THE STONES AND BRIAN JONES – BBC 2 Documentary by Nick Broomfield

Stonesmania never grabbed headlines like Beatlemania but it was just as intense, perhaps even more so as the Stones attracted almost as many boys as girls and these fans were more uninhibited, more inclined to rush the stage and grab hold of Mick or Brian or Keith. They didn’t bother much with Bill, who was a bit forbidding, and couldn’t reach Charlie behind his drums, but then again Charlie was much too dignified to get involved in any of that malarkey anyway.

        Brian wasn’t dignified. He laughed his head off at the behaviour of fans, even encouraged it. One widely circulated comment from him that didn’t appear in last night’s documentary on BB2 occurred when the Stones were on the same bill as The Beatles at London’s Royal Albert Hall in April, 1963. Observing the fan frenzy as he helped Neil Aspinall move The Beatles’ gear, Brian turned to early manager Giorgio Gomelsky. “That’s what I went, Giorgio,” he said.

        He certainly got it, as several wonderfully chaotic scenes of Stonesmania worldwide in the documentary confirm, but if Jones really did say that, it gives lie to the belief that he was the purist in the group who railed against the pop star ambitions of Mick and Keith, aided and abetted by their next manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. This theory was promoted by this very watchable documentary, which featured plenty of hitherto unseen footage of Jones as a boy and interviews with many from the Stones circle, some new and others archival, prominent among them four of the five women who bore his children, all of whom harbour surprisingly benign feelings towards their father regardless of the callous manner in which he abandoned them.

        What is without question is that without Jones there would not have been a Rolling Stones. He was the band’s architect, furthering Jagger and Richards research into, and enthusiasm for, blues music, recruiting Bill and, probably, Charlie and taking on the hustler’s role until Oldham and his early partner Eric Easton became their managers. Bill Wyman, credited as Historical Consultant, confirms this and throughout the 90-minute programme extols Brian’s talents on guitar and other instruments he brought along to the studio to enhance recordings like Little Red RoosterLady Jane and Paint It Black. Wyman, a genial old cove who turns 87 in October, sits in his book-filled study like a long-retired university don and gamely hums along to Stones numbers, explaining the parts that Jones contributed while waving his fingers around like a conductor. 

        The other side of the coin isn’t so entertaining. Raised in a family that expected him to aspire to their own bourgeoise ambitions, Jones was a mixed-up ball of confusion, at times playful, at times cruel, at times arrogant, at times deeply unsure of himself. When he wanted to be, he could be exceedingly courteous. After his parents kicked him out of the family home for not living up to their upwardly mobile expectations, he charmed his way into the homes of various girlfriends, impregnated them and moved on. 

        Once he gravitated to London, he founded the Stones and, at first, seemed crucial to their progress. He was a shaggy-haired dandy dressed in all the latest styles, a fixture of Swinging London, liked and admired by his peers, even Dylan. However, as his role as the group’s leader was usurped by Mick and Keith, encouraged in their songwriting by Oldham, his insecurity lead him into a downward spiral, exacerbated by drugs, dismissal from the group for being unable to cut it on stage and, soon afterwards, his death. 

        All that is pretty much well-known to anyone who has followed the Stones’ story over the years, and the documentary reinforces this version of events. It skims over Brian’s court appearances on drugs offences, doesn’t go into much detail about the bust-up with Anita Pallenberg – though all concur she was a terrible influence – and, unlike subsequent books that cleave to the murder conspiracy theory, avoids the headline-grabbing temptation to suggest that this was how Jones met his death at Cotchford Farm in East Sussex, the former home of Winnie The Pooh creator A. A. Milne, where his body was found in the swimming pool on July 3, 1969, aged just 27.

        What I did learn was that Jones hated ‘Satisfaction’, that four of his five sons were called Julian and that Jones’ father Lewis came to regret the way he treated his son. The documentary closes with one of his girlfriends, Linda Lawrence, reading a heart-rending note from Lewis Jones to Brian that she found amongst her mementoes many years later. “I have been a very poor and intolerant father,” he wrote. “I was quite out of my depth.”

        As narrator Paul Trynka, author of a book on Jones, makes clear, few of the millions of fans who nowadays flock to see the Stones in vast stadiums around the world have even heard of Brian Jones. Nick Broomfields documentary goes some way to restoring Jones role in their phenomenal career, if not his reputation as a human being. 


Richard Evans said...

Bill told me on several occasions, Chris, that the Rolling Stones were 100% Brian's band.

Anonymous said...

Great archive footage but would have liked more on his musical influences - where did he first hear the blues? - and no mention of his visit to Morocco to record the Joujouka musicians a year before his death.

Anonymous said...

…says Robin Denselow!

Glenn Burris said...

"Few of the millions of fans worldwide who flock to see the Stones in stadiums today have even heard of Brian Jones."

Have to say, that statement knocked me back a bit. I suppose "few" is a relative term, but I'm not arguing against the veracity of the comment.

I wasn't of the right age to The Rolling Stones with Brian alive, though I certainly can't think of them without him in the pantheon. But that reflects a more earnest interest, I suppose. To millions, a Rolling Stones show is no more than an entertainment merit badge they earn with $150.

Just this week, I heard an interview with Terry Reid, who recalled touring with the Stones in '66 when Reid was part of The Jaywalkers, who were pegged as an opening act.
Terry said that at the first show of that tour, the Stones got through just a couple of tunes before all hell broke loose, with fans flooding the stage and further music made impossible.

After the bands escaped the chaos, a shaken Reid asked Brian, "Is it going to be like this every night?!"

And Jones replied, "Well... I sure hope so."

Anonymous said...

I know Gered Mankowitz, the photographer who shot the covers of "December's Children" and "Between The Buttons," who also toured with the group in its early days. From his firsthand observations of Brian's behavior and descriptions he made to me, I would say that Brian suffered from what we would now diagnose as a borderline personality disorder. He was a born musician who had the amazing facility to pick up just about any instrument and quickly learn how to get sounds out of it, and there's no question in my mind that no Jones, no Stones. But there was definitely something off-kilter with him, and it was there long before the insane intake of psychedelic drugs exacerbated his condition.

Dave Heasman said...

all those Julians named after Julian Adderly. I guess he couldn't get away with naming them "Cannonball".

Nicholas said...

Never forget that Bill has to illustrate Brian's contributions to the Stones on a computer- and not on a mixing console- because the Master Tapes are owned by ABKO. That the Stones' first British album is not properly archived and available is cultural vandalism.