Chapter Two


Truth lies. Time is not always final. History rewrites itself, for multiple reasons, not least to fit a narrative more convenient to those still here. The record informs us that Brian Jones was a blues enthusiast and naturally gifted musician whose fingers and mouth could find their way around any instrument, but who was mortified by the lack of a singing voice and adequate songwriting ability. That he was small, perfectly formed and irresistible to the opposite sex. That between the ages of seventeen and twenty-two, he fathered half a dozen children out of wedlock, all by different girls. That he founded and named the Rollin’ Stones (the ‘g’ came later) as an R&B band. That the others envied his virtuosity, and even punished him for it. That fame, fortune and narcotics fuelled his fascination with the dark side. That he fell off the rails, was sacked by Mick and Keith, and sank to his death in his own swimming pool in July 1969, at the age of twenty-seven – ‘so long ago that it no longer matters’. But it is not the whole story. It never is.

I went looking for Brian in the manors of the London dives he once frequented. In the Sussex Weald, the Ashdown Forest and in his home town, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. A seemingly genteel place of charming architecture and a celebrated school, it boasts an internationally renowned horse racing festival that my late father returned to annually. I visited houses Brian had lived in, schools he had learned in, wandered the routes his own boots had once trod. In the realm of the living, beyond the odd blue plaque, there is little left of him. The Cheltenham Cemetery grave that contains his silver and bronze casket, buried deeply beyond the reach of the spades of desecrators, sits so close to a junction that the turf there is imprinted with tyre marks, from wheels that have strayed from the beaten track. Was this questionable positioning all that the family could get, or was it intentional?

Loath though many of us are to delve into devil worship and mysticism, we should at least pause to consider possibilities. In folklore, the points at which tracks and roads intersect are thought to be dangerous places of transition, where the living world and the underworld collide. Here may the polluted spirits of dead outlaws and witches, suicides and the executed be redeemed. Here, too, according to bygone belief, could Satan be summoned. Were those who buried Brian aware of this mythology? Brian himself, thanks to his obsession with the blues and bluesmen, must have come across the crossroads legend. He not only nursed a preoccupation with the occult, thanks to his involvement with spellbinding, ruthlessly spell-casting Anita Pallenberg, but also knew the fate of Robert Johnson: the Mississippi bluesman he discovered in his youth, came to idolise, and whose music he introduced to his fellow Stones.

Legend holds that the hard-times guitarist fell to his knees at a crossroads one night, pleading to meet his maker and to be blessed with the gift of musicianship. Out of the road, it is claimed, rose the Devil with a deal on his tongue. In return for the desperado’s soul, he would bestow musical brilliance upon him. Robert rewound, back to the blues joints once dismissive of him, reinvented as a virtuoso prodigal son. He had the music in him, he was a one-man orchestra, but he would pay a terrible price. His brief life was tragic. Johnson’s final recording, in 1937, was ‘Me and the Devil Blues’. ‘You want to know how good the blues can get?’ said Keith Richards of the man who cut it. ‘Well, this is it.’

Brian’s headstone is plain and unyielding. No love went into its carving, not even the word. Across the way, beneath an arboreal canopy in an infinitely more tranquil setting, lie the remains of his little sister Pamela. She died from leukaemia1 at the age of two, and was committed to her grave almost a quarter of a century before him. The inscription on her stone reads as plainly and as unemotionally as his: ‘In Affectionate Remembrance’. Why did his parents not bury their son beside her? Even now, there is room. Might they have feared that the innocence of their infant daughter would somehow be corrupted by his scandalous life and wretched death, to the point that they deliberately distanced him from her? Lewis and Louisa Jones are gone. They left no explanation.

