Brian Jones

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Brian Jones Pencil Portrait
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Bill Wyman in Stephen Davis’s ‘Old Gods Almost Dead’ summed up the two sides of Jones’ personality: “He could be the sweetest, softest, and most considerate man in the world and the nastiest piece of work you ever met.”

Low on self-esteem, and riddled with deep insecurities, Jones sought solace in the near permanent company of women yet persisted in treating them badly, occasionally extending his indifference to physical abuse. He fathered five children in his short life and refused to formally acknowledge any of them, let alone marry their mothers. It is widely believed in many circles that he was murdered, and the reality is that he was, yet not on the night he was found face down in the swimming pool of his country home. Brian’s murder had been a long, drawn out four year process, culminating in his dismissal from The Stones.

“I felt sorry for him,” drummer Charlie Watts later wrote. “We took his one thing away, which was being in a band. I’m sure it nearly killed him when we sacked him.” Charlie and bassist Bill Wyman were the only Stones to attend his funeral weeks later.

The circumstances surrounding his drowning have been the subject of conjecture for years, and the passage of more than four decades has done little to quell the controversy. The salient facts of the case are this: The Rolling Stones former guitarist died on the night of July 2, and it was initially reported that he had drowned in the pool at his home near Hartfield in Sussex, 50 miles southeast of London. The house was called Cotchford Farm and had once been owned by A.A. Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh; indeed the garden was decorated with statues of the characters from the book.

On the night of his death, Jones had been drinking wine and taking downers. Some suggested that he might have taken his own life, but those closest to him said he had no reason to commit suicide. Even though he had been officially ejected from the Stones several months earlier, Jones was reportedly getting over it and was planning new musical projects on his own. According to the coroner\‘s report, he was the victim of \“death by misadventure,\” an accidental drowning precipitated by drug and alcohol abuse. But as time passed, rumors gained momentum that Jones had been murdered. Inconsistencies in the accounts of that evening were gradually uncovered. A deathbed confession by the alleged killer was squelched by a loyal Stones\’ retainer. More than forty years later, suspicions persist.

But on the day of Brian Jones\’ funeral, no one was talking about murder. Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts was too shaken to sort out the details as he stood by the grave, and bassist Bill Wyman was annoyed that the whole band hadn\‘t shown up for the man who had initially brought them all together. Jones\’ replacement, Mick Taylor, had never met his predecesor, so his presence wasn\‘t expected, but the others, Wyman felt, should have been there.

Notably absent that day were lead singer Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, and Richards\’ girlfriend, model and actress Anita Pallenberg. Two years earlier the bewitching blonde had been Brian Jones\’ companion before Richards \“rescued\” her from his abusive behaviour. The emotional scars of that breakup would never fade completely, but Jones had finally accepted Pallenberg\‘s defection and found other girlfriends. Whilst relations were often tense in the last years of Jones\’ life, he was still on speaking terms with Pallenberg and his old bandmates. Professionally the Stones were doing well, and Richards and Pallenberg were in love. Jones had been a mess personally, but he was getting back on track, settling in with a new woman and exploring new musical opportunities.

The terms of his severance package from The Stones were generous to say the least – A lump sum payment of £100,000, (inflation adjusted – 1,394,730.00 in today\‘s terms ) and an annuity of £20,000 (£278,946.00). Whatever the level of guilt involved, it was money the Stones could ill afford; less than two years later, they would be compelled to become tax exiles in the south of France. Whatever the theories – and they are legion – that the individual band members were somehow complicit in his death, none of them hold sway with me. As with all bands, there had been internal power struggles, but there was also genuine camaraderie and love. If there is a case for premeditation, then Jones\’ murder would have been business related; money being the root cause of all evil.


After Andrew Loog Oldham bowed out, the band was managed for a number of years by Allen Klein and his ABCKO company. The New Jersey born hustler impressed early on, securing The Stones an unprecedentedly high royalty rate when their recording contract was up for re-negotiation. What followed afterwards is summarised in the following \‘Rolling Stone\’ magazine archive article.


Despite a parting of the ways, ABKCO, the company he founded with his wife Betty – the acronym of Allen & Betty Klein Company – still controls the band\‘s lucrative 60\‘s catalogue, more than four years after his death.


Some background information on the rock journalist Terry Rawlings can be located:

Rawlings has promulgated the theory that Brian Jones registered and therefore owned the name \‘The Rolling Stones\’. With Jones\’ many personal connections, it might have preyed on the rest of the band\‘s minds that this man, who was always popular with his fellow musical luminaries, would simply take the name away and form a new Rolling Stones with stellar lineup.

