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Brian Jones

Mojo. July 1999

CHANCES ARE, regardless of where or what location you grew up in, there's a couple of types you've known at one time or another. Firstly, there's our resident Lothario – let's call him Vinnie – a little mad, bad and dangerous to know. The local tearaway. Vinnie's name often crops up in the same hushed breath as "back seat of a car", "knickers round her ankles", and "had to go away for a while until the heat died down".

Then there's this other guy. Let's call him Cedric. Bespectacled. Quiet. Nervy rather than nerdy. Disconcertingly distant, as if he's forever entertaining some private joke in your presence. Invited you round to his house one day and you wondered why he was so intent on playing you his dad's record collection, until it dawned on you that these obscure discs in their thick cardboard sleeves by black artists you'd never heard of weren't his dad's at all. They were his and he seemed to know every note, every nuance.

Brian Jones was both of these characters. And a few others besides. A complex and bewildering bunch of multiple personalities, a man who panhandled the Cheltenham Delta and then upped and left for London, where he conceived and founded the biggest rock'n'roll group of all time. A short guy with broad shoulders and a little-Welsh-bull chest that tapered down to a skinny waist, a bum like two boiled eggs in a handkerchief, drainpipe legs, and matching Achilles heels. How many contradictions can one frame take?

As a child he indulged in that most harmless of activities, bus-spotting. He also had a proclivity for staging car crashes with his Dinky toys and igniting them with lighter fuel. He carried those contradictions through into adult life. A softly-spoken, drinking, smoking, womanising Narcissus with a psychosomatic condition (asthma). A strutting, intense egotist with a gentle, shy smile that played across his face whenever the TV camera lingered long enough. A musical purist blessed, or cursed, with pop star looks. Eulogised by many. "Brian Jones, with his puffed-up Pisces, all-knowing, suffering fish eyes. Brian always ahead of style. Perfect Brian," as Lou Reed put it in Fallen Knights And Fallen Ladies, his elegiac 1972 essay on rock deaths. Demonised by just as many. "He was always nice to me," says Charlie Watts, "but he was not very liked, Brian. Stew [Ian Stewart, off-stage Stones pianist] just couldn't stand him. Bill [Wyman] never got on with Brian. Not Bill's fault. Brian's fault entirely." And misunderstood and misrepresented, it seems, as often as he was maligned.

The whole "Is it a boy or a girl?" thing starts with Brian Jones. He was the first heterosexual pop star to wear costume jewellery, off-stage and on. At the first of several drug-bust trials in 1967 he wore a navy-blue Mod suit with bell-bottom trousers and flared jacket, large floppy blue-and-white spotted tie and Cuban-heeled shoes. As you do. "He was the definitive, quintessential pop star," says Nick Kent. "He looked as good as any of the women in the '60s like Verushka or Francoise Hardy or Nico. And he did it himself. He didn't get a bunch of designers. It wasn't 'Brian Jones dressed by...' It was self-presentation. That was his art."

And it all went so terribly wrong. In 1962 he had a head full of the blues and a heart full of hope. By 1967 he had a wardrobe full of Chelsea velvet and Marrakesh silk. But by the summer of 1969 the blues was merely a distant, fading bottleneck note, the dandy clothes were crumpled in unwashed, hash burned heaps, and Brian Jones floated face down in a swimming pool.

BRIAN WAS A BRIGHT KID. NINE O LEVELS. Two A levels. Obvious university material. But, with a perverse intransigence that would become a hallmark of his short life, he took a series of menial jobs instead – everything from coalman to clerk – which exasperated his parents beyond endurance. It annoyed them even more when he was sacked from most of these dead-end occupations for petty pilfering. But the thieving didn't upset them half as much as when Brian kissed the girls and made them cry. And got one of them pregnant; she was 14. And then another; she was married. Then they packed him off to Europe, "until the heat died down".

"When I was 15 a bunch of us used to sneak into Sunday afternoon pictures at the Cheltenham Regal, when it was supposed to be adults only," says Pat Andrews, Brian's girlfriend from 1961 to 1963 and then mother-to-be of his third child, Mark (whose other Christian name, Julian, he shares with all Brian's sons, in honour of one of his heroes, tenor saxophonist Julian "Cannonball" Adderley).

"One of the guys in our little group said he had a friend who'd been away for six weeks and had just come back from Germany and Scandinavia. He said he'd lost track with his friends and had no girlfriend and seemed a bit low." Pat agreed to meet Brian on a blind date in the Aztec coffee bar. "I don't know why they called it the Aztec," she laughs. "It has fishermen's nets and candles. But it did have a jukebox. I'd arranged to meet him in this alcove. I didn't want my friends seeing him in case he was frumpy and looked like Abbott and Costello. He had beautiful golden shiny hair which you could see in the darkness, but he was wearing this tweed suit which put me off. But when we talked he was so different from all of the other Cheltenham boys. He wasn't after a quick grope. You could actually have a conversation with him."

In the re-telling of the Brian Jones story his birthplace is constantly caricatured as a Regency rest home for retired majors and assorted nobility. Charlie Watts still subscribes to this view: "He was a pretentious little sod. He was from Cheltenham. Does that sum it up? An English boy from Cheltenham." "He started off by being a clarinet player in a trad band," affirms Mick Jagger. "In a provincial West Country town. Very provincial."

That's not how Pat Andrews remembers it. "There were plenty of dancehalls. Five cinemas, including the Gaumont where the Stones played. During the war there'd been two airforce bases nearby. My older brothers used to get lots of American magazines and records from them. There was always a big jazz following in Cheltenham. In the '40s it was all bebop: Thelonious Monk and people like that would come and play. At the town hall it was all Kenny Ball and Johnny Dankworth. Then they opened up a place called the Barbecue, and it was always full of beatniks from the art college."

Brian was already proficient on saxophone, clarinet, guitar and piano when Pat met him. He had played trad jazz with people twice his age in local bars, in the quaintly monikered Cheltone Six, and had now progressed to an R&B combo called the Ramrods. "He was very modest at that time," says Pat. "He said he played a couple of musical instruments, tinkered around – he made it sound more like a hobby – but he didn't push it. He didn't start playing properly 'til he met Alexis."

When Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated came to town Jones immediately bonded with its talismanic leader. Seeking out the right people was a hallmark of his intuitive enthusiasm right from the start. It was Brian who would later pester Giorgio Gomelsky to let his new outfit play at the famed Station Hotel, Richmond. "We all went back to the coffee bar after the gig and Brian plonked himself down in front of Alexis," remembers Pat Andrews. "This kind of thing must have happened to Alexis hundreds of times, but Brian started telling him how much he loved the blues and what he played. He went home and got his guitar and went back and played for Alexis. Alexis was so taken by him that he gave him his address in London and said come up and stay."

Paul Jones, a fellow blues obsessive, was at that time playing parties around Oxford with the splendidly named Thunder Odin's Big Secret. "I'd just bought a 78 from the late '50s by Thunder & Lightning called ‘Santa Fe Blues’. Lightning was Lightnin' Hopkins. Thunder was Thunder Smith, who never made it as big as Lightnin' Hopkins," he laughs. "I met Brian at an Alexis Korner gig in the Ealing Jazz Club in 1962. We jammed together at a few parties in Oxford. I asked Brian if he would come and play guitar in my band but he said, 'I don't really want to be in a band unless I'm the leader.' Brian wasn't so good at that stage that I couldn't afford to be without him so I got another guitarist. A few months later Brian said he was moving to London and forming a band and would I like to be in it? I said no. I told him, I don't think we will ever be able to make enough money from playing this kind of music to make a living from it, and in any case I've just got a job with a dance band. I'm just going to do blues as a hobby!

"Brian was more enthusiastic about the immediate future than I was – and a bit more perceptive, too."

After a few reconnaissance visits to the capital Brian moved up permanently early in 1962. Pat, with six-month-old son Mark in tow, followed him soon afterwards. Dingy flats and dead-end jobs came and went as Brian pursued his mission. Alexis Korner was busy building a Trojan horse for R&B within the trad jazz enclave; just about anybody who would ever be anybody on that scene would sit in with his band, including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Charlie Watts was drummer with Blues Incorporated at the time.

