Brian Jones: Death of a Rolling Stone
By Anthony Bruno
"Death by Misadventure"
At the funeral service for Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones, the stiff-backed English preacher was caustic. Speaking of the deceased in the eulogy, Canon Hugh Evan Hopkins said, "He had little patience with authority, convention and tradition. In this he was typical of many of his generation who have come to see in the Stones an expression of their whole attitude to life. Much that this ancient church has stood for in 900 years seems totally irrelevant to them." The canon was indicting the young man in the solid bronze casket for all the sins and excesses of his generation. But this was 1969, and the youth culture had plenty of excesses to cluck at—marijuana, hallucinogens, free sex, loud music, colorful and outlandish fashion, "flower power," the automatic rejection of the status quo and a compulsive need for change.
"Sex, drugs, and rock and roll" was the mantra of the era, and the late Brian Jones, founding member of the Rolling Stones, had indulged—and overindulged—in all three.
The funeral took place in Jones' hometown of Cheltenham, 80 miles northwest of London. It was a hot, sunny day—July 10, 1969. Fans and friends had provided a field's worth of flower arrangements. His parents and sister ordered a floral grave marker in the shape of a guitar. The Rolling Stones sent a spectacular eight-foot arrangement with hundreds of red and yellow roses, and the words "The Gates of Heaven" written out in flowers.
The town was mobbed with tearful fans and curious onlookers. Local school children were let out of class to see the spectacle. Press photographers swarmed like bees, aggressively snapping pictures at family and friends without regard for the solemnity of the occasion. The 14-car funeral procession crawled to the cemetery, its progress frequently blocked by the surging crowds. At the grave site, photographers lunged over the mourners to point their lens into the empty hole. As the casket was lowered into the ground, teenagers shoved and jostled to toss their flowers onto Brian Jones' remains.
The Rolling Stones former lead guitarist had died the week before on the night of July 2. He drowned in the pool at his home near Hartfield in Sussex, 50 miles southeast of London. The house was called Cotchford Farm and had once been owned by A.A. Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh. The garden was decorated with statues of the characters from the book.
On the night of his death, Jones had been drinking wine and taking downers. Some suggested that he might have taken his own life, but those closest to him said he had no reason to commit suicide. Even though he had been officially ejected from the Stones several months earlier, Jones was reportedly getting over it and was planning new musical projects on his own. According to the coroner's report, Jones was the victim of "death by misadventure," an accidental drowning precipitated by drug and alcohol abuse. But as time passed, rumors gained momentum that Jones had been murdered. Inconsistencies in the accounts of that evening were gradually uncovered. A deathbed confession by the alleged killer was squelched by a loyal Stones' retainer. More than 30 years later, suspicions persist.
But on the day of Brian Jones' funeral, no one was talking about murder. Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts was too shaken to sort out the details as he stood by the grave, and bassist Bill Wyman was annoyed that the whole band hadn't shown up for the man who had initially brought them all together. Jones' replacement, Mick Taylor, had never met Jones, so his presence wasn't expected, but the others, Wyman felt, should have been there.
Notably absent that day were lead singer Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, and Richards' girlfriend, model and actress Anita Pallenberg. Two years earlier the pretty blonde had been Brian Jones' companion before Richards "rescued" her from Jones. The emotional scars of that breakup would never fade completely, but Jones had finally accepted Pallenberg's defection and found other girlfriends. And though relations were often tense in the last years of Jones' life, he was still on speaking terms with Pallenberg and his old bandmates. Professionally the Stones were doing well, and Richards and Pallenberg were in love. Jones had been a mess personally, but he was getting back on track, settling in with a new woman and exploring new musical opportunities. So why did Jagger, Richards and Pallenberg stay away from their poor old friend's funeral? "The Nastiest Piece of Work You Ever Met"
In May 1962, 20-year-old Brian Jones placed an ad in England's Jazz News, seeking musicians for a new blues band he was putting together. The blues were Jones' passion, and he envisioned a Chicago-style blues band modeled on American blues master Muddy Waters's classic combo, consisting of rhythm and lead guitars, bass guitar, drums, harmonica, keyboards, and a vocalist. Jones himself was a natural musician who could pick up a new instrument and make music with it in no time. Emulating his hero, Muddy Waters, Jones taught himself how to play bottleneck guitar, dragging a glass or metal slide over open-tuned strings, which produced the essential and unmistakable blues sound. It wasn't long before he had a reputation for being the best slide guitar player in London.
he first person to respond to his ad was a square-jawed Scotsman named Ian Stewart who played boogie-woogie piano. Other musicians responded to the ad, but Jones was picky. Anyone who didn't see eye-to-eye with his vision for the band was soon ejected.
