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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 28, 1942

Hello, everybody! It's time for another trip back in time with the Tuesday Timeline! It's February 28th, and three quarters of the time, it is normally the final day of February.

We just happen to be in one of those years that happen to have a February 29th in it!

But, as always, before we get into today's blog subject, we must first take a look back at some other happenings on this date.

So, to begin, let's take a look at some of the celebrities that are celebrating a birthday today. That list of celebrities include Charles Durning, Gavin McLeod, Don Francks, Stephanie Beacham, Bernadette Peters, Gilbert Gottfried, John Turturro, Cindy Wilson (B-52's), Rae Dawn Chong, Robert Sean Leonard, Patrick Monahan (Train), Rory Cochrane, Eric Lindros, Ali Larter, Jason Aldean, Karolina Kurkova, and Fefe Dobson!

That is quite a lot of people!

On the flip side, we also had to say goodbye to a few celebrities on February 28th. We said farewell to Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five in 2008, legendary radio host Paul Harvey in 2009, and actress Jane Russell in 2011.

And, now for some significant events that happened on February 28th.

1827 – The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad is incorporated, making it the first American railroad to offer commercial transportation of both people and freight.

1844 – A gun explodes on the USS Princeton during a cruise of the Potomac, killing eight people. Of the victims, two were United States Cabinet members.

1854 – The Republican Party of the United States is formed.

1883 – The first vaudeville theater opens up in Boston, Massachusetts.

1885 – AT&T is incorporated in New York State as the subsidiary of American Bell Telephone.

1935 – Nylon is discovered by DuPont scientist Wallace Carothers.

1939 – In one of the biggest mistakes made in a publication, the nonsensical word 'dord' is discovered in Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition.

1940 – Basketball is televised for the first time.

1954 – The first colour televisions are offered for sale to the general public.

1958 – In what is often called the worst school bus accident in American history, twenty-six children and the school bus driver are killed after the bus hits a wrecker truck and plunged over an embankment in Kentucky.

1975 – A tube train crash occurs at Moorgate Station, London. Forty-three people are killed.

1986 – Swedish Prime Minister, Olof Palme is assassinated in Stockholm.

1991 – The Gulf War ends.

1993 – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents raid the Branch Davidian church in Waco, Texas, armed with a warrant to arrest leader David Koresh. This was the first day of a 51-day standoff, ending on April 19.

1997 – The North Hollywood shootout takes place, killing the perpetrators and injuring 19.

Now, that is a huge laundry list of events, isn't it? And, yet, none of these are the subject for today's blog.

Today we are going back in time seventy years. The date is February 28, 1942. And, as it turns out, there's a lot that happened on that date.

It was seventy years ago today that the USS Houston sank in the Battle of Sunda Strait. 693 crew members lost their lives in the disaster. A second boat, HMAS Perth lost an additional 375 men.

Seventy years ago today, Dutch admiral Karel Doorman, died at the age of 52 during the Battle of the Java Sea.

And, seventy years ago on this date, actor/director Frank Bonner is born. You might remember him best as Herb Tarlek on the sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati.

But for today's look back on February 28, 1942, I thought we would add a little bit of British rock flavour to today's entry. Because February 28, 1942 happens to be the date of birth for one of the founders of one of the most enduring bands that ever came out of the British Invasion. However, his rise to fame and his desire to stand out from the crowd eventually lead him down a bumpy road, and some would say that he paid the ultimate price for it.

Today's blog subject is the late Brian Jones, one of the founding members of The Rolling Stones.

Born Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones seventy years ago, Brian's early childhood was complicated by childhood asthma, which developed after a case of the croup, when Jones was four. He also had to deal with the loss of a sister, who died of leukemia when Brian was only three years old.

But despite these early hardships, Brian had always grown up around music. His mother was a piano teacher, and his father was the leader of the church choir.

When Jones was fifteen, he first heard the music of jazz musician Cannonball Adderley, which prompted an immediate interest in jazz music. He persuaded his parents to buy him a saxophone, and on February 28, 1959 (Brian's 17th birthday), his parents bought him his first acoustic guitar.

