Could July 3 be the official day that the music died? Both Brian Jones and Jim Morrison died on this day, Jones in 1969, and Morrison in 1971. Both died at the age of 27, and coincidentally, both in water. There is still an air of mystery with both deaths.
Jones died from accidental drowning in the swimming pool of the estate once owned by Winnie the Pooh creator, A.A. Milne, and Morrison died of heart failure in a Paris bathtub. Both were considered debauched rock stars.
Brian Jones founded the Rolling Stones, leading the band into creative avenues, and lived out the mantra of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. He was a fashion icon. He wore makeup. He dated all of the “it” girls, including Anita Pallenberg and model Amanda Lear, who would eventually grace the cover of the Roxy Music album For Your Pleasure.
Jones could pick up an instrument and would instantly master it. He played harmonica, sitar, marimba, and of course, guitar, transforming the band’s sound from Chuck Berry-styled rock and tried to transform the influence into Muddy Waters-styled blues. He was pushing to create something totally unique and eclectic. His energy was rebellion, and the Stones was his artistic creation.
According to the biography Brian Jones: The Untold Life And Mysterious Death Of A Rock Legend, author Laura Jackson writes that in the eulogy for Brian Jones, Canon Hugh Evans Hopkins, who knew Jones as a young choir boy, understood the core of the rebellion in the talented musician.
“He was a rebel. He had little patience with authority, convention and tradition. In this he was typical of many of his generation who have come to see the Rolling Stones an expression of their whole attitude to life.”
Pete Townsend, who was in a band with Keith Moon, one of the most excessive musicians ever to live, put Brian Jones far above anyone else he had ever seen before.
“[He] lived on a higher planet of decadence than anyone I would ever meet.”
Yet, in 1971, John Lennon recalled that the magic of Brian Jones became shattered due to his addiction to drugs and his fragile mental health.
“At first Brian was the most interesting Stone, [but] he was one of them guys that disintegrated in front of you.”
Soon, it all came crashing down. He was physically abusive to Pallenberg, and she left him for bandmate Keith Richards. Keith was her knight in shining armor, and literally, rescued her. This caused a larger riff between the two guitarists. In addition, songwriting partners Mick Jagger and Richards were now closer than ever, penning nearly all of their music, pushing Jones away from the creative direction of the band.
Although Richards and Jagger had infamously served time in jail for a 1967 drug bust, they were still creating and fully functioning as musicians. In contrast, Jones was failing. His multiple drug busts and addiction became such a problem that he was unable to get a visa to tour the states. Jones was fired, and a just a few weeks later, he was found dead in his swimming pool.
An asthmatic, Jones could swim in the pool but needed to frequently get to his inhaler, sitting on the side of his pool, in order to breathe. There have been many conspiracy theories about the death of Brian Jones, most accusing his one-eyed butler, Frank Thorogood, of doing the deed. Yet, despite books and even movies claiming his death was foul play, the coroner’s report stated “death by misadventure.”
Only Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman attended his funeral. Jagger was under contractual obligation to go to Australia to film Ned Kelly and missed it. Were the members of the Stones cruel to his memory?
In 1995, Jagger spoke to Rolling Stone about Brian. He confirmed the importance of Jones in the beginning years of the band. Then, he explained how hard it was to play with him, as the toll of drugs, drinking, and partying meant that Brian was showing up late to rehearsals, and losing his musical talent. He was unable to even “hold a guitar.”
“The thing about Brian is that he was an extremely difficult person. You don’t really feel like talking bad about someone that’s had such a miserable time. But he did give everyone else an extremely miserable ride. Anyway, there was something very, very disturbed about him. He was very unhappy with life, very frustrated. He was very talented, but he was a very paranoid personality and not at all suited to be in show business [Laughs].”
Charlie Watts had previously told writer Jann Wenner about being in a band with Jones, and how he held the Rolling Stones back.
“Brian Jones had a death wish at a young age. Brian’s talent wasn’t up to it. He wasn’t up to leading a band. He was not a pleasant person to be around. And he was never there to help people to write a song. That’s when Mick lost his patience. We carried Brian Jones.”
As difficult as Brian Jones was to work with, he was beloved by fans. So beloved, that Jim Morrison wrote a poem called “Ode To LA While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased.”
Jim Morrison grew up the son of a Navy Rear Admiral, moved around a lot as a kid, but was very bookish and obsessed with poetry and rebellion. He went to UCLA to study film. Soon, he met Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, and the band was formed.
In their first concert, Morrison showed extreme stage fright, but eventually, he showed he was a charismatic performer. He sounded more like Sinatra than Jagger. He used masks, as were used in Ancient Greek theatre, and dark lyrics inspired by William Blake and Nietzsche, mythology, and Native American folklore. Jim was obsessed with sex and death, and lyrically, they were intertwined.
The music added to the atmosphere of the lyrics. The eerie funeral-sounding keyboard by Manzarek created a uniquely dramatic concert experience. Jazz musicians, guitarist Robbie Kreiger and drummer John Densmore, completed the band. They never added a bassist, only used a session musician in recordings.
The band was an instant success. Morrison was an attractive and dangerous sex symbol in black leather pants. He called himself “the lizard king.” He was part poet and part anarchist. Anyone who saw Oliver Stone’s movie got a good overview of the mayhem and chaos surrounding the live shows, and Morrison’s life. He often had breakdowns on stage. It stopped being about the music, but about the rebellion.
Then, came the legal problems. He was arrested for indecent exposure. He was drinking a lot, and he was getting tired of playing the same songs over and over again, and rebelled. Recording didn’t go much better, as the band started to get bad album reviews.
Soon, he returned to his roots. He self-published two books of poetry: The Lords, and The New Creatures. Jim was in his element.
When The Doors recorded Morrison Hotel, the band was on the upswing. The music was hardier and bluesier. The heavier, bearded Morrison was no longer a sex symbol, but instead, was lauded as a blues singer. He had freed himself. Then they recorded L.A. Woman, their masterpiece.
Four months before his death, Morrison and his long-time partner, redheaded Pamela Coulson, went to Paris. Jim wanted to write his poetry and soak in the atmosphere in a city that inspired famous writers and artists.
On July 3, he was found in his bathtub, unresponsive. The official coroner report stated that his “heart stopped.” There was no suspicion of foul play, and Morrison was not known to do hard drugs, although Coulson was a heroin addict. Thus, no autopsy was performed.
Morrison was buried in Père Lachaise, where Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf are buried. For years, there were rumors that Jim had not died but disappeared. Many surmised he was living in Mexico or Paris. Pamela died of a heroin overdose three years after Jim died. She inherited everything, and her family now has control of his estate.
About a decade ago, a nightclub manager, Sam Bernett, wrote the book The End: Jim Morrison and shocked the world by revealing that Jim Morrison died in a nightclub in Paris of a heroin overdose. Bernett was in his 20s when this occurred, but he recalled that two drug dealers took Jim home. He was convinced by the club owner that Morrison was just passed out, not dead.
Why tell the story 36 years later? The Telegraph reported that Bernett, the former vice-president of Disneyland Paris, had been “pestered” by rock reporters who had heard the rumors of Morrison’s death in a nightclub. His wife convinced him to write a book to set the record straight. It is assumed that the dealers put Morrison’s dead body in the tub, but now fans may question why did Pam fill the tub with water? And how long did Morrison use heroin?
Do you think that the Doors’ singer Jim Morrison and the Rolling Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones both died of mysterious circumstances? Do you have any of your own theories about their deaths? What are your favorite songs from each performer? Please share your thoughts and opinions below.
[Featured Image by Roger Jackson/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]