July 3, 1969 – Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones (Rolling Stones) was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England on 28 February 1942. An attack of croup at the age of four left him with asthma, which lasted for the rest of his life. His middle-class parents, Lewis Blount Jones and Louisa Beatrice Jones (née Simmonds) were of Welsh descent. Brian had two sisters: Pamela, who was born on 3 October 1943 and died on 14 October 1945 of leukemia; and Barbara, born on 22 August 1946.
Both Jones’s parents were interested in music: his mother Louisa was a piano teacher, and in addition to his job as an aeronautical engineer, Lewis Jones played piano and organ and led the choir at the local church.
In 1957 Jones first heard Cannonball Adderley’s music, which inspired his interest in jazz. Jones persuaded his parents to buy him a saxophone, and two years later his parents gave him his first acoustic guitar as a 17th birthday present.
Jones attended local schools, including Dean Close School, from September 1949 to July 1953 and Cheltenham Grammar School for Boys, which he entered in September 1953 after passing the Eleven-plus exam. Jones was able to perform well in exams despite a lack of academic effort. However, he found school regimented and disliked conforming. He disliked the school uniforms and angered teachers with his behavior, though he was popular with classmates. Jones himself said: “When I made the sixth form I found myself accepted by the older boys; suddenly I was in.” His hostility to authority figures resulted in his suspension from school on two occasions. According to Dick Hattrell, a childhood friend: “He was a rebel without a cause, but when examinations came he was brilliant.”
In late summer 1959, Jones’s 17-year-old girlfriend, a Cheltenham schoolgirl named Valerie Corbett, became pregnant. Although Jones is said to have encouraged her to have an abortion, she carried the child to term and placed baby Barry David (later Simon) for adoption.
Jones quit school in disgrace and left home, traveling for a summer through Northern Europe and Scandinavia. During this period, he lived a bohemian lifestyle, busking with his guitar on the streets for money, and living off the charity of others. Eventually, he ran short of money and returned to England.
Jones listened to classical music as a child, but preferred blues, particularly Elmore James and Robert Johnson. He began performing at local blues and jazz clubs, while busking and working odd jobs. He reportedly stole small amounts of money from work to pay for cigarettes, for which he was fired.
In November 1959, Jones went to the Wooden Bridge Hotel in Guildford to see a band perform. He met a young married woman named Angeline, and the two had a one-night stand that resulted in her pregnancy. Angeline and her husband decided to raise the baby, Belinda, born on 4 August 1960. Jones never knew about her birth.
In 1961, Jones applied for a scholarship to Cheltenham Art College. He was initially accepted into the program, but two days later the offer was withdrawn after an unidentified acquaintance wrote to the college, calling Jones an irresponsible drifter.
On 23 October 1961, Jones’s girlfriend Pat Andrews gave birth to his third child, Julian Mark Andrews. Jones sold his record collection to buy flowers for Pat and clothes for the newborn. He lived with them for a while. On 23 July 1964 another woman, Linda Lawrence, gave birth to Jones’s fourth child, Julian Brian. In early October 1964, an occasional girlfriend of Brian’s, Dawn Molloy, announced to Brian and the band’s management that she was pregnant by Brian. She received a cheque for £700 from Andrew Loog Oldham, LTD. In return, she signed an agreement that the matter was now closed and she would make no statement about Brian Jones or the child to the public or the press. The undated statement was signed by Malloy and witnessed by Mick Jagger. In March 1965 Dawn gave birth to Brian’s fifth child Paul Molloy, renamed John Maynard by his adoptive parents.
Jones left Cheltenham and moved to London where he became friends with fellow musicians Alexis Korner, future Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones, then named Paul Pond, future Cream bassist Jack Bruce, and others who made up the small London rhythm and blues and jazz scene there. He became a blues musician, for a brief time calling himself “Elmo Lewis”, and playing slide guitar. Jones also started a group with Paul Jones called the Roosters and in January 1963, after both Brian and Paul left the group, Eric Clapton took over Brian’s position as guitarist.
Jones placed an advertisement in Jazz News (a Soho club information sheet) of 2 May 1962 inviting musicians to audition for a new R&B group at the Bricklayer’s Arms pub; pianist Ian “Stu” Stewart was the first to respond. Later singer Mick Jagger also joined this band; Jagger and his childhood friend Keith Richards had met Jones when he and Paul Jones were playing Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” with Korner’s band at the Ealing Jazz Club. Jagger brought guitarist Richards to rehearsals; Richards then joined the band. Jones’s and Stewart’s acceptance of Richards and the Chuck Berry songs he wanted to play coincided with the departure of blues purists Geoff Bradford and Brian Knight, who had no tolerance for Chuck Berry.
