Rockism, an ideological stance venerating the raw authenticity of rock ‘n’ roll while disdainful of the perceived “corruption” of pop, has manifested prominently throughout music history. Notable instances include postpunk hipsters in the ’80s favoring the Replacements over Michael Jackson and the mid-2000s rock-crit establishment launching a collective assault on Coldplay. Recently, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, in a confessional excerpt from his upcoming book, expressed remorse for disparaging ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” during his indie youth, acknowledging its greatness after 47 years.
However, Nick Broomfield’s documentary, “The Stones and Brian Jones” (set to debut on Nov. 17), posits that the roots of rockism may trace back to the heart of the rock world itself. The film explores how Brian Jones, a founding member of the Rolling Stones, shaped the group as a British-white-boy blues band in 1962, covering artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley. As Mick Jagger and Keith Richards began composing songs that propelled the Stones to fame, Jones resisted, viewing their departure from the blues as a dilution of the band’s true purpose.
Jones, described as a purist, a rockist, a bluesist, and a retro snob, criticized Jagger and Richards’ music, even deeming “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” as vulgar and awful. Paradoxically, the documentary argues that Jones, in establishing the Stones as a blues band, inadvertently created a musical-spiritual blueprint that endured throughout their career.
Despite the enduring blues influence, the documentary delves into Jones’s personal struggles and insecurities. An alpha rebel, Jones initially led the band, but his quest for dominance collided with Mick Jagger’s evolving charisma and stage presence. As Jagger and Richards took the reins, Jones clung to a superiority complex regarding their music, caught in a psychodrama of jealousy and resentment.
Brian Jones, presented as a misunderstood “genius” in the documentary, had a vision for a British blues rock band, exhibited entitlement, and displayed musical versatility in the studio. Noteworthy examples include his contributions to “Ruby Tuesday,” “Under My Thumb,” and “Paint It Black.” However, as the Stones soared to success, Jones grappled with deep-seated self-loathing, recognizing that his role in the band was not pivotal to their success.
Jones’s personal life further complicated his narrative, marked by reckless sociopathic behavior, tumultuous relationships, and rampant drug use. Despite a glamorous partnership with Anita Pallenberg, his life spiraled into self-destruction. Eventually ousted from the band due to erratic and abusive behavior, Jones tragically drowned in his swimming pool in 1969 at the age of 27.
“The Stones and Brian Jones” portrays the arc of Jones’s self-dissolution with poignant clarity, revealing a life filled with envy-inducing experiences but plagued by inner unhappiness. His story, a testament to the toxic narcissism that consumed him, stands as a profoundly tragic chapter in the annals of ’60s music history.