Jones pursued a young singer named Mick Jagger who was getting a lot of attention for his idiosyncratic vocal style and his gyrating stage moves. Jagger also played harmonica, which made him all the more appealing to Jones, who recognized Jagger's sex appeal with teenage girls. Jones instinctively knew that his band, like Elvis Presley before them, would have to tap into the teenage female market if they were going to make it. Jones met Jagger in a pub one night and invited him to come to a rehearsal.
That same night Jones also invited a skinny 18-year-old guitarist who happened to be tipping a pint at the pub. Keith Richards was known for being able to imitate the unique guitar playing of American rock'n'roll legend Chuck Berry. Jones wasn't sure Richards would fit it—he was leery of hardcore rock'n'rollers in a blues band, but he was willing to give Richards a try. To his surprise, Jones found that Richards' rhythm playing complimented his lead, and eventually they developed a style that has become the hallmark of the band—two interweaving guitars that switch parts freely, each one seamlessly going from rhythm to lead and back again.
Jones found a solid rhythm section in drummer Charlie Watts and bass guitarist Bill Wyman. Ian Stewart left the formal lineup but stayed close to the band and recorded with them frequently. When it came to naming the group, Jones looked to his idol and adapted the title of the Muddy Waters song, "Rollin' Stone."
In the early '60s, the Rolling Stones were just one of several dozen English bands, such as Herman's Hermits, Freddie and the Dreamers, the Honeycombs, and Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, who were struggling to make it big. But by the mid '60s one band, the Beatles, had taken the lead position, leaving the others in the dust. The fab four from Liverpool caught on with teenagers in Great Britain and America with their irresistible pop tunes and appealing public image. To the older generation, the Beatles' long hair was the most objectionable thing about them.
The Rolling Stones chose to distinguish themselves by going the other way, embracing a darker, more rebellious public posture. They went out of their way to be seen as the bad boys of rock, the band that parents would despise. The Beatles wore uniforms when they performed; the Stones wore whatever they wanted. Jagger and Jones dressed like dandies in ruffled shirts and flowing bell-bottom trousers while Richards cultivated a disheveled, dirty blue jeans, proto-punk look. The Beatles pumped out a steady stream of catchy tunes that became number one hits. The Stones proudly showed their down-and-dirty blues roots. When it came to drug use, the Beatles—at least until the psychedelic period in the late '60s—kept their personal habits out of the press. The Rolling Stones by contrast became synonymous with drug use in England. But it was one aspect of their bad-boy image that they would have preferred to have kept private because it nearly destroyed them as a band.
While the Beatles were soaring, playing in sold-out stadiums around the world, the Stones' progress was hampered by persistent drug busts that dragged Jones, Jagger and Richards into court to the delight of the Fleet Street tabloids. (Bassist Wyman and drummer Watts, the family men of the band, shied away from drugs.) Bad publicity affected the Stones' record sales, and drug charges prevented Jones from going on tour in America with the band. Jagger and Richards smoked hash and marijuana and experimented with harder drugs, but they were generally able to function and flourish as musicians during this period. Jones, however, was another story. Bill Wyman in Stephen Davis's Old Gods Almost Dead summed up the two sides of Jones' personality: "He could be the sweetest, softest, and most considerate man in the world and the nastiest piece of work you ever met." By all accounts Jones suffered from low self-esteem, deep insecurity and paranoia. He was always desperate for a woman's company, but he treated his girlfriends horribly, physically abusing some of them. He fathered five children in his short life and refused to formally acknowledge any of them, let alone marry their mothers. Former lovers remembered him most for his wicked temper. He claimed to suffer from asthma and never went anywhere without an inhaler, yet none of his friends could recall ever seeing him have an attack. But despite all his personal problems, Brian Jones was the most creative member of the band. As a musician, he was the envy of his peers, and his ability to pick up a new instrument and make it his own was truly remarkable. His work with the marimba on "Under My Thumb" and the sitar on "Paint It Black" from the Aftermath album are just two examples of his brilliance. He was also the driving force of the band, at least initially, taking the leadership role in business and creative matters until his drug use forced a changing of the guard.
