Brian Jones was the beating heart of the Rolling Stones in their formative years. He was the creative explosion that brought the others together, and it was him who got them all their gigs at the beginning of their journey to stardom. Jones was with the band from the beginning in 1962 until 1969.
He left the band in June of 1969 and died a month later. He fizzled out of the scene due to increased drug use and band absences, which eventually led to an amicable agreement between Jones and the rest of the band that he should leave.
Brian Jones’ legacy is unfortunately mired in excessiveness, over-indulgence and a severe lack of discipline. These harsh descriptions were what ultimately led Jones to become the hedonist he was, to the point of utter nihilism and self-destruction. He doesn’t always get the credit that he deserves, however.
In the early 1960s, Brian Jones got involved in the burgeoning blues scene in London and would become one of the first slide guitar players in the capital. He sat in with The Alex Koerner’s Band at the Ealing Blues Club — this is where he got his start and developed his reputation as one of the best English blues player of the time.
The photographer Terry O’Neill who worked with the band earlier in their career, recalled the time when he first met them: “I didn’t realise when I first met them: it was Brian’s group, and everything revolved around him. He was a top-class musician, Brian, really a great player. The whole group was good, but you just knew he was the leader, somehow or another.”
Jones is revered for his natural talent and ability as a multi-instrumentalist and was considered by some to be a genius. Jones did have a mean streak, however. O’Neill added, “he even got paid more money than some of the others unbeknownst to the other Stones. I remember when they found out, they weren’t pleased.”
Jones’ charisma enabled him to bully others around and do his bidding as well. The band had a few stragglers, one of which had more money than the others. Jones would force him to walk behind the band as they were headed for some establishment, and after getting money from him, Jones would force him to wait outside while the others went inside to eat or drink.
When the rest of the band found out that Jones was getting an additional five pounds than the other members of the band, Keith Richards recalled, “that was the beginning of the end for Brian.”
There were a few major factors that helped expedite Jones’ eventual departure from the group. While Jones’ multi-instrumental capability proved to be his greatest asset, it would also prove to outweigh any ability he had to write original songs.
Jones’ heyday was when The Stones played jazz and blues clubs; he was the go-to guy to hear an Englishman play old slide blues guitar licks. Artists such as Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and Robert Johnson – Jones knew it all.
When did Brian Jones begin to lose interest in The Rolling Stones?
Once Andrew Loog Oldham came on to manage the Stones, he began to push the band into becoming more of a pop-oriented group. Oldham had worked as the publicist for The Beatles underneath Brian Epstein and possessed a clear vision to turn the Stones into the bad-boy version of the Fab Four.
This meant that the band would have to start writing their own songs, and shortly after, the power dynamics shifted from Brian Jones to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, after the latter two found a supreme songwriting partnership together that would label them the Glimmer Twins.
This would embitter Jones. It seemed that he couldn’t keep up with the revolution of the Rolling Stones, and he was somewhat still stuck in the past.
Why did Brian Jones leave The Rolling Stones?
While Brian Jones’ increased absence in The Rolling Stones led many to believe that Jones was ultimately fired from the band, it was an amicable agreement between Jones and the rest of the group. Jones envisioned something different for his future – it was ultimately his decision to leave.
“I want to play my kind of music, which is no longer the Stones music,” Jones said at the time according to Rolling Stone. He added, “the music Mick and Keith have been writing has progressed at a tangent, as far as my own taste is concerned.”
Mick Jagger would respond with a statement to Rolling Stone in 1969. “We’d known for a few months that Brian wasn’t keen,” he said. “He wasn’t enjoying himself and it got to the stage where we had to sit down and talk about it. So we did and decided the best thing was for him to leave.”
The two parties seemingly diverged because of how their musical tastes would develop, and Brian Jones wanted a new group. “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…” Jones said while in conversation with Thomas Beyl during the last interview he ever did.
Mick Jagger, in turn, responded with, “he’s gotta do his own thing, man, and he hasn’t said anything to us about it.”
What did The Rolling Stones do after Brian Jones left?
Business would continue only two days after Brian Jones passed when The Rolling Stones recruited Mick Taylor as Jones’ replacement. Taylor’s debut was on July 5th, 1969, at the free concert in Hyde Park, London. Taylor had previously played with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers for two years.
Jagger said about choosing Taylor as the new guitarist for the Stones, “he’s been through the John Mayall school of guitarists — people like Peter Green and Clapton. I didn’t want to go through the whole bit of auditioning guitarists, so I spoke to Mayall, a man whose judgment I respect in these matters. John just sort of grunted when I told him we’d like to see Mick, so I took it as a ‘yes.’”
Brian Jones left on June 8th, so while he did die only two days prior to Taylor’s debut, the search process had already been going on for some time.
When talking to Rolling Stone, Jagger said about Taylor: “I’d never heard him live before — only on records,” adding, “but he got on well with Keith and he picked things up quickly, so we got the track done more quickly. He doesn’t play anything like Brian. He’s a bluesman and he wants to play rock and roll, so that’s okay.”
It was Brian Jones who helped Keith Richards develop what Richards calls the ‘ancient art of weaving guitars’; when Taylor joined, he would take on more of a lead role on guitar than Jones did which impacted the music the Stones were making at the time, specifically on Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main St.
What did Brian Jones do for The Rolling Stones?
Brian Jones not only started the band, but he played an integral part in shaping their earlier blues-heavy material. Jones was also the image and spokesperson for the group and defended what was considered their radical style of music at the time.
While Jones never really contributed any wholly original pieces of music, his versatility as a musician did a lot for the band.
He played slide guitar on tracks such as the Lennon-McCartney tune they wrote for them, ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, as well as ‘I’m a King Bee’, ‘Little Red Rooster’. He made other significant contributions musically, playing the sitar on ‘Paint it Black’ and ‘Street Fighting Man’.
Jones contributed organ on ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’; marimba on ‘Under My Thumb’ and ‘Out of Time’. He also famously played the recorder on ‘Ruby Tuesday’, a track that some suggest he wrote a large part of. These are only some of his many multi-instrumental contributions.
How did Brian Jones die?
Jones moved to Cotchford Farm in East Sussex for the last month or so of his life to escape the press.
The official reports allegedly say that Brian Jones was heavily medicated and inebriated and drowned while he was in his swimming pool on July 3rd, 1969.
A misconception surrounding the perpetually young Rolling Stone is that he took all kinds of illicit drugs leading up to his death on in 1969. The real tragedy is that while he was drinking copious amounts of alcohol, he was over-prescribed pharmaceutical medication by doctors, which led him to dependency and increasingly incapable of performing in any capacity.