"If Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were the mind and body of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones, standing most of the time in the shadows, was clearly the soul.
“Brian, in with Keith and Mick from the earliest – when the Stones were still largely an R&B discussion group meeting in a Soho pub – was labeled the quietest, the moodiest of the group. But he was in fact the most vocal to the press, angrily and sharply defending the Stones' then-radical style of music, their appearance, their politics, and their whole style of life.”
Brian Jones: Sympathy for the Devil,” Rolling Stone, August 09, 1969Brian Jones, legendary musician and founding member of the Rolling Stones died July 3, 1969 at the age of 27. He was pulled from a swimming pool at his Cotchford Farm estate (formerly owned by A.A. Milne, author of the Winnie the Pooh books) in Hartfield, East Sussex.
Jones developed a serious drug problem over the years, and his role in the band had steadily diminished. The band asked Jones to leave the Rolling Stones in June 1969. His drinking and drug-taking had reportedly taken a toll on his health.
On June 8, Jones announced he was leaving the Stones permanently due to a difference in music policy. He revealed nothing about his own future further than: "I want to play my own kind of music." Jones was replaced in the group by guitarist Mick Taylor.
An inquest in Jones' death returned a verdict of death by misadventure, despite post mortem results showing Jones had not taken illegal drugs and had only consumed the alcoholic equivalent of three and a half pints of beer. He was also reported to be asthmatic.
Conspiracy theorists insist he was murdered – and police reviewed the case as recently as 2010 but did not reopen inquiries.
One theory was that Jones was killed in a scuffle or perhaps during horseplay with his disgruntled minder Frank Thorogood. Thorogood had previously been employed by The Rolling Stones to do some work on Keith Richard's house, so he was trusted. Jones had employed a team of three builders at Cotchford, and Thorogood was staying there in the room over the garage to oversee the renovations and to keep an eye on Jones.
The validity of the witnesses to the Thorogood conspiracy is questionable, especially since none had identified themselves or come forward until several years later when rumors of ill-deeds became rife.
One report does say while Thorogood was in a hospital dying of cancer, he confessed to Tom Keylock, Rolling Stones tour manager, that he had killed Brian Jones.
(“Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones dies in his swimming pool.” thehistoryofrockmusic.com. July 02, 1969.)
Wohlin says she and Brian had planned to go to a Rolling Stones Hyde Park concert together where the Stones would introduce Taylor, Jones' replacement, so Brian could publicly show he had no hard feelings about leaving the Rolling Stones. Jones died just two days prior to the concert.
The Stones, although grief-stricken, decided they would go ahead with the gig and dedicate their performance to him. What was supposed to be a party turned out to be a memorial. Keith Richards later wrote:
“The all-important thing for us was it was our first appearance for a long time, and with a change of personnel. It was Mick Taylor's first gig. We were going to do it anyway. Obviously a statement had to be made of one kind or another, so we turned it into a memorial for Brian. We wanted to see him off in grand style. The ups and downs with the guy are one thing, but when his time's over, release the doves, or in this case the sackfuls of white butterflies (butterflies released in tribute at the concert)."
(Keith Richards. Life. 2011.)
Before the Stones kicked off their set on July 5, Jagger addressed the crowd, asking them to be quiet so he could read a tribute to Jones. He then read two stanzas of Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem on John Keats's death, Adonais:
Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep —
He hath awakened from the dream of life —
‘Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance, strike with our spirit’s knife
Invulnerable nothings. — We decay
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.
The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments. — Die,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled! ….
“27” and the Memorial Concert at Hyde Park
It seems that only the good and troubled die young, so let's add to the mysterious tale of the death of Brian Jones.
The “27 Club” is a term that refers to the belief that an unusually high number of popular musicians and other artists have died at age 27, often as a result of drug and alcohol abuse, or violent means such as homicide or suicide. Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse are said to be the “Big Six” in the club. Some people think death at this age haunts celebrities and some pretty weird things surround the tragedies.
(Howard Sounes. 27: A History of the 27 Club. November 12, 2013.)
To add to the intrigue, consider it was reported that prior to buying Cotchford Farm, Brian Jones went on holiday to Ceylon and while there, he visited an astrologer. The astrologer supposedly told him, “Be careful swimming in the coming year. Don’t go into the water without a friend.”
In addition, in the immediate aftermath of Jones' death, Anna Wohlin suffered terrible depression and a miscarriage of the child she and Jones did not even know they were expecting.
(“The Real Brian Jones. Independent UK. November 15, 2005.)
And, for my own addition to the Brian Jones legend and mystique, I want to reveal my reason for writing this entry today. I just happened to be reading about Jones this morning when this photo really took me by surprise. Yes, this is a photo taken of the Rolling Stones playing the memorial concert on July 5, 1969, at Hyde Park. Look at it carefully.
Or, is it a shot of another person on the stage?
Or, is it Brian Jones making one last appearance onstage as a newly departed guest of the band? Is anyone besides me hearing the strange strains of a mellotron and a theremin in flight?
We're setting off with soft explosion
Bound for a star with fiery oceans
It's so very lonely, you're a hundred light years from home
Freezing red deserts turn to dark
Energy here in every part
It's so very lonely, you're six hundred light years from home
It's so very lonely, you're a thousand light years from home
“2000 Light Years From Home” The Rolling Stones