Friction between band members in any rock 'n' roll group is almost inevitable, but in many cases personal differences don't stand in the way of making good music. The three front men of the Stones existed in a churning swirl of jealousies and shifting alliances. In 1963 Jones had cut a secret deal with their agent at the time, giving him five pounds more a week than the others because he was the leader of the band. That same agent had insisted on getting rid of Jagger, saying that he couldn't sing, and Jones was willing to go along with Jagger's ouster until their manager, Andrew Oldham, stepped in and pleaded the singer's case.
agger was the voice of the band, but Jones, with his fair-haired, androgynous looks was Jagger's rival in sex appeal. Richards had found a guitar soulmate in Jones, but that bond began to dissolve when Richards and Jagger started writing songs together. Not only did their original material give them the edge in creative control of the band, song royalties put more money in their pockets. According to singer Marianne Faithfull, who was Jagger's companion at the time, the building animosity between Jones and Jagger came to a head at a kiss-and-make-up dinner party at Richards' country house where "Brian pulled a knife on Mick." As recounted in A.E. Hotchner's book Blown Away, Jagger got the knife away from Jones, but their scuffle continued. Jones jumped into the moat that surrounded the house to escape Jagger's rage and Jagger followed him in. They tussled and thrashed in the water until they were too exhausted to continue.
By the late '60s Jones was unhappy with the Rolling Stones. The band he had founded was drifting away from his original concept: to interpret American blues and R&B for a white teenage audience. More and more the Jagger-Richards songs were setting the tone for the band, and it wasn't always to his liking. When the band had put together the songs for their psychedelic album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, Jones expressed his distaste for the work and predicted that it would bomb because the public would see it for what it was, a pale imitation of the Beatles' landmark albumSergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Feeling isolated from the band that he had created, Jones turned to drugs for solace.
Jones' drug use soon became a major liability for the Stones. Not only was he bringing them bad press, he was useless in the studio, frequently lying down on the floor and passing out with his guitar still strapped to him. They all agreed that they needed a break to reassess their situation. Jones and Richards decided to take a vacation in Morocco. Jones asked his girlfriend at the time, Anita Pallenberg, to go with them. But what they'd hoped would be a much-needed period of rest and relaxation turned into a holiday in hell. Morocco
Just as the Beatles had found spiritual rejuvenation in India under the guidance of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Rolling Stones found peace under the sheltering skies of Morocco. Unlike the Beatles, the Stones did not seek out the wisdom of a guru in Morocco. It was the otherworldly nature of the country that appealed to them. Their creative juices flowed there—as did the availability of drugs ranging from kif (the native blend of black tobacco and marijuana) and majoun (a candy made from honey and hash paste) to speed and morphine. Morocco was also far from the media madness in England, and in February 1967, the Stones needed shelter from the latest onslaught of bad publicity brought on by a drug bust at Keith Richards' home, Redlands. Jagger and Richards were both charged and scheduled to be tried in June. If convicted, they would be facing long prison sentences and cancellation of their record contract. The end of the Rolling Stones was suddenly a very real possibility.
On the advice of their handlers, the Stones decided to disappear for a while in the hopes of getting off the front pages. In late February, Mick Jagger flew to Tangier. Richards, Jones and Jones' girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, decided to drive to Morocco in Richards' Bentley, which was nicknamed the Blue Lena. Longtime Stones retainer Tom Keylock chauffeured, ferrying the car from England to France and picking up his passengers in Paris. They planned to drive through France and Spain, then cross over to Morocco at Gibraltar. But what promised to be a pleasant escape from the maelstrom turned into a new whirlwind of trouble. And this time it was personal.
Jones had been in a jolly mood as the trip began. For once he was not the one in the spotlight. Sipping brandy, smoking joints and cuddling with Pallenberg in the backseat, Jones was looking forward to his 25th birthday the next day, February 28. Jones and Pallenberg wore their straight blond hair exactly alike in Prince Valliant cuts with long bangs down below their brows. In photographs they bore an unsettling resemblance as if they were brother and sister. Jones, who was reputed to be monumentally self-centered even when sober, was apparently oblivious to the sexual tension building in the Blue Lena between Pallenberg and Keith Richards.
