Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones

A biography about Brian Jones who founded the Rolling Stones written by Paul Trynka. This is more of a sympathetic look on Brian than other books I’ve read. Trynka digs deep with meticulous research. He tries to be fair and Brian isn’t always shown as the nicest guy in the world but he also isn’t always the person that Mick and Keith seem to remember when they actually remember him at all.

This book is not just a rehash of the best-known things about Jones and the Stones. Some instances that Stones fans know like the period where Keith ran off with Brian’s girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, we get more information on what happened. He researched Brian’s childhood and adult life thoroughly and you feel like you know the man before the book is over.

This is not only a good book on Brian but also the birth of the Stones. After reading what I’ve read about Brian in past books, I had to wonder to myself, is this author trying to make Brian look better than he was? After reading more I didn’t think so. He interviewed over 100 people for this biography and many of them were either close friends or knew Brian. He was fair about the good and bad.

When you think of Brian Jones you can’t help but think of the way his life ended. Paul Trynka doesn’t miraculously find the definite answer to Brian’s death but he gives you the most recent events that have been uncovered and basic common sense answers to a mystery that probably will never be solved.

The Rolling Stones had three different lead/rhythm guitarists. Brian Jones, Mick Taylor, and Ronnie Wood. I make no secret of loving the Taylor period of the Stones. Saying that I will admit during the Brian Jones era they were more creative and tried different things. He was very important to their sound. Under My Thumb, Paint It Black, No Expectations, The Last Time, and Ruby Tuesday would not have been the same without Brian.

The book deals with the complicated relationship between Brian, Mick, and Keith. George Harrison and Brian Jones became friends and they had a lot in common. They were in a similar situation in their respective bands. The big difference was George had more of a support system than Brian did in his band. John and Paul had a monopoly on the songwriting but they would help George and he was given a chance to grow as a songwriter within the group. The Stones didn’t work that way.

Brian could be his own worst enemy and had a hard time handling fame but he was a very talented musician. Maybe the best musician in the band. Keith and Mick learned a lot from Brian. His musicianship, image, and outlook on life rubbed off on the more inexperienced Mick and Keith.

I would recommend this book to any Stones fan. You get a better picture of the earlier days. It is a reminder that it took more than Keith and Mick to get the Stones rolling.

 

A very good professional review of the book by Larry Rohter of the New York Times

Brian Jones is to the Rolling Stones what Leon Trotsky was to the Russian Revolution: organizer, ideologist and victim of a power struggle. Jones founded the group, gave it its name and recruited the schoolboys Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who then marginalized him, eventually expelling him from the band. Since his death in 1969, a month after he was forced out, Jones has largely been airbrushed from the group’s history.

Paul Trynka’s biography “Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones” challenges the standard version of events, focused on Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards, in favor of something far more nuanced. Though Mr. Trynka sometimes overstates Jones’s long-term cultural impact, his is revisionist history of the best kind — scrupulously researched and cogently argued — and should be unfailingly interesting to any Stones fan.

Specifically, “Brian Jones” seems designed as a corrective to “Life,” Keith Richards’s 2010 memoir. Mr. Trynka, the author of biographies of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, and a former editor of the British music magazines Mojo and Guitar, has interviewed Mr. Richards several times over the years and obviously likes him, but also considers his memory of events highly unreliable.

“History is written by the victors, and in recent years we’ve seen the proprietors of the modern Rolling Stones describe their genesis, their discovery of the blues, without even mentioning their founder,” Mr. Trynka remarks in the introduction. Without naming Mr. Richards, he also expresses his distaste for an assessment that appears in “Life,” that Brian Jones was “a kind of rotting attachment.”

The portrait of Jones that Mr. Trynka offers here is bifurcated. Though he is impressed with Jones’s “disciplined, honed sense of musical direction” and his dexterity on guitar and many other instruments, he does not hesitate to point out his subject’s more unpleasant personality traits: He was narcissistic, manipulative, misogynistic, conniving and dishonest about money. It’s not accidental that this book is called “Sympathy for the Devil” in Britain.

Mr. Trynka attributes Jones’s downfall to a conjunction of factors, some related to those character flaws but others external to him. Much has been written about the drug busts that swept up Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards in the mid-1960s and their court battles, though Jones seems to have been even more of a target, because he was such a dandy and so successful with women.