In remission from cancer, Rawlings\’ name resurfaced in December 2013 when he and his brother contested what they believed to be their late parents\’ invalid wills. To the best of my knowledge, he has not produced indelible evidence to support this theory about The Stones\’ late guitarist, although Jones had \‘prior form\’ when it came to securing a \‘business edge\’ for himself.

During the group\‘s formative period, Brian had often negotiated with venue owners. While acting as the band\‘s business manager, he received £5 more than the others, which did not sit well with the rest of the band and created resentment. Keith Richards has said that both he and Mick were surprised to learn that Brian considered himself the leader and was receiving the extra £5, especially as other people, like Giorgio Gomelsky, appeared to be doing the bookings.


As always with troubled personalities, there was the \‘good\’ Brian and the \‘bad\’ Brian. The \‘good\’ Brian was articulate, well mannered, (the late David Jacobs observing a level of civility before the recording of \‘Juke Box Jury\’ that marked him apart from the distinctly boorish behaviour of his bandmates), and unusually understanding for one so young. By his own father\‘s admission in a BBC interview recorded two years after his death, the young musician never threw his fame back in his parents\’ face, despite the misgivings they had expressed about his chosen profession. He could also display sufficient humility during his formative years to ingratiate himself with musicians like Alexis Korner, and was a willing musical pupil.

Then there was the \‘bad\’ Brian, the young man with a distinctly cavalier attitude towards the opposite sex – four children by as many women, one of whom he remained unaware of throughout his short life – providing ample testimony to his irresponsibility. How ironic therefore, that it would take just one woman to \‘destroy him\’; his father confirming the commonly held view that Jones never recovered from Anita Pallenburg\‘s \‘defection\’ to the arms of Keith Richards.

\“My first impression was of a woman who was very strong,\” Richards wrote about the Swedish beauty in his 2010 memoir, and whilst describing Jones as a \“woman beater\”, went on to add \“But the one woman in the world you did not want to try and beat up on was Anita Pallenberg. Every time they had a fight, Brian would come out bandaged and bruised.\”

Interviewed by biographer Philip Norman, Christopher Gibbs recalled Jones\’ turbulent relationship with the blonde european model: \‘They fought about everything – cars, prices, restaurant menus. Brian could never win an argument with Anita although he always made the mistake of trying. There would be terrible scenes with both of them screaming at each other. The difference was that Brian didn\‘t know what he was doing. Anita did know what she was doing. I think in a more gracious age, Anita would have been called a witch.\’

Fluent at an early age in four languages, and with an academic background in medicine, picture restoration and graphic design, she was not, as publicist Tony King maintains, exactly the \‘right type of girl for The Rolling Stones.\’ On the contrary, as Richards goes on to elaborate in his book when discussing her drawing ability: \“Anita came out of an artistic world, and she had quite a bit of talent herself – she was certainly a lover of art and pally with its contemporary practitioners and wrapped up in the pop art world\”. Pallenberg would study fashion design as a mature student at Central Saint Martins in London; graduating in 1994 as a no doubt older and wiser woman. Sandwiched in between would be nearly thirty years of chronic drug addiction, motherhood to three children, an unhealthy interest in black magic, and the reported suicide of the teenage caretaker of Keith Richard\‘s New England estate found shot to death in her bed. The death, ruled a suicide, was with Pallenberg\‘s gun, and we must draw logical conclusions as to how he ended up there. By the time of the shooting, Keith and Anita were no longer living together, the 1977 Toronto \‘bust\’ compelling Richards to \‘clean up his act\’ in the interests of his musical career. As he so succinctly puts it in his memoir: \‘I was breaking up with her around that time. I\‘d said, \“Look, if we clean up together, we\‘ll stay together\”. Well, I cleaned myself up. But she didn\‘t. And I realized that I couldn\‘t sleep with someone who had a needle beside the bed. I was too fragile at that point. I loved her, but I had to leave.\’

The only type of man with an \‘even chance\’ of emotionally surviving a relationship with a woman like Pallenburg was indeed Richards. Admitting to a sense of detachment over the relationship in his autobiography, the Stones\’ co-writer intuitively recognised that Pallenburg\‘s betrayal was a pattern of behaviour that would, in all likelihood, be repeated with yet another man. In a little over a year\‘s time, she would be focused on Jagger throughout the filming of \‘Performance\’, although her relationship with Richards would continue until the late 70\‘s. If Keith was truly that phlegmatic, then he would have been quite objective in his dealings with others, or even himself. He would see a problem without getting overly emotional like the sanguine or melancholy. This approach would also have assisted his analytical abilities, permitting him to make decisions without the hinderances that emotion brings. It would also explain his his cool exterior, a man never that excited or overly emotional. Inside he might have been jumping for joy or screaming with rage, but he would keep a calm facade with relative ease. Whilst Richards might have had the necessary attributes for survival in the Pallenburg relationship, others might question the wisdom of initiating such an involvement from the outset. Where personalities are involved, it\‘s all \‘horses for courses\’, or as Keith so aptly put it in his book – ‘When you get laid with Anita Pallenberg for the first time, you remember things.’ Here\‘s to \‘blokishness\’ then – long may it remain our eternal downfall, until we wake up and smell the roses.