On the second day of the trip, Jones became ill with a respiratory infection and had to be hospitalized in Toulouse, France. The French doctors insisted that he stay for a few days, so he told his friends to go on and that he would meet them in Tangier as soon as he was well enough to travel. He spent his birthday alone in the hospital as the Blue Lena continued on. With Jones gone, Richards and Pallenberg couldn't contain their feelings for one another. As Stephen Davis writes in Old Gods Almost Dead, driver "Tom Keylock could barely keep his eyes on the road because Anita and Keith were making love in the backseat."
A few days later a demanding telegram from Jones found its way to Pallenberg. He wanted her to return to Toulouse and help him get back to London where he could complete his recovery. Torn between Richards and Jones, Pallenberg sadly boarded a plane in Mirabella, Spain, to attend to her boyfriend. As the plane departed, Richards confided in Keylock that he was confident she would be back.
He was right. Less than a week later, Pallenberg, Jones and Marianne Faithfull flew from London to Madrid, intent on meeting up with Jagger and Richards in Tangier. But Jones' good mood had vanished, and his paranoia had kicked into high gear, having picked up on Pallenberg's feelings for Richards. As the trio made their way toward Gilbraltar, Pallenberg took Faithfull aside whenever Jones was out of earshot to ask what she thought of Jones in comparison to Richards. They stopped at the Rock of Gibraltar to see the famous monkey colony. Jones, who was on LSD at the time, played his tape recorder for the monkeys who shrieked and fled in fear. Jones was so upset by their reaction he started to cry. Faithfull had a bad feeling about what would happen next.
One of Jones' missions on this trip to Morocco was to hear the reclusive Master Musicians of Jajouka who played on rustic pipes. Their music was reputed to have therapeutic qualities. The Master Musicians lived in the hill country south of Tangier, and Jones had met an ex-pat avant-garde artist named Brion Gysin who had been to Jajouka many times and had brought select friends into the hills to hear the musicians. Jones was eager to go, hoping to record them and release their healing music as an album. Gysin was hesitant to agree to anything, having had a bad experience taking Timothy Leary to hear the Master Musicians. Leary had offered LSD to the young boys of Jajouka, which Gysin considered a sacrilege. To him, Jajouka was a pure and sacred place that should not be spoiled by outsiders. Jones, Jagger, Richards and Pallenberg visited Gysin at his home in Morocco, and Jones made it clear that he wanted Gysin to take him to Jajouka. Gysin wasn't sure he wanted to risk another Leary-type incident, so he suggested taking them all to Marrakech instead where they could hear some equally interesting indigenous music. he next day they all moved into the Hotel Marrakech in the shadow of the city's fabled red walls, and Jones suffered a meltdown. In his hotel room, he confronted Pallenberg with her infidelity, shouting that he could see that something was going on between her and Richards. Fed up with Jones and his turbulent mood swings, Pallenberg admitted to her affair with Richards, throwing it in Jones' face. Blinded by hurt and rage, Jones beat her more severely than he had ever beaten her. She fled from their room outside to the pool where she did nothing to hide her bruised face. That night as Richards played electric guitar by the moonlight, Pallenberg went back to the room and took sleeping pills, hoping to get some rest while Jones was out. Later that night he burst into the room and woke her from a sound sleep. He was high on acid and had two Berber prostitutes with him. He wanted Pallenberg to join them in a foursome. Pallenberg refused, and Jones had a tantrum, trashing the room. Pallenberg grabbed her belongings and spent the night with Richards.
For Pallenberg and Richards this was the last straw. Jones was such a destructive presence they simply had to get away from him. They decided to go back to London and abandon Jones in Morocco.
The next day Tom Keylock took Brion Gysin aside and told him that a planeload of British journalists was heading for Marrakech to ambush the boys. He asked Gysin if he would take Jones out of the way to hear music so that he wouldn't have the opportunity to say something stupid to the reporters. Gysin obliged, escorting Jones to Jma al-Fna, the Square of the Dead, where Jones was dazzled by the array of street performers and musicians including snake charmers and acrobats. He was particularly taken with the drum-playing, kif-smoking Mejdoubi, the holy fools of Marrakech. When Gysin finally got Jones back to the hotel that night, they found that everyone had left for London, including Richards and Pallenberg. The invasion of the Fleet Street reporters was a lie. Alone and paranoid, Jones got on the phone and tried to get some answers, but no one would tell him where his friends had gone. But even though he was high, Jones could see the reality of the situation. Jagger and Richards had taken his band away from him, and now Richards had taken his girlfriend. Jones broke down into uncontrollable tears and needed a sedative to sleep that night.
