I’m happy that I was able to print what is almost certainly the last-known photo of Brian Jones with the Rolling Stones in the paperback of the book; but it’s a bitter-sweet pleasure.
Photographer Gabi Nasemann was a mainstay of the counterculture scene. A key contributor to IT, she also worked for Michael Moorcock, bookjackets for Brian Patten and others, record covers for Mott the Hoople and East of Eden, plus photos of many significant events of the period. Gabi lived in Thom Keyes “wild” apartment, where according to scenester Jeff Dexter, “ all the great and the good would visit.”
Gabi met percussionist Rocky Dzidzoruni in Thom Keyes’ apartment – “he used to bring really good smoke”. One day in April 1969, Rocky invited Gabi down to a Hendrix rehearsal at a studio in Soho: “He was going to rehearse with Hendrix… so I took my camera and we went this place in or near Denmark Street. The hours with Hendrix were flying while he played the piano, drums and later on the guitar. It was completely amazing for me to see someone who was 100% music, he didn’t even seem to notice me taking pictures, he didn´t hear when they called him to the phone,it seemed as if time stood still for him for him.”
Some time later, probably in very late May 1969, Rocky took Gabi to the same studio to watch the Stones rehearse: “but it was the opposite scene with them. As we came in, Mick said “no photos” and I had to stay behind some glass just listening to what to me sounded really untogether and bad. They had to repeat endless times, smoking endless joints and not getting any better or further with the song… it was a bit boring and it got very late, when the door opened and Brian stumbled in – totally drunk, he could hardly walk. He could just sit down and do nothing. He looked very lost. There was no special reaction from Mick or Keith. They didn’t talk to him, they seemed to ignore him and continued rehearsing and not getting any further or better. I remember thinking that they sounded quite unprofessional to me, specially compared to Hendrix. Somehow I did take a few pics quickly, so Mick wouldn´t notice and maybe kick me out. He seemed very unsympathetic to me. Brian stayed sitting down just dangling back and forth, sometimes serious, sometimes smiling. He just sat there watching or whatever, looking sad and happy. It was a strange night. And they never got to the end of the song.”
Gabi’s memories echo, exactly, what other observers remember about Brian’s last days with the Stones. Sometimes he was indeed incapable of playing. Was this due to a deep personal inadequacy? Or was it an understandable, even inevitable reaction to the position he was in? As Sam Cutler, later the Stones road manager, puts it, “A lot of people take drugs to mask their inner turmoil and unhappiness, don’t they? And Brian was one of them. Yes, Mick and Keith did make it worse. They just treated him like he didn’t exist.” Remember, also, that Mick’s insistence that Gabi not take photos probably reflect the fact that he had already decided to oust Brian from the band – as Zouzou points out in the book, Brian was fully aware that Mick and Keith were investigating other guitarists.
In Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones, I’ve focused on the important elements of Brian Jones’s life: that he was a visionary who transformed our understanding of black and ethnic music, and therefore had a profound effect on today’s musical landscape. But, as perhaps with any creative life, there is pain and suffering in this story, and these photos commemorate that, too.
These photos are Gabi’s copyright, so I’ve used them small and would be grateful if they’re not distributed further, but I hope they nonetheless give you all some insight into Brian’s later days.