As for Anita, we live the life of our choosing and our face invariably reflects that life.


Determining who exactly Brian Jones was presents near insurmountable problems; so conflicted are the recollections of the many. As to the reasons behind the worst manifestations of his personality, then one must start with the man himself. A chronic asthmatic and of average height (5\’ 6\”/1.68m), he would never have stood out from the crowd without some radical reworking of his image. Unlike Lennon, for example, who had observed McCartney\‘s greater popularity with female audiences during The Beatles\’ dance hall years, and was therefore unperturbed when this trend continued throughout the peak touring years, Jones\’ remained eternally envious of Jagger\‘s female following and wanted desperately to be the group\‘s leader. Other individuals of a different disposition would have argued the case for \‘contentment\’ – after all, being arguably the second most popular member of the second most popular group in the world is no mean feat. For Jones however, there was constant angst, an inhibition to presenting compositional ideas at recording sessions, and a fatal addiction to fame; Richards observing his friend\‘s wide eyed wonderment at the audience reaction to an April 1963 Beatles Royal Albert Hall appearance. From that point onwards, Jones wanted to be a star, yet his coughing, wheezing and periodic breathlessness precluded any notion of full time singing.

As the photographer Gered Mankowitz recalled in 2002: \‘I think people started to get irritated with him, especially because he was becoming increasingly unreliable. One just felt there was a squandering of this extraordinary talent, which was very sad.\’

Jones was in fact, breaking the taboo that governs successful group unity; namely that each member pulls his weight for the overall common cause. Once he began regularly failing to turn up for one nighters, Keith would become increasingly adept at doing \‘double duty\’ on guitar. The dye was cast. Whilst Brian would make his instrumental mark on future recordings, most notably the \‘Aftermath\’ album, his increased fragility and paranoid tendencies would preclude any notion of him going back on the road in 1969.

Recommended listening

Little Red Rooster (Decca F.12014 - 1964)

Taped at Chess Studios in Chicago, this Howlin’ Wolf cover represents the commercial zenith of Jones’ original vision for ‘his group’.

Overdubbing a slithering slide guitar part and harmonica, Brian’s instrumental contributions would help ‘Little Red Rooster’ defy prevailing musical trends; the single remaining to this day the only instance of a blues song ever topping the British pop charts.

‘Rooster’ at once both defined Jones’ happiest professional experience, and the commencement of a gradual estrangement from his bandmates; the single representing the Stones’ last cover song to be released as a ’45. The following spring, ‘The Last Time’ would be issued, a Jagger-Richards composition, and a definite signpost to the future direction of the band. Brian would be commercially relegated to the position of sideman, albeit a multi-faceted one, whilst the eventual carve up of the Stones’ empire would favour its principal songwriters.

A Degree of Murder (1967)

Ably assisted by engineer Glyn Johns, Jones fashioned a score for girlfriend Anita Pallenburg’s starring role in this 1967 West German film, directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Mirroring what would eventually become a a real life triangular romantic involvement with The Stones, Pallenburg’s character shoots her ex-boyfriend with his own gun, after he attempts to beat her. Instead of reporting the incident to the police, she hires two men to help her dump the body in a construction site near an autobahn. While doing this, she becomes romantically involved with both men.

The pair worked well together on the project despite previously reported ‘differences.’ Recalling the background to the Stones’ one and only solo venture, Johns was refreshingly frank about the circumstances involved:

“Brian came to me and asked for help. He’d lost so much self-confidence by this time and really was in need of a hand. In a way I felt sorry for him. It wasn’t that I didn’t think he was capable of handling the project himself. But clearly he wanted help in the engineering. So I agreed. Brian worked very hard in his Courtfield flat on two little tape machines. He had all types of ideas which worked. He did it very well, and it came out amazingly. And we had a good time doing it. Brian was extremely together and confident while he was working on it. When it was finished he was both pleased and relieved. The rock ‘n’ roll bit which was written to fit the early murder scene was really good”.