"Cold As Ice"
When Brian Jones had finally made his way back to London, he was an emotional wreck, and it didn't help to find his apartment half empty. Anita Pallenberg had moved all her belongings out and taken up residence with Keith Richards. Jones begged her to come back, but she refused.
The other Rolling Stones were fed up with Jones and wouldn't speak to him. They seriously considered firing him, but Mick Jagger objected. Always the pragmatist, Jagger felt that they still needed Jones, at least for the time being. They needed money badly, especially Jagger and Richards, who were facing tremendous legal bills with their upcoming drug trial. The Stones were scheduled to do a European tour, and Jagger felt that their popularity might be jeopardized if Jones, who was still a favorite with the teenage girls, was missing.
Jones didn't want to go on tour with them. He was fed up with them as well. He also claimed to have forgotten how to play the guitar as a result of the psychic damage he'd suffered. But Pallenberg lured him back, holding out the slight possibility that they could get back together if he took care of himself and got back into shape. Jones agreed to do the tour and started taking guitar lessons.
He managed to survive the tour, even though none of his bandmates would speak to him. All along he had hoped for a reconciliation with Pallenberg, but she stayed with Richards. Caught in a swirl of drugs, alcohol and paranoia, Jones went into a tailspin. His mood swings became more pronounced, and the band could not count on him to show up for rehearsals or recording sessions. And when he did show up, he was useless to them, frequently falling asleep on the floor, seldom contributing anything substantial to the music.
By the spring of 1969, the band had to make a decision. If they were going to survive as a band, they needed to tour, and to tour they needed a reliable lead guitarist. Mick Jagger took the initiative and offered the position to a young blues virtuoso named Mick Taylor, who would end up staying with the Stones for the next five and a half years. There was just one little matter to take care of—firing Brian Jones.
On June 9, Jagger and Richards drove to Cotchford Farm, Jones' home in Sussex, to hand him his pink slip. Mick and Keith weren't happy being the hatchet men, but they knew it had to be done. Jones, for his part, had expected something like this, and he took the news placidly, agreeing to let them handle questions from the press whichever way they thought best. In recognition of his past contributions to the band, Jagger offered Jones 100,000 pounds upon his departure and 20,000 a year for as long as the band stayed together. After Jagger and Richards left Cotchford Farm, Jones went out into the garden and stood before the statue of Christopher Robin, weeping.
Jones had a new live-in girlfriend, Anna Wohlin, a dark-haired beauty from Sweden who had belonged to a dance troupe called the Ravens. In her 1999 book, The Murder of Brian Jones, she describes Jones as being in a good place mentally in the summer of 1969, despite his recent dismissal from the band. Out of fear for his health, he had cut back drastically on his drug consumption and was mainly confining himself to his favorite white wine, Blue Nun. He was working on his music again, even talking to Beatle John Lennon about making some recordings together.
Jones was also having some major renovations done at Cotchford Farm, and he had allowed the crew foreman, Frank Thorogood, to live in the apartment over the garage. Although Thoroughgood had previously done some work for Keith Richards and was on the Stones' payroll, he and his crew resented Jones, seeing him as the model of a dandy rock star, too rich for his own good. They harassed Jones in his own home, and Jones, who was desperate to be liked, never complained or retaliated. But an incident on July 1 finally roused Jones' anger.
After dinner that night, a newly restored support beam in the kitchen collapsed, nearly striking Anna Wohlin in the head. Jones was livid. Though he'd been unhappy with the quality of Thoroughgood's work all along, he'd kept quiet about it, but this was inexcusable. The next morning he told Thoroughgood in no uncertain terms that he was withholding all further payments until the beam was fixed to his satisfaction. He was also going to review all of Thoroughgood's bills, including his grocery bills, which Jones was also paying. When Thoroughgood refused to take Jones seriously, Jones threatened to fire him and make sure that he never worked again. The 44-year-old Thoroughgood suddenly became very sullen. He did not take kindly to being dressed down by a 27-year-old fop.
