Biographies are the 10th Doctor’s favorite books, and I’m sure Paul Trynka’s new biography Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones was on the Doctor’s reading list. I actually received a free copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway contests (a slightly different form of this review is also posted on Goodreads). So long as I can afford them or get free review copies I hope to be reading and reviewing quite a few more music-related books for this blog that bring my bookish and music-lover sides together. This was an excellent book to start out with.
Even as a semi-pro music blogger I really didn’t know much about the Rolling Stones before reading this book. I knew there were scandals involving sex and drugs, and that the Rolling Stones were instrumental in establishing ‘sex, drugs and rock&roll’ as a mantra for touring musicians, and I vaguely knew that the guy who started the band way back when died young. That was about it. Some of my friends have cover songs in their repertoirs that were originally written and recorded by, or at least made popular by the Stones, but as there is no chance I’d get in free at a Stones show as just a local music blogger, they really aren’t on my radar.
However, I love reading histories, and the story of the Rolling Stones is important to understanding the current music world. I have no interest in scandal-mongering, so I was relieved to find that Trynka’s new biography on Brian Jones, the founder of the Stones, is all about Brian’s life, not his death. The presence of other death oriented books on this man is inescapable, and I did find it annoying the by halfway through the story Trynka was already foreshadowing Brian’s tragic end as if Brian would be dying on the next page, or at least by the next chapter. I could have done without much of that, but even so, I get the feeling that this new biography is far more balanced, complete, and respectful towards a sadly underappreciated musical talent whose life ought to have enriched the music world for decades longer.
In Trynka’s new biography, we get a front-row seat for the making of the Stones from its very early days when the lads who became this legendary band were just a bunch of young kids with instruments hanging out and gaping at older musicians at shows. I was strongly reminded in this part of the book of the culture at Hodi’s Halfnote on Monday nights, or of those 4-5 act ‘festivals’ common in Fort Collins where most of the audience plays some sort of instrument, too. And, the tensions that were at play in the early Stones sound very much like those that create many of the band-collapses and line-up changes in bands everywhere. Seeing this human, approachable side of the men who are the Rolling Stones makes me far more interested in their band and their music. I may have to listen to their albums again now to hear them with my newly attuned ears.
I do wonder what a biographer with a psychology background would say about Brian Jones. Diagnosing dead people is always tricky, but having done so much research and reading and thinking for my own benefit on Asperger’s/High Functioning Autism, I recognized the way Brian Jones interacted with people as very familiar. The fact that his father was so oddly distant also is highly suggestive of that diagnosis. I wonder very much whether Brian and everyone around him might have been much better off if psychologists in the 60’s had been able to diagnose him with Asperger’s early on. All this is just my own speculation, of course, but well worth thinking about if current musicians could benefit. I may be completely wrong on this point, but since Paul Trynka’s book comes out soon, you’ll be able to read it for yourself and come to your own conclusions.
Paul Trynka’s new biography, Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones will be on sale starting October 13, 2014 at a bookstore or website near you.