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Recent books on Rolling Stone Brian Jones and his untimely and mysterious death are worth reading

Andrew W. Griffin
Books about the life and death of Brian Jones, of the Rolling Stones, are worth checking out.
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By Andrew W. Griffin

Red Dirt Report,
editor

reddirtreporter@gmail.com

BOOK REVIEW: Who Killed Christopher Robin? The Murder of a Rolling Stone  by Terry Rawlings (Helter Skelter Publishing)
1994, 2005

Brian Jones: The Untold
Life and Mysterious Death of a Rock Legend
 by Laura Jackson (Piatkus) 1992, 2009

It’s been nearly 42 years since Brian Jones, the founder and
rhythm guitarist of The Rolling Stones, was found dead in his swimming pool at
his country home at Cotchford Farm in Surrey, England.

Chalked up as “death by misadventure” by the local
constabulary, conspiracy theories about what really happened to Jones – who had just been fired from the band he
founded and was planning big new musical projects, possibly including a
collaboration with John Lennon – including the role of the villainous Frank
Thorogood, the builder from London who later, allegedly, made a deathbed
confession that he indeed murdered Brian Jones.

Jones died far too young and I am not alone in wondering
what musical paths he would have led us down had he lived a full life. Of
course the Stones – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts
(and later, Mick Taylor and Ron Wood) – would press on, becoming one of the
biggest bands of all time.

But in the 27 years he was alive and the nearly seven years
he spent as a Stone, Jones – born Lewis Brian Hopkin-Jones in 1942 – made quite
an impact on a number of people, including his immediate family, the women he knew
and got pregnant and of course, the millions of Stones fans out there and those
who appreciated his incredible talent.

I’m in that last category. I always admired the Rolling
Stones as a band but I tended to be drawn to their most creative period – 1962-1972
– and it was in those years, at least through 1968, when Brian Jones made a
significant impact on their sound and style.

For example, listen to their 1966 hit “Paint It, Black,”
featured on the incredible album Aftermath.
Not only was Jones an amazing guitarist, it was on this song that he took up
the Indian instrument the sitar and played an amazing riff that helps give it
that signature otherworldliness.

As Laura Jackson notes in her book Brian Jones: The Untold Life and Mysterious Death of a Rock Legend,
originally released in 1992 and re-released in 2009 to coincide with the 40th
anniversary of his death, Brian Jones’ “work on the Hindu sitar will always
rate as incredibly innovative. His intutitive understanding of the intricate
instrument made his playing of it completely different to that of George
Harrison on the Beatles’s number ‘Norwegian Wood.’ Where Harrison’s treatment
is careful and tender, Brian blatantly attacks it with vigor. His spiritual
affinity with the exotic jangling dissonance was something which sprang from
deep inside him.”

Brian Jones, argues the author, was a musical genius. This is
fully realized here. Just think; on Aftermath
alone he played lead and rhythm guitar, marimbas, bells, piano, organ, dulcimer
and harpsichord. I think it’s safe to say Jones is one of director Wes Anderson’s
favorite musicians.

You also find that conclusion laced throughout the interesting
and slightly more conspiracy-minded Who
Killed Christopher Robin?
book by Terry Rawlings, which later inspired the
2005 film Stoned, a film that, in the
opinion of this writer, is an interesting bit of speculative fiction mixed with
some facts.

Jones comes across as a charming, intelligent guy who can
then, go into Jekyll and Hyde mode and become an angry, violent, raging monster
who was known to hit his girlfriends and abandon the children he fathered.

But there was also something strangely innocent and
childlike about Brian Jones, note both authors. For instance, Rawlings’s book
title, Who Killed Christopher Robin?,
is a reference to A.A. Milne, one of the previous owners of Cotchford Farm,
where the author wrote his Winnie-the-Pooh books which featured the young boy
Christopher Robin. Jones often posed by a statue of Christopher Robin which was
on the farm property.

And regarding both Jackson and Rawlings’s books, both do a
decent job going over known facts about Jones’s early life in Cheltenham and
the troubles he had with his family, particularly his hardnosed father.

But he found music, particularly American rhythm and blues,
and began playing the guitar and eventually founding The Rollin’ Stones, the
name based on the Muddy Waters tune “Rollin’ Stone.”

Of course the overly obnoxious Andrew Loog Oldham would add
a “g” to the end of Rollin’ and would take control over their bad-boy image, an
image Jones already had and one that Jagger and Richards grew into. Over time,
it was clear that Jagger and Richards were growing increasingly jealous of
Jones. He was the fan favorite and most talented. Towards the end of his life
it was clear that the two wanted Jones out of the band. The artists come to
their own conclusions and offer some compelling evidence to prove the
authorities wrong in dismissing Jones’s death as an accidental drowning.

Maybe Jones knew that time was short. Of course, considering
his new plans and musical ambitions after getting let go, maybe he was starting
to really get it together.

Writes author Jackson about something Jones friend Jimmy
Savile said: “Brian was very deep and always asking questions of life.
Misunderstandings hurt him a lot and as it went on he would wonder … where is
it all going?”

Jones, writes Jackson, was both curious and daring. He took
a particular interest in the “sinister, corrupt and incurably exciting” north
African country of Morocco.

“Morocco had a profound effect on Brian. He adored
everything about it,” wrote Jackson, adding, “Morocco was a country made for
Brian. Its way of life, both spiritual and secular, was thoroughly indivisible
from music.”

This was in 1966 and Jones was interested in other cultures
and introducing ideas and instrumentation into the sound of the Stones. While in
Morocco he befriended the Jajoujka people and they loved the fact that he took
interest in their musical traditions. He would even record their music,
released on an album that came out a few years after his death. Interestingly
enough, the Jajouka musicians would appear on the Rolling Stones song “Continental
Drift,” two decades after Jones’s death.

And while he took LSD and other drugs, and was also drinking
and in quite a fragile state in those last years of his life, the other Stones
appeared to do little to help their friend and bandmate. One can’t help but
wonder why?

There are some more outrageous Brian Jones bios floating
around out there like Gloria Shepherd’s Brian
Jones: Straight From the Heart
.

At the end of Rawlings’s book, photocopies of the witness statements
from the 1969 death and even a copy of a 1994 statement from Tom Keylock who
swore that right before Frank Thorogood died, he stated that he had killed
Jones that night.

Regardless of what really happened to Brian Jones that hot
summer night in July 1969, when he joined the notorious “27 Club” the world
lost an amazing talent .

Who Killed Christopher Robin? - B+

Brian Jones: The Untold Life adn Mysterious Death of a Rock Legend - A-

Copyright 2011 West
Marie Media

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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