While Thoroughgood's crew went to work on the fallen beam, Jones sequestered himself upstairs. He heard the busy hammering downstairs and started to feel bad about how he had talked to Thoroughgood. His guilt festered through the day, and Jones couldn't stand the thought that Thoroughgood might be upset with him. He discussed the situation repeatedly with his girlfriend Wohlin. Finally at 10 p.m, he decided to ask Thoroughgood over for "a drink and a swim" to make things right with him. Jones went to Thoroughgood's apartment to fetch him.
They returned 15 minutes later with Thoroughgood's companion that evening, a nurse named Janet Lawson. (Thoroughgood was married to someone else.) Jones served drinks in the dining room. Thoroughgood, who was still sulking, asked for vodka. Jones drank brandy.
Jones tried to patch things up with Thoroughgood but with limited success. After a while Jones suggested that they take a moonlight swim. Thoroughgood and Wohlin took him up on the offer while Lawson declined. The air outside was still warm and humid despite the late hour as they crossed the lawn to the pool. As always Jones placed his inhaler by the side of the pool where he could get to it in case of an asthma attack, then went straight to the diving board and dove in. Jones was an excellent swimmer who loved the water. When the Stones had toured Australia, he'd given his bandmates a good scare when he swam out into the ocean in rough waters, going out more than a mile. He couldn't be seen from the shore, and the others were sure that he had drowned. He swam back without trouble and laughed at their concern as he toweled himself off.
In the pool Wohlin noticed that Thoroughgood's mood hadn't improved, but Jones was feeling mischievous. He swam underwater, grabbed Thoroughgood by the ankles, and pulled him under. Thoroughgood didn't find Jones' antics funny, but Jones continued to tease him, calling him "old man," which hit a nerve with Thoroughgood. As Jones swam by, Thoroughgood lunged and dunked Jones' head under the water. Jones came up coughing and laughing. He thought they were having fun.
Janet Lawson called to Anna Wohlin from the house; she was wanted on the phone. The women went inside, leaving the men alone in the pool.
Some time later while Wohlin was on the phone with a friend, she heard Lawson screaming from outside, "'Anna! Anna! Something's happened to Brian!'"
Wohlin rushed downstairs and found Frank Thoroughgood dripping wet in the kitchen, trying to light a cigarette. His hands were shaking, and he wouldn't make eye contact with her. She ran outside, passing Lawson, and looked into the still pool. Jones was "lying spread-eagled on the bottom."
She dove in and tried to pull him to the surface, but he kept slipping out of her grip. She yelled to Thoroughgood for help. He came, but took his time getting there, she said. He sat on the edge and slipped into the water, then helped Wohlin get Jones out of the pool. As they turned Jones onto his chest, Wohlin noticed that Thoroughgood wasn't shaking anymore. His manner was "cold as ice."
Lawson ran over to help. After getting the water out of his lungs, they turned Jones onto his back. Lawson massaged his heart as Wohlin administered CPR, or the "kiss of life" as she called it. They worked on him without stop. Wohlin thought she felt him faintly squeezing her hand at one point, but by the time an ambulance arrived, Jones was dead.
At 2 a.m. word of Jones' death reached the Rolling Stones at Olympic Studios in London where they were recording a Stevie Wonder song, "I Don't Know Why." The band fell into stunned silence, sitting on the floor, some of them lighting up joints. Drummer Charlie Watts quietly cried.
"Paint It Black"
Anna Wohlin believes that Frank Thoroughgood killed Brian Jones, but by her own account, she did not actually witness the murder. She was in the house on the telephone when it happened. She claims that Thoroughgood threatened her twice afterward—at the police station on the night of the incident and five days later at the coroner's inquest—urging her strongly not to implicate him.
Wohlin writes in her book that Thoroughgood "sidled up to her" outside the East Grinstead police station and said, "'Don't forget to tell them it was Brian who wanted me to come down to you, not me The only thing you need to tell them is that Brian had been drinking and that his drowning was an accident. You don't have to tell them anything else. I left Brian to go to the kitchen and light a cigarette and I don't know any more than you There's no need for you to tell the police that you saw me in the kitchen. Just tell them we pulled Brian out of the pool together."