"Alexis introduced me to Brian and we went off back to his flat," he remembers. "Bloody 'orrible thing, with one of the girls he was living with and was pregnant by him. He used to have short hair like Gerry Mulligan, blond, pushed forward, and he used to wear thick-fur crew-necked sweaters. He played bottleneck guitar and loved soprano saxophone – his big heroes were Sidney Bechet and Elmore James. He used to play harp quite well, too, which not many people did then." Brian, with Alexis Korner's blessing, eventually convinced Charlie Watts to join his fledging outfit. "Brian saw in Charlie what he had in abundance and demanded from any musician: commitment and idealism," Bill Wyman later noted.

It was Brian who placed a Musicians Wanted ad in Jazz News. It was Brian who auditioned future members, named the band after a Muddy Waters song, and assertively defended his callow crew when the purists gathered round to sneer. Not that Brian wasn't a fundamentalist himself. His R&B was Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker. He had to be convinced, by Keith Richards, that Chuck Berry wasn't just pop. In fact, potential Stones guitarist Geoff Bradford walked out over this very issue.

"I first saw Brian at the Ealing club playing with Paul Jones as interval guest with Alexis Korner," says early Stones member and Pretty Things founder Dick Taylor. "I was there with Mick and Keith and we were most impressed. He was playing an acoustic with a pick-up on it and his slide playing was extraordinary. It didn't take long to get talking with him and it wasn't long before he in turn heard Jagger sing and poached him for his band. Mick took Keith along which prompted Geoff Bradford and Brian Knight to walk and myself to get drafted in."

When the Stones toured with Bo Diddley the following year, such was Brian's reverence that the band dropped their Bo Diddley covers. Like the Beatles, the Stones occasionally had to pretend they played trad just to get a gig. Indeed, at their first big showcase, the Third Richmond Jazz Festival in August 1963, they played bottom of the bill to the likes of Terry Lightfoot and Acker Bilk. But within a year the Stones' brand of raw R&B had blown trad out of the water, and much else besides.

"A school friend's father was the promoter of gigs at the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff," remembers Nick Kent of his Damascene conversion as a 12-year-old in February 1964. "He got me backstage to meet them. Johnny Leyton was topping the bill. Jet Harris was on there. Their day was done. They weren't going to last another year. It was the changing of the guard culturally; the Stones just took that place. We had front-row seats and girls in the third row were threatening us with their stilettos. Backstage, Brian was clearly the leader. The others were sulking around but Brian was smiling and talking to all the girls."

The Rolling Stones' self-appointed leader had the musical acumen to back up his promotional skills. He 'worked out' blues harp, 'worked out' slide, 'worked out' the Bo Diddley beat, and later the dulcimer and sitar like they were mere maths equations. Ginger Baker told Laura Jackson in her book Golden Stone how, during an early rehearsal with the fledgling Stones, he and Jack Bruce had played complicated patterns which completely succeeded in throwing Jagger. Jones had to go over to the singer and shout 1-2-3-4 to show him where the beat was.

Pat Andrews also witnessed this early musical maturity first hand: "They were rehearsing in the Bricklayers Arms. Mick Avory or Carlo Little was on drums, I can't remember who. Dick Taylor was there and Brian Knight, too. They were doing this song and Mick was playing the harmonica. Brian was never the kind of person who would turn round and say, 'You're rubbish.' He just pulled his harmonica out of his pocket and said, 'Mick, I think you should play it this way.' I'll never forget the look on Mick's face. It was like, 'Oh, shit. What else can this guy do?'"

"Brian at that time had a certain amount of moodiness about him but also a brilliant sense of humour and enthusiasm," says Dick Taylor. "He was very encouraging about my bass playing which was nice as I only started to play the bass in order to work with the band and was quite unsure of my own ability on it. Both Keith and myself had a lot of respect for his musical abilities, which were quite a bit ahead of our own. We, and Mick, tried to steer things a bit more into the Chuck and Bo areas than maybe Brian wanted."

"He was very diligent," remembers Paul Jones. "Once he got into something he wanted to do he went for it. I used to play harp in first position all the time. I wasn't good at bending notes. I could only really do the Jimmy Reed top end stuff. It was Brian who showed me quite early on how to do cross harp and other positions."

Working out instruments like they were logic puzzles was one thing. Charlie Watts, versed in the ways of the jazz apprentice, doesn't necessarily think this made him a great musician. "Brian was one of these people – Ronnie's the same – if you left him in a room with an accordion, he'd play you a song in about two hours flat. He has a natural ability with an instrument. But they get fed up with it half-way through. He'd play dulcimer for a year and be very good on it, and it'd be on a lot of our records, 'Lady Jane' and all those, but then he got fed up and that was it. He could play the Mellotron, he could play this, he could play a bit of that. He could have been very good if he'd have stuck at any of it."

"Brian did have the ability to pick up things," agrees Jagger. "He was a clarinet player, then he played the guitar, and then he liked to dabble on the piano, then George Harrison played the sitar, so he had to try and learn, and so on." So was this multi-instrumentalism worthy of the plaudits? "No, not really," says Charlie Watts. "He's eulogised but he's not John Coltrane. He was not what people thought he was, and he was not a wonderful player." Watts’ view is that he is remembered more for being "the first one on a lot of things. And that is special you know." But even this comes with qualifiers: "He wasn't the first one on slide. But he was the first one that people saw on telly." Watts also claims that, despite the way that Brian's slide toughened up their version of 'I Wanna Be Your Man' ("We played it like an Elmore James song instead of like the bloody Beatles"), Jones's ex-associate Geoff Bradford was actually a better slide player.

"Geoff was marvellous," agrees Paul Jones, "but he would not have been right for the Stones. It wouldn't have been the Stones with me in it either. Even Ian Stewart would have spoiled that image. Brian's playing on 'I Wanna Be Your Man' may have been rudimentary – everything about that record was rudimentary. But the thing for me, and always will be with the Stones, was 'Rooster Blues' ['Little Red Rooster']. Of all the wonderful things that they ever did, to get a slow blues to Number 1 on the UK chart was the most astonishing achievement of all."

Jagger is equally unequivocal in his assessment. "He picked up this Elmore James guitar thing which really knocked me out when I first heard him play it, because I'd never heard anyone play it live before – I'd only heard it on records. And it was really good. He really had that down and he was very exciting. The sound was right. The glissandos were all right. There was a really good gut feeling when he played it in the pub. And that translated all the way up to 'I Wanna Be Your Man' – on this really not very good pop song, suddenly there was this really hot... I mean, you can play that stuff and it can sound like crap. It's all to do with getting the right tone out of the guitar and the amp, which in those days was relatively difficult to do – you didn't have all these boxes to make it up for you. No, he was good at that, he definitely was."

"Mick and Keith absolutely idolised Brian at the beginning," says Pat Andrews. "They'd never met anybody like him, but I also think from a teenage point of view there was a lot of animosity because they thought they were streetwise. I think it was to do with Mick and Keith being from Dartford, trying to be London lads, and then there's this hick from Cheltenham, charming, really good-looking, talented, well-educated, knowledgeable – I think it put their noses out of joint."

In December 1962 Bill Wyman enlisted in what he referred to in his autobiography Stone Alone as "this itinerant unit of starving, sullen, lapsed scholars and amateur music makers", and the classic Stones line-up was complete. By this time Brian, Mick, and Keith were sharing a flat together in Edith Grove, Chelsea, and concentrating full time on their music. Charlie Watts was a regular visitor: "It used to be hilarious all day. We used to get up at about three in the afternoon, just play records all day. And Brian used to be really funny in those days. Obsessed with R&B and promoting the Rolling Stones." Brian dipped his hand into cash registers and stole food to pay for band rehearsals and equipment during this crucial period. He would later elicit resentment when the other Stones discovered that he was paying himself an extra £5 as 'leader of the band'.

Kathy Etchingham, later Jimi Hendrix's girlfriend, first met Brian in 1963 in Peter Cook's Establishment Club and hung out with him at all the regular London watering holes: The Cromwellian, The Bag O' Nails, The Speakeasy. "A group of us used to go down to The Scene Club off Windmill Street and watch the Who when they were still the High Numbers – Brian, me, Angie Burdon, Georgie Fame and his girlfriend Carmen. We used to drop purple hearts and dance around like nobody's business. Brian never danced, of course – Jimi never did either. Too cool."

