Nick Broomfield has a theory in The Stones and Brian Jones (BBC Two): blame the parents. His feature-length documentary begins and ends with them. The straitlaced Mr and Mrs Jones, like many of their generation, found teenage rebellion incomprehensible. They wanted their son to get a proper job, and were horrified by his rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.
Broomfield’s film keeps returning to the idea that Jones’s unhappiness and insecurity can be traced back to his failed relationship with his parents, and his yearning for their approval. Well, who knows. It’s as good a theory as any and it acted as a framing device for an absorbing film which aims to restore Jones to his rightful place as a central figure in the story of The Rolling Stones.
The band has been going on for so long without him that many fans will be too young to remember Jones, who died in 1969 aged just 27. The film touched on Jones’s rivalry with Mick Jagger, and his frustration that Jagger and Keith Richards were taking the band in a different musical direction. There was an excruciating piece of archive footage in which a television interviewer asked Jones about songwriting, and he replied with a mixture of prickliness and embarrassment that there is no point asking him.
Forever in search of a loving home, Jones would “adopt” the parents of his young girlfriends and move in with them before moving on. Things were different with Anita Pallenberg, with whom things took a dark, drug-addled turn before she left him for Richards. “She just walked away to the next Stone,” said one observer, “from one hotel room to the other.” She comes out of the film terribly.
It was sometimes unclear from the editing whether Broomfield had spoken to people for this film, or whether the voices we heard were drawn from the archives. It seemed that the only band member to contribute was Bill Wyman. But perhaps Broomfield prefers it that way – the presence of Jagger would dominate.
Instead, we heard the thoughts of Jones himself in a series of letters he wrote, which were voiced by Freddie Fox. There were polite notes to fans, thanking them for their interest. And, at the end, there was a letter from Jones’s father, offering an apology of sorts. But it came too late to stop the self-destruction.