The Rolling Stones founding member Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix sadly succumbed to the same pitfalls, which cruelly cut their lives painfully too short. The two guitarists were kindred spirits in a sense and even headed into the studio together, but Hendrix was the only one pulling his weight, and Jones got on the wrong side of him that day.
It didn’t take long for the American to quickly become the talk of London Town after landing on British shores amid the swinging sixties, blowing away every soul fortunate enough to witness his guitar greatness. Hendrix confirmed himself as a bonafide hero during a short stint on the club circuits before graduating on to the world stage. Soon enough, everybody wanted a piece of Hendrix and were queuing up to work with him.
Brian Jones had already made himself a jewel in the crown of London’s scene by the time Hendrix arrived. Still, it didn’t take long for him to become enamoured with the mysterious Seattle native with superhuman powers with a guitar in his hand. Although surprisingly, it wasn’t in London where their paths would cross in the studio but New York City. However, Jones was less of a helping hand to Hendrix and, instead, became a disruptive inconvenience.
Hendrix was already a perfectionist, and any interference could make the session a whole lot harder. The recording of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ was strenuous, to say the least. It took eight months of sessions on and off to get right, which provides an insight into how much Hendrix wanted to make sure he got it right.
Eddie Kramer, another one of Hendrix’s engineers, later recalled how the guitarist couldn’t sit still after becoming agitated by the music throughout the recording session. He constantly changed chord patterns and arrangements, endlessly trying to perfect the sound, Kramer later recollected. Hendrix even reportedly played the last bass parts after Noel Redding walked out of the studio during the recording process.
“Brian Jones stumbled into Electric Lady Studios,” Kramer later told Esquire. “Out of his mind, and started to play piano on ‘All Along the Watchtower.’ Jimi looked at me. The look was, ‘Can we get him to stop?’ Jimi was so polite, never wanted to hurt anybody. But he was in the middle of a session and Brian wasn’t doing well.
“So I said, ‘Brian, come into the control room and listen to what we’ve done,'” Kramer continued. “He staggered into the control room and fell, right in front of the console. Then he fell asleep. And we finished the track.”
They did try to implement Jones into the track before sending him off to the control room, but his attempts on the piano left a lot to be desired. “All of a sudden you hear this horrendous, horrible piano playing,” Kramer said to Rolling Stone about the session. “This clang clang, all out of time, wrong chords and everything. It’s Brian Jones, he’d fallen into the studio, drunk out of his brain. He was another mate, and Jimi loved his friends, you know.”
However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom as Jones did manage to get his work on the final track. Hendrix revealed, “That’s him playing the thwack you hear at the end of each bar in the intro, on an instrument called a vibraslap.”
In truth, it’s heart-breaking that Jones had become a shadow of his former self with drink and drugs beating him to a pulp. This kind of behaviour wasn’t an anomaly, and the guitarist’s lack of reliability in the studio would be the reason why The Rolling Stones would kick him out of the group a year later. His addiction then spiralled further, and Jones tragically departed the world shortly after.