In the annals of rock history, certain encounters stand out as truly unique and, at times, awkward. One such meeting took place between the eclectic musician Frank Zappa and the enigmatic Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones. These two musical visionaries crossed paths during a crucial period when Jones’s creative spirit within The Rolling Stones was waning, and Zappa was making waves with his boundary-pushing albums. The encounter between these two distinct personalities sheds light on the creative struggles faced by Jones and the admiration Zappa had for his musical prowess.
Brian Jones: The Unrecognized Genius
Brian Jones’s talent within The Rolling Stones was unparalleled. Apart from being one of the band’s main leaders, Jones possessed a remarkable ability to pick up any instrument and effortlessly play it, often adding the perfect instrumental flourish to their songs. However, as The Stones achieved greater success, Jones’s morale began to decline. He felt creatively stifled by the group’s shift towards writing their own material, leaving him with untapped energy and limited avenues for musical expression.
Frank Zappa: The Maverick Musician
While Jones’s creative flame was dimming, Frank Zappa was making a name for himself with his audacious and unconventional music. Zappa was known for his disdain for the superficial aspects of rock and roll, but he held a deep appreciation for The Rolling Stones’ work, particularly their album “Between the Buttons.” This admiration would eventually lead to a fateful encounter between Zappa and Jones.
According to Zappa’s recollection in Let It Rock, he once encountered a heavily inebriated Brian Jones at the Speakeasy club. Zappa mustered the courage to express his appreciation for “Between the Buttons,” even claiming it was superior to The Beatles’ iconic “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” However, Jones’s response was less than enthusiastic. He discreetly belched and turned away, perhaps reflecting his disillusionment with the music industry and his own creative struggles.
“I remember seeing Brian Jones very drunk in the Speakeasy one night and telling him I liked it and thought it superior to Sergeant Pepper … whereupon he belched discreetly and turned around”.
Unrealized Collaborative Potential
One can speculate that Jones may have seen in Zappa the freedom to make the creative choices he longed for. Zappa, true to his artistic convictions, followed his muse wherever it led, resulting in some of the most innovative music of his time. Had Jones worked with Zappa, he might have found an outlet for his stifled creativity and experienced newfound artistic liberation. However, fate had different plans for Jones, and he continued to feel creatively constrained within The Rolling Stones, even making a cameo appearance on The Beatles’ track “You Know My Name Look Up The Number” as a brief respite.
Sadly, Jones’s creative spirit gradually faded, and his final albums with The Rolling Stones showcased a mere shadow of his former self. Tragically, he met an untimely demise shortly after leaving the band, found at the bottom of his swimming pool. His story serves as a reminder of the industry obstacles that hindered his musical aspirations.