Brian Jones Confidential

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Look, there's politics. There's stories about Hurricane Katrina. And then there's the things that really matter. Like whether Brian Jones was ever important to the Rolling Stones.

In a post that is perfectly ironic (in the sense that you can't tell whether he's serious or clowning), Glenn Reynolds writes, "Brian Jones was the real talent in that band anyway; they've just been coasting since he died."

On his own blog (and presumably on his own time), Reason's Matt Welch (the Ben Affleck of this outfit), takes the Instapundit to task:

After Jones died, the Stones made three of the best rock records of all time, in three years. One of the reasons they were able to creatively withstand the loss of the band's "real talent," was that, um, Jones didn't write any songs.

Don't get me wrong—I've certainly made the "Brian Jones was the real talent in the Stones argument," too, and there's no question the man had some fierce style. But I've also drank 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes, and closely observed the workings of a two-story bong called "The Exterminator." All three activities had pretty much revealed their limitations by age 21.

Whole Welch bit here. Glam shot of Matt (far right, biting his lip like it's Ron Wood's nipple) on stage with The Corvids here.

John Leo col, in which he disses the Glimmer Twins et al for dissing the prez with their new song, "Sweet Neocon," here.

And a piece that suggests that perhaps Brian Jones was the lucky one in the Stones.

NEXT: Pigs in Space

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  1. It’s a gas, gas, gas…

  2. Well, he was the best musician technically. However, it doesn’t matter how many stringed instruments you can play, if you can’t come up with a signature riff.

    On another note, Sinatra must have changed his tune later on. I’ve read that he thought Something was the greatest love song ever written.

  3. From the Mountain Goats

    anti-music song

    i saw you on tv
    doing a bad imitation of van morrison
    and i saw you on tv
    doing a bad imitation of a second rate songwriter from the eighties named morrissey
    i never liked morrissey
    and i don’t like you.

    i saw you tv,
    doing an imitation of an imitation of jimi hendrix
    that’s really pathetic
    and i saw you on tv
    trying to figure out what brian jones would be like if he’d have lived ’til today
    i can tell you myself
    he’d be like brian wilson
    i don’t like brian wilson
    and i don’t like you
    i don’t like you.

  4. Nice picture Matt! What were you playin’ at the time, Free Bird?

    Oh, and I know this isn’t on topic, but I came across photographic evidence that Johnny Cash was the first punk rocker here. …Something I’d always known anyway.

    Sorry I don’t have much to say about Brian Jones, but I really liked Brian Jonestown Massacre.

  5. Nah, you don’t bite yr lip during “Freebird,” you roll your head back, close your eyes, and do one of those gruesome lead-guitar lip-tweaks, while slowly shaking your head back and forth. I’d guess that’s a song called “Worried.”

  6. I haven’t listened to the Rolling Stones enough to know for sure, but after he keeled over, did they ever record another song with a sitar? If they didn’t, then it was for the best.

    You can be a great instrumentalist without being much of a musician. Like the army of 80s fretboard wankers. You can be a great musician and not a great instrumentalist, like Thelonious Monk. Or both, or neither.

  7. That stupid face that guitar players always make is called a “hot face”. It is usually accompanied by a “tasty lick”.

  8. I don’t know that I’d argue that Brian Jones was the real talent in the Stones, but he was certainly a real talent in the band. While it’s true they produced some of their finest work after his departure, musically it was in a fairly conservative blues-rock tradition. Never again did they do anything as subtle or musically adventurous as “Between the Buttons”. These days, I find myself listening to that album more than anything else in their catalog.

    While it’s true Jones didn’t write any of the songs, it’s also true a lot more changed in the Stones than just a guitar style after he left. Post Jones, the Stones became mostly an updated vaudeville act, albeit a very, very good one.

  9. From Nick’s article
    Was it really only a quarter-century ago that the Sex Pistols gloriously, censoriously, questioned the very humanity of that same queen?

    Maybe it was a big deal in Jolly England but that whole bit seemed as daring to me as stealing a Gideon’s Bible.

  10. What Brian Jones had that Keith never has really had was the ability to articulate his musical phrasing. That’s something different than coming up with good riffs, like Keith has, and it’s something the Stones have pretty much had to hire out for since Jones died — Mick Taylor is the perfect example of that. I don’t know why but it’s pretty rare that you can find a real good rhythm player and a real good lead player inhabiting the same body, though they’re out there, of course (see Tony Rice, one of the best of each).

  11. If the Rolling Stones were coasting after the death of Brian Jones, they were also coasting for a while before: Brian Jones had been kicked out of the band before his death.