Although Jones had always done well in school (his IQ was listed as 135), he often got his grades without working for them, and found the idea of school to be too conformist and rigid for his liking. He had even gotten thrown out of a couple of schools for the hostility he had towards authority figures.

But a scandal in his late teens would have Brian quitting school for good, after he had gotten his fourteen year old girlfriend pregnant. Jones had encouraged her to have an abortion, but instead she carried the child to term, giving him up for adoption.

Throughout the next year, Jones did some travelling through Northern Europe and Scandanavia, but had to return home to England when his finances ran low. He ended up fathering three more children between 1960 and 1964 (he would end up fathering six children total, none of which were raised by him). He tried to get into an art school in 1961, but his application was denied after someone wrote the school outing him as a 'drifter'.

Shortly after that, Jones moved to London, where he befriended several up and coming musicians including Paul Jones from Manfred Mann, Alexis Korner, and future Cream bassist Jack Bruce. Briefly adopting the stage name of Elmo Lewis, Jones became a blues musician, and in May 1962, Jones had placed an ad in Jazz News inviting all musicians interested in forming an R&B group to meet at the Bricklayer's Arms pub. Pianist Ian “Stu” Stewart was the first to respond to the ad. Singer Mick Jagger also responded, and he brought his childhood friend Keith Richards to rehearsals. Richards joined the band shortly afterwards.

According to Keith Richards, it was Jones who had the idea to name themselves “The Rolling Stones”, although in early performances, the 'G' in 'Rolling' was left off. The name originated from a song featured on 'The Best Of Muddy Waters' album.

The foursome of Jones, Jagger, Richards, and Stewart were later joined by drummer Tony Chapman and bass player Dick Taylor, and The Rolling Stones played their very first gig on July 12, 1962.

For about a year, Jagger, Richards, and Jones shared a flat together with future photographer James Phelge, and Jones and Richards would often listen to blues records and play the guitar. Jones reportedly even taught Jagger how to play the harmonica.

Over the next few months, the band eventually found a permanent bassist in the form of Bill Wyman, and a permanent drummer by the name of Charlie Watts.

The group played dozens of gigs at various jazz and blues clubs, garnering the adoration of fans. However, the band was also highly criticized by traditional jazz musicians, who were threatened by their increasing popularity. In the band's earliest days, Jagger was the lead singer, but many felt that Brian Jones was the real leader behind the band. He was the one promoting the band, booking the gigs, and some people even admitted that Jones, with his mod look and huge stage presence was actually a much livelier performer than Mick Jagger!

(Hmmm...I wonder if Maroon 5's song would have worked had it been titled 'Moves Like Jones'?)

But Jones was very instrumental in the band's earliest singles. Quite literally, actually. Jones was most widely known for playing a Harmony Stratotone, and a Gretsch Double Anniversary for a main guitar, but he was also known for playing a variety of other musical instruments as well. He would play slide guitar, sitar, organ, piano, marimba, trumpet, harpsichord, accordion, saxophone, oboe, harmonica, autoharp, and recorder!

In fact, take a listen to this single back in the days when Jones was a member of the band. If you listen closely to the recorder in this #1 hit, that is courtesy of Brian Jones.

ARTIST: The Rolling Stones
SONG: Ruby Tuesday
ALBUM: Between The Buttons
DATE RELEASED: January 13, 1967

Wasn't that beautiful? I'll admit that the only reason that I wanted to include this song was because it happens to be one of my all-time favourite singles from The Rolling Stones, but it also demonstrated just a smidgen of the talent that Jones brought to the band.

But somewhere along the way, Jones began to break away from the band unity and started alienating his bandmates due to some rather poor choices.

The friction started to happen back in the days when Jones acted as the band's business manager. Because of this, Jones would get a higher wage than the rest of the band members. This was the beginning of the resentment between Jones and the rest of the band. But it wasn't until the arrival of Andrew Loog Oldham, who became the manager and producer of the band that Jones really started to drift away from The Rolling Stones.