But as Mr. Trynka tells it, Jones did not receive strong legal advice or fight charges as hard or as successfully as the Jagger-Richards team. After his first arrest, he pleaded guilty, which drove a wedge between him and other band members, who feared it would mean they could no longer tour abroad, all of which left him feeling crushed, isolated and vulnerable. That, in turn, increased his consumption of drugs and alcohol and made him less productive as a musician.

Nevertheless, Mr. Trynka demonstrates convincingly that the original Rolling Stones were Jones’s band and reflected his look, tastes and interests, not just the blues but also renaissance music and what today would be called world music. (He recorded the master musicians of Joujouka in the mountains of Morocco.) In “Life,” Mr. Richards describes his discovery of the blues-tinged open G guitar tuning, familiar from hits like “Honky Tonk Women” and “Start Me Up,” as life changing, and says it came to him via Ry Cooder in the late 1960s. But Mr. Trynka notes that Jones often played in that tuning from the band’s earliest days and quotes Dick Taylor, an original member of the Stones, as saying, “Keith watched Brian play that tuning, and certainly knew all about it.”

Some of Mr. Trynka’s account is not new, having appeared in “Stone Alone,” the often overlooked 1990 memoir of the Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, or other books written by band outsiders. What makes Mr. Trynka’s book fresh and interesting, and gives it credibility, is the length he has gone to find witnesses to corroborate and elaborate on those stories.

It’s not just that Mr. Trynka has sought out those who worked with the band on the creative side, such as the singer Marianne Faithfull, the arranger Jack Nitzsche and the recording engineers Eddie Kramer, Glyn Johns and George Chkiantz. He has also interviewed those with more of a worm’s-eye view: drivers, roadies, office staff, old girlfriends and former roommates like James Phelge, whose surname the band would appropriate to designate songs that were group compositions rather than Jagger-Richard numbers.

“Brian Jones was the main man in the Stones; Jagger got everything from him,” the drummer Ginger Baker, who played in the band at some of its earliest shows and went on to become famous as a member of Cream, says in the book. “Brian was much more of a musician than Jagger will ever be — although Jagger’s a great economist.”

Citing those present at the creation, Mr. Trynka contends that Jones had a hand in composing some well-known Stones tracks, including “Paint It, Black” and “Under My Thumb.” He also claims that “Ruby Tuesday,” a No. 1 hit early in 1967, is actually a Jones-Richards collaboration — written not by Mr. Richards in a burst of inspiration and heartbreak in a Los Angeles hotel room, which is how the story is told in “Life” and elsewhere, but, according to Ms. Faithfull and Mr. Kramer, “labored over” by the pair in London for weeks.

“I used to say to Brain, ‘What on earth are you doing?’ ” Stan Blackbourne, the accountant for the Rolling Stones at their mid-1960s peak, recalls in the book. “ ‘You write some of these songs, and you give the name over as if Mick Jagger has done it. Do you understand, you’re giving ’em thousands of pounds!’ All the time I used to tell him, ‘You’re writing a blank check.’ ”

Mr. Trynka also looks into the circumstances of Jones’s death, on July 3, 1969, in the swimming pool at his home in East Sussex, once owned by A. A. Milne, but after all the Sturm und Drang that has come before, the subject is somewhat anticlimactic. In numerous books and in films like “Stoned,” it has been suggested that Jones was murdered, but Mr. Trynka painstakingly examines the flaws in each of the theories, and ends up close to the official verdict, “death by misadventure,” because of drug and alcohol consumption.

“The official coroner’s verdict on Brian’s death was perfunctory and lazy,” Mr. Trynka concludes. Nonetheless, “I’ve come to share their belief that Brian’s death was most likely a tragic accident” and to believe that “many of the existing theories that his death was in fact murder rely on unreliable witnesses.”

In the end, with the advantage of 45 years’ perspective, Mr. Trynka maintains, it is Jones’s music that matters. “It’s understandable why the survivors resent Brian Jones beyond the grave,” given his founder’s role, he argues, and also writes: “Brian Jones got many things wrong in his life, but the most important thing he got right.”