Time dances. Leaping ahead and leaning backwards, it wafts and strays into faded forties photographs. Yellow-taped and torn-edged, they tell us more than words. Here is pudding blond cherub Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones, scratchy in his Dean Close prep school uniform, a cut above in a suburban middle-class house, at odds with his Welsh Methodist parents. Imperious Dada and disapproving Mam run a brisk household. He is an uncuddled child carrying a secret he cannot share, a mystery that is never referred to at home. He had a little sister but then she died. They got him another sister, Barbara, who arrived just as he was about to start school, and who could be him, staring back at himself in the mirror. But where is his other sister? Why didn’t they tell him? Was her disappearance his fault? Emotionally unripe, he cannot grasp the concepts of death and mourning, though he worries that he should feel something. He hurts silently.

Not much is known, even today, about the development of children who suffer the death of a sibling. There was negligible knowledge and frankly more pressing things to worry about during the mid-1940s, a time when the country was emerging from war and the National Health Service had not yet been established.2 Records and statistics from 1945, when Pamela died, are variable. Poverty, air raids, measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever, diphtheria and traffic accidents were the primary killers of children back then. Few families were immune to mortality.

Nowadays, a little boy like Brian would be given bereavement counselling. His mental health would be assessed, and he would likely remain under the watchful eye of psychologists for a long time. There is evidence that the damage can be even more devastating if the surviving child is older. Research has also shown that bereaved parents can lose the ability to support and nurture their other children. Marital breakdown, depression and other problems often ensue. The unique nature of the relationship suggests that a sibling’s death can cause irreparable damage to the human capabilities of the survivor. The child becomes the ‘forgotten griever’, unaccounted for in the scheme. There is nowadays evidence of increased mental disorders in bereaved siblings. Such trauma has an impact on academic potential and attainment, causing many to look for escape. It also increases the likelihood of breakdown in the child’s relationship with their parents.

The effects are greater when the lost brother or sister was close in age: Brian and Pamela were born only nineteen months apart. It is possible that Brian’s asthma, which apparently plagued him for life, was triggered by Pamela’s death. Epidemiologists have found that childhood bereavement leads directly to increased health risks, including extreme stress and higher rates of mortality in adulthood. Psychologists have established that bereaved children experience grief, sadness and depression that they cannot express. Many resort to pretend play with their deceased sibling, as though attempting to resurrect them. As adolescents, they can engage in increased levels of risk-taking: Brian did so at school, as one of ‘the naughty ones’. He grew reckless beyond it, often life-threateningly. They may seek to ‘replace’ their lost loved one with children of their own: Brian fathered five acknowledged offspring. A sixth has been hinted at, and there may have been more. They can subconsciously select as romantic partners individuals who resemble themselves and/or their missing sibling: Brian favoured angelic, cupid-bow blondes, and fell hook and line for German-Italian model Anita Pallenberg, his spitting image, whom he met in Europe while on tour. When she later overthrew him for his bandmate Keith Richards, she shattered Brian’s heart.

Bereaved children may also lack self-respect: Brian could be supercilious and contemptuous of others, but the person he loathed was himself. They may even harbour a death wish, possibly founded in survivor’s guilt: while Brian’s drowning under the influence of alcohol and hard drugs was recorded as misadventure, and while sensational claims based on death-bed confessions have suggested in recent years that he was murdered, it is entirely possible that, finding little to live for after being dumped by the band he co-founded and lived for, he simply allowed himself to go under and let go.3

‘I am curious about Brian Jones’ story and what we would call in psychotherapy his “presentation”: the dysfunction around relating, the emotional release through drugs and alcohol, the disemboguement of precocious sexuality,’ says respected British psychotherapist Richard Hughes. ‘There is so much fury and anger in the adult Brian, lurking there just beneath the blond fringe. As Charlie Watts said, “He was not very nice … he upset people easily.” I would say that this points to a catastrophic and sustained trauma during his childhood. There may have been sexual abuse. We will never know, of course. This is pure supposition, but the presentation fits with that from a clinical perspective. It is important to remind ourselves that, on a human level, there is always trauma behind psychopathology.’