As Keith Richards tells it, Jones came up with the name the “Rollin’ Stones” (later with the ‘g’) while on the phone with a venue owner. “The voice on the other end of the line obviously said, ‘What are you called?’ Panic. The Best of Muddy Waters album was lying on the floor—and track five, side one was ‘Rollin’ Stone'”.
The Rollin’ Stones played their first gig on 12 July 1962 in the Marquee Club in London with Jagger, Richards, Jones, Stewart, bass player Dick Taylor (later of the Pretty Things) and drummer Tony Chapman.
From September 1962 to September 1963 Jones, Jagger and Richards shared a flat (referred to by Richards as “a beautiful dump”) at 102 Edith Grove, Chelsea, with James Phelge, a future photographer whose name was used in some of the group’s early “Nanker/Phelge” writing credits. Jones and Richards spent day after day playing guitar while listening to blues records (notably Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf). During this time, Jones also taught Jagger how to play harmonica.
The four Rollin’ Stones went searching for a bassist and drummer, finally settling on Bill Wyman on bass because he had a spare VOX AC30 guitar amplifier and always had cigarettes, as well as a bass guitar that he had built himself. After playing with Mick Avory, Tony Chapman and Carlo Little, in January 1963 they finally persuaded jazz-influenced Charlie Watts to join them. At the time, Watts was considered by fellow musicians to be one of the better drummers in London; he had played with (among others) Alexis Korner’s group Blues Incorporated.
Watts described Jones’s role in these early days: “Brian was very instrumental in pushing the band at the beginning. Keith and I would look at him and say he was barmy. It was a crusade to him to get us on the stage in a club and be paid half-a-crown and to be billed as an R&B band”.
While acting as the band’s business manager, Jones received £5 more than the other members, which did not sit well with the rest of the band and created resentment. Keith Richards has said that both he and Jagger were surprised to learn that Jones considered himself the leader and was receiving the extra £5, especially as other people, like Giorgio Gomelsky, appeared to be doing the bookings.
Jones also played harmonica on many of the Rolling Stones’ early songs. Examples of Jones’s playing are on “Come On”, “Stoned” (1963), “Not Fade Away” (1964), “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, “Now I’ve Got A Witness” (1964), “Good Times, Bad Times” (1964), “2120 South Michigan Avenue” (1964) (from E.P. Five By Five), “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man”, “One More Try” (1965), “High and Dry” and “Goin’ Home” (1966), “Who’s Driving Your Plane?” (1966), “Cool Calm and Collected”, “Who’s Been Sleeping Here” (1967), and “Dear Doctor” and “Prodigal Son” (1968).
In the early years, Jones often served as a backing vocalist. Notable examples are “Come On”, “I Wanna Be Your Man”, “I Just Wanna Make Love to You”, “Walking the Dog”, “Money”, “I’m Alright”, “You Better Move On” and “It’s All Over Now”. He contributed backing vocals as late as 1968 on “Sympathy for the Devil”. He is also responsible for the whistling on “Walking the Dog”.
Richards maintains that what he calls “guitar weaving” emerged from this period, from listening to Jimmy Reed albums: “We listened to the teamwork, trying to work out what was going on in those records; how you could play together with two guitars and make it sound like four or five”. Jones’s and Richards’s guitars became a signature of the sound of the Rolling Stones, with both guitarists playing rhythm and lead without clear boundaries between the two roles.
His aptitude for playing a wide variety of instruments is particularly evident on the albums Aftermath (1966), Between the Buttons (1967) and Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967).
Andrew Loog Oldham’s arrival as manager marked the beginning of Jones’s slow estrangement. Oldham recognized the financial advantages of bandmembers’ writing their own songs, as exemplified by Lennon–McCartney, and that playing covers would not sustain a band in the limelight for long. Further, Oldham wanted to make Jagger’s charisma and flamboyance a focus of live performances. Jones saw his influence over the Stones’ direction slide as their repertoire comprised fewer of the blues covers that he preferred; more Jagger/Richards originals developed, and Oldham increased his own managerial control, displacing Jones from yet another role.
According to Oldham in his book Stoned, Jones was an outsider from the beginning. When the first tours were arranged in 1963, he traveled separately from the band, stayed at different hotels, and demanded extra pay. According to Oldham, Jones was very emotional and felt alienated because he was not a prolific songwriter and his management role had been taken away. He “resisted the symbiosis demanded by the group lifestyle, and so life was becoming more desperate for him day by day. None of us were looking forward to Brian totally cracking up”.