"Most of the time Brian was pretty cool," Pat Andrews agrees. "But he was a bloody liar and an opportunist as well." She and Brian had lived on sandwich-spread and steak and kidney pies through the dark days. Pat was bringing up their baby in damp flats while Brian worked at, and got sacked from, a series of grotty jobs. "Mick used to come round with Vesta packet meals. That was like eating at the Ritz," she laughs. But by early 1963 their relationship had deteriorated and she returned to Cheltenham. "He got involved with a lot of girls and people seemed to think I didn't know about them," she says stoically, "but nine times out of 10 he would tell me about them. You have to remember that he was practically thrown out of his house when he was 17. He was trying to survive. Wages weren't good. Girls would come round and bring Brian food. He was a bit of a gigolo, really." And his infamous jealousy? "I only really witnessed that twice. Once when I went to buy a drink and this guy spoke to me completely innocently. I'm very polite and if someone speaks to me I speak back. Brian didn't say a word until we got outside and then he went absolutely berserk. Another time I was working at the laundry and I got a bonus and bought myself a skirt and a top. He went berserk again and asked me how I got this bonus and what did I do to earn it. I know he had mood swings but I think they were more to do with his insecurity than anything else. You've got to remember where he was coming from. Demonstrative love was not the norm in his family."

"He carries a lot of luggage, we used to say," comments Bill Wyman in Stone Alone, referring both to the bags that always appeared under Brian's eyes at the merest hint of excess, and more metaphorically, to the emotional and psychological burdens that seemingly forever weighed him down. "He was always terribly paranoid," agrees Kathy Etchingham. "It didn't just start. He was paranoid when I first met him. Not as badly as later on but it was always a trait." Charlie Watts also subscribes to the view that Jones's problems were deep-rooted, and that fame merely accelerated their growth. "He got worse. He drank more. He took loads of drugs, when nobody knew in those days what they'd do to you. He was young. He got very big-headed."

At one point Jones borrowed some gold cufflinks from photographer Dezo Hoffman and promptly gave them to Bo Diddley: He also borrowed a bunch of rare blues singles from Long John Baldry. Baldry never saw them again; Brian had given them to photographer Nicky Wright: "He came around and thrust this bag in to my hand – 'Here you are, here's a present for you.' Inside were all these wonderful records – Howlin' Wolf, Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker. Twenty years later I realised they belonged to Long John Baldry when I read a magazine interview where he mentioned he'd lent a stash of Chess records to Brian, and never got them back! By then someone had stolen them from me, too."

"Brian could be sweet – he was intelligent, would listen to your conversation carefully, and was very charming. But," Nicky continues, "he could also seem totally psychotic and schizophrenic. We were coming back from Folkestone one night about nine o'clock, some time in 1963, and had stopped to look for something to eat. We found a fish shop, but it was closed. We banged on the door and this chap came to the door and told us, 'We've switched everything off, the fat's cooled down, we're closed.' No-one argued until I shouted, 'This is the Rolling Stones!' This little husband and wife were really sweet, and said come in and sit down while we see what we can do. So everybody's ordered their fish and chips, steak and chips, and it takes quite a long time while they heat up the fat or whatever. Finally they bring it to the table. Keith's happily eating away, so are the others, then Brian tries a forkful, and starts complaining: 'I don't like this! It's soggy! I can't eat this!' He stands up, takes this bottle, and squirts ketchup over the table and knocks his food onto the floor. It was heartbreaking – there's this couple thinking, 'Great, it's the Rolling Stones', then this happens."

"My best friend hated him, could've killed him," says Charlie Watts. "He was a scheming little bugger. And then as we got more famous he became more conscious of himself. He became sadder and more obnoxious at the same time. But to be fair to Brian, a lot of his problems with people might have been because he wasn't that healthy. He was a great catalyst, though, especially at the beginning."

"He was such an ambitious young man, so determined, long before the Stones ever were," confirms Paul Jones. "He was always dressed sharp. When he met people he would intensely concentrate on the conversation; that was very different to how he later became: very vague and self-concerned."

"I've been really shocked at some of the things that people have written about Brian. It's like they hated him or something," says Kathy Etchingham. "I was really miffed when Bill Wyman wrote in his book that I was one of Brian's critics. He used me as an example to show that other people hated Brian, as well as himself. What he said in his book was totally untrue."

Rolling Stones fan club secretary Shirley Arnold is another of those offering only positive testimony. Rooting through drawers and cupboards in her south London flat she proudly shows me mementos of her past association with the band; one of Brian's stage outfits, a red velvet frock coat, a little blue Dinky toy Commer pick-up truck and a carved wooden cutlery holder that Brian brought back from Morocco: a thank-you for all the fry-ups Shirley had cooked him when he'd been up all night getting wasted. "It's probably the only thing that came out of Cotchford that got to the person it was meant to get to," she says poignantly. Shirley used to go and see the Stones at Ken Colyer's Studio 51 on Sunday afternoons early in 1963. "They were doing all the old rhythm and blues stuff like 'Cops And Robbers' and 'Roll Over Beethoven'." One day, down at the front in the crush and the heat, she fainted and was passed over the heads of all the punters and into the dressing room. "Bill said the fan club's not that together. Would you like to run it?" It was a chance encounter that brought Shirley Arnold into the inner sanctum. "I was working in the city for a fiver a week. They offered me seven. I said I'd have done it for free. There was never any bitchiness in those early days within the band," she claims, "never anything that I thought was nasty."

CAST YOUR EYES OVER THOSE EARLY PUBLICITY SHOTS. They look remarkably prescient: Bill, the shrewd, slightly older guy; Charlie, looking like what he always was and forever will be, a jazzer who thought he'd give this pop lark a go; Keith looks like he's got potential, as soon as he grows into that demeanor; Mick, undeniably enthusiastic and undeniably gauche, too. And who's this one on the end? Dressed in white slacks and black polo neck, and already sporting a hairstyle that every band from the Byrds to the Yardbirds will aspire to over the next three years: there's yer pop star, mate.

"Brian, I'd met socially in 1964, before I met the Stones," says group photographer Gered Mankowitz. "At that time he was very charming, very polite, and well-mannered. A lovely man. Andrew Oldham liked the photos I'd done of Marianne Faithfull and asked if I'd do the Rolling Stones. In visual terms Brian was the strongest. On that first photo session that became the Out Of Our Heads cover he is in the foreground with his blond hair glowing, while Mick, always the leader on-stage, is right at the back. Brian's hair was coiffured, shaped, and pretty long, but he didn't just look shaggy like the Pretty Things or Them. It was groomed. Extraordinarily so for that time, when I think back."

"I don't think we'd have got where we are if he hadn't been at the helm at the beginning," says Charlie Watts. "But I think he wanted to be the lead singer. Well, of course, he wasn't. He wasn't a singer at all. His breathing would never allow him to be. And he wanted to be leader, and he wasn't a leader."

Gered Mankowitz saw the power struggles that were starting to develop within the band. "Remember that the lighting at concerts in those days was relatively crude, and there would just be a spotlight on the main singer. It might just manage to swing over if there was a guitar solo but otherwise the singer was the only one who was consistently lit." The few surviving early Top Of The Pops clips bear this out. As they mime their way through that month's hit record the camera focuses almost exclusively on Mick. On the rare occasions that it picks out Brian, stage left, he often appears to be disenchantedly gazing up at the studio monitors, already seemingly disillusioned with the pop route. As if to say, "How can you mime the blues?"

"The thing about Brian is that he wanted so much to be the leader of the band," confirms Jagger, "and when you try too hard to do something you quite often fail. He was so jealous of everybody else: that was his personality failing." Did he feel threatened by you? "I guess so. The thing is that singers always get more attention than anyone else, even if they're not very good. And Brian really didn't like that. He thought he should get more attention."

"But," Jagger stresses, "he was quite fluid in the way he talked. He was quite a good communicator at the beginning, though it was in a kind of slightly schoolmaster-ish way. But he did communicate, which was really needed then, because people didn't quite understand what it was all about." In the early days Brian was the self-appointed conscience of the band, the R&B evangelist writing earnest letters to the pop and trade press and to BBC producers. Within two years that entire raison d'etre had been usurped by Top 10 singles, and light entertainment impressionists doing Jagger's monkey walk and big lips on prime-time TV. Keith, also with an initial awkwardness, visible on those early televised appearances where he is not averse to the odd self-conscious mop-top shake of the head, gained confidence both through live performance and his burgeoning songwriting partnership with Jagger. Arguably it was this factor alone that irreversibly upset the subtle dynamic of the early Stones, edging Brian out of the limelight.