 

 

 

 

 

Rolling Stones – Memory Motel 1976

This song is off of the Rolling Stones album Black and Blue from 1976. The album was not one of their best. It was the album they were trying out new guitarist to take the place of Mick Taylor who had just left. This is one of my favorite Stones songs. There was an actual Memory Motel in Montauk, New York. This is a rare song that both Mick and Keith sing the lead vocals on.

It has a haunting melody and lyrics that stick with you. Some say the Hannah in the song is referring to Carly Simon and some say it’s Annie Leibovitz. Whoever the muse was, they inspired a beautiful song.

Hannah honey was a peachy kind of girl
Her eyes were hazel
And her nose were slightly curved
We spent a lonely night at the Memory Motel
It’s on the ocean, I guess you know it well
It took a starry night to steal my breath away
Down on the water front
Her hair all drenched in spray

Hannah baby was a honey of a girl
Her eyes were hazel
And her teeth were slightly curved
She took my guitar and she began to play
She sang a song to me
Stuck right in my brain

You’re just a memory of a love
That used to be
You’re just a memory of a love
That used to mean so much to me

She got a mind of her own
And she use it well
Well she’s one of a kind
She’s got a mind
She got a mind of her own
And she use it mighty fine

She drove a pick-up truck
Painted green and blue
The tires were wearing thin
She turned a mile or two
When I asked her where she headed for
“Back up to Boston I’m singing in a bar”
I got to fly today on down to Baton Rouge
My nerves are shot already
The road ain’t all that smooth
Across in Texas is the rose of San Antone
I keep on a feeling that’s gnawing in my bones

You’re just a memory of a love
That used to mean so much to me
You’re just a memory girl
You’re just a sweet memory
And it used to mean so much to me
Sha la la la la

She got a mind of her own
And she use it well
Mighty fine, she’s one of a kind

On the seventh day my eyes were all a glaze
We’ve been ten thousand miles
Been in fifteen states
Every woman seemed to fade out of my mind
I hit the bottle and hit the sack and cried
What’s all this laughter on the 22nd floor
It’s just some friends of mine
And they’re busting down the door
Been a lonely night at the Memory Motel

Up and Down with The Rolling Stones

This was the first book I read on the Rolling Stones. It’s an easy read but a dark read. It’s written by Tony Sanchez, Keith’s drug dealer and sometimes partner in crime. Tony was also a photographer who took photos of the Stones and the Moody Blues. Spanish Tony, as he was called hung around with the Stones and also knew the Beatles.

It’s full of wrecked cars, heroin, dead friends, sleazy characters and some eventful journeys. I would take some of the stories with a grain of salt but some of the events were verified by Keith’s book “Life.”

Tony had some underworld connections like the famous Kray Twins of the 60s. He opened a club with some backing from the Stones and according to him saved Keith from some setups from time to time with his connections. The Nellcote period is covered well and the film of the 1972 tour that was never released except for a bootleg was explained.

Anita Pallenberg came off looking worse than anyone. Tony talks about Anita’s interest in black magic, Kenneth Anger and how she would practice some of the rituals. He described her as a very nasty and petty woman, especially to Bianca. She was first with Brian…then with Keith and a brief spell with Mick.

The book concentrates on Keith and Mick…big surprise there…also on Brian Jones. he goes through the dynamics between the three.  He talks about the bust at Redlands and Tony trying to bribe some high ranking police investigators to “lose” the evidence but it didn’t work.

He tells one story happened at Mick Jagger’s 26th birthday party at the club that Tony partly owned (The Vesuvio Club) and the DJ was playing their new song Sympathy for the Devil…In walks, Paul McCartney with the Hey Jude and Revolution single under his arm and it was played… people went nuts. Tony said that Mick felt upstaged…After that Tony had his cousin…a big Beatles fan…attempt to drive John Lennon home…but he could hardly drive the car because he was so nervous and John and Yoko were jerked all over the back seat so John ended up getting out and walking…

There are some funny stories in this about Keith and the world he created.

Tony was with the Stones until 1976 and he just walked away after some confusion backstage over a backstage pass…He was carrying dope to someone and so he says he checked himself in a rehab.

If you are a Stones fan you should like it.