KEITH RICHARDS & BRIAN JONES
It’s easy to forget that Keef – the man hailed as the chemical heart of the Stones – was technically the band’s rhythm guitarist, not their lead player. That’s at least partially because the underpinning riffs of the band are absolutely key to their sound, and Richards has a near-psychic lock with drummer Charlie Watts. But it was Jones that was the established star on the London blues scene, Jones that formed the band (with the band’s oft-overlooked pianist Ian Stewart), and Jones that named it after a Muddy Waters song.
At first, this was all fine: they were a blues band with a killer guitarist who had an impeccable pedigree, a rock-solid rhythm section, and a charismatic frontman in Mick Jagger. Their covers of “It’s All Over Now” and “Little Red Rooster” went to number one, the latter showcasing Jones’ effortless slide playing. Over time, the two guitarists perfected what Richards called “guitar weaving”, where they’d swap roles within a song to give the impression of more than two parts.
However, the balance of power was starting to switch from the blonde blues head to the emerging Jagger-Richards songwriting axis, particularly once “The Last Time” went to number one in 1965. The existing tensions were exacerbated by drug use and the growing confidence of Jagger and Richards, and Jones was finally dismissed in June 1969. Less than month later, he drowned in his pool at Cotchford Farm.
Richards went on to play with some excellent lead guitarists in Mick Taylor and Ronnie Wood, and there was some amazing music to come. But that guitar weaving interplay would never quite return. It’s without doubt that something intangible within the Stones died with Jones.
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