The Stones and Brian Jones
by George Wolf
At this point, it’s a good bet that any Rolling Stones fan who is familiar with the name Brian Jones is 1) dedicated 2) old or 3) both.
With The Stones and Brian Jones, documentarian Nick Broomfield aims to add some numbers to that list, reminding all who will listen about Jones’s place in the Stones enduring legacy.
It was, after all, guitarist and blues devotee Brian who is credited with forming the band at the age of 19. He recruited Mick, Keith, Charlie and Bill via other groups or local advertisements, and was the Stones figurehead until the Jagger/Richards cocktail of rock charisma and songwriting prowess began to take over.
As he did with 2019’s Words of Love: Marianne and Leonard, Broomfield leans on archival footage and interview audio to effectively stamp the time and place. He surrounds us with England in the 1960s, pulling us into the story of a young man whose troubled relationship with his parents drove both his ambition and his self-destructive nature.
We hear from other musicians (retired Stone and devoted archivist Bill Wyman serves as a consultant on the film), friends, family and the various girlfriends who bore his 5 children. And while we certainly get a peek behind the rock star curtain (“He just uses people”), Jones’s eventual fade into the background comes off as inevitable.
His haircut was mod, his aim to keep the band bluesy was pure and his attention to fan mail was sweet, but he didn’t sing and didn’t write songs.
Again, do the math.
For music fans, Broomfield has assembled a wealth of audio and video that feels like a must-see scrapbook on the birth of a legend. Ironically, it all casts a spell that’s only broken by the more recent Zoom-like interviews that are included (including Wyman, which only draws more attention to the absence of Mick and Keith).
It’s hard not to smile as a young Brian tells a reporter that he’d do it all again “a hundred times,” and wonder if he ever could have imagined that even today, the history of the band he started would somehow still be adding chapters.
But Brian’s personal history was cut short, and much like in Words of Love, a parting note from long ago becomes a bittersweet ode to the real lives that got away from the people living them. Mr. Jones may not have been a survivor, but as Broomfield makes clear, he should be remembered as more than a footnote.