The grief that Brian’s family suffered at the loss of his two-year-old sister Pamela, asserts Hughes, constitutes complex trauma. ‘There are few clinical studies about the loss of a sibling,’ he notes. ‘Albert and Barbara Cain’s 1964 paper is still very much the primary source. It was written from a psychoanalytic and psychiatric perspective, and the focus is on the “replacement child”: the sibling who is born subsequently.

‘We can only speculate on how his sister’s death impacted three-year-old Brian. So much of this would have been experienced by him out of awareness. But it is interesting that a year later he had a croup infection severe enough to leave him with respiratory problems for the rest of his life. A psychosomatic response to the trauma? An unconscious communication to his parents that he needed caring for too, when their emotional availability was limited? In Chinese medicine and even psychoanalytic theory, conditions to do with the larynx and windpipe are associated with grief … the loss of a child can impact on the parents’ ability to support and nurture their other children. It was not that they didn’t want to, it’s that they couldn’t. They didn’t have the emotional and physical capacity.’

How confused, the psychotherapist laments, this poor little boy must have been: ‘As a three-year-old, all he must have wanted was to be picked up and reassured by his mother when there were so many unfamiliar feelings being expressed, or repressed, in the household. How did his mother respond? Did she hold him even closer, overcompensating for the loss of his sister, or was he too much for his parents to cope with as they tried to make sense of their own grief? In psychoanalytic theory, there is the idea of “the bound child”, who is over-protected and held too closely in times of grief, usually by the mother. An outcome of this can be that the child experiences a sense of “engulfment”. From a developmental perspective, the child is less able to manage feelings associated with separation and their emerging sense of self, which are important stages of child development.’

The ‘bound child’, Hughes further explains, may feel anger or hopelessness at their lack of autonomy; but this is complicated by feelings of guilt if they push away, and by the intensely pleasurable feelings of being mothered.

‘From a Freudian perspective,’ he adds, ‘we are entering the territory of what may constitute an incestuous relationship. Whilst this might sound preposterous, it is the basis of the Oedipal complex, and is more common than you would imagine. Whilst the family was in the depths of their grief and Brian was being nursed though his croup infection, another child was conceived, this time a little girl, “the resurrected child”. How did Brian feel about that? Whether he had tried hard to replace his sister, or had that role imposed upon him, he was now deposed and replaced. As a four-year-old, he was powerless to control this. All children feel a sense of displacement by a new sibling. We can only imagine how Brian experienced that.’

We can also try and find it by looking at close-up photographs, where we see clearly the untold story in Brian’s adult eyes. ‘What I detect in photographs of him are the eyes of a child who never cried,’ says Hughes. ‘He never cried because there was no point: no one came and comforted him. Again in psychoanalytic theory, there is an idea associated with sibling loss, about “the haunted child” who is overwhelmed by the unspoken grief and the guilt that they survived, but are unable to take the place of their dead sibling. There can be a deep sense of shame around this: that the wrong child died; that on some deep, dark level, their parents would have preferred it to have been them who died instead. The “haunted child” must be horrified that his parents’ grief has somehow manifested their dead sibling via the birth of a new sibling, which only confirms to him his feelings of not being “enough”, of being “replaceable”. Once so close to his mother, he must now experience an overwhelming Oedipal fury that his father has won, that his mother has been taken away from him, and the outcome is another child. If Brian felt competitive towards his father, he certainly got his own back when he reached his own sexual maturity in his teenage years.’

Children who have been through the loss of a sibling and the associated developmental disruption may therefore grow up internalising unspoken beliefs that they are unlovable and not ‘good enough’. They may struggle to connect at a deeper level. This in turn may lead them to be supercilious and contemptuous of others, as Brian was – which is a fear of connection whilst desperate for the simple affirmation that they are ‘OK’. Sexual encounters may be easy to orchestrate and control, but the individual may end up finding this kind of connection emotionally overwhelming and even re-traumatising. We must remember that Brian grew up during an era when none of this kind of thing was spoken about, and therefore was not easily processed and come to terms with.

‘A lack of self-respect? Clinically, I would call it the narcissistic wound,’ says Richard Hughes. ‘Brian wasn’t born bad. Rather, as Mick Jagger says, ‘He needed babying.’ His development as a child was shaped by trauma. Nothing could compensate for the love, comfort and affirmation he needed. An outcome of this can be, according to John Bowlby, the father of attachment theory, “a disturbed personality development” which can lead to delinquency, anxiety states and depressive illness. The child becomes unresponsive and loses hope. Physically, he grows stiff and distant. Deep down, he feels as though he has no right to exist. Further on, there can be a sense of despair and detachment, where the child is prone to temper tantrums and violent, destructive behaviour. We can call it a ‘mental disorder’, but it is complex trauma. Trauma is a person’s untold story.

‘I believe that through his anti-social and dysfunctional behaviour, he was trying to communicate something about his pain. The “child” part of Brian was trying to say, “I’m hurting here”, but no one heard him.’

Perhaps they wouldn’t hear him?

‘No. Brian himself made sure that no one could. Keith Richards called him a ‘mimi’. Which is a strange description, as it refers to an elongated fairy-like being in Australian folklore that hides in rock crevices. Considered mischievous rather than malevolent, mimis would disappear into the wind whenever anyone got close. Which is exactly what Brian did.’ 4

Fulfilling lofty parental expectation by showing academic promise, Brian, known as ‘Joner’ by his classmates, passed his Eleven Plus exam, won a place at the somewhat pretentious grammar school where pupils still sported mortar boards, gained nine O levels and chose Physics, Chemistry and Biology to study to A level. He failed Biology, the easy one. He could have secured respectable employment with his science results, but already knew that he was not the steady-job type. His longing for an escape route from the tight-lipped misery of his childhood delivered him to the local music scene.

‘(We) were keen music buffs and record collectors,’ affirms Roger Gore, Brian’s close friend at Cheltenham Grammar. ‘We often visited a record shop off the High Street in the lunch hour to talk music, sample records and purchase LPs … Brian liked trad jazz at this stage … I specialised in collecting authentic blues records of such (American) artists as (blues and gospel singer and guitarist) Blind Lemon Jefferson, (boogie woogie pianist and singer) Cripple Clarence Lofton, (blues singer and harp player) James ‘Boodle It’ Wiggins, (hill country blues guitarist) Mississippi Fred McDowell, etc. – the more primitive and authentic the better. Brian once said to me jocularly, but also somewhat disparagingly, that my penchant was for “cigar-box guitars” as if I was a little naïve in my taste; and that of course is a source of great amusement to me, as he later became such an exponent of the slide guitar himself, emulating such (artists) as Fred McDowell or Elmore James.

‘Brian became more and more blues orientated over time, and I remember us discussing the demise of Big Bill Broonzy, whose music we both liked, and the gloom we shared at his increasing poor prognosis and eventual death in 1958.’

When Brian, Roger and their friend Barry Smith were supposed to be doing cross-country runs, they would skive off and adjourn to Barry’s house to listen to records, rejoining the race towards the finish line. ‘Luckily,’ recalls Roger, ‘we were never caught out. I remember Brian being off school on the odd occasion with pleurisy caused by his asthma, but it was no big deal. He certainly wasn’t disabled by it, and it didn’t stop him playing clarinet, which was the main instrument he played when I knew him.’

Brian was so accomplished that he rose to first clarinet in the school orchestra. A rebel with too many causes, he grew skilled on his own saxophone. He got his first guitar for his seventeenth birthday, the year when he first became a dad. The misdemeanour shamed and angered his upstanding parents, stained his already compromised reputation and wrecked his chances of getting into Cheltenham Art College. He had applied hoping for a scholarship, perhaps to study Architecture. But he had blotted his copybook with teenage pregnancies. With oral contraceptives still a way off (June 1960) and no sign of the Abortion Act (not passed until 1967), his girlfriends had no choice but to go through with the births. Word got around, especially in a town like Cheltenham. The art college didn’t want his type. Not that Brian’s heart was in it in the first place. Nor was it in Applied Optics, another course that he was urged to consider, at Northampton Institute, Clerkenwell – soon to become part of City, University of London – with a view (actually, his father’s) to becoming an optician.

