" Graham Ride was Brian Jones's best friend during the ten months immediately prior to Brian leaving his hometown of Cheltenham for the 'Smoke' of London to form the Rolling Stones. They may not have been blood brothers but they were the next best thing. They shared good times, bad times, money (mostly the author's), food, cigarettes, booze, revelations, depressions, views and philosophies. In those last ten months they had participated in an intensely musical learning period with its high and low points, its exultations, its disagreements and disappointments. They'd shared just about everything except women and a bed. "
When I first became aware of this book about Brian Jones I was skeptical. “Not another book which rehashes as the familiar myth of the founder of the Rolling Stones”, I thought. However, I was pleasantly surprised! FOUNDATION STONE covers the seldom talked about formative years of Brian just before he left for London to eventually create the ‘world’s greatest rock band’. Better yet, the website for the book has a disclaimer: “WARNING: this book does NOT rely on sensationalism”. Graham also shatters many of the common misconceptions about Brian and his time in Cheltenham. What was his attitude about women, children and of course drugs?
Graham was a roommate and friend of Brian Jones between May of 1961 and March of 1962, even lending Brian the money (which Brian never repaid!) to make what would be his monumental trip to London to follow the blues. You can even speculate that without Graham’s support, both monetarily and musically, Brian might not have made it to London…and there might well have never been a Rolling Stones!
The book is subtitled, “The Influences & Shaping of Brian Jones” and Ride goes into great depth to explain exactly what records they listened to regularly and what were Brian’s real music influences at the time. Plus, he describes Brian’s first attempts at playing slide & harmonica and Brian’s first performance of the blues in public. Graham Ride was there when Brian made the musical passion jump from trad jazz to Rhythm and Blues. Finally, Graham tells about Brian's first influential and important meetings with Alexis Korner. One of the most interesting stories was when Brian and Graham were listening to Ravi Shankar on the radio. This was several years before Brian would play the sitar on the Stones classic, “Paint It Black”.
The book reminds me a little of Pete Shotton’s book about John Lennon called “In My Life” (1983). Shotton was a buddy of Lennon’s during the time leading up to the Beatles and his book gives real insight into John’s often complex character. However, Shotton was not a musician and that’s the real difference. Graham Ride SHARED Brian’s passion for music, not just his passion for College mischief. It is this difference that makes this book so compelling.
Although Graham lost contact with Brian when he left for London in 1962, he does give some very keen insight in to the death of Jones. Not physical clues mind you, but an insightful, psychological one! Graham has often said more than once that Brian was someone
“you wouldn’t be surprised to discover had been found murdered”.He goes on to explain about,
“the most self-hazardous parts of his complex character were his ability to denigrate people, his temper, his anger and his, sometimes sneering looks. In other words, he didn’t have the substance, guile or real physical viciousness to back up his nasty treatment of people; consequently he could unthinkingly place himself firmly within the ranks of potential victim.”Combine this with what we know about the less-than-honest construction workers that were “repairing” his home while simultaneously robbing him blind and you can see a recipe for disaster. When you place Graham’s assessment of Brian’s character in this mix, his ‘accidental’ death seems to make a little more sense. I applaud Graham for his common sense explanation, without relying on any sensationalism.
FOUNDATION STONE also contains a section with brief biographical information on the blues musicians that are mentioned in the book. Plus, there is a description for a walking tour of Cheltenham, should you want to visit some Brian Jones related sites.
I highly recommend this book to any fan of Brian Jones. And also to any fan of the Rolling Stones so that they can see the true genesis and mindset that created the band. It covers a unique aspect of the Brian Jones story that is often glossed over – his very motivation.