Many consider Brian Jones to be the original rolling stone. In the literal sense of the word ‘original’, this is true. Jones formed the band and even named the group as such. The story goes that while in a telephone conversation with a venue Jones was asked what the name of his band was. As he looked around, slightly nervous and scrambling, he saw a record lying nearby, with the words, ‘Rolling Stone’ by Muddy Waters. The rest is history. Unfortunately, Brian Jones run with the Stones was very short, as was his life.
Jones died at the age of 27 when he drowned in a swimming pool. Despite the suddenness of his death, his health had been deteriorating for quite a while leading up to his passing, as he was living a life of drug-induced mania. His drug abuse led to Jones getting fired from the group, and some speculate that he never really got over his resentment or bitterness for the band. From the sounds of his last interview with Thomas Beyl of the German publication, Bravo, it certainly sounded like it was the case.
Thomas Beyl was a close friend of The Rolling Stones during the ’60s and after hunting down Brian Jones, who was living his life as a rock ‘n’ roll recluse — effectively in hiding from the world at this point — was granted an interview with the reluctant Jones.
The big news at the time of this interview was that Brian had left The Rolling Stones. Beyl’s first question to Jones was whether there was any chance of him ever rejoining the band, to which he replied: “Two years ago I wanted to leave, but Mick talked me out of it. Today there is no turning back.” There’s a certain sense of bravado in this statement that sadly lands more similarly to bluster.
Beyl then proceeds to try and soften Jones up by telling him that the fans will miss him. Beyl allows Jones to share his withered message of hope: “Tell them I’ll have my own group soon. The decision is within the next few weeks. Maybe I’ll only produce music. I know one thing for sure: I want to be rich and finally rake in the big bucks. Just like Mick and Keith…”
What Jones was perhaps resentful about was that he never got to write the Rolling Stones songs. Why fix something that is not broken? It was clear that the Jagger-Richards partnership was the only team that had any chance of topping the Lennon-McCartney enterprise. Perhaps Jones didn’t have the same ability as Richards and Jagger did. Instead, his talents lay in his ability to pick any instrument up, add some interesting parts, and help the song come to life. It was something he was aiming to instil in a new project too but in a more robust way.
Beyl and Jones move into a new topic of conversation: what will Brian Jones do instead? Jones had been travelling back and forth to Africa and was trying to get into producing musicians. He put on an African record which, according to Beyl, resembled bareness; a couple of hand drums in a quiet empty night. “Pure African folk music,” says Brian. “Recorded at night out on the street. This is music, I’m going to compose music in this style.”
In the original article for Bravo, Beyl writes, “gloomy, almost depressed, I leave Brian. I fear that it will be a long time before Brian, the lost Stone, becomes a wealthy man.” It would sadly be a prediction that was very quickly about to come true and become so much worse.
Brian Jones died on the 3rd of July, 1969.
Listen to Brian Jones’ play the recorder on this instrumental version of ‘Ruby Tuesday’: