When he was just 14 years old, filmmaker Nick Broomfield (known for “Kurt & Courtney“) crossed paths with the legendary musician Brian Jones aboard a train. As the founder and driving force behind The Rolling Stones, Jones seemed destined for greatness, yet tragically, a mere six years later, he would meet his untimely demise. Broomfield’s latest film, The Stones and Brian Jones digs deeper into the untold story of how the once iconic leader of what would evolve into the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band was relegated to the shadows of history.
The documentary explores the more nuanced aspects of Brian Jones’ character. In “The Stones and Brian Jones,” a personal connection offers a fresh perspective, as filmmaker Nick Broomfield reminisces about a teenage encounter with Jones on a train, finding the musician surprisingly open and amiable. However, the crux of Broomfield’s thesis lies in his belief that Jones’ ascent and descent were profoundly influenced by his relationship with his parents.
Brian Jones was once hailed as rock royalty during the peak of The Rolling Stones’ popularity as the rebellious icon of the music scene. They stood in stark contrast to The Beatles, embodying an edgier, more dangerous image that parents feared for their daughters. With his striking looks, Brian Jones seemed the epitome of rock star charisma. However, behind the facade, he harbored a dark side, engaging in sadistic behavior towards women and making their lives miserable.
Even his bandmates recognized the extent of his cruelty, leading to a gradual decline in his involvement with the group until he was ultimately ousted. It takes a significant level of cruelty for a band to part ways with one of its founding members. Though tales of Jones’ misconduct have circulated for years, a comprehensive visual documentation of the real Brian Jones remains elusive.
Yet, despite his flaws, Jones played a pivotal role in shaping the early landscape of rock music, for better or for worse. His influence, however, was short-lived. A product of the middle class and a fervent blues enthusiast like his bandmates, Jones co-founded The Rolling Stones in 1962, bestowing upon them their Muddy Waters-inspired name. By 1963, they were recording albums, capturing media attention, and amassing a devoted fanbase.
As time went on, the spotlight shifted away from Jones towards Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. According to Nick Broomfield’s documentary “The Stones and Brian Jones,” the band’s early manager and producer, Andrew Loog Oldham, actively promoted Jagger and Richards while sidelining the other members, including Jones. Oldham urged Jagger and Richards to write songs, a task they performed with increasing brilliance over the following decade and beyond. In a poignant moment captured in the film, an old news clip shows an interviewer repeatedly asking Jones about his songwriting contributions, to which Jones deflects, directing attention towards Jagger and Richards with a sense of resignation.
Throughout the documentary, Broomfield contends that Jones’ parents viewed his artistic pursuits as frivolous distractions, never showing support by attending his concerts and consistently regarding him as a failure, despite his growing wealth. This familial dynamic becomes a central theme, shaping Jones’ self-perception and contributing to his eventual downfall.
Jones’ romantic escapades also feature prominently in Broomfield’s narrative, with multiple girlfriends providing consistent accounts of his character. They remember him as affectionate and passionate, though somewhat adrift in life. Remarkably, there is little criticism from any of these women, painting a picture of Jones as a complex yet ultimately likable figure. Jones left behind a legacy of at least five illegitimate children, adding another layer to his complicated personal life.
In a parallel to The Beatles, George Harrison occupied a position within the Stones akin to Jones, overshadowed by a songwriting duo hailed as among the greatest in rock ‘n’ roll history.
If Brian Jones had been granted more time on this earth, could he have reached greater heights as a musician? The grip of drugs ultimately claimed him, leaving his potential for further musical brilliance forever shrouded in uncertainty and speculation.