by: Dale Y the Green Guy

Considered the greatest rock and roll band of all time, The Rolling Stones are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Granted, The Beatles may have been the best rock and roll band ever, but the Stones have carried on and were viable long after The Beatles broke up.

Through all of their years of making music, being revolutionaries and touring, one thing remains clear. The Stones never would have happened without the founding and leadership of the lost Stone, Brian Jones.

Brian Jones was to the Stones what John Lennon was to the Beatles. Jones, with his bowl cut blond hair, was the leader, who put the band together, lobbied for gigs and gave them the unique guitar riffs in the beginning years that have become so familiar. Jones was a true artist and musician who could play a multitude of instruments, and then added those sounds to the beat of the band.

Brian Jones initially wanted The Stones to be a blues cover band, rocking-up versions of Jimmy Reed and Howlin’ Wolf songs, among others. In fact, he named the band The Rollin’ Stones after a tune by Muddy Waters, so tied into the blues scene was Jones. He enlisted the likes of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger to play and sing the blues while he played both lead and rhythm guitar parts.

If Brian had gotten his way, the Stones may have remained a blues cover band. But two things happened that changed The Rolling Stones forever. The first one was The Beatles. The Fab Four exploded onto the main stream singing pop songs that they wrote themselves, setting the benchmark for every band after them. The second thing was that their manager saw the potential that the Beatles presented and wanted the Stones to write their own material too. In fact, the Stones first big hit was called, “I Wanna Be Your Man,” penned by Lennon and McCartney and given to the Stones. On it, Brian played the first slide guitar ever heard on popular music before, and the Stones were off and running.

The Stones first #1 hit was a song written by Bobby Womack called, “It’s All Over Now.” Brian Jones’ distinctive and catchy lead guitar riff makes this song what it is.  But from here on, all the hits would be penned by Jagger and Richards. Little did the band know it, but this was the first step to losing Brian Jones.

The first Jagger/Richards composition to hit #1 was “The Last Time,” and again, it’s Brian Jones and the catchy guitar that makes the song. Granted, the riff in “Satisfaction” was Keith Richards baby through and through, but Brain was contributing in other ways. He played the recorder (a woodwind instrument like a clarinet) on “Ruby Tuesday,” he played a dulcimer on “Lady Jane,” he played the distinctive sitar on “Street Fighting Man,”the mellotron on “Dandelion,” and he even played the trumpet on “Child Of The Moon.” Virtually every instrument played on records during the early years of the Stones that wasn’t a guitar, Brian Jones was playing. No one could play such a multitude of completely different instruments the way Brian Jones could, and that remains true to this day.

Yet for all of this musical genius,  Jones was slowly being phased out of the band, knowingly or unknowingly. He didn’t have a very good voice, so except for some backing vocals, he never sang. He was never able to develop into a writer, so except for a word or two that he interjected into a Jagger/Richards composition, his writing input was nil.

Perhaps as a way to compensate for this lack of acceptance, Jones began to experiment heavily with drugs. He went beyond the marijuana and LSD trips of the day and began taking a cornucopia of substances that left him unable to contribute and worse, unable to perform.

By the end of 1968, only 4 years after the Stones had made it big, Brian Jones had become an afterthought. His drug use was escalating and his musical production was virtually nonexistent. He had been arrested for drug use in 1968, and by 1969 he could no longer get a visa to tour the United States with the rest of the Stones. It was on June 8th, 1969, that Jagger, Richards and drummer Charlie Watts visited Brian at his home and told him he was out of the band. It was the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, sans Brian Jones.

One month later on July 3rd, Brian Jones was found floating face down in his swimming pool, drowned. Whether this was a result of an accident or foul play has never been truly determined. But it was end of the founding father of the Rolling Stones.

To this day, 50 years after their rise to fame, a new generation has grown up listening to the Rolling Stones. They are all familiar with Jagger and Richards, Watts and Mick Taylor. Some even remember original bassist Bill Wyman, but almost nobody remembers the lost Stone, Brian Jones.

Here is a quote from Bill Wyman about what Brian Jones meant all that time ago…”He formed the band. He chose the members. He named the band. He chose the music we played. He got us gigs. … Very influential, very important, and then slowly lost it — highly intelligent — and just kind of wasted it and blew it all away.”

 

Check these links out for some of the musical brilliance that was Brian Jones.

Brian Jones playing slide guitar on “I Wanna Be Your Man.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWYzPbtT4Fk

Jones catchy guitar riff on “The Last Time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzZHmHqEE7k

Brian Jones playing the recorder on “Ruby Tuesday.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TnTx0vscE0

Jones playing sitar on “Paint It Black.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6d8eKvegLI

 

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