In researching his book on the Stones, author A.E. Hotchner tracked down two men who believe that they witnessed the murder. Nicholas Fitzgerald was a good friend of Brian Jones in 1969. He and a friend had shown up at Cotchford Farm at about 11 p.m. on the night of July 2. Seeing that the pool lights were on, they went around to the back of the house instead of going to the front door. Coming through the bushes, Fitzgerald saw three men standing by the pool. They were dressed like "workmen," and one was down on one knee, pushing the head of someone in the pool under the water. A man and a woman were standing at the other side of the pool, and this man seemed to be directing the action. One of the three workmen jumped in and "landed on the back of the struggling swimmer." Before Fitzgerald and his friend could do anything, a "burly man" with a cockney accent threatened them and drove them off.
One of the laborers who worked for Thoroughgood at Jones' home at the time spoke to Hotchner on condition of anonymity. The man is referred to as "Marty" in the book. "Marty" claimed to have been there when it happened, along with a few other members of the work crew who had brought their wives and girlfriends. At least two of the laborers resented Jones for his wealth, his pretty women, and his air of superiority around them. The men started horsing around in the pool, harassing Jones and preventing him from getting out. They held him under, and the women, who were impressed with his celebrity, pleaded with the men to leave him alone. This enraged them further. Things got out of hand, and Jones was drowned. "Those guys got carried away," Marty said, "and I wouldn't say what happened was an accident."
According to Anna Wohlin, years later the Stones' chauffeur Tom Keylock got Thoroughgood to sign a deathbed confession, a document that has never been published. On the night of Jones' death, Thoroughgood had called Keylock to tell him what had happened, and Keylock went directly to Cotchford Farm. According to Wohlin, Keylock took control of the situation. The Stones' press agent Les Perrin arrived next, and he was the one who found Jones' inhaler by the pool. Wohlin claims that in the days after Jones' death Perrin had offered her money to keep silent and not talk to the press. He eventually persuaded her to sign an agreement stating that if she gave any interviews, she would say nothing that could harm the reputations of Brian Jones or the Rolling Stones. The agreement also gave Perrin the right to review any article written based on an interview with her before it was published.
Why, she wondered, were the Stones' management so worried about bad press? Brian Jones was out of the band. How could his death harm them? Were they trying to protect Thoroughgood? If so, why?
Whether Jones' death was the result of Thoroughgood becoming enraged as Wohlin claims, or his crew letting their resentment get out hand as "Marty" claims, why did Perrin go to such lengths to put his spin on the story? And how did it come about that Jones' home was ransacked, his most valuable possessions stolen, when Tom Keylock was supposedly keeping an eye on things?
Were the Stones' handlers afraid that Thoroughgood's connection to their organization would point the finger of blame back at the band? And what became of Frank Thoroughgood's deathbed confession? If he had indeed confessed to the killing himself, why wasn't it ever released to the public to put all doubts to rest?
The Stones had been planning a free concert scheduled for July 5, 1969, in London's Hyde Park where they would debut their new hit single, "Honkey Tonk Women." After they learned of Jones' death, they considered canceling the event. Some band members felt that it would be inappropriate to perform when Brian Jones wasn't even in the ground yet. Charlie Watts, however, suggested that they go ahead with the concert and dedicate it to their old friend.
On an unbearably hot and humid afternoon, the Stones took to the stage, surrounded by blow-ups of Brian Jones. Mick Jagger read "Adonais," a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley in honor of their former lead guitarist. Jagger's delivery was hardly inspiring, and the crowd was more interested in hearing music than mourning. As the band went into their first number, Tom Keylock opened several cardboard boxes, releasing 2,000 white moths in memory of Jones. Unfortunately the effect was less than expected. Most of the insects had perished in the heat; those that survived flew a few feet and crash dived into the crowd. Between the oppressive humidity and the somber mood, the Stones couldn't seem to get it together that day. Most agree that it was one of the worst concerts the band has ever given.
Five days later Brian Jones' remains were put to rest. Mick Jagger and his girlfriend Marianne Faithfull did not attend the funeral because they were scheduled to start work on the film Ned Kelly in Australia. Reportedly the producers of the film had threatened legal action if Jagger and Faithfull did not show up on schedule.
Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg must have had their own reasons for staying away. After all they had been through with Brian, perhaps it was just too painful to bear.
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