The technical abilities of Brian Jones

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by MHP, Aug 11, 2016.

  1. MHP

    MHP Forum Resident Thread Starter

    The annoucement of the new Stones mono box has got me to pull out the old Decca records once again. Inspired by our fairly constant debate about Brian Jones' accomplishments on many an instrument, I decided I would put attention to his musical contributions which so often are praised. And I agree, to a certain degree, that he is marvelous to listen to.

    When I'm writing "to a certain degree", I'll have to explain myself:
    Almost everywhere I hear people describing him as a "technical superior" musician to his bandmates. I also hear people rant about his ability to pick up an instrument and handle it professionally almost immidiately.

    While I'm certain that he could create music out of every instrument he touched, I will have to ask: Has those people who claims his "technical superiorness" ever listened properly? Or are they just so blinded by Mr. Jones personality that they forget to be critical?

    Listening to the intro of "She Said Yeah" (0:09) he comes in wrongly and too late on the guitar. On "Cool, Calm & Collected" (first time at 0:37) his ability to play the sitar part are also marred by bum-notes. The same thing applies to his mellotron part on "2000 Light Years From Home", were he misses several notes (1:25).

    I will have to state, that this is not a thread were I'm trying to put the man down!
    He is sorely missed! But I would like to hear people's opinion own my observations.

    Those claiming he was "technical superior" are in my opinion overpraising him. He plays just as many bum-notes as the others. He could play slide-guitar, but mostly he was copying the blues records they covered. He could play a good harp, but in my opinion, Jagger was just as good at that.

    Thoughts? And in a good and friendly tone, please.
  2. Duke Fame

    Duke Fame Forum Resident

    Tampa, FL
    The one great thing about the Stones is that they were never what I would call technically proficient. Those 'bum-notes' are part of the essence of the band in my opinion. They were always more concerned with the feel of the song rather than putting perfection down on tape. Perfection can be saved for bands like ELP or Yes.

    So to answer the question, Jones deserves all the accolades he receives, bum-notes or not.
  3. spridle

    spridle Forum Resident

    None of The Stones were "technically superior" musicians. The "mistakes" you're talking about are exactly what makes the band so great. I know there's some people that think Brian was some kind of superior player but he never played any one thing long enough to become one of the masters of his instrument. Instead, he could pick up anything and be proficient enough for what their songs needed. A skill very few people have. I think the reasons why a lot of us really love The Stones is that tension caused by it seeming like things are just about to fall apart, but then they don't (usually). Jagger became a really good harp player, but while Brian was alive, Brian was better.
    Dodoz, Michael P, 2141 and 13 others like this.
  4. JohnnyQuest

    JohnnyQuest Forum Resident

    I agree. It's sloppy and rough around the edges, that's what makes it so charming. :love:
  5. MHP

    MHP Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I agree regarding the bum-notes. None of them were technical wonders, but that's not my point.
    The point is about those who rant about Jones being light years ahead of the others in terms of technical ability and creativeness.
    ParloFax likes this.
  6. qwerty

    qwerty A resident of the SH Forums.

    I'm not intimately familiar with Jones playing, so I will refrain from commenting on that.

    However, many musical instruments have a similarity, which will allow someone well-versed in one instrument to be able to quickly adapt and find their way around another similar instrument quite quickly. I do think that many people confuse this adaptability with quality. It always takes time and practice to master an instrument, even if one has the ability to pick up a new instrument and find a tune on it. For example, how many rock musicians picked up a sitar and plucked a riff for a song in the 60's (eg. Harrison on "Norwegian Wood"). This is not mastering the instrument, as it takes decades of dedication to master it.

    I've often had similar thoughts about the mystique of Jones ability to pick up instruments. Was he really a "jack of all trades, and a master of none"? Logic would suggest it is true.
  7. johnaltman

    johnaltman Forum Resident

    I don't think a claim can be made that his "creativeness" exceeds that of the band's two principle songwriters.
    gpg6212, tkl7 and blackg like this.
  8. Duke Fame

    Duke Fame Forum Resident

    Tampa, FL
    Ah, there's the disconnect then. I've never heard anyone talk about Jones's technical superiority, so I can't really say anything to that point.

    I have heard people talk about his versatility, creativity and ability to play anything and that I agree with completely.
  9. DTK

    DTK Forum Resident

    He obviously had the ability to pick of almost any instrument, get a sound out if, and apply that sound creatively in various song arrangements. That's must be quite a rare skill, but does not mean he was proficient or skilled on those instruments.
  10. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    I can't find the actual quote but I remember an interview by Keith from the 70's where he said essentially that "Brian wasn't a great musician. He did have a feel for certain things, but then we all did. It's tempting because he's dead to say that Brian was this genius musician but it wasn't really the truth." I'm paraphrasing from memory here.