This baby-faced blues purist with raging hormones and a covert disdain for and mistrust of females, perhaps linked to Louisa Jones’s deficient mothering and to the loss of Pamela, had no intention of settling down. He took up his guitar, hit the road and crossed the Channel for a while, when his parents had arranged for their little blighter to lay low in Germany. He restyled himself ‘Elmo Lewis’, in honour of his idol Elmore James, the king of the slide guitar. How differently might he have done things, had he known at this point that he had only ten years left to live?

Time has withered the memory and diluted the significance of Brian so comprehensively that few millennial and Gen Z music lovers know he existed. Don’t believe me? Ask around. My own kids, all three, had never heard of him. Older fans, particularly die-hard Stoners, protest that Brian deserves more recognition and respect, given that he founded the band, selected the team and dictated the music they started out playing. Bill Wyman is on that page. ‘I do say,’ he says, ‘and do honestly believe that if there wasn’t a Brian Jones there wouldn’t have been a Rolling Stones. He named the band, and he enlisted the members one by one.’ Many support the bassist’s view. But in 2006, Bonhams the auctioneers offered a Lot, numbered 1451, that suggested otherwise. The neat nine-page letter, penned by Brian on 4 May 1963 to a young fan by the name of Doreen Pettifer, was presented at a guide price of £15,000–£22,000 and was later sold for an undisclosed sum. It explains the band’s origins and sets out their ambitions. ‘Personnel’ are described as follows:

· Keith Richards – Guitar. 19 years old. Went to Art school, then straight into Rhythm’nBlues.

· Mick Jagger – Vocal, Harmonica. 19 years old. London School of Economics.

· Charlie Watts – 21, worked in advertising for some years, now full-time musician. (Drummer)

· Ian Stewart – Piano, 23, works with I.C.I. as a shipping clerk or something equally horrible. Only member of the band married – only one who’ll ever be married. Proud father of a baby son (or daughter).

· Myself, Brian Jones – Guitar and Harmonica, 21, was studying Architecture – more artistic satisfaction from R&B. (Mick, Keith and myself as I expect you noticed, wear our hair long, the others being more conventional.)

Elsewhere in the correspondence, Brian states, under the heading ‘Formation & History’, that ‘the band is really an amalgamation of two bands. The one being an R&B band I formed about a year ago, and the other being a group run by Mick and Keith in S.E. London.’ He was introduced to Keith, he explains, ‘and we decided to pool our resources, so with Stu from my band and Mick from Keith’s, we became the nucleus of the ‘Stones’.

‘What was comic about Brian was his illusions of grandeur, even before he got famous,’ said Keith Richards in 2010.5 ‘He thought it was his band for some weird reason.’

Did he? There it is, from the horse’s mouth, in his letter to Doreen Pettifer from Bagshot, Surrey. Brian acknowledging himself as a co-founder, and not as the sole founding father. Somewhere along the line, however, some wires got crossed. In a letter that Brian wrote to Mick and Keith dated 1 June 1962 – six weeks ahead of the band’s first official gig, and almost a year before Brian wrote to Doreen, who had seen the Stones at the Ricky Tick Club in Windsor, and who became the first secretary of their fan club – he sets out what he describes as a ‘sort of manifesto’, with the thinly veiled insult ‘Mick will explain that to you, Keith’. So …