The toll from days on the road, the money and fame, and the feeling of being alienated from the group resulted in Jones’s overindulgence in alcohol and other drugs. These excesses had a debilitative effect on his physical health and, according to Oldham, Jones became unfriendly and antisocial at times.
Jones was arrested for drug possession on 10 May 1967, shortly after the “Redlands” incident at Richards’ Sussex home. Authorities found marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine in his flat. He confessed to marijuana use but claimed he did not use hard drugs.
In June 1967, Jones attended the Monterey Pop Festival. There he met Frank Zappa and Dennis Hopper, and went on stage to introduce the Jimi Hendrix Experience who were not yet well known in the United States.
Hostility grew between Jones, Jagger, and Richards, alienating Jones further from the group. Although many noted that Jones could be friendly and outgoing, Wyman, Richards, and Watts have commented that he could also be cruel and difficult. By most accounts, Jones’s attitude changed frequently; he was one minute caring and generous, the next making an effort to anger everyone. As Wyman observed in Stone Alone: “There were at least two sides to Brian’s personality. One Brian was introverted, shy, sensitive, deep-thinking. The other was a preening peacock, gregarious, artistic, desperately needing assurance from his peers.” “He pushed every friendship to the limit and way beyond”.
In March 1967, Anita Pallenberg, Jones’s girlfriend of two years, left him for Richards when Jones was hospitalized during a trip the three made to Morocco, further damaging the already strained relations between Jones and Richards. As tensions and Jones’s substance abuse increased, his musical contributions became sporadic. He became bored with the guitar and sought exotic instruments to play, and he was increasingly absent from recording sessions. In Peter Whitehead’s promotional film for “We Love You”, made in July 1967, he appears groggy.
Jones’s last substantial sessions with the Stones occurred in spring and summer of 1968 when the Stones produced “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the Beggars Banquet album. He can be seen in the Jean-Luc Godard film One Plus One playing acoustic guitar and chatting and sharing cigarettes with Richards, although Jones is neglected in the music-making. The film chronicles the making of “Sympathy for the Devil”.
Where once Jones played multiple instruments on many tracks, he now played only minor roles on a few pieces. Jones’s last formal appearance was in the December 1968 The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, a part concert, part circus-act film organized by the band. It went unreleased for 25 years because Jagger was unhappy with the band’s performance compared to others in the film such as Jethro Tull, The Who, and Taj Mahal. Commentary included as bonus material indicated that almost everyone at the concert sensed that the end of Jones’s time with the Rolling Stones was near, and Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who thought it would be Jones’s last live musical performance.
Jones was arrested a second time on 21 May 1968, for possession of cannabis, which Jones said had been left by previous tenants of the flat. Due to his being on probation, he was facing a long jail sentence if found guilty. The jury found him guilty but the judge had sympathy for Jones; instead of jailing him, he fined him £50 plus £105 in costs and told him: “For goodness sake, don’t get into trouble again or it really will be serious”.
Jones’s legal troubles, estrangement from his bandmates, substance abuse, and mood swings became too much of an obstacle to his active participation in the band. The Rolling Stones wanted to tour the United States in 1969 for the first time in three years but Jones was not in fit condition to tour and his second arrest exacerbated problems with acquiring a US work visa. In addition, Jones’ attendance at rehearsals and recording sessions had become erratic; and when he did appear he either rarely contributed anything musically or, when he did, his bandmates would switch off his amplifier, leaving Richards to play nearly all the guitars. According to author Gary Herman, Jones was “literally incapable of making music; when he tried to play harmonica his mouth started bleeding”.
This behavior was problematic during the Beggar’s Banquet sessions and had worsened by the time the band commenced recording Let It Bleed. In March 1969, Jones borrowed the group’s Jaguar and went shopping in Pimlico Road. After the parked car was towed by police Jones hired a chauffeur car to get home. In May 1969, Jones crashed his motorcycle into a shop window and was secretly taken to a hospital under an assumed name. From this point, Jones was still attending recording sessions, but was no longer a major contributor to the band’s music. By May, he had made two contributions to the work in progress: autoharp on “You Got the Silver” and percussion on “Midnight Rambler”. Jagger informed Jones that he would be fired from the band if he did not turn up to a photo session. Looking frail, he nonetheless showed up and his last photo session as a Rolling Stone took place on 21 May 1969, first at St. Katherine Docks, Tower Bridge, London and then at Ethan Russell’s photographic studio in South Kensington. The photos would appear on the album Through The Past Darkly (Big Hits Vol.2) in September 1969.