    Now, of course most people will respond, "Well that's KEITH. He was JEALOUS! Argl bargl argl barg!" But I think there's more than a hint of truth to his statement. Brian had a great deal of natural talent which is what enabled him to pick up virtually any instrument lying around and play it competently. But that didn't make him a master of instruments and it didn't make him an expert guitarist and it didn't make him a songwriter. Most of all he was undisciplined, especially after he was successful and had a hundred other distractions around like chicks and drugs. I can relate to this to a certain extent - I've recognized in myself the tendency to get to a certain level as a musician and then sit on my laurels and not put in the hours of sweat to get to another level. My point being, it CAN happen - really talented musicians can nevertheless be somewhat slack in their development and sloppy in their performance, and some of these kinds of musicians can nevertheless make a big mark in history. I think Brian just became easily bored but when he was on, he was really on.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2016
  11. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    Almost all Brian biographies employ hyperbole in their narrative. They often refer to Brian as the Stones' "lead guitarist" (which was never true) and exaggerate his dedication to the guitar and his skill in other instruments.
  12. Six String

    Six String Senior Member

    I agree with the OP and others here. Brian was talented but he was a dabbler of instruments, something I happen to be able to do as well. Not to put the spotlight on me, but there are people who can pick up an instrument and within mnutes can make some inteligent sounds with it. That is far from mastering an instrument and that's ok n rock and roll.
    Brian, as someone already pointed out, got distracted by the trappings of success and chose the path of distraction instead of music. It's all there to see and hear. I think people who claimed he was a great musician are probably not musicians themselves so they may be more impressed with the number of instruments he played while in the band. He was certainly a curious musician but even a blind dog finds a bone sometimes.....
    ParloFax, bobc, djork and 2 others like this.
  13. Mainline461

    Mainline461 Forum Resident

    Tamiami Trail
    Personally I've always looked at the Stones with BJ, and the Stones after. I much prefer the Stones post BJ, and I believe most people do. With that being said there are great tunes that BJ contributed to but to say be was some kind of missed genius or musical guru is a real stretch, imo, and history speaks for itself. To me he contributed most with his presence, his look, especially on stage.
  14. old school

    old school Senior Member

    Brian Jones formed the band. Brian had the plan and knew exactly what music he wanted his new band to play. Brian was a much more experienced and technical musician then the other members when they met in 1962. And one of the first slide players in England in 1961. Brian was also a multi-instrumentalist and as fans of the Rolling Stones Brian was the most popular by a large margin. His only drawback was Brian had no interest in writing songs. From 1962-1968 Brian kept the Stones on the cutting edge with his many contributions with many different instruments and experimentation to keep pace with their big rival the Beatles. Without Brian Jones the Stones would of not had the great success they achieved and when Brian left the Rolling Stones their sound would never be the same again.
  15. Glenn Christense

    Glenn Christense Foremost Beatles expert... on my block

    Brian added something of interest and musical value to most of the Stones songs and added parts that probably wouldn't have been thought of by any of the other band members. ( from their mid period onward anyway)
    That's good enough for me.
  16. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    The bolded part is definitely significant. I've never heard it contested that when Mick and Keith met Brian, they were very impressed with his guitar skills. Supposedly he was playing "Dust My Broom" when they first saw him. It's a shame they never covered that song as the Stones - I've always wanted to hear the slide part that blew Mick and Keith away back in '61 or '62.
  17. Lightworker

    Lightworker Forum Resident

    Baltimore, MD
    Too much here that undercuts the credibility of your post. Brian Jones styled himself a bluesman, particularly in his guitar playing. If you listen to the classic African-American blues players,
    quite a few of them come in "wrongly or too late" by European pop music standards (ever listen to a Lightnin' Hopkins recording?). Brian was a "feel" player as were the rest of The Stones and
    "technical superiority" was not really their goal or they would be styling themselves after The Shadows instead of Slim Harpo. Brian's harmonica playing left Jagger choking in his dust (although
    Mick did get better as the 60s progressed), and neither could jam or solo with the audacity of Keith Relf in The Yardbirds. Also, there's no "sitar" on Cool, Calm And's a dulcimer, professor.
    sami, Classicolin, lightbulb and 9 others like this.
  18. lennonfan1

    lennonfan1 Forum Resident

    baltimore maryland
    actually their sound WAS the same. again...and again...and again...and again:)
    Lightworker likes this.
  19. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    I forgot to mention - harp was one instrument in particular that Brian really excelled on. Great harpist.
  20. vinyldreams

    vinyldreams Forum Resident

    Main St.
    Bo Diddley held him in high regard. Listen to Brian on Mona, it's mesmerizing.
  21. ssmith3046

    ssmith3046 Forum Resident

    I agree 100%. I love the Brian Jones era, Mick Taylor era, and the Ronnie Wood era. But, no Jones no Stones.
  22. Culpa

    Culpa Forum Resident

    Philadelphia, PA
    I love Brian's sax playing on You Know My Name, but I'm glad it's Bobby Keys on Brown Sugar.
  23. the sands

    the sands Forum Resident

    Oslo, Norway
    Not sure about technical abilities, I'm not a musician or anything but I would I think that most rock bands of the early 60s was more or less simplistic musically. What I notice is a taste for delicate details and imaginative instrumentation that is characteristic for Brian Jones' contributions to the band. It was almost as he was more like a Beatle at heart. I love Ron Wood and Mick Taylor but these guys are rockers and blues guitarists. Brian Jones could just as easily play the tuba or trumpet, so to speak. He was a multi-instrumentalist.
    fortherecord and lennonfan1 like this.
  24. Tom Campbell

    Tom Campbell Forum Resident

    Boston, MA
    Yes, I find this entire thread to be based on a false premise.

    Those who love Jones, here and elsewhere, don't tend to rave about his "technical superiority." They love him for his taste, his versatility, and his musical adventurousness. Mick Taylor is really the only "chops" guy in the history of the band.
  25. jwb1231970

    jwb1231970 Forum Resident

    Yeah I don't hear evidence of him being a great slide player on any record ala Duane Allman though we hear about how he was so good.
    Lightworker likes this.

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