A vision of Pan

My biography of Brian Jones, titled Sympathy For The Devil, is published tomorrow in the UK. Hence now is a good time to introduce one of the themes of the book, which ties into the title – Brian’s philosophy, and his identification with the God Pan.

Brian saw himself as being on a journey, a kind of quest. He was interested in the occult, and he was interested in the Devil, especially as it manifested itself in blues music. As we shall see, he was far ahead of most musicians, including his fellow Stones, in his investigation of the music, even when he was still in Cheltenham.

Later, I”ll introduce an interviewee, one of Brian’s closest friends, who will tell us more about the philosophy of Pan. But for now, a couple of points: Pan was a Roman and Greek God, who was quite literally Demonized with the advent of Christianity. Many people, including Brian, saw Pan as an early embodiment of the rock’n’roll spirit.  Pan represented fertility (ok, excessively appropriate for Brian Jones), but also embodied syncopation, raucousness, distortion, all of them qualities Brian treasured. These were also qualities inherent in African music, and in Blues. Pan – rather than Satan, or a malevolent entity – was Brian’s inspiration. Pan did not represent evil; he was a little devil, rather than The Devil (rather like the figure Robert Johnson told friends he met at The Crossroads). But Pan was a dangerous God, whose name survives in the word Panic.

Tomorrow, I”ll add an introductory Q&A with George Chkiantz, who accompanied Brian to Joujouka, and sat in the car with Brion Gysin, the visionary artist who believed he had found a modern manifestation of Pan in the form of Bou Jeloud. It’s an appropriate day, for in London tomorrow, an exhibition of William Burrough’s paintings opens; and Burroughs was the first outsider, my book reveals, to hear the recordings Brian and George made, of music devoted to Bou Jeloud.

Today’s interview is with Sonja Kristina, the singer with Curved Air, who stayed with Brian in the summer of 1967. Hers is an important interview in the book, for it shows Brian, in the aftermath of his abandonment by Anita Pallenberg, as embattled, but essentially intact. Some people believe Anita’s defection ruined Brian. Not so. There are many intriguing aspects of Sonja’s interview, but in this brief extract, we see how, a full year before he travelled to the Ahl-Srif mountains to see the Bou Jeloud ceremony, he was already On The Trail of Pan.

 You met Brian at the Speakeasy?

“When I met Brian I’d been performing for quite a long time whilst I was at school , then I came to London and I was a freewheeling hippie girl and my friend, Gwen, introduced me to Mick Farren and all the IT people. I had another girlfriend called Romi Y, who was very psychic and very spaced out, we had acid trips together. Unfortunately Romi became so disconnected form reality she became schizophrenic over time. With some people, maybe that’s latent.

“Romi and I went down to the Speakeasy. I’d been several times, had no idea how I got in , I was on a student grant, whether we got in with others I can’t remember. I was going down there regularly by now.

“Brian was dressed in kind of Middle Eastern Clothes… he’d had some disaster whereby his own clothes had stuff spilled on them, so he was wearing clothes someone had given him. A big shirt, and waistcoat. And he was very spaced out. Very. But in a nice, fluffy way. He seemed very gentle. We’d got chatting to him.”

Brian was comparatively relaxed? How was his mental state?

“He was in a good state when we talked… but when we got in his car he was very antsy, kneeling on the seats, saying things to his driver, saying he was scared to drive and couldn’t drive any more. Then again, at his place, he was better.”

What did you talk about?

“He was talking about spiritual things, which we were very much into. And visions. And then he was listening down the phone, they were playing him mixed from what turned out to be Satanic Majesties. And he was playing recordings of Moroccan music; he hadn’t recorded anything ni Joujouka yet, but he was talking about it. This was ’67 and he’d been out there already, so he was talking all about that. How it was magical. And all about the Pipes of Pan. And my girlfriend Romi, while he was talking, was having visions of him, of him being this God Man. Pan.”

Some people, like Andrew Oldham, maintained with Brian it was all fashionable babble. But you believe he had insight?

“Oh yes. He did have insight. It would seem, from Romi’s reaction, that he was a very special individual indeed. He did start the band, he was very, very charismatic and he was very driven.”

 

“My girlfriend Romi, while he was talking, was having visions of him, of him being this God Man. Pan.”

 

 

Sonja 472

 

 

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