Brian Jones: The Making Of The Rolling Stones by Paul Trynka (BOOK REVIEW)

brian jones 2014Music has always been a bitches brew of spontaneous seduction and pounding vibrations that often caused the soul of the listener to go mad with fever. It’s all over the blues and Jazz and especially in the realm of rock & roll. The obvious spell that Pan has weaved over his musical children has gone on for generations. And what the Rolling Stones did in the early 1960’s was no different. One could write a whole volume on the folklore alone that surrounds them. How the camaraderie between Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones sparked a darker shade to the Beatles mop top jolliness. Mothers were warned to keep their daughters locked up tight but the ones who could smell the primal fire in the music would not be contained to pink rooms with fluffy pillows. The Stones would win out and the Stones would rule.

But by 1969, the reality was that the band’s founding member Brian Jones was faltering within the group. He had to leave the Rolling Stones to inevitably save his life. But the cruel punchline of the joke was that he died anyway, at the bottom of a swimming pool in Christopher Robin’s sanctuary. This story has been told numerous times by people who knew him and people who didn’t. And now former MOJO Magazine editor Paul Trynka has added his voice to the musical gospels. With over 120 new interviews conducted for his book Brian Jones: The Making Of The Rolling Stones, which hit shelves on October 09, the story of Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones opens up just a little bit more. Spanning over three hundred pages, Trynka has done a few things quite right.

Most importantly, he has kept the focus tightly on Jones. Keeping Jagger, Richards and manager Andrew Loog Oldham basically on the outskirts of the story is the best thing Trynka has done. Some biographers want to say they are writing about the Stones’ founder but he ends up becoming lost amidst too much Glimmer Twins histories and histrionics. Jones becomes a footnote in his own life story. Much like he did in real life, it seems, although not all of it caused by his blues brothers. As Trynka writes in his prologue: “If ever a man was driven by his flaws, it was he.”

Jones’ early years encompass the bulk of the pages. His time in Cheltenham, England, is strongly represented, via new interviews with friends of Jones and his parents and local villagers with first-hand memories of the family. Tales of his distant mother and father who held steadfastly to old time ways would ultimately almost strangle the tow-headed boy. His savior being his staunch belief in the music that would be his venerable guiding light to leave the town of his birth, leave babies he had fathered and schoolmates who never cared a lick for him. His destiny belonged in a city that was beginning to pulsate.

Another thing that Trynka got right was his focus on how Jones died. Instead of whipping Stones fans into a frenzy over NEW EVIDENCE, he calmly lays the individual testimonies out and then tries to validate their truths. It is now a given that Jones didn’t die goofing around underwater before suddenly suffering an asthma attack. For years now, his death at the hands of someone, believed to be a man who was doing odd jobs around the house, has become fact. But was the man who supposedly gave a deathbed confession really the one who killed him? Trynka has made you think a bit on that one.

When one reads a musician’s biography, it often leads you back to the music. For Jones, the music was Elmore James and if you play some of the old Mississippi guitar player’s early recordings you will unmistakably hear Jones and the early Rolling Stones, how Jones integrated those haunting chords into the Keith Richards Chuck Berry infatuation. Berry was innocent compared to some of the old bluesmen who walked to the crossroads and felt the chill of a tap on the shoulder. That is something else that Trynka gets right: Jones’ connection to the music and what he tried to do with what he heard. In a new interview with engineer and producer Eddie Kramer, he reiterated this fact: “Much as I adore Keith, I must preface everything by saying that I always considered Brian the most gifted of the Stones, musically speaking.” It’s too bad not enough people said this to Jones while he was still alive. Or maybe they did and it just wasn’t enough.

The legendary shenanigans are also all in here: how Jones put together the Stones in London, his elbowing out of the loop after Jagger and Richards become roommates and songwriters, his paranoia following a drug bust, his volatile relationship with Anita Pallenberg who would leave him for Richards, his own slide into the dark bowels of drugs, his death in a swimming pool. Although Trynka tries at times to pin Jones down in the devil’s music juju, it is the humanness of the guitar player that struggles to the surface. He was raised by parents with a suffocatingly tight grip; he was rebellious one minute, a genuinely concerned friend the next; he had fears and paranoias like all of us. If he would have never become famous, he still would have been the stubborn yet sensitive British lad, just in a different town. Those deeply imbedded personality traits never really leave you. They just hide every now and then. And those human pockmarks are what eventually connect Jones to the earth we all walk on.

But overall, Trynka’s attempt to shed some light back on Jones and all the right things he did, all the musically innovative things that have made rock music better, are proven right. “Brian’s influence within the Stones,” wrote Trynka in Chapter 7, “would never be stronger than within ‘Paint It Black,’ a song whose melody he wrote, according to Bill [Wyman], a sound that would never have happened without him.”

In all, this is a must-read for Stones fans. If as the years continue to go by and Brian Jones becomes more and more a mere player in the tale he created, this book should bring him back into the position he belongs.

