silent clip, it is hard to miss Jagger’s unmistakable stage prowl.
At this time, it remains the last moments of Brian Jones’ onstage career with The Rolling Stones, the band he founded.