Everyone who has done their Rolling Stones homework knows that Brian Jones started the band, that he was their most naturally gifted musician, that he contributed more to their recordings than Mick and Keith want you to believe. Unfortunately, Brian did not live to drill his version of events into your consciousness the way Mick has with his carefully calculated interviews and Keith has with his critically drooled-over doorstop of an autobiography. Had he lived beyond 1969, Brian Jones probably would not have anyway based on the way Paul Trynka presents the guitarist/keyboardist/saxophonist/sitarist/marimbaist/etc. in his new biography Brian Jones: The Making of The Rolling Stones. The most vilified member of the Stones comes across as less violent, less perpetually drugged, less useless here.
Not that Trynka shies away from Jones’s most abhorrent traits. We are well informed that Brian Jones was a narcissistic, misogynistic, often callous, sometimes abusive ball of paranoia. But Mick and Keith already told you that. Armed with intensive research and a multitude of interviews, Trynka reports that Brian could be kind and he rarely complained about the nasty treatment his co-workers showered on him. Most importantly, Trynka is intent upon setting the record straight regarding Jones’s contributions to the Stones’ music and music in general. His eclectic contributions shaped much of The Rolling Stones’ music during their most creatively fertile period of 1965 through 1967. Brian did more than add sitar and recorder to “Paint It Black” and “Ruby Tuesday”, two of the band’s best loved songs; he co-wrote them. Most significantly of all, we learn that the open-tunings Keith claims he stole from Ry Cooder in the late sixties had actually been stolen a lot earlier from Brian Jones, who’d used them for his slide work on tracks such as “Little Red Rooster” and “I Can’t Be Satisfied”. And just as Keith would later replace Bill Wyman’s bass parts in later years, Brian would sometimes do that with Keith’s guitar on early Stones records. By Trynka’s insistence, Brian also did more to hip the world to African-American and African music than any other white musician of his generation.
While clearing up the Brian Jones story, Trynka also tidies up some other areas that have been distorted by the self-serving accounts of those who knew him. We learn that the uncredited Jack Nitzsche was often a more hands-on producer than Andrew Oldham, that Andrew’s ousting may have stemmed from his refusal to give Mick a one-third share of Immediate Records, and that Dick Hattrell, the roommate Brian tortured mercilessly during the group’s early days, is a real person, with real feelings who was well aware of how he was being mistreated.
Brian Jones was not necessarily a good person, but he was a person, and by recognizing this, Paul Trynka gives us a balanced and compassionate portrait of a guy who has been slagged off and diminished a lot in Rolling Stones history. The fact is there would have been no Rolling Stones without him. He at least deserves some respect for that. Brian Jones: The Making of The Rolling Stones delivers it.
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