When Andrew Loog Oldham first came on the scene (becoming the band's co-manager with Eric Easton in 1963), Brian passed him off as an old Cheltenham pal of Giorgio Gomelsky who him-self had designs on managing the group. "Brian stepped up and said he was the leader," Oldham remembers. "When they came to the office first, it was Brian and Mick who appeared. Brian was an important power in the Stones while he could play. Once he'd stopped trying and decided to play rhythm guitar that was it. Brian was basically the manager of the group until Eric and I were. When a real manager comes along you've got to assume that some people can handle the loss of power and some can't. Within a short time of Eric and I signing the Stones for everything, they were coming to us direct. He'd lost his power. In Charlie Is My Darling, the film I made, he said he wouldn't be around at 27. That seemed to be a big age with him. He was self-destructive."

Gomelsky was promptly erased from the picture. Fame isn't so much fickle as ruthless, and its path, then as now, was littered with those whose faces simply didn't fit. Just ask Pete Best. And just ask Ian Stewart, who was relegated from bona fide Stones member to roadie in one fell swoop just because he didn't look the part. It was Loog's arrival that effectively hastened the demotion of Brian Jones, too. It was Loog who decided six was too many band members. More crucially it was the Stones manager who threw Jagger and Richards together as a song writing team. And as far as song writing goes, three's a crowd.

Jones, for his part, quickly decided that Loog was an embarrassment. This manifested itself at an early recording session when it became clear that, for all his Spectoresque aspirations, the teen Svengali didn't even know what a mix was. Unfortunately for Jones, Loog was the image spin doctor par excellence. It was Loog who came up with "Would You Let Your Daughter Marry A Rolling Stone?" It didn't help that a Rolling Stone had kids of his own.

They had done a photo shoot on the steps that led down to the river at Battersea Park," remembers Pat Andrews. "There was this little crèche where you could leave kids and we'd left Mark there and gone on the water chute. When we came out of the park Brian was carrying Mark on his shoulders. He was so happy that day and he'd got some money so he said, 'Let's go and buy Mark some clothes.' The next day Brian said Andrew had called him into the office and told him he mustn't be seen with Mark again. Brian got very upset by this. After all the hard work he'd gone through he wasn't going to be told that he couldn't walk through the park with his son."

"Oh yes, Andrew wouldn't have agreed with that," confirms Shirley Arnold. "The children were there but Brian couldn't acknowledge them. In those days it wasn't the thing to be married or have children. Look at John Lennon. Charlie and Shirley had to keep their marriage quiet as well."

AT THE HEIGHT OF THEIR POP FAME IN 1965 the Stones appeared on the Christmas edition of Ready Steady Go! miming hilariously to Sonny & Cher's 'I Got You Babe'. Brian in his pomp played Sonny to Cathy McGowan's Cher. By now he was well used to playing a part. But when they performed live on the programme it was Mick that the girls tried to mob, not Brian. The onset of fan hysteria only heightened the tensions. Gered Mankowitz remembers the mayhem of the Stones' second tour of the USA that year:

"Travelling TWA Ambassador class. Allen Klein whisking us through customs. Girls screaming at Mick. Girls pounding on the limo roof." There was a fair bit of partying with the elite as well. "Dylan doing everything in reverse to us. Wearing a mohair suit and then putting on jeans to go on-stage." It was on this tour that Mankowitz first saw signs of Brian's behavioural problems. "Signs of his disturbed personality were quite clearly manifesting themselves. At some point he just disappeared. Just walked out of the limo and disappeared. It was announced that he was ill but he'd just vanished."

"At the time I left the Stones everybody was still getting along just fine," remembers Dick Taylor. "But that was at the start of the Edith Grove period. We didn't see much of each other 'til he lived in the basement flat of the house the Pretty Things had in Belgravia. By then Brian had changed quite a bit: the more paranoid side of his character was a lot more evident. Which wasn't to say his humour didn't still come out, but it was just darker, and the drink and drugs certainly emphasised his mood swings."

Nicky Wright photographed the Stones for the sleeve of their self-titled debut album, which knocked With The Beatles off the top spot in May 1964 (the first time the Fabs had lost pole position in the LP charts in nearly a year). Even as Brian's band were challenging the hitherto unassailable Moptops, the man himself was cracking. "I had a chalet in a little place called Whitehill in Hampshire, near Borden Army Camp," Nicky Wright recalls. "Brian used to come down there in his Humber Hawk for peace and quiet, often to escape these girls' fathers. We'd hide his car in the woods in case any of them came looking for him. He had a string of girlfriends and a succession of babies. He was like a tom cat, really. In the summer of 1964, he'd come down to my chalet, and seemed rather out of it on something or other. As the evening drew on and whatever it was wore off, he was getting more and more morose, complaining about how he wasn't being listened to. Suddenly, standing in this tiny kitchen, he said, 'I'm fed up – this will show all of them,' took a knife, and slashed it across one wrist. My brother Patrick was standing by the kitchen door, and as he saw Brian doing this, he punched him clean on the chin, and Brian went out like alight. His wrist was just scratched, there was no serious damage."

Brian's cry for help that night didn't end there. Patrick Wright takes up the story: "He threw himself out of the ground-floor window in a futile attempt at committing suicide. We hadn't the faintest idea where he had gone. My brother rushed down to the police station and said rather apologetically to the policeman, 'Please don't tell anybody, but I've got Brian Jones staying at my house and he's fallen out of a window and we can't find him.' This roly-poly old-fashioned policeman came up, and we found this figure lying in the gorse bush beneath the window."

Nicky: "My father, very much of the old school, came over to see what all the fuss was about. Ever so politely Brian said to him, 'I'm awfully sorry, Mr Wright; I've been such a cunt.' Next morning I went upstairs, rather apologetically, to take Brian a cup of tea. He was all sweetness and light then, cheerful and happy."

Patrick Wright recalls another of Brian's visits to the Whitehill chalet: "He would come down with Linda [Lawrence] and a box of fan mail. She was pregnant by him and he would sit there opening his fan mail from teenage girls who wanted to go to bed with him or meet him in Epping Forest. He would say, 'Do you think I should do this one, Linda?' She would sit there looking absolutely distraught. She obviously loved him a great deal but he was callous: a nasty little man, really vicious and unkind." A few months later, in early 1965, Brian returned to the chalet with Linda and baby in tow. "They started having this argument, and their baby started crying," Nicky Wright remembers. "Suddenly he lost his temper, grabbed the baby from her, she started shouting at him, and he opened the window, and held it out of the window by one leg, upside down, saying, 'Shut the fuck up!' I ran over and pulled him away. It was shocking. He had absolutely no control over himself at all."

"I don't really want to pop-psychoanalyse Brian," says Jagger before rendering as astute and expansive account of his former colleague as he's ever given. "He wasn't really good material to be in the pop business. He was too sensitive to every real slight and perceived slight; just over-sensitive to everything. And then when he started taking drugs that became more and more exaggerated. I think he was a shy person – and shy people in show business put themselves at risk. Shy actors have to drink before they can act. I've seen shy singers who take drugs before they go out." (Ironically, Shirley Arnold had earlier said to me, "The amount of people in the industry I've seen who have to have a line of coke before they could go up and talk to Mick..." Readers who want to double the irony quota are referred to Tony Sanchez's book Up And Down With The Rolling Stones.)

"It's mostly to do with the fact that some people are born shy," continues Jagger. "You see children of the same age, of the same parents or similar background, and some children are very shy and won't come out. Remember when you were a kid? There was always the one that wouldn't go into the circle for Pass The Parcel or they wouldn't go in the Dancing Statues. Well, Brian was probably one of those children. Those people are very bad material for show business because they're not like some other people, like myself or the more extrovert people. We have a shy part, of course, and don't want to make a fool of ourselves, but it's completely overshadowed by an extrovert nature. You take the knocks and you can deal with it. And you're still out there doing it. But Brian wasn't really like that, and there are a lot of other people like that, and they try and handle it by drinking, or being rude, and they suffer. They're basically in the wrong business. They have to alter their personalities to be what they perceive they want to be.

"He just wanted to be in a blues band," summarises Jagger, "and didn't really think it was gonna be show business. Perhaps the biggest ambition he thought of was playing the Marquee on Thursdays. That was the end of it."

