Rolling Stone: Life and Death of Brian Jones

by admin  13th Jul 2020 Comments [0]

Documentary review by David Holzer


There’s a painful moment in Danny Garcia’s Rolling Stone: Life and Death of Brian Jones that captures the raw tragedy of Brian’s stumbling downward spiral of a life.

It’s December 1967 and Brian has just left the Court of Appeal in London after one of his drug busts. Trapped by a horde of reporters, assaulted by camera flashlights, his face is bloated and blank, his hair is unkempt, his insolent satyrical beauty gone. He wears a thick sheepskin Afghan jacket.

Slowed down by Garcia to chilling, darkly poetic effect, the black and white clip shows Brian as a dazed sacrificial lamb waiting for slaughter.

Garcia’s movie is so compelling precisely because it considers all the factors that drove Brian to this point and on to his tragic end without imposing a single, limiting definition. He also gives equal weight to different interpretations of the story of how Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones became Brian Jones, briefly golden rock god.

This is one of the great strengths of the movie: it has real depth. Garcia’s subjects in previous movies have included Johnny Thunders, Sid Vicious and Stiv Bators who all lived out a cartoonish rock star fantasy shaped partly by Brian’s example as taught to Keith Richards.

As veteran British music journalist Chris Salewicz says towards the end of the movie, Brian had an “aura of dissolute hedonism [and is] the first example of any British rock star living the rock and roll lifestyle…maybe that’s a salutary warning as well.”

Garcia’s movie is also excellent on what intrigues many of us about Brian. He was far more than just a “British rock star.”

Time and time again, the people Garcia interviews emphasize just how “ahead of the curve” Brian was, as his friend Prince Stash Klossowski says.

Prince Stash is a joy. His eccentric appearance—hair in what looks like a single iron-grey dreadlock coiled around his head and held in place with a bandanna—and languid aristocratic drawl are a fabulously entertaining contrast to his no-bullshit take on Brian’s story.

Being able to hear and see characters whose names are familiar from the various books about Brian is another of the great pleasures of Rolling Stone: Life and Death of Brian Jones.

Among these are Richard Hattrell, the childhood pal so cruelly tortured by Brian in London, Dick Taylor and Phil May of contemporaries the Pretty Things and French actress/model Zouzou.

This more than compensates for the absence of any interviews with members of the Stones, although we do hear sixth Stone Ian Stewart’s voice. By now, we’ve become so familiar with Mick and Keith on the subject of Brian it’s hard to imagine their presence would have added anything to Garcia’s movie. Unless they came clean.

Garcia also makes powerful use of archive film of Brian, including home movie footage of him aged 17 sailing down the Worcester & Birmingham Canal in the UK with his girlfriend Valerie Corbett.

Brian’s in great shape but his eyes suggest his life of “dissolute hedonism” had already begun.

Hearing some of Brian’s music, especially critiqued by someone knowledgeable, would have certainly added another dimension to the movie. It’s a shame that Brian’s soundtrack for Volker Schlöndorff’s 1967 movie A Degree of Murder starring Anita Pallenberg can only be heard on a fragmented bootleg.

There’s a snippet of Joujouka music in Garcia’s movie but, since it accompanies a clip from the daft 2005 Brian biopic Stoned, it’s not clear whether it comes from the groundbreaking 1971 album Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka.

Instead, we have a soundtrack featuring, among others, Dick Taylor, the Alabama 3 and Greg Stackhouse Provost, formerly of the Chesterfield Kings and a contributor to this magazine, and guitarist/writer John Perry. Perry’s acoustic and slide “Brian” is the standout for me.

If I have a criticism, it’s that around half the movie is given over to exploring the conspiracy theories around Brian’s death at his East Sussex home Cotchford Farm on July 2, 1969.

I would have preferred that some of this time had been given over to celebrating Brian’s achievements as a supremely gifted musical pioneer and sartorial innovator.

Rolling Stone Life and Death of Brian Jones is out now on DVD in a package that includes the film poster, deleted scenes, bonus footage, an extra featurette and the trailer. The movie will be streamed on a number of platforms including Amazon. The soundtrack is available on vinyl. Find out more at

David Holzer is writing a book about the legendary Master Musicians of Joujouka who Brian recorded in July 1968.