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Top 10 Brian Jones Rolling Stones Multi-Instrumentalist Songs

Brian Jones
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

If there’s an interesting instrument on a mid-’60s Rolling Stones recording, it probably was played by the late, great Brian Jones.

As Jones got bored with rock guitar and found that he lacked Jagger and Richards‘ knack for pop songwriting, he focused on crafting new sonic textures for the group’s albums. From sitars to saxophones, the instruments might not have been played perfectly, but each brought intriguing new textures and colors to the songs. Through his musical talent and thirst for experimentation, Jones drastically altered what a Stones record could sound like. Once he departed from the band (and shortly thereafter, the earth), the Stones would never again sound so versatile. Here are the Top 10 Brian Jones Multi-Instrumentalist Songs:


BetweentheButtons
10

‘Something Happened to Me Yesterday’

Instrument: Brass Section
 
 
From: ‘Between the Buttons’ (1967)

Brian Jones turned into a one-man brass band for the jaunty tune that closed ‘Between the Buttons.’ He’s responsible for saxophone (the first instrument he ever learned to play), trumpet, trombone and that breathy tuba that just barely makes it to the end of each chorus. The song is supposedly about LSD, making the oom-pah approach all the more strange. On second thought, maybe that helps it make sense.

 
Dandelion
9

‘Dandelion’

Instrument: Oboe
 
 
B-side (1967)

Only in 1967 could one of the world’s biggest rock bands decide that what they really needed in their next recording was an oboe solo. Naturally, it came courtesy of Jones, who also played sax, maracas and, perhaps, harpsichord on ‘Dandelion,’ which became a Top 20 hit in the U.S. (better than its Top 50 A-side ‘We Love You’). Jones’s oboe solo totally suits the effervescent, almost childlike pop song, which features John Lennon and Paul McCartney on backing vocals. Jones returned the favor, playing (what else?) oboe on the Beatles' ‘Baby You’re a Rich Man.’

 
LetsSpendtheNightTogether
8

‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’

Instrument: Organ
 
 
From: ‘Between the Buttons’ (U.S. edition, 1967)

Hardly the driving instrumental force behind the song, the organ played by Jones reveals itself at a key moment. Just as the rest of the instruments go quiet, Brian’s church organ enters to underscore Mick as he takes a shot at earnestly declaring his devotion (at least for the evening). It then sails along with the rest of the gang, floating inches above the driving rhythms for the duration of the foot-stomping classic.

 
Aftermath
7

‘I Am Waiting’

Instrument: Dulcimer
 
 
From: ‘Aftermath’ (1966)

When you think of the Stones, you think of brash, in-your-face declarations. “She’s under my thumb.” “Hey, you, get offa my cloud!” But with ‘I Am Waiting,’ well, it’s right there in the title: waiting. This is a delicate, melancholy song and Jones found the perfect component in the intricate pitter-patter of the dulcimer. When the song kicks into a higher gear, you think that the little dulcimer’s going to get left behind. But, no, Brian launches into a sprint to keep up – and adds a folksy jangle that plays off of Mick’s indignation.

 
BeggarsBanquet
6

‘No Expectations’

Instrument: Slide Guitar
 
 
From: ‘Beggars Banquet’ (1968)

"That was the last time I remember Brian really being totally involved in something that was really worth doing," Jagger would recall to 'Rolling Stone' about the session for 'No Expectations.' Jones's acoustic slide guitar is absolutely essential to the whole mood of the song. The slide guitar gives the recording a hungover feel, as if you're staggering around and everything's coming in and out of focus. Brian probably knew the feeling all too well. It wouldn't be Jones's last Stones recording (he's on two tracks on 'Let it Bleed'), but his slide playing on 'No Expectations' would be his last great gift to the Stones.

 
2000LightYearsFromHome
5

‘2000 Light Years from Home’

Instrument: Mellotron
 
 
From: ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ (1967)

The Stones’ most successful psychedelic experiment, ‘2000 Light Years from Home’ would be a whole lot less weird and wonderful without Brian’s mood-altering mellotron. The “strings” that you hear are actually just Jones on the keyboard contraption, giving the trippy space journey its epic scope. Allegedly, Jones plays the theremin on this track, too. ‘2000 Light Years’ wouldn’t be Brian’s only outing on mellotron. The “trumpets” on ‘She’s a Rainbow’ are also courtesy of Jones’s tricky fingers.

 
NotFadeAway
4

‘Not Fade Away’

Instrument: Harmonica
 
 
From: ‘The Rolling Stones’ (1964)

Brian played harmonica on a number of the Stones' early recordings (and also taught Jagger how to blow … so to speak), but his work on the band's charging Buddy Holly cover is the apex. With everyone else tasked with slamming home that Diddley-esque beat, Jones's mouth organ becomes the lead instrument. It echoes each of Mick's lines, alternately chugging and squealing with bluesy fervor.

 
RubyTuesday
3

‘Ruby Tuesday’

Instrument: Recorder
 
 
From: ‘Between the Buttons’ (U.S. edition, 1967)

'Ruby Tuesday' is a controversial Stones song, in terms of authorship. Richards takes full credit for the words and melody, but others (including Marianne Faithfull) have suggested that Jones was involved in composing the music, or may have crafted the original tune altogether. Certainly, 'Ruby Tuesday' stands out from just about every other Stones song in the late '60s because of its gentle sweetness and soaring melody. Much of that is due to Brian in the background – fluttering and cooing, then bringing the song to a close, all on his recorder.

 
PaintItBlack
2

‘Paint It, Black’

Instrument: Sitar
 
 
From: ‘Aftermath’ (U.S. edition, 1966)

This masterpiece would be unimaginable without Brian's sitar. It's the tease that invites us in. It's the devil that dances mischievously around the beat. It's the hornet that refuses to stop stinging until the song fades into total darkness. The old charge that the Stones did everything a few months after the Beatles did it is true in this case (George Harrison had played sitar on 'Norwegian Wood' in '65). But no one in rock 'n' roll ever used a sitar as well as Jones did on 'Paint It, Black.'

 
Aftermath2
1

‘Under My Thumb’

Instrument: Marimba
 
 
From: ‘Aftermath’ (1966)

By losing almost total interest in the guitar (and experimenting with all these different instruments), Jones created an entirely new color palette for the Stones to draw from. There might not be a more significant contribution than the marimba lick on 'Under My Thumb' – it's surely the most interesting thing in the recording. All the Stones are in fine form – vengeful Mick, fuzzy Bill, tight Charlie and grooving Keith – but it's Brian's marimba that lends the tune a smoky cool. Take it easy, baby.

 

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