At the end of the famous, oft-shown concert footage of rioting fans at the Royal Albert Hall in 1966, Mick and Keith are nearly torn limb from limb and are lucky to get off the stage. Jones suddenly lurches into picture, teeth bared and bent double with unhinged laughter as Richards tries to hold onto his guitar. It's the same manic response you see at the end of the 'Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby' promo film with the Stones in drag, all managing to keep a straight face except Brian, who dissolves into another unsettling cackle.

"There was a two-year period when the audience were louder than us, all screaming teenyboppers," Keith Richards remembers. "Brian had this terrible joke of playing 'Popeye The Sailor Man' in the middle of anything because it didn't matter, nobody could hear shit anyway. I'd be walking past him on-stage and I'd hear (sings) da-da-da da da da da all the time. For Charlie I think that was the most frustrating time. He was a serious musician, a jazz drummer, and all of a sudden he's playing to a load of 13-year-old girls wetting themselves and Brian's doing 'Popeye The Sailor Man' and it was, 'Whatever happened to the blues?'"

What Brian was doing instead was schmoozing at Andy Warhol's Factory and bonding with Bob Dylan. "Because of the world he got into, he knew a lot of people long before we did," says Charlie Watts. "Jimi Hendrix was one, and Bob Dylan was a friend of his. A lot of people liked him and admired him. Now whether they liked him because he was a Rolling Stone or whatever I don't know. He became more of a celebrity than a great musician."

"The phone bills were massive," remembers Shirley Arnold. "He'd be on the phone to Dylan for four hours from the office." Dylan would tease Brian about his paranoia, telling him that he was the Mr Jones of 'Ballad Of A Thin Man'. "Look at how much cred McCartney gets now that history, quite rightly, has put it straight that he was the most avant-garde Beatle, hanging out with artists on the London scene," says Jones's biographer Terry Rawlings. "Well, Brian was hanging out with Arthur C. Clarke, checking out the Spear Of Destiny and the Holy Grail and all that business. That's way out there as far as I'm concerned."

"Brian knew Kenneth Anger very well, and lots of people like that," confirms the unflappable Charlie Watts. "I didn't really know them that well, but I've met them. I was never interested in that world and I never came from it. A night out for me was going to the Flamingo. I'd see Georgie Fame more than I'd hang out with that lot. But you've only got to look at the bloody Palladium tape with us on there with him with the hat on. I mean that's how out there he was."

In 1964 the Stones had filled out the obligatory "Life Lines" section for NME. In time-honoured fashion they all lied about their ages. Under "Biggest Break In Career", Brian entered "Break with parents". Under "Husband And Wife's Name" he wrote, "Husband Stew and he works in a glass furnace". Under "Brothers And Sisters' Names" the entry read, "Sister half Moroccan named Hashish".

"He was ahead of the game in many ways," points out Gered Mankowitz. "He was experimenting more and earlier than the others with drugs, with instrumentation in music, and with the way he was living his life. I don't remember anyone else in the band getting visibly out of it, but Brian did. One time on tour he rang me, asking me to go up to his room. He said, 'I've got two tabs of acid, I thought maybe you'd like to share it with me.' I said, Brian, you know I don't do acid. He said, 'Oh right. OK, I tell you what I'll do. I'll take both of them and you write down everything I say.' I said, 'Er, no I don't think so'."

Brian was also the first Rolling Stone to check out the burgeoning West Cost scene. Keith Altham, who interviewed Brian for NME in 1966, remembers him playing experimental free-form tapes that he was working on. "We just sort of laid back and listened to what they were doing in Frisco, whereas Brian was making great tapes, overdubbing," Keith Richards told Rolling Stone in 1971. "He was much more into it than we were. We were digging what we were hearing for what it was, but that other thing in you is saying, 'Yeah, but where's Chuck Berry?'"

As Brian's cultural antennae became more finely tuned than his bandmates', the darker side of his personality started to manifest itself more clearly. "It was always there, you just picked up on it more as time went by," says Mankowitz. "You dismissed a lot of things as vagaries of the moment but as I spent more time with him I started to note a pattern. On one or two occasions in clubs he just snapped when he considered some journalist or fan was pushing him too much. In one place he just put a glass in someone's face.

Unhesitatingly. It made you wary of him. There was an instability to him. When he was on form he was an incredibly important, crucial part of the band. When he was off form he let everybody else down. One time I saw Ian Stewart grab Brian in the wings as they came off stage and shake him and say, 'What are you doing? You're playing like a piece of shit.' It infuriated Ian and it frustrated everybody else. Brian wasn't only not bothering. He was making a joke about it."  And playing 'Popeye The Sailor Man' where once he would have played Elmore James licks.

MUCH OF THE DEBATE ABOUT THE DECLINE OF Jones as a musical force within the Rolling Stones seems to hinge upon his role during the band's classic pop period from '65 to '67: that richly prolific purple patch spanning 'The Last Time', 'Satisfaction', 'Get Off Of My Cloud', '19th Nervous Breakdown', 'Paint It Black', 'Have You Seen Your Mother Baby', Aftermath and Between The Buttons, which culminated in the Sunday Night At The London Palladium performance of 'Let's Spend The Night Together' – Brian replete with costume jewellery, frock coat and bipperty-bopperty hat – and the band's subsequent refusal to join the other acts on the podium for the show's cheesy showbiz finale. This was the period when what Marianne Faithfull calls their "blend of blues mythology and King's Road noblesse oblige" was at its most synchronised, and Jones the texturalist was at his peak.

"Brian was a sensitive person and that translated into his playing," says Jagger. His marimba on 'Under My Thumb', sitar on 'Mother's Little Helper' and 'Paint It Black', dulcimer on 'Lady Jane' and 'I Am Waiting' are more than mere musical embroidery. Sometimes the contribution is simplicity itself, merely repeating the vocal melody on 'Lady Jane' or running up and down the Eastern scale on 'Paint It Black', but Jones's multi-instrumental finery is integral; it is the making of all these songs. And for those who care about these things, it is possible that the haircut he sported around the time of 'Paint It Black' is the finest that ever adorned a pop star.

In one of the most telling episodes in Faithfull, her autobiographical collaboration with David Dalton, Marianne describes the moment in the studio when Jones first plays on recorder the beautiful lilting pastoral melody that would eventually become 'Ruby Tuesday'. Richards picks up on it and starts shaping it on the piano. Jones tells him that it's a cross between John Dowland's 'Air On The Late Lord Essex' and a Skip James blues. "Brian wanted everyone to say, 'That's great Brian, wonderful! Good work!'" says Faithfull. "But of course nobody did." When it was released, as the flip side to 'Let's Spend The Night Together', 'Ruby Tuesday' carried the standard Jagger-Richards songwriting credit. When they performed it on TV, Jones and Richards were sat together at the same piano stool, accentuating their physical and musical closeness. They would never be that close again.

It was in the autumn of 1965 that model and actress Anita Pallenberg had first attached herself to Jones. They soon merged into one straw blond boy-girl, same hair, same clothes, same penchant for experimentation. "He was besotted with her," says Kathy Etchingham. "I met Anita last October at an art exhibition in Notting Hill and she seems very embittered about it all. I introduced myself to her and said I'd been a friend of Brian's. She just guffawed and said, 'Yes, he had lots of friends.'"

"He fell in love with someone who was just too tough to be broken by him. That's the secret of that relationship," surmises Nick Kent. "It was his misfortune to fall in love with someone as free-spirited as her. That really was his karma in a sense. The way he treated women so badly. He found more than his match in Anita."

Ask Jagger, after all this time, if Pallenberg was a good influence on Brian and the Stones vocalist laughs uproariously. "No," he says. "No, she wasn't." Jones and Pallenberg's intense affair burned itself out in Morocco. After one fight too many Anita ran into the consoling arms of Keith Richards. "Keith and Brian had this very odd relationship, which was very peculiar," says Jagger, distancing himself. "All of it was very strange and I didn't get involved because I was outside it, you know, I was in another place completely, and it wasn't particularly healthy." Jagger had Marianne Faithfull as soulmate, bedmate, and fellow astral traveller during this period. Jones, on the other hand, started to come apart at the seams.

"The drugs were still quite private then," says Gered Mankowitz. "You didn't go round the streets with a joint. I remember one time when we did, thinking it was pretty daring. Andrew pushed it sometimes, asking a policeman for a light for his joint in Newcastle in 1966 when we were doing the Ike & Tina Turner tour. But there were no drugs backstage in those days because there were always police outside the door."

