Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Repost: The Total Eclipse of Brian Jones

Brian Jones, alongside Richards and Jagger, formed The Stones in 1962, with Jones the key player, the catalyst behind the name and their blues edge. That distinction would carry on through the cover years (1962 to 1965), when finally Jagger and Richards would put pen to paper and determine not merely to write LP filler. The band was known early on for highlighting songs by Lennon/McCartney, Sonny Bono, Jerry Lieber or Chuck Berry, a concept not dissimilar to Vanilla Fudge. Though a satisfying venture into blues, The Stones through Out of Our Heads were essentially a tribute band ("Satisfaction," the quintessential Stones track, was only released on LP in the U.S.). Even the follow up LP, December's Children, featured only five (of 12) songs by the fledgling composers. The Stones wouldn't really come into their own until Aftermath in 1966. From there, they took on the Beatles rivalry that had always been the job of The Beach Boys.

The Stones rise to power was in direct correlation to the eclipse of Brian Jones. Jones had always been the spiritual leader of the band, despite Jagger's vocals and Richards' role as lead guitar. Jones on Rolling Stones Now!, for instance, is credited with guitar and slide guitars, harmonica and backing vocals, while being instrumental in The Stones covering the likes of Willie Dixon. On Out of Our Heads, the lessened role is nearly imperceptible, but there nonetheless, with Jones credited to guitar on seven tracks, acoustic guitar and harmonica on one. For the next three LPs, Aftermath, Between the Buttons and Her Satantic Majesties, the role as vocalist and guitarist was diminished, with the addition of odd instruments (wisely added to the band's bluesy sound) like the dulcimer, marimba, banjo, even the kazoo. Jones indeed was part George Harrison, part Syd Barrett.

Inspired by George Harrison's Indian excursions, Jones would later don the role of Eastern spiritual adviser, at least when it came to instrumentation, but not until Beggar's Banquet. By Let it Bleed, though, Jones' eclipse (call this the path of totality), was readily apparent, with the band founder playing only the congas on "Midnight Rambler" and the autoharp on "You Got Silver." The LP, of course would be The Stones last of the 60s, and the last LP with Jones' input. While Harrison was coming into his own, and Barrett was wallowing in psychedelics, Brian Jones had found a darker, back way out.