‘No Expectations’ is one of The Rolling Stones’ most heartbreaking songs, it was one of the last things that they recorded with Brian Jones before his departure and tragic death. On this rare demo of the 1968 track, it offers a reminder of Jones’ incredible talent, a skillset which would sadly fade as drugs took control of him in the subsequent months that would follow the recording and lead to his death.
The demo is a beautiful country number that shows off the Americana side of The Stones which is an often overlooked piece of their armoury. Mick Jagger’s voice is wonderfully emotive and proves anybody wrong who think that he’s just a party-starting frontman. ‘No Expectations’ is a sincere performance from the leader of the band who, you can tell, means every single word that he is uttering in his somewhat strange but always unique transatlantic twang. The band would only get the opportunity to play the track once with Brian Jones during The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, an effort which documents his last live performance with the band.
Following the sad death of Jones in 1969, ‘No Expectations’ began to take on a whole new meaning due to the heavyweight of emotion linked to the words that Jagger sings from the heart in the track. Lyrics such as “uur love is like our music, it’s here and then it’s gone” became somewhat of a eulogy to the tragically departed guitarist, without whom The Rolling Stones would never have come to be.
“That’s Brian playing slide guitar,” Mick Jagger poignantly explained some years later. “We were sitting around in a circle on the floor, singing and playing, recording with open mikes. That was the last time I remember Brian really being totally involved in something that was really worth doing. He was there with everyone else. It’s funny how you remember – but that was the last moment I remember him doing that, because he had just lost interest in everything.”
Following the recording of ‘No Expectations’, tensions grew further as Jones’ behaviour managed to become even more erratic and volatile. By 1968, he had alienated himself from his bandmates and he played his final show with the band in the December of that year at their aforementioned Rock and Roll Circus.
Bassist Bill Wyman would note in his book Stone Alone: “There were at least two sides to Brian’s personality. One Brian was introverted, shy, sensitive, deep-thinking. The other was a preening peacock, gregarious, artistic, desperately needing assurance from his peers. He pushed every friendship to the limit and way beyond.”
It’s desperately sad even all these years later what happened to Brian, especially after listening to this gorgeous demo which was only created around a year before his death and how incredible he sounds on the recording. This demo of ‘No Expectations’ is one of the most emotional Rolling Stones tracks and a deep cut that will make the hairs on your skin stand up.