Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
The first event happened in the late days of June when the Daily Mirror announced that Brian Jones had left the Rolling Stones. Then, within a few short days, round about 2nd July, they screamed Brian Jones Is Dead. I don't why it affected me so much, but it had been a bad summer for me so far. My first group, having barely got off the ground had then broken up earlier that year. My mates. Dave Ward, Hedley Pierre and I weren't going to be the power trio we imagined. The Beatles had broken up. I'd broken up with a girlfriend back in April. In late May, I'd had a severe hiding from some thugs in the street and so I too was broken up. Everything, in the words of Bob Dylan 'was broken.' And now Brian Jones had died. Murdered? Overdose? Asthma attack? Nobody seemed to know.
He was the first one. The first casualty and sacrifice. The newspapers had a field day. Of course all the licentiousness of the past few years would end like this, they muttered sombrely. At work in my dull, dull, first job, some idiot of my own age said. "I don't understand the fuss. He was just some creep." My dad, on seeing the Jones-less Stones on television playing Honky Tonk Women, laughed and then, I suspect for my benefit, made a sick joke which I won't even grace him with by reproducing here.
I couldn't get the news out of my head. I think it was then that I realised that The Sixties, if there really were such a thing, was over and by default, so was my late childhood. I now realise that I had a kind of breakdown at the time. I didn't recognise it as such but certain others did and after quitting my job I was dragged to the doctor's by my mother and medicated with some rather crude drugs. Poor old Brian. The establishment and the straight people all around me were actually glad he was dead. I couldn't believe the world could be so cruel and nasty. I pored over every detail of the circus surrounding his funeral. I had my haircut as closely like his as I could. I looked at pictures of him. I wrote poems and song lyrics about him. and as you will imagine, they were the work of a sixteen year old boy of fragile mindset.
Years later, when the books and interviews surfaced about him, it emerged by most accounts that he had been a rather feckless, self-indulgent and nasty sort of person. Nonetheless, the image of the androgynous, pop aristocrat-dandy that he and one or two of the other Stones had been has never left me. And I also consider that as good as the Stones were - and still are - when Brian Jones played with them, they had an eclectic and psychedelic side to their work which has never been bettered. My favourite album of theirs to this day, remains the semi-forgotten Between The Buttons which is full of good stuff and strange instrumentation. It still sounds great and really different.
The pictures of Brian Jones in his mid-60s finery are defining images of the time. I thought for years, that if I could ever make that grade, then I too wouldn't mind dying young because how could there possibly be anything better? A test of how cool he was lay in the amount of rage he he was able to engender in people from outside his world. He spoke softly, he lisped, he hid behind blond fringes and had an exotic foreign girfriend, who looked so like him that she may as well have been his sister, so close was the resemblance. His very image on television could foster paroxysms of rage in certain adults. Worse: he was rich, famous and successful. He was too cool to live. It was almost pre-destined that he would be the first sacrifice.
A few days after he died, I, along with half a million other people traipsed to Hyde Park to see the Stones play live. I had a headache and the heat made my nose-bleed for an hour or so. I watched the spectacle weakened and faint and walked dazed away after the concert, knowing that something had changed forever. Pop had lost its innocence Brian Jones, the blond Rolling Stone was dead and for me at least, a shadow had drifted over the sun. Shortly afterwards, a man walked on the moon. I couldn't have cared less. The summer was already over.