The Rolling Stones were Brian Jones' band. He was the blues junkie and the most versatile musician in the group. It was even his idea to name the band after a classic Muddy Waters song. And he was the one who shaped the band's early musical directions – from the gritty R&B and blues mix they played at first to the psychedelic freak outs the Stones got caught up in during the mid-'60s. He was also the group's first casualty, wrecked by drugs that distanced him from his bandmates. Less than a month after Jones was fired from the group he helped form, he drowned in his swimming pool at the age of 27. Our list of the Top 10 Brian Jones Rolling Stones Songs aren't necessarily the band's greatest tracks, but the songs that Jones made great.
'I Wanna Be Your Man'Single (1963)
The Stones' second single beat the Beatles' version of the Lennon-McCartney song by a few weeks. And it's way better, thanks to the Stones' tougher arrangement. Jones plays a blistering, and one of his best, slide guitar solos on the song and sings backup, one of the few instances where none of the other Stones helped out on backing vocals.
'2000 Light Years From Home'From: 'Their Satanic Majesties Request' (1967)
Nobody was immune from backward guitar solos, endless noise loops and other flashes of possibly regrettable psychedelia in 1967. And Jones, the Stones' resident explorer, dived head first into all of the studio tricks available to them. Their Satanic Majesties Request is a messy and sometimes silly album, no doubt about it. But the galaxy-shifting "2000 Light Years From Home" (with Jones on mellotron, theremin and various sound effects) is out of this world.
'The Last Time'From: 'Out of Our Heads' (1965)
The first Rolling Stones single penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards is also a showcase for Jones, who plays the song's distinctive opening guitar riff. He was often an attention-grabbing performer (check out the various theremin, slide and sitar appearances in our list of the Top 10 Brian Jones Rolling Stones Songs), but on "The Last Time" – the Stones' second Top 10 hit – he's mostly an understated utility player. Except for the killer opening riff, of course.
'Under My Thumb'From: 'Aftermath' (1966)
Once again, Jones was the driving force behind one of the Stones' most familiar riffs. In addition to supplying the acoustic rhythm guitar, he plays the snaking marimba that winds through "Under My Thumb," giving the song its slightly menacing nature. Along with the rest of Aftermath, the track marks the start of the band's most musically adventurous period, most of it courtesy of the creatively restless Jones.
'19th Nervous Breakdown'Single (1966)
By 1966, the Stones had moved away from their bluesy roots to more musical challenging endeavors. Their fourth album, Aftermath, includes non-traditional rock instruments like dulcimer, marimba, koto and sitar -- all played by Jones (see No. 7 on our list of the Top 10 Brian Jones Rolling Stones Songs). "19th Nervous Breakdown," their first single of 1966, comes from the sessions and features a relatively straightforward lineup of instruments. But that shuffling riff is all Brian Jones.
'Mother's Little Helper'From: 'Aftermath' (1966)
Make no mistake: Keith Richards played some killer riffs during the Stones' mid-'60s transitional period. But Jones was responsible for a sizable chunk of them, including the main one found in "Mother's Little Helper," which he played on a special 12-string guitar with a slide. Jones also played the tambura, the Indian instrument that gives the song the droning hum that rings throughout.
'No Expectations'From: 'Beggars Banquet'
Jones was still experimenting with rock's traditional boundaries even on some of his final recordings with the Rolling Stones. Beggars Banquet is his last full album with the band before his exit in 1969. In addition to his usual guitar duties on the LP, he plays mellotron, sitar, harmonica and tambura. But for "No Expectations," he fittingly returns to blues slide guitar for his last great performance.
'Ruby Tuesday'From: 'Between the Buttons' (1967)
One of the Stones' most musically audacious recordings features terrific performances by the entire band. But, just as he sparked "Under My Thumb" with marimba (see No. 7 on our list of the Top 10 Brian Jones Rolling Stones Songs), Jones pushes "Ruby Tuesday" closer to greatness with the wistful recorder he plays throughout. He also plays the stately piano that underlines the verses.
'Paint It, Black'From: 'Aftermath' (1966)
Like a handful of other tracks on our list of the Top 10 Brian Jones Rolling Stones Songs, "Paint It, Black" stems from the productive and inspired sessions for 1966's Aftermath album (it's the opening cut on the U.S. version). Jones not only provides the stinging sitar riff that immediately stamps "Paint It, Black," he also plays the haunting percussion that rolls in and out of the song.
'We Love You'Single (1967)
The entire band had a hand in this psychedelic-era freakout from the Their Satanic Majesties Request sessions (it was released as a single six months before the album came out). But Jones was the song's mastermind, plotting its speaker-rattling arrangement and playing the mellotron that gives the song its otherworldly tone. The horn blasts were also his. "We Love You" ranks among the Stones' most musically ambitious and daring works. You can thank Brian Jones for that.