    Yes, between the Buttons is a really good album, but Brian Jones wrote none of its songs: They were all the work of Keith Richard and Mick Jagger. How can anyone state with any kind of assurance that Jones’ guitar playing on that album was not only more important than the lyrics and melodies, but also the product of his creativity? How can we say that his contribution was any more than a very good technical execution of what the album’s producer told him to do?

    If you want a good window into the influence of Brian Jones, consider this: In the mid to late 1960s, another band’s lead guitarist (George Harrison) was taking his band along with him in an exploration of Hindu-style mysticism and music. At the same time, Brian Jones was delving with just as much ferver into “black majick” and taking the Stones with him.

    With that in mind, compare “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with “Their Satanic Majesty’s Request”.

  12. It’s been my understanding that Brian Jones wrote many of the Stones’ songs, but never received the songwriting credits for them, because that was the way Jagger and Richards ran the band, they refused to share the credit. Of course, I get this second-hand from Genesis P-Orridge who seemed to think Brian Jones was worthy of writing a really good song about: Godstar.

  13. Sorry I don’t have much to say about Brian Jones, but I really liked Brian Jonestown Massacre.

    Brian Jonestown Massacre – heck yeah!

    That stupid face that guitar players always make is called a “hot face”. It is usually accompanied by a “tasty lick”.

    I believe Frank Zappa referred to it as “jerking off”, musically speaking.

  14. accompanied by a “tasty lick”.

    I believe Frank Zappa referred to it as “jerking off”, musically speaking.

    That’s right. He called it the “I’m shootin’ now!” face.

  15. “It’s been my understanding that Brian Jones wrote many of the Stones’ songs, but never received the songwriting credits for them, because that was the way Jagger and Richards ran the band . . . ”
    —– nostradumbass

    Was Brian Jones also the high school student who wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind” and let Bob Dylan take the credit? It sometimes amazes me to see, in the comments to the Hit & Run blog, how gullible some people can be notwithstanding that they read something as rational as Reason magazine. Please, nostadumbass, tell us you don’t actually believe what you wrote.

  16. I have to confess that I’m a little perplexed by the whole Brian Jones mystique. I know he played all the “exotic” instruments, and I have no gripe with that (as some do). But can anyone tell me what guitar licks of his stand out? And which, if any, of his contributions defined the band such that they supposedly were not the same without him? I know Richards played the lead on Sympathy for the Devil (while Jones shook marraccas). I’ll make another confession here that I’m not familiar with most of Between the Buttons, so I’ll have to ask that the answer steer away from the “deep cuts” on that….

  17. compare “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with “Their Satanic Majesty’s Request”.

    I dislike the former so much (compared to the rest of the Beatles’ catalogue) that I’m tempted to say that the latter was better. Though it was only by rejecting that flight of fancy that the Stones became the Stones (their very next recorded song was “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”; the next album was “Beggar’s Banquet”).

    I had no idea about “hot face”….

  18. I dislike the former so much (compared to the rest of the Beatles’ catalogue) that I’m tempted to say that the latter was better.

    Soooo true.

    Somehow I doubt the thing Darnielle wrote about Brian Wilson. He was on firmer ground when speculating about Hendrix and the glass of water and the ice cubes.

  19. I have to confess that I’m a little perplexed by the whole Brian Jones mystique. I know he played all the “exotic” instruments, and I have no gripe with that (as some do). But can anyone tell me what guitar licks of his stand out?

    By Beggar’s Banquet he really wasn’t contributing much. Prior to that he did all the slide guitar on their earlier stuff (Little Red Rooster, Can’t Be Satisfied), sitar (Mother’s Little Helper, Street Fighting Man), recorder and mellotron (Ruby Tuesday). As an aside he also contributed the saxophone to the Beatles “Baby You’re a Rich Man” and “You Know My Name, Look Up My Number”.

    You couldn’t define him so much as a riff-rocker, or even really as a guitar player. Mostly his contributions were in arrangements and colorations.

    The mystique, of course, is mostly generated by dying at an opportune time. 😉

  20. OK so some of you don’t like Sgt. Pepper’s LHCB. I can make the same point by inviting compare/contrast of Satanic Majesties with Rubber Soul or Revolver.

    Jeez. And the idea that Brian Jones was the true author of Jagger/Richard songs because that’s the way the band was run? Jagger’s judgment was so drug-impaired that he let a Bill Wyman song get on Satanic Majesties, yet he still had sense enough to realize that anything Brian Jones wrote was crap.

  21. Pig Mannix,

    Thanks. You’ve backed what I already thought!

  22. The mystique, of course, is mostly generated by dying at an opportune time. 😉

    And let’s not forget that he looked very, very cool & weird. And that he was always doing something intriguing in the corner. And that Mick & Keith stole his girlfriend, or however that story goes.

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