Featuring guest appearances from sessioners Jimmy Page (guitar), Nicky Hopkins (piano), Kenny Jones (drums) and Peter Gosling (background vocals), Brian also threw in his own ‘musical weight’ adding sitar, organ, recorder, banjo, harpsichord, autoharp, dulcimer, clarinet, and harmonica to the soundtrack’s multi layered textures.

Currently unavailable on any format, the only way to appreciate Jones’ work is to watch the movie

You know my name (Look up the number) 1970

Invited to jam with The Beatles, Jones would unwittingly contribute a masterful coda to the band’s greatest recorded curio. Interviewed by Barry Miles in 1997; McCartney would elaborate further:

‘He arrived at Abbey Road in his big Afghan coat. He was always nervous, a little insecure, and he was really nervous that night because he’s walking in on a Beatles session. He was nervous to the point of shaking, lighting ciggy after ciggy. I used to like Brian a lot. I thought it would be a fun idea to have him, and I naturally thought he’d bring a guitar along to a Beatles session and maybe chung along and do some nice rhythm guitar or a little bit of electric twelve-string or something, but to our surprise he brought his saxophone.

He opened up his sax case and started putting a reed in and warming up, playing a little bit. He was a really ropey sax player, so I thought, Ah-hah. We’ve got just the tune.’

The recording sessions for this number would span a period of two and a half years, appearing on the B side of ‘Let It Be’, the final ’45 to be issued during The Beatles’ lifespan. Other well meaning musicians would have missed the joke, but Jones caught the coattails of the convivial spirit to contribute a suitably ragged solo to the lounge lizard jazz finale.

Recommended reading

The Rolling Stones - An Illustrated Record (Roy Carr) 1976

Following hot on the heels of his best seller – ‘The Beatles – An Illustrated Record’, co-written with Tony Tyler, Carr’s book contains an extensive discography of record releases by the Rolling Stones up to 1976’s ‘Black and Blue’, with critical reviews of each release by the former editor-in-chief of the NME.

Sidebars provide a concurrent history of the band, with press clippings, quotes, and photos from each phase of the Stones’ career, including their solo activities.

The book follows the British releases of the Rolling Stones’ records, including ABKCO’s notoriously ill conceived series of repackages after the band left Decca for Atlantic in 1970. With the exception of ‘Some Girls’, which would follow two years after the original publication date, the book critiques all the band’s essential releases and naturally Jones’ best instrumental work.The final section of the book includes a United States discography as well as a brief overview of bootleg Stones recordings released by that time.

I was fortunate enough to locate this long ‘out of print’ edition at a local car boot sale, the vendor presumably unaware of its rarity value – one of the very best literary works on the band.

Death of a Rolling Stone - The Brian Jones Story (Mandy Aftel) 1982

I picked this biography up for a song (99p), and without great expectations – the large text suggesting a work aimed squarely at myopic senior citizens – but Aftel’s research is right on the button, utilising her professional skills as a psychotherapist to probe Jones’s dual personality whilst firmly placing his musicianship within the context of the era in which he thrived.

Avoiding the temptation to discuss the proliferation of murder theories, the writer instead opts to catalogue the thefts that occurred at Cotchford Farm immediately after Brian’s death. The first major biography of the Stones’s founder, Aftel managed to obtain lengthy interviews with several of Brian’s girlfriends (he fathered at least three illegitimate children) and several of his close friends, including Keith Richards.

The writer somewhat rehabilitates the guitarist’s reputation as a human being, whilst never avoiding the darker side to his personality. As the Stones’s juggernaut gathered pace, Brian was the most vociferous amongst the group about the importance of seeking professional counsel on numerous aspects of their career. Quite correctly, he surmised that the group required experienced management, and if such opinion was to be ultimately discarded, then those with relevant experience should at least be heard. The triumvirate of Jagger, Richards and Oldham were having none of it, preferring instead a more instinctive approach to their PR. The Stones, for example, were widely acknowledged as uncooperative autograph signers, yet on a number of occasions, Jones was known to utilise local police to organise orderly queues for an hour’s worth of fan contact. As Aftel remarks on page 90, “There were a lot of things that Andrew regarded as triumphs of promotion, in terms of getting space for The Rolling Stones, that did upset Brian. He was afraid of constantly being photographed in angry and aggressive poses.The sensitive side of Brian Jones made him think that the Rolling Stones were in dangerof being classified as morons when he knew a clear amount of intelligence ran through the band. And although these things were good in terms of gimmickry, Brian resented a lot of it’.