But bad karma was beckoning. Reality fades with every retelling of a familiar story, and just as we occasionally have to be reminded how different the Stones looked or how raw they sounded in the early '60s, it's also worth re-emphasising how the establishment brought all its weight to bear in its attempts to crush the band in 1967. This was an era when the News Of The World could run an item about London's UFO club under the headline "I Saw Couples Injecting Reefers", and when a leading police chief could tell Jock Young in his classic sociological study The Drug Takers that the hippies were flea-ridden and made his skin crawl. Detective Sergeant Norman Pilcher (the "semolina pilchards" of John Lennon's 'I Am The Walrus'), who would arrest Brian, was charged with corruption and blackmail during the seedy '70s.

First came the systematic raids on highly symbolic targets, like the UFO club, and Dandie Fashions, a boutique frequented by both the Stones and Beatles. Then there was the famous News Of The World exposé of February 1967, where Mick Jagger allegedly told a reporter, in suspiciously unhip Fleet Street argot, that he "had sampled LSD" but that he didn't "go much on it now that the cats have taken it up". The News Of The World got one minor detail wrong. They identified the wrong Stone. It was Brian being indiscreet in a dark nightclub, not Jagger. The Stones singer issued a writ. Too late. The machinery was in motion. Acting on a Fleet Street tip-off, the police decided to call in on Keith Richards' Redlands pad. And the rest is history: Wormwood Scrubs, Times editorials about butterflies being broken on wheels, and enduring urban myths about Mars bars.

After Jagger and Richards' convictions and subsequent release on appeal, the Stones singer was whisked off to ITV's World In Action for a tête-à-tête about the generation gap with Times editor William Rees-Mogg, former Home Secretary Lord Stow-Hill, Jesuit Father Thomas Corbishley, and the Bishop of Woolwich (a summit organised by a 23-year-old TV researcher name of John Birt). Meanwhile, as Bill Wyman reports, "it was sad to see Brian scuffling for cash from the Stones office".

Jones, of course, was the real butterfly broken on a wheel. After unsuccessfully pursuing Mick and Keith, the police turned their attention to Brian. Jagger and Richards seemed to add a further armadillo layer to their rebel armour after their bust; Brian visibly diminished after his. Alexis Korner, who saw him during the summer of 1967, was shocked at the decline: "He looked like a debauched version of Louis XIV. That's when I realised that acid-taking can cause casualties." The promotional film for 'We Love You' recorded in July of that year was banned by the BBC, not for its allusions to the trial of Oscar Wilde, but because in the few brief glimpses of him Brian looks absolutely shit-faced. In fact, he had sneaked out of psychiatric hospital to attend the session.

His debilitated condition didn't stop him adding some inspired spiralling multi-layered Moroccan brass at the tail-end of the track. Neither did it stop him contributing some deft orchestral touches on the Mellotron to Their Satanic Majesties Request, most notably on '2,000 Light Years From Home'. Brian's North African-influenced embellishments of wood-wind and percussion are all over that most maligned of Rolling Stones albums. Not bad for a bloke rumoured by this time to be ingesting LSD by the bucket load and drinking brandy from a pint glass: "Even when he was in the most appalling state they could still prop him up and stick a recorder in his mouth and he could make music," notes Gered Mankowitz with amazement.

IT MIGHT BE FANCIFUL TO SUGGEST THAT, like Lenny Bruce, it was 'an overdose of police' and not a swimming pool that ultimately killed Brian Jones, but it's undeniable that the weeping, sick man who appeared in the dock throughout 1967 and 1968, forced to listen to humiliating psychiatric reports about his "condition", was now a shadow of his former self. At the June 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Jones wandered about as the high priest of hip, introducing Hendrix on-stage like some alternative toastmaster revelling in his patronage. But such appearances offered only brief respite from the drug-busts, the paranoia, and the legions of liggers.

"I'd go round there when he was in a bad way and cook him breakfast," remembers Shirley Arnold. "He'd phone up and say, 'Get some money from the petty cash', and I'd go round with eggs and bacon. There'd be all these people in the flat, all these hangers-on, passed out. It was a shambles. There'd be someone in the bath passed out. Then I'd cook breakfast and go to find Brian and he'd have passed out again. I'd sometimes think, 'Something will happen, he'll kill himself if he carries on like this.' One morning he was sitting in the kitchen watching me as I was cooking. He thought it was all quite amazing that I could do all this. He was saying, 'One day, Shirley, I'm going to get it all together. I'm going to get married and have it all together.'"

Kathy Etchingham also found herself having to play surrogate mum. "He'd phone up in his little boy voice and go, 'I'm in a terrible mess over here. Can you come over and help me?' I used to go over and clean his place up. The sink would be piled up with dishes. Crud all over the place. He'd be meeting a girl that night and wanted the place clean before the girl came over. But at least he owned up about it. Then one day he phoned up and said he had this girl there and he couldn't get rid of her and could I come over? It was four in the morning and he sent a taxi for me. When I got there he said, 'Sit on my knee', and I had to pretend to this American girl that he was with me. Eventually she got the message and left. Next day he was busted and some dope was found. He absolutely blamed this girl. Swore that it was her but I know it wasn't. She definitely had the hots for him but it was his dope. It was on the table. We were smoking it."

At the second of his court appearances in October 1967, Brian (said by his psychiatrist to be "potentially suicidal") wore a pin-striped charcoal-grey Savile Row suit with flared cuffs, a blue-and-white polka dot tie, and a white frilly lace shirt. This, in an era when high court judges routinely had to ask what a T-shirt was, let alone how to inject yourself with reefers. Brian was given a custodial sentence for possession of a minuscule amount of hash, again reduced on appeal to a fine.

"He was regularly so stoned in the studio that he would just nod off," says Gered Mankowitz. "The band would send out for food about two o'clock in the morning and I saw Brian just fall head first into his duck à l'orange. It was very sad and it showed a weakness which began to get picked on. When they put him in the soundbooth at Olympic and he had to be propped up with cushions it was really sad and awful but in the control room we were all laughing and joking about it. I don't think we knew how else to deal with it. Nowadays there would be clinics and counsellors but nobody had written the textbook then on how to deal with a rock casualty. There wasn't a manual. There was a lack of concern all round. Nobody rallied round. You ran out of sympathy for him."

"Perhaps in these slightly more enlightened days, dealing with personality disorders and drug problems... I mean, everyone knows about it now," adds Jagger, "but I don't think in those days there was such a lot of understanding about."

"We were in the Maddox Street offices. They'd left Andrew [Loog Oldham] by then and [Allen] Klein was on the scene," says Shirley Arnold. "Jo Bergman had been brought in from California to run the office. Brian was paranoid and he didn't take to Jo. He thought she was just catering for Mick, but Mick was the businessman. He was the one that was coming into the office and attending the board meetings. This was '68 and Brian wasn't even attending recording sessions, and when you did see him he looked so tired."

"He wasn't showing up," confirms Charlie Watts. "And you know what happens when people don't show up – you do without them. And then when you do without them, suddenly they're not needed. And then it was a decision. Shall we get somebody else?"

"They wouldn't record anything that he'd written and he wanted to do other things," says Shirley Arnold. "I was never sure what it was but he wasn't keen on the way the music was going. He didn't think the Stones should be moving in that direction." "People say because he wasn't writing songs he compensated by playing every musical instrument going – but he did write songs," claims Terry Rawlings. "Shirley Arnold knew he was writing songs. There's been lyrics found since. I just don't think they got a chance to be heard." David Dalton: "Much later on Andrew Oldham showed me some lyrics Brian had written. It was this very repetitive, very generic blues thing. There was no resonance at all. The guy just couldn't write lyrics."

Whatever the merits, or otherwise, of his lyrics, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that Brian has been written out of history in other ways. "There's a great scene in that Doors movie where they get taken into the inner sanctum of Andy Warhol's Factory," recalls Terry Rawlings. "Brian is in there at the time and he's the one who fucks them off! But they leave him out of the movie. He fucked all those bands off. This is the man who burped in Frank Zappa's face. Zappa is trying to be this far-out dude, trying to outgross Brian, and Brian just burps in his face and walks away."