The Stones decided that following the release of the Let it Bleed album (scheduled for a July 1969 release in the US) they would start a North American tour in November 1969. However, the Stones management was informed that because of his drug convictions Jones would not receive a work permit. At the suggestion of pianist and road manager Ian Stewart, the Stones decided to add a new guitarist and on 8 June 1969, Jones was visited by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts and he was told that the group he had formed would continue without him.
To the public it appeared as if Jones had left voluntarily; the other band members told him that although he was being asked to leave it was his choice how to break it to the public. Jones released a statement on 9 June 1969, announcing his departure. In this statement he said, among other things, that “I no longer see eye-to-eye with the others over the discs we are cutting”. Jones was replaced by 20-year-old guitarist Mick Taylor (formerly of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers).
During the period of his decreasing involvement in the band Jones was living at Cotchford Farm in East Sussex, the residence formerly owned by Winnie-the-Pooh author A. A. Milne which Jones had purchased in November 1968. Alexis Korner, who visited him in late June, noted that Jones seemed “happier than he had ever been”. Jones is known to have contacted Korner, Ian Stewart, John Lennon, Mitch Mitchell, and Jimmy Miller about intentions to put together another band. Jones had apparently demoed a few of his own songs in the weeks before his death, including “Has Anybody Seen My Baby?” and “Chow Time”.
When asked in 1965 if he had written songs, Jones replied: “Always tried. I’ve written quite a few, but mostly in blues style”. Many years later after his death, Keith Richards stated: “No, no, absolutely not. That was the one thing he would never do. Brian wouldn’t show them to anybody within the Stones. Brian as far as I know never wrote a single finished song in his life; he wrote bits and pieces but he never presented them to us. No doubt he spent hours, weeks, working on things, but his paranoia was so great that he could never bring himself to present them to us”. In 1995, Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone that Jones had been jealous of the Jagger/Richards songwriting team, and added: “To be honest, Brian had no talent for writing songs. None. I’ve never known a guy with less talent for songwriting.”
The only known released Brian Jones song is “(Thank You) For Being There”, which reportedly is a poem by Jones put to music by Carla Olson. It appeared on the 1990 album True Voices as performed by Krysia Kristianne and Robin Williamson.
At around midnight on the night of 2–3 July 1969, Jones was discovered motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool at Cotchford Farm. His Swedish girlfriend of 3 months, Anna Wohlin, was convinced Jones was alive when he was taken out of the pool insisting he still had a pulse. However, by the time the doctors arrived it was too late and he was pronounced dead. The coroner’s report stated “death by misadventure” and noted his liver and heart were heavily enlarged by drug and alcohol abuse.
Upon Jones’s death, The Who’s Pete Townshend wrote a poem titled “A Normal Day for Brian, A Man Who Died Every Day” (printed in The Times), Jimi Hendrix dedicated a song to him on US television, and Jim Morrison of The Doors published a poem titled “Ode to L.A. While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased”. Coincidentally, Hendrix and Morrison both died within the following two years, both aged 27, the same age as Jones.
Bill Wyman – founding bass player of the Rolling Stones – “Mick and Keith didn’t create the Stones, they were part of it, like all of us.
Brian wanted to form a blues band and enlisted each member one by one. He gave us the name, he chose the music, got us the gigs and he was the leader.”
He was very influential, very important, and then slowly lost it – highly intelligent – and just kind of wasted it and blew it all away.”
When asked if he felt guilty about Jones’s death, Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone in 1995: “No, I don’t really. I do feel that I behaved in a very childish way, but we were very young, and in some ways we picked on him. But, unfortunately, he made himself a target for it; he was very, very jealous, very difficult, very manipulative, and if you do that in this kind of a group of people you get back as good as you give, to be honest. I wasn’t understanding enough about his drug addiction. No one seemed to know much about drug addiction. Things like LSD were all new. No one knew the harm. People thought cocaine was good for you.”
Anna Wohlin, the pretty young Swedish girlfriend of Brian Jones was meant to be backstage in 1969 watching the band introduce their new guitarist – the replacement for founder member Brian Jones who’d been sacked a month before.
Anna never made it to that iconic gig, but unlike thousands of veteran fans she has no desire to be in the park tonight as the legendary rockers return, 44 years later.
For Anna was Brian Jones’ lover…and two days before the gig she’d dragged his lifeless body from the swimming pool of his Sussex farmhouse and tried in vain to revive him.
Yet, before the tragedy on July 3, 1969, she and Brian had planned to go to the Hyde Park concert together – so he could publicly show he had no hard feelings about leaving the Rolling Stones.