Mick and Keith will be joining his (Brian’s) ‘beat combo’; that they will be known as ‘Rollin’ Stones’ (no definite article and no ‘g’ … Howlin’ Wolf hadn’t considered himself in need of one, so neither should they); that the music they played would be nothing but ‘authentic down-home rhythm and blues’, because Brian was determined to ‘spread the word of the blues to the world in the most legitimate way possible’; it needed, he insisted, to be ‘pure’. Finally, he decreed, they would limit themselves to drums, guitar, keys and ‘harp’ (harmonica). As he pointed out, it worked for Muddy Waters, so it should work for them. No fancy additions, ‘just for the sake of it. No choirs, no cowbells, no strings.’ All of which would find their way into the Rolling Stones sound eventually. Examples? I give you the London Bach Choir’s choral intro to ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’; the cowbell lead-in to ‘Honky Tonk Women’, tinked by producer Jimmy Miller; and the fiddle solo on ‘Factory Girl’, contributed by Ric Grech of Family.

A third letter leaves us in no doubt that Brian felt threatened, and that he was anxious to assert his authority. Writing to Jazz magazine on 2 July 1962, ten days ahead of that crucial first gig, he refers to a phone call made by Mick about the group to the publication … as if to say, ‘That’s my band you’re talking about there, chaps.’ He also alerts them to the forthcoming gig – sharing the bill with Long John Baldry’s band – and explains the line-up, as follows:

Brian Jones – guitar, leader

Keith Richards – guitar

Dick Taylor – bass guitar

Ian Stewart – piano

Earl Phillips (yet another contender) – drums

with Mick Jagger – vocals

Not that Brian could be obliterated from the band’s legacy, even if they wanted him to be. Without re-recording their early music with substitutes for Brian and Charlie, it would be impossible to eradicate him. He is easy to find, just reach for the records. They prove beyond doubt what an inventive, versatile and vital musician he was. He could breathe life into any song via any instrument.

‘Brian would be able to walk into a studio and no matter what instrument was lying around, even though he’d never played it before, he would … be able to knock something out of it very, very quickly, y’know?’ said Keith Richards. ‘Hence, we used to have vibraphones (a percussion instrument similar to a xylophone) and stuff – mainly just because they were lying around the studio – and everybody thought, “what a wonderful bit of orchestration”, but it was sheer accident and Brian’s ability to be able to get something out of an instrument.’

So Jones was the Stones’ secret weapon. Hear him on ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, the first British hit to feature a slide. Brian infuses the track with echoes of Elmore James, played on his new 1963 Gretsch 6118 Anniversary guitar. It remained his favourite instrument until his death. That’s his harmonica on ‘I Just Wanna Make Love to You’, Brian channelling Little Walter on the song Willie Dixon wrote for Muddy Waters. He’s on slide guitar again on ‘Little Red Rooster’, using Keith’s new Fender Telecaster. He also contributes the harmonica on that one. ‘The Last Time’, Mick and Keith’s first original song, draws a line under Brian’s disputed foundership and leadership, and sees the Dartford boys seizing the Stones as their own. Brian contributes the main riff, however, and may even have composed it. He’s not done for yet, contributing syncopated marimba to ‘Under My Thumb’, sitar to ‘Paint It, Black’, dulcimer to ‘Lady Jane’ and recorder and some of the piano on ‘Ruby Tuesday’.

‘There were at least two sides to Brian’s personality,’ said Bill Wyman, who became his close friend. ‘One Brian was introverted, shy, sensitive, deep-thinking. The other was a preening peacock, gregarious, artistic, desperately needing assurance from his peers.’

Snarling Keith was less sympathetic. He described Brian as a ‘cold-hearted and vicious dwarf’ who physically abused his girlfriends in his 2010 autobiography Life, thus spitting on Jones’s memory. He more than made clear his loathing of the enigmatic blond whom others of his acquaintance described as ‘down to earth and sweet’. We have no memoir from Brian’s own pen to compare. But it seems unlikely that Brian would have lionised the rotter who took a sledgehammer to his most important relationship, his love affair with Anita Pallenberg. There can be no everlasting bliss between bitter-rival rockers when one pilfers a cherished girlfriend from the other. ‘The idea of stealing a band member’s woman was not on my agenda,’ insisted Keith. Still, it happened. Good old Richards. Rock’n’roll.