"People who didn't feel threatened by him got on well with him," notes Kathy Etchingham. "Jimi didn't feel threatened by him and Brian adored Jimi, really respected him. Jimi got a copy of John Wesley Harding and wanted to cover 'I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine', but thought it was too personal to Dylan, so he decided to do 'All Along The Watchtower' instead. Jimi phoned Dave Mason and Brian Jones and asked them if they'd like to come and play on it. They came round when we lived in Upper Berkeley Street. Brian could hardly get through the door with this huge sitar. We all piled into this taxi to go over to Olympic Studios – Jimi, me, Dave Mason with this big, I think it was his 12-string, guitar, and Brian and this enormous sitar, sitting like contortionists in this taxi. I remember my feet up on Dave Mason's legs in that taxi. That's the kind of thing you don't forget."

A lot of what has been written about Jones's diminishing talents as a musician just doesn't add up. Someone as supposedly washed up as he was wouldn't have been capable of putting together the Pipes Of Pan At Joujouka album, a project entered into with all the anthropological fervour of a Samuel Charters or Alan Lomax. Jones's doctoring of the primitive tapes, made on a simple 4-track, is proto-dub masterpiece – something the Stones themselves belatedly recognised when they used the Master Musicians Of Joujouka on the Steel Wheels LP in 1989. Neither would a dribbling basket-case with his marbles in his socks have been capable of writing a stunning Cannes-entry film score for Volker Schlondorff's A Degree Of Murder. Jimmy Page plays guitar, Nicky Hopkins piano and Kenny Jones drums. Brian Jones plays every instrument he'd ever picked up and got a tune out of. Around this time he also played alto sax on The Beatles' 'You Know My Name' and, although few discographies credit him, is probably on 'Baby You're A Rich Man' as well.

But for all this innovative extra-curricular activity it was becoming increasingly clear that the Rolling Stones were carrying a passenger. The big screen evidence is up there for all to see in the Jean-Luc Godard film One Plus One, with bleary Brian propped up in his corner as 'Sympathy For The Devil' evolves without him. In the video for 'Jumping Jack Flash' he looks like a waxwork effigy of himself. During the sessions for 'You Can't Always Get What You Want', a legendary and brutally telling interchange, duly witnessed by Jack Nitzsche, occurred between Jagger and Jones. "What can I play?" says Jones. "I don't know. What can you play?" replies Jagger. On the Rolling Stones' Rock And Roll Circus, Jones had faded to silence, his broken wrist necessitating Keith Richards to double up on lead and rhythm guitar on just about everything. And let's not even speculate on what the assembled Lennon/Clapton/ Richards supergroup version of 'Yer Blues', with its "I feel so suicidal/Just like Dylan's Mr Jones", will have done for Brian's paranoia. On Beggars Banquet his playing – what little there is – is sober and respectful. Apart from some nice sitar touches on 'Street Fighting Man' he is becoming spectral within his own band.

"We carried Brian for quite a long time," says Jagger. "We put up with his tirades, and his not turning up for over a year. So it wasn't like suddenly we just said, 'Fuck you. You didn't turn up for the show, you're out.' We'd been quite patient with him. And he'd just gotten worse and worse. He just didn't want to be in it. He didn't want to come out of this rather sad state." Nick Kent: "The guy was in a car driving himself at 150 mph at a brick wall, wasn't he? Drugs really did for that guy. They really sliced him up. There were a lot of people who wanted to help him but there were a lot of people who were too cool. Jagger and Charlie were very concerned. They could have fed stories to the press that he was unstable and just got rid of him but they didn't. They were considerate."

Ultimately a decision had to be made. When it emerged in early 1969 that the Stones couldn't tour the States because of Jones's drug convictions the inevitable loomed. "I think he knew, in a way," says Jagger of the final split. "He was quite philosophical about it." Was it a hard thing to do? "Really hard. But it was either that or just going on with someone that was just not functioning. I mean, he was in a really bad state. We couldn't have survived with Brian. He was too ill to play. It was sorrowful."

"I'm sure it nearly killed him when we sacked him 'cos he'd fought so hard to put it all together at the beginning," states Charlie Watts. "It was a huge void in his life, especially being young. If he'd have made 60 million dollars, if he'd had that cushion... He had a little bit, but not what people think. But he was very young, you know, so there was a big space of nothing."

Jones had filled that big space of nothing some months earlier by purchasing A.A. Milne's old house at Cotchford Farm in Sussex. He inherited Keith Richards' chauffeur, Tom Keylock, and a motley crew of cowboy builders and their freeloading mates. It was here in an atmosphere of subterfuge and bathos that the final acts of Brian Jones's life were played out. "There was Tom Keylock at the top and it all went out in tiers," says Terry Rawlings. "There was a network of drivers, builders, labourers. The same guys who were working on Redlands. All working class, all in their thirties, all taking as many liberties as they could, borrowing his Rolls-Royce. Seeing him swan around with dolly birds in this beautiful house, there's bound to be resentment."

"The quality of the people who were working as minders and chauffeurs for the Stones wasn't all that it could have been," notes Gered Mankowitz. "I don't think they were great human beings and I don't think Brian was well served at all. It's a pretty horrible job anyway to be a servant. And to see this young bloke with so much going for him, beautiful women, money, fantastic cars, and there he was fucking up and here's the minder having to pick him up, clean him down, put him to bed, or extricate him from some problem. Once you lose respect for the person you're working for I don't think you're going to do your job very well."

"He used to be a lot of fun in the early days," emphasises Charlie Watts. "But when that all went you were left with this rather ill, totally paranoid bloke, worried about his image. But having said that, the period when he died he lived near me in Sussex. I used to see him quite a bit on the way home from the studio and got very close to him again. But then, you know, I was never any threat to him. I didn't play guitar for a start, I was not a singer – both things that he wanted to do – I was not a writer. I was a drummer and if he'd have asked me to play on a record I'd have played with him."

Jones had made tentative unspecified musical plans. Mitch Mitchell, John Mayall, Stevie Winwood, and Alexis Korner had all been down to see him and reported that he was in good spirits and eager to resurrect his career. He had also eased off the substances, too. The Stones, meanwhile, had more pressing concerns, breaking in new guitarist Mick Taylor and rehearsing for their forthcoming free concert in Hyde Park on Saturday, July 5.

"He'd phoned me on the Tuesday before Hyde Park," remembers Shirley Arnold. "After it was announced that he was leaving he was concerned about what the fans thought. I'd said I was sending the post down to him. He was telling me that he was getting things together with Alexis Korner and everything was looking fine. Mick was always asking, 'Have you heard from Brian today?' He was genuinely interested in his welfare and what he was doing. Brian asked me if I'd go and work for him and would it make it awkward with the band? I'd said I'd never leave the office but I'd always help him. He sounded fine. I put the phone down and wrote him a two-page letter telling him what I'd said to him on the phone, that I'd always be there for him."

The following night Shirley was woken in the early hours by the phone ringing. Through the drowsy haze of half-sleep, she recognised the voice of Tom Keylock's wife, Joan. She was saying something about the pool: "Brian hasn't come out..." What do you mean?" said Shirley. "He's probably just wandered off somewhere." If only.

"It was dreadful, that next morning in the office," says Shirley Arnold. "Charlie was crying. Mick couldn't speak. I hadn't been to sleep. I got a mini-cab to work at seven o'clock. Driving through the West End and seeing the newspaper signs: 'Brian Jones drowns.' I opened the office and the first phone call was from Yoko Ono to say how sorry she and John were. Then Alexis phoned. Charlie was the first to arrive. He was in such shock that he just walked through into the boardroom without saying anything and sat there crying." It was also Charlie that laughed sardonically at Brian's funeral, when, as the cortege progressed through the crowded streets of Cheltenham, a policeman saluted. "I was surprised when he died," says Charlie. "He was actually getting his house together. He'd be showing me round there and he'd be painting all these walls. In those days purple walls were quite in. It was like one of Jimmy Page's homes, very nouveau."

As far as could be ascertained, Brian had gone for a late-night swim in Cotchford's outdoor heated pool. Those that were present, builder Frank Thorogood, his friend, nurse Janet Lawson, and a friend of Jones, student Anna Wohlin, all gave witness statements. None of them quite tallied. There were significant discrepancies regarding precise details of who was where and doing what when Brian, allegedly alone, went for a midnight swim. Conveniently or otherwise, nobody else was by the pool side when Jones somehow plunged to his death. In his statement Thorogood said he had just popped indoors for a cigarette.

