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Brian Jones
Cover of Brian Jones
Brian Jones
The Making of the Rolling Stones
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"Should be unfailingly interesting to any Stones fan." —Larry Rhoter, New York Times

The Rolling Stones' rise to fame is one of rock 'n' roll's epic stories. Yet one crucial part of that story has never been fully told: the role of Brian Jones, the visionary who founded the band and meticulously controlled their early sound, only to be dethroned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Tormented by paranoia and drug problems, Jones drowned at the age of twenty-seven. Drawing on new information and interviews with Richards, Andrew Oldham, and Marianne Faithfull, among dozens of others, Brian Jones lays bare the Rolling Stones' full story, in all its glory and squalor.
"Should be unfailingly interesting to any Stones fan." —Larry Rhoter, New York Times

The Rolling Stones' rise to fame is one of rock 'n' roll's epic stories. Yet one crucial part of that story has never been fully told: the role of Brian Jones, the visionary who founded the band and meticulously controlled their early sound, only to be dethroned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Tormented by paranoia and drug problems, Jones drowned at the age of twenty-seven. Drawing on new information and interviews with Richards, Andrew Oldham, and Marianne Faithfull, among dozens of others, Brian Jones lays bare the Rolling Stones' full story, in all its glory and squalor.
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    IT WAS ONLY a raggle-taggle bunch of musicians, kids really, and the way history normally unfolds, there should have been no way any witnesses would have spotted that something world-changing was happening. Yet, the leader of the band did have something special about him – the way he sneered at the audience, getting in their faces, coaxing out shimmering glissandos from his guitar in a style no one had ever seen before, or switching over to an amplified blues harp, still a radically new instrument for most of the teenagers who watched him and his companions intently. Elmo Lewis, as he called himself, introduced several of the numbers and ministered to the rest of his band lovingly, like a mother hen, checking that the singer Mick had got the beat, and keeping a close eye on his fellow guitarist's fretboard. Occasionally, when the riffs cohered into something stirring and electrifying, he and the piano player – the other more obviously experienced musician – would look at each other and smile in satisfaction.

    Truth is, though, that some people in that decent-sized crowd watching the Rolling Stones, crammed on to the Marquee stage, in July 1962 – and some among those at other little clubs around London over the next few weeks – did spot that something unique was happening. One girl felt the ground beneath her shifting as the band ripped through twenty songs, picked out and overseen by the blond guitarist. At her London grammar school, Cleo Sylvestre had been taught that the role of black people in culture was as 'heathens and savages'. Now, as the band hot-wired this obscure music from deep within the black ghettos of the Chicago Southside and the Mississippi Delta, a new world opened up – a world in which black people like her would have a voice, a role.

    Some musicians spotted it, too. Ginger Baker, an aggressive young drummer who had cut his teeth in the trad jazz clubs and was being persuaded into the blues scene by the silver-tongued club owner Alexis Korner, was dismissive of the Stones' upstart singer. Yet still he reckoned that the band's exuberant, snotty, teenage take on this deep, resonant music was something radical and new.

    Businessmen got it. Harold Pendleton, manager of the Marquee and a mainstay of the jazz scene, was likewise unimpressed by the band's music yet still noted something powerful about their attitude – a challenging of authority, a disregard for convention that emanated principally from Brian Jones, the twenty-one-year-old who styled himself Elmo Lewis. Jones was a visionary, Pendleton reckoned, although there was something he didn't like about him. He used the term 'evil genius'.

    As for Brian himself, the momentary satisfaction he felt as the band he'd masterminded took to the stage was itself world-changing. The music was the one thing that gave meaning to a life that was fractured, restless and unhappy. Now, over fifty years on, that situation endures. Brian Jones got many things wrong in his life, but the most important thing he got right, for his music was world-changing.

    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. We've seen Brian Jones described as a 'kind of rotting attachment'. This phrase in itself gives an idea of the magnitude of this story. The dark power of the Stones' music derives from their internal battles, a sequence of betrayals, back-biting, sexual oneupmanship, violence, madness and mania.

    The aim of this book is not to gloss over the many flaws of Brian Jones, for if ever a man was...

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    October 1, 2014
    A lively biography of the enigmatic founder of the Rolling Stones, who was dethroned and died just as the band approached its artistic peak.Raised in the conservative enclave of Cheltenham, Brian Jones' (1942-1969) family life was the epitome of middle-class English repression and conformity. However, the bureaucratic culture of Cheltenham would mold Jones' complex, roguish personality. Music journalist Trynka's (David Bowie: Starman, 2011, etc.) portrait is that of a young man determined to get what he wanted, flaunting conventions and consequences and exhibiting little conscience as he cemented his ambition to become a professional musician. His obsession with American blues led him to London, where Jones immediately made a name for himself and soon met Mick Jagger and Keith Richards through the circle of musicians that hung around impresario Alexis Korner. It was Jones who corralled the members of the Rolling Stones, named the band after a Muddy Waters lyric, and influenced the band's musical style by teaching Richards open G tuning, a blues staple that would define the Stones' sound. There was no question that Jones was the Stones' unrivaled leader. As they began charting success, they quickly became infamous for their infighting and drama, and the power struggles between Jones and the Jagger-Richards axis, often involving women, were well-documented. Eventually, Jones was dismissed, and several weeks later, he was found dead in his swimming pool, the exact details of his death still a controversy. Trynka expertly explores the paradoxes of Jones' inner life, drawing on countless interviews of friends and fellow musicians, but there are times when the author comes across as righteously defensive of Jones, despite correcting many of the apparently erroneous claims made by Richards in his own autobiography. Occasionally, Trynka's evidence creates a he said, she said situation that fails to definitively set the record straight. There is no disputing, however, that Jones was the mastermind of the Stones, and Trynka's well-researched biography rightly reclaims his legacy. An intimate portrait of the multifaceted and beguiling Jones, who forever changed popular music and culture.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    October 15, 2014

    Brian Jones died at age 27 in 1969, after being kicked out of the band that he formed in the early Sixties. In this biography, journalist and author Trynka (David Bowie: Starman) attempts to bring him back to the forefront of the Rolling Stones's story as an essential part of the band's formative years, as well as to highlight his influential contributions to rock, such as bringing African American R&B and blues to wider audiences and in his later years embracing music from other cultures. Jones's tragic story is one of musical virtuosity hampered by a fragile personality, drug abuse, and, according to the author, victimization by authority figures, the establishment media, and even his fellow band members. Trynka interviewed dozens of Jones's contemporaries and those who knew him well. The book is especially effective at evoking the social scene of Swinging London and the tumult and dysfunction of the Stones's inner circle. VERDICT Not delving deeply into the music of the band once they achieved fame, this work will be essential to those wanting a full chronicle of the Stones. While the author treats Jones's story fairly and describes both his talents and his flaws, in the end, the musician remains a somewhat enigmatic and elusive figure. [See Prepub Alert, 4/14/14.]--James Collins, Morristown-Morris Twp. P.L., NJ

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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