The Downfall of a Dandy

I thought I’d dig out some choice Q&As for the publication week of the UK paperback of Sympathy For The Devil. Later I will post John Keen, who knew Brian as a 19-year old, when he was perhaps the most focused, together musician John knew. In contrast, director Volker Schlöndorff knew Brian at a time when things were falling apart.

Brian had agreed to record a soundtrack for Volker’s movie, Mord und Totschlag, which featured Anita Pallenberg, essentially free of charge. He was enthusiastic and charming. Yet he was also a nightmare. This snippet gives a good sense of the long, detailed interview I did with Volker, who also pointed out that Brian lacked a certain brutality; that ruthlessness you need to finish a work of art, to get it out the door. Brian’s work in the studio showed the complex psychodynamic around the Stones; at times, musicians like Kenney Jones, remember he was together, great at getting performances out of people. At other times, Volker told me, Keith Richards and even Mick briefly got involved, to try and get the soundtrack finished on time.

You mentioned that, while you had a spotting session where Brian came up with lots of ideas, he procrastinated, and when it came to recording it was very stressful.

It was very stressful… because I had to serve as a go-between between the creative side and the material side. And most of the time it was just a nightmare to get Brian to the studio. First of all he would only work at nights. I would show up at four, five, six to pick him up and often we wouldn’t get to the studio till nine. He had no discipline whatsoever, even though he claimed he was very professional , he wasn’t . At one point when it got really bad Keith Richards just came in and started doing things to help me out. And to help him out. He was already, I must say, truly lost.

Was that irritating?
No… I’m very much of a diplomat. Brian would sometimes have needed a firm hand, but no, I was very happy to be in the studio, except for the producer crying about his money I had a great time. I had never seen a session of that kind where a musician came in, took up an instrument then played a few bars… they had never done film music either so it was fun for them to watch the image and to add sound. We were having a great time. It was then in the studio that he got more inspired, certainly he was more with it, other times a little less. I do not recall much in the way of music sheets. It was all a kind of improvisation.

There’s a beautiful recorder melody, one of the main themes, can you remember that being recorded?
I think that was the happiest part of the work, with Nicky Hopkins, he came in and was incredibly young and wonderful, everybody got excited around him, that’s how this came to happen. In the movie it’s about the one happy and free month where they take off and there’s a mood change and… you are right, that is the best piece. The other [pieces], even when I came back with it to Munich and had a listen, it gives the taste of the time, but it didn’t grab you immediately, except for this piece.

You told me earlier Brian was already an obviously unhappy figure at this point.
He was driven by this narcissistic need, to be recognised, to be loved, that everybody should see how special he was. At the time time he felt neglected. But he was craving for attention and not getting it… he was being treated in a condescending way, almost, which is when he could get nasty. Which is a typical behaviour of a certain narcissistic type.

He wasn’t getting attention from whom… Anita?
Anita was stronger than he was at that moment. She could feel this need, that he was begging for affection. So it was easy for her to give it or with-hold it. Then he got nasty in the sense he knew he’s the one got the money and she’s a nobody. Then he punished her in that way. And he started to treat her physically badly.

Did you witness that?
She told me it got pretty nasty… but it was his revenge on her because she treated him in a condescending way. She used this power she had and he fought back.

So it was difficult working with him. Was he unlikeable, in that respect?
No. Because I understood him as a director. I could feel that he was a lost soul. I tried to help him. To do this music, and I understood that doing something on his own was very important for him, it was more important for him than for me, that he had something where he could say, I did this. And when we were in Cannes you can see on the picture, when we come down the steps, he was beaming, as happy as can be. It’s funny to say, but even a Rolling Stone needs self-esteem apparently.

There was something special about him – what was that?
He wasn’t only a Rolling Stone. Brian had this kind of this poetic quality. He was like a Shelley type of character and a dandy. It was not like hard rock. He was much more into a melody and into feeling and therefore he was perfectly fine for the film. It struck me what an amazing character he was. He could be extremely nasty and spoiled but at the same time he was really creativity incarnate, talent incarnate and had a great intuition. Also he had quite an education, he had quite a horizon. It was not a calculating thing. I really felt, This is the best music I will ever get for a movie.

Is there any chance the soundtrack will ever be released?
I’m very sorry it hasn’t been. I’m most interested to get them out of that vault and into the public eye. But I have no means to pressure this [producer] guy who is just not interested. He’s even holding the publishing rights, which is so amazing, as there was such a long fight at the time with Allen Klein to get the publishing, because Universal would never take a picture without publishing rights. I will push him again, though.

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Categories: Brian Jones

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