“Instead of being backstage with Brian I was in a hotel room nearby,” reveals Anna, now 66.
“I was broken…in total shock. Fans were gathering with candles and I wanted to go and say goodbye to Brian.
“But I was in no fit state. I didn’t realize then but I was a nuisance – a problem to the Stones management. They knew I knew what really happened on the night Brian died.”
The events following Brian’s death have gone down in the annals of pop history, with Anna’s role reduced to a mere footnote.
Rock legend has it Brian, 27, drowned under the influence of drugs and booze, after going off the rails when the Stones fired him.
Conspiracy theorists insist he was murdered – and police reviewed the case as recently as 2010 but did not reopen inquiries.
But in an exclusive interview with the Mirror, Anna has rekindled the riddle of the death and Brian’s rift with the band.
She sensationally claims the musician WAS killed, in a scuffle with disgruntled minder Frank Thorogood, said to have been fired by Jones that day – but the truth was covered up to protect the band’s image.
Her account is supported by Thorogood’s alleged death bed confession 20 years ago.
Anna says: “Brian is still portrayed as a bitter, worn-out and depressed man who was fired because of his drug habit…and who died because he was drunk or high.
“But my Brian was a wonderful, charismatic man who was happier than ever, had given up drugs and was looking forward to pursuing the musical career he wanted.
“We’d been blissfully happy together for three months and he and I had planned to go to watch the Hyde Park gig.
“Brian wasn’t bitter about Mick Taylor replacing him – he was quite relieved actually. He had wanted to leave the band for some time before they asked him to go. “He didn’t like the direction the music was taking – he wanted to play blues – and he didn’t want to tour America any more.
“There were no hard feelings when he left though, and if people had seen us at the concert they would have known that.But it wasn’t to be. The night before I stayed at the Londonderry Hotel with Bill Wyman and his girlfriend Astrid Lundstrom.
“They thought it was a bad idea for me to go – I couldn’t think straight. I was in shock. Some friends stayed with me but I was torn – I wanted to be there…but with Brian – and he was gone.”
The gig became an iconic pop moment after the Stones turned it into a tribute to Brian.
So was that a comfort to Anna?
She gives a long sigh. “Let’s say I have very mixed feelings. They had to do something, because Brian had died, and, yes, I think they were all in shock.
“But whether they had wanted to do it or not, I don’t know. They just had to.
“Before Brian died, Mick was nervous that Brian’s fans might boycott the concert in protest at his replacement.
“In the end, 500,000 people went. But it was a nice day, the concert was free and the fans went for Brian. So there had to be recognition from the band.”
After Brian died Anna wrote to Mick Jagger, accusing him of not caring enough about Brian’s death. He never replied. She says she no longer bears any animosity towards him, but admits “It just felt so unfair he was alive and thriving…a reminder he and the other Stones were continuing as if nothing had happened – while Brian was gone forever.”
She says the Stones’ management urged her to return to Sweden a week after Brian’s death. She left following the inquest which recorded a verdict of misadventure – even though tests found little evidence of drugs and the equivalent of just three and a half pints of beer.
After returning home she discovered she was expecting Brian’s child – but miscarried and became depressed.
She returned to England two months later to collect her belongings from the farm – only to find it had been cleared out and all her personal belongings and gifts from Brian had disappeared. She says: “The Stones PR manager had promised to find me somewhere to live if I came back – but when I went to their offices no one would help.
“I felt betrayed so I went to a lawyer and to a journalist and tried to tell the truth about Brian’s death – but no one wanted to know.”
Anna got married, had a daughter and tried to move on. But she says it was only after divorcing three decades later that she finally began to grieve for Brian. She says: “I decided to write my story, but people still didn’t believe it.
“I don’t know if Frank Thorogood meant to kill Brian – maybe it was horseplay in the pool that went wrong. But I knew all along he did not die a natural death. I’m still sure of it.
“I fell in love with Brian when I was 16 and we got together five years later when he happened to play in that band – that’s all. “Don’t get me wrong – I like the music and think it is amazing they have kept going so long. But Brian would have carried on making music too…I’m sure. He was the one who was most musical.”
Anna used to have terrible nightmares about finding Brian’s body at the bottom of the pool and screaming for help. Now, she says, Brian “visits” her in her dreams, and she tries to remember the good times they shared. She says: “We were so happy. When Brian bought the farmhouse he said he wanted to live there the rest of his life. And he did. But it was too short.
“One of the hardest things was that when Brian died he was my boyfriend – but suddenly he belonged to another world and other people – and I couldn’t really cope with that.
“Talking about him helps me reclaim him. My Brian, not the tragic legend.”