Brian Jones: Straight From the Heart,
The Rolling Stones Murder
With a book title like Brian Jones: Straight From the Heart, The Rolling Stones Murder, you can bet a 337-page soft cover book presents some ‘facts’ that are far from the ‘official story’ of Brian Jones’ death. Gloria Shepherd has done her homework here in reconstructing Jones’ often tragic life — from his abusive childhood to his life on the streets through his mentoring and creation of the ‘world’s greatest rock and roll band’. This book is filled with Brian Jones’ own quotes and interviews (and the interviews and quotes of others) leaving the reader forever chilled at Jones’ childhood hardships yet heartened by his conviction to recreate American blues and R&B into a great band. If nothing else, Shepherd makes a convincing case of how important a rock and roll pioneer Brian Jones was and how, without him, there would never have been a Rolling Stones.
By all accounts the angelic-looking Jones was a musical wunderkind, able to play any instrument he put his hands or lips on. At the same time, he was plagued by physical and mental maladies — ones that Shepherd is convinced would be diagnosed as a fibromyalgia nd bi-polar disorder today. As much as anything else in Jones’ short life, his diseases colored his world and left him ill-equipped to handle the tug-of-war between himself and Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Andrew Oldham, the Rolling Stones’ manager, competing as they were for control of the band Jones not only started but mentored. Shepherd brings to light the Jones/ Jagger love affair and how Jones basically taught Mick how to move and sing. Jones was simply too weak to do battle to retain leadership when Jagger and Richards began writing hit songs in earnest.
Personally I have never read a book about Jones before; certainly not one this focused on the man’s life. Brian Jones: Straight From the Heart, The Rolling Stones Murder is painfully honest and well researched, but what I did find a little over done was Shepherd’s belaboring of certain points. She repeats a little too often how gentle Jones was, how much he loved his music, how beautiful and seductive he could be, and how his many ailments plagued him. Strong as her writing is at times, I felt Shepherd could have been a bit restrained in her repetitiveness, maybe temper her genuflecting. But really that’s my only criticism of this solid read.
As for the controversy surrounding Jones’ death — or his murder — this will be debatable for years. I’ve come to see Jones’ death like John Kennedy’s (OK, maybe not on such a global scale), but in the fat that the ‘official’ line on the who’s, why’s and how’s are pretty much accepted as lacking by most people. I’m not sure the ‘facts’ as Shepherd presents them are completely convincing. Her arguments, suppositions and theories are compelling (as is the whole book ), but you will have to read the book and decide for yourself if Shepherd makes a convincing case.
All in all, I think Brian Jones: Straight From the Heart, The Rolling Stones Murder is a good read, maybe a bit long-winded in places, but a nice look into this talented man’s tragic life. We have had Bill Wyman’s various Stones’ histories, countless bios of “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band,” so why not this one about Brian Jones, a great musician who died way too young?
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.