Peacock Tales

Here’s a snippet from an intriguing, stimulating interview that wasn’t that heavily featured in Sympathy For The Devil – but gives an insightful view of how Brian Jones was regarded in hipster circles. Nigel Waymouth opened the celebrated clothing shop, Granny Takes A Trip, then teamed up with Michael English to form Hapshash and the Coloured Coat – the influential designer duo, responsible for a string of celebrated psychedelic posters, who later became recording artists in their own right, assisted by one LBH Jones.

Tell me about when you first bumped into Brian, was that around when you opened Granny Takes A Trip (in February ’66)?.
I got to know him around then but I’d seen him before ‘cos I was very keen on blues and collected old records, there was a small contingent of people from the Roundhouse Pub on Soho and the Railway Hotel in Ealing, with Alexis Korer, Cyril Davies who sort of broadcast the enthusiasm for the new sound that was to become British R&B. So I’d seen him there, but didn’t get to know him until later.

He was a key customer at Granny Takes A Trip, wasn’t he?
He was, he was keen, he loved coming in and looking at the clothes, he and Anita would also come in occasionally after hours and choose some shirts.

He was one of the leading peacocks?
There was this peacock side. He was the pretty boy. Let’s face it, it he was young and on the pull and wanted to dress up and show off. He put on the stlyle. I don’t know what his finances were like, he always dressed beautifully and was probably the most flamboyant. Not in a vulgar way. I remember him in jackets from Hung On You, Trousers from Granny’s, with that big hat.

Was he particularly adventurous?
A lot of people picked out what they wanted and made their own look. Lots of peacocks made it their business. He was one of the most famous peacocks. People think he was the only one, that’s not necessarily the truth, but he was probably the most famous. At our shop there was this self-conscious aesthetic movement, this Wildean, fin de siecle thing… the vanity!

You were friends with Suki [Potier, Brian’s girlfriend from April ’67], and hung out with them, didn’t you?
I rmemerb going round to see him at the [Royal Garden] hotel in Kensington. The Monkees were staying in rooms nearby and came to visit him. He loved the adulation. He was like every rock star, fed off the fans and the audience.. he was a performer after all. [This period  marked another attempted police bust, described by Stan Blackbourne in the book].

Tell us about the Hapshash album – that features him, correct?
We made the record with Guy Stevens… everybody picked up something, a tambourine, a whistle or a flute.. I can’t say for certain he was on the record.. there was a bass core of a rhythm section that Guy had got from Spooky Tooth, and something came out of it, a cacophany… it was to do with the sound Guy wanted to produce of everyone together. A gathering.

And Brian played on a follow-up?
Then someone wanted to do another one, Peter Williams I think at Liberty, Brian said I’d love to come along and help. And he was very sweet. A nice guy. Just friendly. There was the dark side I guess… There was a lot of tension in the band between him and I think… I don’t mean in a disparaging way.. I don’t think he had the bottle to stand up against someone like Mick and Keith. Brian was a romantic and had a lot of imagination. You can see that in his contributions to the band. He was a great musician, he had a touch that lent the Stones a certain je ne sais quoi. He was a much gentler soul but like a lot of gentle souls there was a lot of anger, self-destruction. I don’t want to go deeper as I didn’t see it from the inside, but he did crack up.

What did he play at that second session?
He came along to the thing, Mick turned up too, but I think Mick turned up to see what Brian was doing. The thing was fun but never went anywhere. At the end, the producer went up to Brian and said, Thank you, would you like some money, and brought out £20! Totally misunderstood the cameraderie we all had. Like a lot of us, Brian was a victim because he wasn’t playing the game like some people did.

When he split with Anita, and was having problems with the band, did he open up about it all?
No. He was very English. He didn’t. I wasn’t one of his closest buddies so he probably wouldn’t do that anyway… [but] it was apparent to people he was fragile and he was cracking up.

You know Suki well, what was she like as a person?
She was delightful. Very sweet. But she was very stoned. Every time I aw her she was out of it. Rather beautiful-looking blonde and pretty. She was very alluring .. But at the same time she was very stoned. I remember at the Royal Garden, she suddenly emerged from the bedroom with a blanket around her at mid day, I was thinking, Hang On.. she was in the depths of something, wasn’t with the living as such. She was lovely, she was beautiful, but she was slightly sleepwalking through things. I saw her later and she never really escaped the web of drugs.

Your second session with Brian – how did it turn out? Was it a single track?
I can’t add a lot more, it was for a single, not an album, I think I wasn’t enthused by the whole thing, I went along with Michael English and others clattered and banged things and it was a fun thing to do. I think he just came along and picked up a guitar. He was maybe pretty out of it, so it wasn’t a particularly significant moment musically. But Brian was amazing in other ways. As my friend Joe Boyd, the musicologist and producer says, he is responsible for the first World Music album. said.. he is responsible for the first world music album. When he broke up with Anita he went up to the mountain and they made that album which is pretty amazing. He saw things creatively in terms of music. He understood it all.

Not long after Linda Keith had come back [from New York, after which she briefly had a liaison with Brian] she and I became friends. But I remember her saying, Bloody Stones. She had this very down to earth view. She said, I don’t want to hang around any more with people who loathe each other. Who hate each other. I remember thinking, Wow… this is strong stuff.

1 Comment

  • Lara Lupin says:

    Thank you for sharing this interview with us, it’s truly fascinating, not only because the facts about Brian but also for London’s portrait on that special time. On Brian I’d like to highlight a quote “He was a great musician, he had a touch that lent the Stones a certain je ne sais quoi”, as it describes the way I feel and also for coming from such a qualified witness.
    Intrigued I listened to the record, I have to confess I’ve never heard about it before, and at 13.20 on Empires of the Sun I was happily surprised to hear a voice, with a british accent, reciting 3 poems from the spanish poet Federico García Lorca: Arbolé, Arbolé; Es Verdad and Malagueña. It gives us a hint on how experimental they were at that time, not only musically but in culture in general; and how Brian always joined enthusiastically all of those projects.
    Sorry if I wrote too much, I felt like sharing the thoughts that came to my mind after reading this. Once again, thank you.

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