(Credits: Far Out / Bent Rej)
The creative partnership between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards has shaped some of the greatest rock anthems ever. Although The Beatles may have shown what was possible when artists wrote their material, the songwriting duo behind The Rolling Stones gave fans a look at the darker side of the rock scene with songs that had a chip on their shoulder half the time. Even though Jagger and Richards could write hits until the end, they never thought one of their bandmates was entirely up to their standards.
Then again, the idea of Jagger and Richards working together as songwriters wasn’t what they had intended. When working in the London clubs in their early years, many of the group’s early classics came from covering other people’s tunes, either getting Beatles songs secondhand like ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ or pulling from the well of old bluesmen like Muddy Waters.
Even though ‘The Glimmer Twins’ are known as the main face of the band, the idea for The Rolling Stones began in the mind of Brian Jones. Looking to put a group together to play blues covers, Jones was the one who formed the group in the first place, even naming the band after an old blues standard that he loved.
Once Jagger and Richards entered the fold, it was clear that the band could go in any direction they wanted. After coming up with their first tunes by force, the duo spat out dark tales of rock and roll excess on every album, all while reinventing themselves left and right on albums like Between the Buttons and Aftermath.
Even though Jones could hold his own musically, Jagger never felt that the guitarist had what it takes as a songwriter. When talking about Jones’ contributions to the band’s sound, Jagger thought his bandmate wasn’t cut out to be a songwriter, telling Rolling Stone, “Brian got very jealous when I got attention. And then the main jealousy was because Keith and I started writing songs, and he wasn’t involved in that. To be honest, Brian had no talent for writing songs. None. I’ve never known a guy with less talent for songwriting”.
What Jones may have lacked in songwriting talent, he more than made up for in his instrumental parts on the band’s records. Combing through their back catalogue, the guitarist could play almost anything he could get his hands on, learning instruments as varied as the sitar for ‘Paint It Black’ to blues-infused slide guitar to baroque period instruments for Between the Buttons.
As the band started to work their way back to the blues, Jones’ confidence as a musician had been stripped away. Despite the relentless creativity that he had instrumentally, he felt that he was becoming more of a session musician in his band, adding slide guitar to ‘No Expectations’ off Beggars Banquet before being asked to leave the group.
Self-medicating in his free time, Jones would eventually try to get solo projects off the ground before passing away due to an accident drowning in his home. Although Jones had much more to give the world, his final days read like a rock and roll version of a Shakespearean tragedy, wanting love and respect from his peers but condemned to sit in the back for eternity.