Friday, August 28, 2009

I Am Waiting

From the bottom of the pool he could make out the light above. He thought he heard someone shout, “Brian! Brian!” but couldn’t be sure. At first, Brian thought Frank was being playful when he started to dunk his head under the water, but he realized quickly that it was turning violent and that there was real menace to this “play.” It scared Brian and he retreated to the bottom of the pool. Brian had fired Frank Thorogood as his builder after he found out that Frank was badmouthing him as a spoiled rock star and ripping him off to boot. Still, he let Frank live at the house at Cotchford Farm.


July had started hot and a dip in the pool was in order. Frank was there with his girl, Brian with his new bird Anna. He had been hitting the drugs less in the weeks since Mick, Keith and Charlie came to his Sussex estate to inform him he was out of the group. Out of the group! He, Brian Jones, had named The Rolling Stones. He, Brian Jones, had formed the group with his innate genius in bringing people together. And, at the beginning, he was the most forceful advocate for and defender of their music. He was a born leader and the most quoted. Now he was out.

Brian had a few glasses of Blue Nun and felt a little pissed, not too much. Frank thought he could take advantage of Brian in the pool, but he didn’t know that Jones was a damn good swimmer. Even the roughest waters were no match for his skill. His deep diving stunts always amazed his friends. When Brian had a tantrum at Keith’s house at Redlands last June, and pretended to be drowning in the shallow moat, Mick knew he was faking. Jagger pushed his head under water - “You want to drown, you bastard?” - knowing he wouldn’t. Mick’s violence was a put on, another false face, but Frank’s was real, so Brian went down to escape.


The quiet that surrounded him gave him time to think. Surely, he had suffered. Mick and Keith were easy stars, accepting their new found royalty in a way Brian could never adjust to. There was always a level where Brian didn’t make it with the other two. Somewhere inside he was alone. He was much cleverer than the rest. He knew Satanic Majesties would be a joke, a pale copy of Sgt. Pepper but Mick was insistent. Brian was right, and when the reviews came, savagely, Mick and Keith got angry at Brian. Just like Keith to side with Mick.

He was also was the best musician of the lot. Brian was the sound of the Rolling Stones, the soul. The sitar on “Paint It, Black”, that was Brian. The slide guitar on “Jigsaw Puzzle”, that was Brian. The flute on “Ruby Tuesday”, Brian too. Whatever needed playing, he played – mouth harp, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, dulcimer. The Arabic sounds on “We Love You”, that was Brian on mellotron.

Drugs had taken their toll, to be sure. At 25, he was fat and tired, with deep, heavy bags under eyes. His face wore the pain of the cruel treatment administered by the police, who had busted him twice in the last two years, and by his “friends.” Mick and Keith were prone to ganging up on Brian and it had only gotten worse over the years. Mick, always jealous of Brian’s musical ability and his looks, had told him ‘You’re all washed up.” Keith had stolen the love of his life, Anita. “With friends like these,” he thought. Then, on top of it all, they give him the boot.

Mick, Keith and Charlie came to see Brian at Cotchford Farm, the former estate of A.A. Milne. That was June 9. Oh, they tried to say it wasn’t any good, that Brian wasn’t fit to tour the States with them, that it was temporary, just for the near future, but that was rubbish. He expected it, but it hit him hard. They were right, he wasn’t fit to do the road thing again, but it didn’t seem real. There was Mick, acting the ponce, explaining the reasons they couldn’t go on like this. Just like Mick to make it about money, too, offering 100,000 pounds up front and 20,000 pounds a year as long as the Stones lasted. How long could that be, really? When they left, Brian sat in the Christopher Robin garden, crying, alone.

But as he hung below the watery surface, he realized he didn’t want to be part of the group anymore. He had other musical interests beyond the sound of The Rolling Stones, now boring to his ears. They weren’t seeing eye to eye about the music, and he wanted to do so much more. His trip to Morocco to record the musicians at Jajouka opened a new world. He had hoped to add their exotic rhythms to the Stones sound. Now, maybe he could produce his own music, his own way. Over the years his travels had taken him all over the world - Ceylon, Marrakesh, Tangier. There were new sounds to be discovered, a world of music he could use.

In the weeks since the firing, he had turned a new leaf. He was happier than he had been in recent years, enjoying Creedence’s “Proud Mary,” and The Beatles’ “Ballad of John and Yoko.” He felt a bit crucified, if you can be only a little crucified, he laughed to himself. Charlie had visited a few times. He had been rehearsing with various musicians every day for two weeks, excitedly ringing Keith up to tell him how things were going.

There could be life after the Stones. He had that knack of getting people together. Not just his former band, but others, like hooking Nico up with The Velvet Underground. Recently he had spoken with John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix and they had both left the door open to work together with Brian. Brian had started one group with his skill and push. He could start again; he could be that leader again. When the Stones started out, he felt he was doing exactly what he wanted to do with his life. He had just gotten off course. It was time to get back to his love, making music.

With that, Brian Jones kicked off the bottom of the pool and headed up to the light.


In the early morning hours of July 3, 1969, nearly one month from being fired from The Rolling Stones, founding member Brian Jones drowned in the swimming pool at his home, Cotchford Farm, Sussex. The verdict was death by “misadventure.” Jones was an excellent swimmer and drowning seemed unlikely. Mystery immediately surrounded his death, and hints of murder arose. Frank Thorogood was the prime suspect. When word reached the Stones at Olympic Studios at 3 AM, during the first sessions with Jones’ replacement Mick Taylor, they were recording Stevie Wonder’s “I Don’t Know Why.”

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