The corner recorded a verdict of death by misadventure: the cause of death, drowning. The post mortem revealed that both the liver and hear of the deceased were grossly enlarged due to long term alcohol abuse. Although the pathologist's urine test revealed traces of "an amphetamine-like substance", and "diphenhydramine... present in Mandrax", Jones's body contained no barbiturates and none of the opiate derivatives consistent with the use of hard drugs. An inhaler had been found at the pool side, leading some to suspect that Jones had suffered an asthma attack, but Pat Andrews never once saw him use his asthma pump, "not even when he got upset after arguments with his parents". Shirley Arnold says she never saw him have an asthma attack either. "Keith says it as well. He never saw him have one." Dr Albert Sachs, who carried out the post-mortem, saw fit to point out that "in death from an asthma attack, lungs are light and bulky", which they hadn't been in Brian Jones's case.

"I assumed he was stoned – he'd been an accident waiting to happen for several years," says Gered Mankowitz. "I wouldn't be surprised if it was accidental death but I don't believe it was murder. I don't see a motive, but Brian solicited resentment. These builders he employed, seeing this bedraggled, longhaired, sozzled pop star. They just thought, 'Fucking wanker.' He probably aggravated somebody. I think there was probably some horseplay that got out of hand. 'I'll teach the little fucker a lesson,' that sort of thing."

Mick Jagger remains totally sceptical about theories that Jones was murdered. "Oh please!" he says dismissively. "I wasn't there. I only know what everyone else says. I have no theories. I only know what I was told at the time, which seemed perfectly reasonable." That he was drinking and that it was an accident? "That all sounded very much par for the course. But who knows what happened? I never questioned it at the time. It sounds all a bit, 30 years after the event, like someone trying to drum up some sort of book or something."

The intrigue over Jones's death has indeed spawned a mini-industry of books. "I think he was definitely killed but I don't think he was meant to die," says Terry Rawlings, whose Who Killed Christopher Robin? is, along with Laura Jackson's Golden Stone, one of the few credible and painstakingly researched attempts to get to the bottom of what went on that fateful summer night. Rawlings' case hinges on an apparent deathbed confession made by Frank Thorogood to Tom Keylock in 1993. Subsequently, BBC's Crimewatch featured the case and new leads were followed up but the case remains unsolved. When Tom Keylock was contacted recently for further verification, he declined to comment, citing a contractual obligation to a forthcoming Brian Jones bio-pic.

Many of those interviewed for this feature had a "don't put my name to this, but..." theory on what went on in the murky waters of Cotchford. Conspiracy theories have continued to resonate down the years. Central to many of these is the idea that there was a party at Cotchford that night and many more people were present than has previously been acknowledged. "I've heard from Amanda Lear that she had been invited to a party at Brian's house and he'd sent a car to pick her up," says Pat Andrews, "but on her way she'd suddenly decided that she was going to see Salvador Dali instead. So she stopped at Gatwick and sent the car back to Cotchford and got on a plane. She said to me that if she could ever change anything that would be it." Then there are the loony theories. Allen Klein ordered it. The Stones ordered it. Everyone but the badgeman on the grassy knoll seems to have had a hand in it.

"Obviously I don't know what happened but the thing that makes me suspicious was the way people acted afterwards," says Pat Andrews. We comb over the familiar territory. Jones's personal belongings being ransacked from Cotchford. His clothes being burnt. "His bedclothes were burnt, too," she says. "All I do know is that the police didn't do a proper job." Sussex CID continued to treat the death as suspicious, even reopening lines of inquiry six months after Jones drowned, but nothing came of them.

"For a long time everybody was just in shock about it all," says Shirley Arnold, "but I remember much later Keith getting really pissed off and saying 'What the fuck were they burning his clothes for? Why?' But analysing who was there and where they went isn't going to bring him back, is it? It's not going to take the sadness away."

Like Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts remains resolute that there was nothing sinister about the death. "I think he took an overdose. In England it's very rare to have an outdoor pool. The steam would be rising from it and I think he took a load of downers, which is what he used to like, drank, which he used to do and shouldn't have done, 'cos he wasn't strong enough to drink. And I think he went for a swim in a very hot bath. I don't see why you'd bother [murdering him]. He was worth more alive than dead. If you were going to screw him or whatever you'd try and be his manager. Quite honestly, I don't think he was worth murdering. And I don't mean that in a nasty way. I mean he was not that important to murder. Particularly at that time. He was very frail and a rather sad figure. And in a way, maybe if he'd have lived another 20 years he'd have got worse. He'd have been shuffling down the King's Road, you know, a shadow of his former self. Which is horrible. It's better he went how he did. 'Cos we wouldn't be doing this article if he hadn't."

"It's all very sinister and eerie," maintains Terry Rawlings. "There's some very dark corners of the whole story that you can't go into, stuff that I could never have put into my book, how it was done, how it was covered up. The policeman who inherited the original investigation was forever saying to me, 'Your book got pretty close to it but the stuff I could tell you – which I can't – is a book in itself." But it will all come out eventually."

"The thing I came away with from having read those books was how little drugs were in his system the night he died," says Nick Kent. "And drowning in a swimming pool? I mean, c'mon! It's not like it was in the ocean. It's hard not to think that there was no foul play involved. Keith did an interview in Paris a while back where he said he agreed with the [Who Killed Christopher Robin?] book."

"I've seen Brian swim in terrible conditions, in the sea with breakers up to here," Richards told Robert Greenfield in a marathon Rolling Stone interview in August 1971. "I've been underwater with Brian in Fiji. He was a goddamn good swimmer. He could dive off rocks straight into the sea." Of his death Richards' response was, "such a beautiful in one way, and such an asshole in another. 'Brian, how could you do that to me, man?' It was like that." Richards has, however, retracted much of that over the years, most famously in a somewhat cathartic Q magazine interview in 1987. "I don't think honestly you'll find anyone who liked Brian," he says. "He had so many hang-ups he didn't know where to hand himself. So he drowned himself." In the middle of acknowledging that "I nicked his old lady" and Brian's penchant for "beating chicks up", Richards also finds time to resurrect the hoary old tale from the early days about Jones paying himself an extra £5 as leader of the band. "They still seem to dwell on that after all these years," says David Dalton. "It's incredible." Some dark memories obviously still rankle with Richards.

"When they were rehearsing for the Bridges Over Babylon tour in Toronto, Ron Wood got hold of a couple of Brian's old guitars – the 9-string and the 12-string Teardrops," claims Terry Rawlings. "Ronnie puts one on and he's going, 'Yeah, fucking great. Keith look at this...' Keith turns round, goes, 'Take that fucking thing off.' This is last year. Even now, y'know, after all this time."

"I think the highlight of Brian's life wasn't playing in a band that was idolised, it was meeting his idols," says Pat Andrews. "I think he cherished that more than standing in front of screaming girls. He had great respect for his fans, that's why there are so many letters around from Brian because he always answered his fanmail. But I do think he was looking for something else other than adulation."

"My ultimate aim in life was not to be a pop star," Brian Jones says in Peter Whitehead's documentary, Charlie Is My Darling, filmed as the Stones toured Ireland in 1965. "I enjoy it – with reservations – but I'm not really satisfied, either artistically or personally."

"He was bright, articulate, gifted, a shining star, but he was a flawed human being," says Gered Mankowitz. "It was pretty sad from '66 onwards and it was a sad end to a sad life. He was very unfulfilled. He had problems and there was nothing anybody could do about them, least of all him."

If "sad" and "sinister" are the only two choices on offer it's pretty squalid testimonial to a young life that only five years earlier had been so full of promise. At the Hyde Park free concert, which became a requiem mass for Brian, thousands of butterflies were released and Jagger read from Shelley's Adonais.

After the loss of their founder the Stones descended into a little darkness of their own. "It was a very dark band anyway," says Jagger of the 'Sympathy For The Devil' period. "The band's always been a very dark band." Still? "Yeah, I think so. Definitely." At the end of 1969, at the Altamont Speedway track, they opened another box, but instead of butterflies out flew the Furies. Mick Jagger stood centre-stage, impotently pleading with the Hell's Angels to be cool while his fans were having their faces smashed in with pool cues. Satanic role-playing came face to face with real evil and was found wanting. Somewhere in the melee, nemesis came crashing down on the head of 18-year-old Meredith Hunter as he moved towards the stage, pointing a gun. Just a shot away.

Meanwhile Jimi, Janis and Jim were waiting in the wings ready for their turns on the sacrificial altar. But in Brian Jones the '60s already had its first rock'n'roll martyr.

©Rob Chapman, 1999

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