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13 Responses

  1. The idea that Brian was murdered is hardly established fact. More likely he just had an asthma attack while he was swimming, but that’s not nearly as intriguing.

  2. I was 10 when the Beatles and Stones initially rocked America. I didn’t notice the Stones, because the Beatles were fed to us by the media powers (Hard Days Night played at our local family drive-in theater, where usually they played Elvis Presley movies or Jerry Lewis comedies at the time). The Beatles even had their own cartoon show — and I watched it. Their music was cute and fun and harmless. In junior high the next year, some guys told me about the Stones. I heard “Satisfaction” but suffice to say their sound wasn’t cute. It wasn’t until roughly 1979 that I truly discovered the Stones. But my interest was strictly in Stones circa 1964 to 1969 — the Brian Jones years. The other Stones deserve credit and recognition, and God knows they get it. Like many fallen heroes, Brian got mythologized. Probably more than he truly deserved, but regardless.

  3. After Brian was forced out of The Stones I lost much interest in the band. I found Mick Taylor to be a good replacement, but the music suffered. I’ve found The Stones with Ron Wood to be mostly forgettable, but the good songs, tho few, are very good.
    Brian was a genius, could master any instrument in a matter of hours. I know he played sax for The Beatles. I had always heard that they were thinking about adding him, but that his drug use was too upsetting for them.
    I’ve never heard the exact amount of children he fathered (between twelve and twenty), but I heard that one of his sons’ was as musically gifted as he was.

  4. Mick and Keith have spent the last 50 years trying to marginalize Brian Jones. They still haven’t forgiven Brian for bending them to his will in the early days. Lucky for them he he did or there would be no Mick or Keith anywhere in the music world. They can marginalize him all they want but they still can’t change the fact that Brian Jones made them both superstars. And if you read this book every source states that Brian Jones was a far better guitar player than Keith in the early days. Another fact. Brian Jones left his mark on this world and there is nothing Mick or Keith can do to change that.

    1. if you watch the rolling stones induction into the hall of fame 1989 Mick gave full credit to Brian for how the stones involved into the band they are today .and how he took them to so many types of music from around the world not just the blues

  5. Brian Jones was unique. He didn’t write songs, he wasn’t a lead vocalist and he didn’t play lead guitar. But in many ways he was the leader of the band until egos from within the group and his own mental demise pushed him aside. He defined their original blues sound and was the creative force behind the group’s expansion into different genres during the band’s most diverse and experimental era.

    1. He played plenty of lead guitar. It is well documented that Brian was the better guitarist in the early days. His slide guitar counts as lead guitar. He also played some standard leads. Tell Me, The Last Time, Get Off of My Cloud just to name a few. And of course his slide leads. I Wanna Be Your Man, Little Red Rooster, I Can’t Be Satisfied just to name a few. And he even turned his rythmn guitar into a lead with Mona. And the guitar weaving with Keith as dual lead guitars doing Bright Lights Big City, Baby What’s Wrong , Mercy Mercy just to name a few. His forte was slide and for a 20 year old white kid he played it pretty well when no one outside of Chicago or the Mississippi delta played it. And if you listen to Bright Lights Big City and Baby What’s wrong you’ll hear very nimble fingers coming from both Brian and Keith.

  6. Who knows what really would have happened if he lived, they may have broke up and we never would have gotten what we have out of the band. Or maybe they would have been on a bigger pedestal then they already are on.

    The sound they had was very different with him, then the one they were left with without him.

  7. The Stones are the Stones , I followed them from the start , was old enough then to have read what was going on .Jones had problems which over rode any he had with the band . He wasn’t murdered , it was either drugs or asthma or both that caused his drowning . Jones was a bigger blues man than the rest of the band , but their music was evolving with or without him , as was all rock and roll which has it’s roots in blues . The band was on it’s way with or without Jones . The core was and is Jagger and Richards . And they never “downplayed ” Jones , but I’m sure they resented the rumors that were flying around those days , that some how they had something to do with his death , and that’s all B.S. Who know what would have been with Jones still alive – No One , neither can anyone say the Stones would have been better or worse -and anyone who does , hasn’t been a fan since the beginning , only a latecomer .

    1. all I can say is thank you Brian for starting the stones love the songs they have written and still enjoy them in concert .Brian is as much involved as he was in 1962 worlds greatest rock and roll band R.I.P Brian.

    2. Never “downplayed” Jones!!! Keith referred to him as a mere sideman in his book, Life. I think they have done a lot of downplaying in the past 45 years. Quite effectively, since lots of people have no clue who Brian Jones was. I think this book will go a long way in correcting the revisionist history of the Stones, well, more accurately, the revisionist history from Mick and Keith.

  8. Thank you so much Leslie! This is a wonderful review of Paul Trynka’s amazing book! I look forward to reading your other articles 🙂
    If you like please come join our group on FaceBook “Not Fade Away”. We are having an Author Q&A next week with Paul! thanks again

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