Brian Jones Death
Brian Jones had died in mysterious circumstances a week earlier, having been found dead in his Cotchford Farm swimming pool having left the The Rolling Stones a few weeks earlier. Between Brian’s death and his funeral, The Rolling Stones had played a huge free gig in London’s Hyde Park. At the beginning of this gig, Mick Jagger has read an extract from “Adonais”, Shelly’s eulogy to his friend Keats. Hundreds of white butterfly’s were released and The Stones opened their set with Johnny Winter’s, “I’m Yours And I’m Hers”, one of Brian’s favorites.
Brian Jones Funeral
The 1960s had seen many changes in attitudes (including the response to The Rolling Stones drug busts) but back in Cheltenham in 1969, a nice middle-class town, things were still very much as they had been. However on a hot and humid July day, they were about to be invaded by the outside world.
Before the funeral, fans had already sent enough flowers to fill the cemetery, including a guitar shaped arrangement from Brian’s family and a huge arrangement spelling out “Gates of Heaven” from The Rolling Stones.
On the day of the funeral the town was besieged with tearful fans, curious onlookers and swarms of press photographers. The 14-car funeral procession crawled to the cemetery at a pace even more stately than usual as its progress was blocked by the surging crowds.
Below is the TV coverage from Dutch TV showing the scenes at the funeral. It’s in Dutch, but the interview with Keith Richard is in English.
The clash of old and new continued at the funeral service. Speaking of Brian Jones in the eulogy, Canon Hugh Evan Hopkins said –
He had little patience with authority, convention and tradition. In this he was typical of many of his generation who have come to see in The Rolling Stones an expression of their whole attitude to life. Much that this ancient church has stood for in 900 years seems totally irrelevant to them.”
For the canon, Brian Jones symbolized all the sins and excesses of his generation.
If any pretense at solemnity had been hoped for at the burial, it soon evaporated. As the casket was lowered into the ground photographers fought to get shots as teenagers jostled and pushed their way forward to toss their flowers onto Brian Jones‘ remains.
Worries about the grave being looted meant it was dug twice as deep as normal, 12 feet, and with all the shoving there was a real danger of people falling into the deep grave.
The Jones Family
The Jones family were a conservative, even snobbish, family and in many ways shared the views of Canon Hugh Evan Hopkins. Brian Jones and his father Lewis Jones had a fractious relationship. His father, a respectable aircraft designer, did not understand his son and the way he turned his back on everything he believed was right and felt his music was “evil”. Brian’s relationship with his mother was also cold, especially after his younger sister Pamela died from Leukemia.
The words chosen for Brian Jones‘ headstone seemed to sum up this relationship, “Affectionate Remembrances of Brian Jones” (incidentally the date on the headstone shows he died on July 3rd, when the death certificate cites he died before midnight on the 2nd)
Lewis Jones had wanted a private, low-key funeral, but The Rolling Stones tour manager Tom Keylock stepped in and arranged the details of the funeral. “Brian lived like a star and he died like a star” said Tom Keylock, “I got it organized how I thought fitting for Brian, not Lewis Jones.”
Brian Jones was buried wearing a powder blue jacket, white shirt and black tie. His hair had been lightened and cut in his trademark bob, he looked as if he were asleep. He was laid to rest in a grand silver and bronze casket. It is widely believed that the casket was commissioned by his close friend Bob Dylan, however Tom Keylock has claimed that he was responsible for commissioning the casket.
Attendees at the Funeral
Of The Rolling Stones, only Charlie Watts (reportedly the one most affected by the death of Brian) and Bill Wyman attended the funeral. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful were on their way to Australia to film Ned Kelly and had been threatened with legal action if they were late. Keith Richard and Anita Pallenberg did not attend either, but considering their history with Brian, this was not surprising.
One surprising absentee was Brian’s girlfriend at the time of his death, Anna Wohlin. She had been living with Brain at Cotchford farm and had been present when he died. She had been in shock and she claims The Rolling Stones management had sent her back to Sweden because, “I was just a nuisance, I was just a problem.”
Anna Wohlin‘s absence was probably for the best as Frank Thorogood, the builder who was also at Cotchford Farm the night Brian died, did attend. He died in 1993, but has since been accused by Anna Wohlin of killing Brian Jones.
According to the funeral director, The Rolling Stones management also asked for photographs to be taken of Brian’s body in the casket but at this point the Jones family put their foot down and security guards were placed at the funeral directors to make sure that no photographers got in.
Brian Jones had lead a brief but extraordinary life. He was also easy to hold up as a morality tale for the older generation. He had fathered 5 children, all outside wedlock (still something of a stigma then) and refused to acknowledge any of them. He was also vain and insecure, but for all his faults his charisma, musicianship and drive had launched one of the most influential bands of all-time.