All of that was to come during the green-grass days when Brian was watching, learning and playing around the flourishing clubs and jazz dives of Cheltenham; in and out of bands; forming his own, the Brian Jones Blues Band; honing his craft and working up the requisite sweat and drive. The town had its own equivalent of Liverpool’s Casbah Coffee Club, where Mona Best, mother of soon-to-be-ditched drummer Pete, promoted the fledgling Beatles in her basement and became, effectively, the Fabs’ first manager. For half a crown a year (two shillings and sixpence), some three hundred members were guaranteed entrance to the hallowed space where John Lennon’s Quarry Men played on the opening night.

Cheltenham’s variation on this theme was housed in a similar domestic basement at 38 Priory Street, run by sisters Ann and Jane Filby with the blessing and backing of their mum, whose house it was. Unlike the Casbah, it did not open to the public and never charged an entrance fee. Despite which, some of the leading musicians of the day – Lonnie Donegan, and also Chris Barber, the experimental electric bluesman and champion of Chicago blues who brought the likes of Muddy Waters and Sister Rosetta Tharpe to the UK – would stop by and play there when they came to Cheltenham to perform at the Town Hall. Brian had been part of this set from the age of fifteen. He dipped a toe in the new rock’n’roll, the music of fifties teenagers. But his real obsession and one true love was electric blues. Listening to records and working out how to turn his acoustic guitar electric with makeshift bits and bobs, and to get it to slide, he effectively became Britain’s first electric slide player.

A chance (is there such a thing?) meeting with exotic jazz and blues musician Alexis Korner proved to be the catalyst for Brian leaving for London. The ‘father of British blues’ would be taking the stage during a performance by Chris Barber’s band at Cheltenham Town Hall on 10 October 1961. Nineteen-year-old Brian and his friends bagged tickets. After the show, Brian wormed his way backstage, made a beeline for Barber and introduced himself to Korner – part hairy Greek mystic, part Austrian kook, part lovable Jewish oddball – and insisting on taking them out to the Patio, one of the boys’ favourite local haunts. Lemon squeezy. Thus did Brian inveigle his way into the lives of his two primary enablers. It was through Barber that Brian would meet Harold Pendleton, proprietor of the Marquee Jazz Club.

In Korner he found at last the devoted, encouraging father figure he had always lacked. It was a meeting of minds and spirits that would lure Brian to the smoke for regular meetings, and eventually to stay. Korner was launching his own electric blues band. No one cared about the blues. It was too niche, it wasn’t commercial enough, it wouldn’t turn on the kids. But these were exactly the reasons why these guys loved it. There prevails to this day a perverse elitism which decrees that the moment a sub-genre of music becomes mainstream, its original enthusiasts drop it and move on to something else as yet obscure. Brian was going to be part of it, come what may. He took up his blues harmonica, aligned himself with like-minded evangelists, and never looked back.

Notting Hill-based Korner opened his own venue in a grotty space opposite Ealing Underground station, the Ealing Jazz Club. It would gain an everlasting reputation as ‘London’s first dedicated R&B club’. The state of the place hasn’t improved much since spring 1962. Think Liverpool’s Cavern Club: same vibe, same danger, same legend. Perspiration, condensation and desperation running down the walls. No more than a stinking drain of a dive, but with promise. Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated seemed oblivious of its shortcomings. To Brian, aka Elmo Lewis, the special-guest guitarist on the poor excuse for a stage alongside another future legend, P.P. Pond (some claim that he was P.P. Jones at this point), it was Madison Square Garden.6

Nineteen-year-old Michael Jagger, a gauche, fat-lipped, front-room-band boy from Dartford on the verge of Mick, thought so too. There he stood in the sardine audience, hopping up and down, clutching a tape by his group the Blue Boys. What did he have to do to get a gig around here?

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