Alibi V.23 No.39 • Sept 25-Oct 1, 2014 

Get Lit

Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones

New bio explores fallen rock star’s life and death

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Brian Jones played guitar. As a founding member of a band he named The Rolling Stones, Jones was also a gifted multi-instrumentalist. He deeply dug the blues and played them with uncommon virtuosity, but he couldn’t write pop songs. This profound problem contributed to his estrangement from his bandmates as their popularity waxed worldwide in the mid 1960s.

At the tender age of 27 and forced from the Stones in 1969, Jones ended up dead in a swimming pool on an estate once owned by the author of Winnie the Pooh. He left behind at least five children and a haunting enigma that was often overshadowed by the continual rise and sustained success of his former cohorts.

The Guitar Magazine founder and rock journalist Paul Trynka explores Jones’ life and death in frightening detail—and with occasionally devilish sympathy—in his forthcoming book Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones.

Trynka avoids the hagiography common in many rocanrol history texts by presenting the story of Brian Jones in a foreboding but clinical fashion that draws the reader into the sometimes sordid, always fascinating life lived by a member of The Rolling Stones.

The first chapter, titled “Secrets and Lies,” is an examination of the town of Cheltenham, a small city on England’s border with Wales. There, as a youth, Jones grappled with issues ranging from the secretive military activities of his father to his own overwhelming sexuality—in a town as known for its conservative bourgeois presentation as its brothels and gambling pits.

The Rolling Stones circa 1964
The Rolling Stones circa 1964

Following equally foreshadowing Chapter 2, “Crossroads,” Trynka hops aboard the speeding freight-train-to-hell that Jones created with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Throughout the narrative the author acts as observer. He neither glorifies nor denigrates the sometimes wanton subcultural proclivities of a youthful R&B band on the rise.

Instead, Trynka seems both omniscient and detached, relying on anecdotes of the people, musical instruments and animals that filled Jones’ life with substance and conflict. The only truly critical arguments in this work come at Jagger’s and Richards’ expense.

Every chapter title in this book has dark connotations, which one supposes is symbolic of the effect Jones had on himself and the world around him. This extensive biography is far from depressing or sensationally satanic. Trynka offers compelling insights into the guitarist’s mind and character by relating tales ranging from his first romanticized excursions into the blues of Robert Johnson in the late ’50s to early ’60s to his search for Bou Jeloud, a mythical Pan-like dancer, in the mountains of Morocco as the end of his life neared.

The mystery that was Brian Jones was compounded by his untimely death. Trynka employs a thoroughly researched afterword to present the plethora of conspiracy theories surrounding the musician’s demise and openly suggests that the revisionism of Jagger and Richards has contributed to Jones’ neglect in the rock pantheon; aside from their own Stygian affiliations, that’s something that will probably land The Glimmer Twins a stint in hell.

Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones
Paul Trynka
Viking Press
hardcover
biography
$28.95