Oldham came into the band in late 1963, and he was a firm believer in having members of bands write their own songs, because he felt it was financially advantageous. He didn't think that the band's current playlist of blues and jazz standard cover songs would not keep the band fresh. He insisted that the band start writing and composing their own songs, and he specifically wanted to exploit the charisma and stage performance of Jagger as a main focus of the band. As a result, the band steered away from the covers that Jones preferred to play, and started focusing more on original songs written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

All of these changes took a major toll on Brian Jones. Being physically drained from all the touring, the inability to handle the money and fame, and the feelings of depression caused by his contributions to The Rolling Stones being diminished lead to Jones overindulging in drugs and alcohol.

Nothing was off limits for Jones. He drank heavily, and often used such drugs as cannabis and LSD. The drug and alcohol abuse took its toll on Jones, with his physical health deteriorating. Many accounts also state that Jones' mental health was fragile, as he was often prone to frequent angry outbursts and became quite anti-social. Shortly after “Ruby Tuesday” topped the charts, he was arrested for drug possession in May 1967. But after protesters demanded that Jones be freed, Jones was fined, given probation, and ordered to seek counselling.

But by then, the relationship between Jones and his bandmates was at an all-time low. According to the band, Brian often had two personalities. One was a gentle and kind Brian who would give anyone the shirt off of his back. The other one was a hostile, selfish Brian, who was reportedly cruel and vicious. And, part of the band's frustrations came from the simple fact that they didn't know which Brian they would deal with on any given day.

(Though it probably didn't help matters much when one of Jones' girlfriends ended up leaving him for Keith Richards, which only served to add to the animosity between Richards and Jones specifically.)

A second arrest for drug possession occurred just one year after his first, and his legal troubles, combined with the estrangement from his bandmates and his increasing dependency on drugs were all factors that eventually lead to Jones leaving the band in 1969.

To the general public, it appeared as though Jones had left the band by his own accord, but the real story was that he was visited by Jagger, Richards, and Watts on June 8, 1969, and was informed that the band would be continuing on without him. But the band did tell him that it was his choice on how to break the news to the public, and he said simply in a statement to the media that he no longer saw eye-to-eye with the albums they were cutting. Jones was eventually replaced by Mick Taylor.

So, in mid-1969, Jones had hit rock bottom. His drug abuse was at an all-time high, and he had essentially been thrown out of the very band he helped create. But, Jones was still keen on trying to break back into the music business, and some people noted that he was in the stages to put together a new band.

Sadly, those plans never came to be.

On July 3, 1969, Brian Jones was found dead inside the swimming pool of his home (which was the same residence where Winnie-The-Pooh was written by A.A. Milne). He was 27 years old.

The reported cause of death was “death by misadventure”, and Jones' heart and liver were heavily damaged by drug and alcohol abuse.

Brian Jones was just one of many musicians who fell into the aptly named '27 Club', musicians who died at the age of 27, usually at their own hands. A club which also includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse.

Two days after Jones died, The Rolling Stones played a free concert in London's Hyde Park, which was dedicated in memory of their former bandmate. Jones read excerpts of the poem “Adonais”, stagehands released hundreds of white butterflies into the sky, and the band started off their playlist with one of Brian Jones' favourite songs, a Johnny Winters song called “I'm Yours and I'm Hers”.

Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts were the only members of the band to attend Jones' funeral. Mick Jagger was in Australia with Marianne Faithfull to begin filming for the movie 'Ned Kelly', and their contracts prevented either of them from delaying the trip to attend the funeral. Keith Richards, perhaps the one member that Jones clashed with the most, remained at a recording studio.

So, there you have it. Brian Jones. A classic case of living too hard and dying too young.

Many years after Jones was found dead, a journalist from Rolling Stone magazine had asked Mick Jagger if he had felt any sort of guilt over not being able to help Jones before he died. Here was Mick's response.

"No, I don't really. I do feel that I behaved in a very childish way, but we were very young, and in some ways we picked on him. But, unfortunately, he made himself a target for it; he was very, very jealous, very difficult, very manipulative and if you do that in this kind of a group of people, you get back as good as you give, to be honest. I wasn't understanding enough about his drug addiction. No one seemed to know much about drug addiction. Things like LSD were all new. No one knew the harm. People thought cocaine was good for you."

Some final words to ponder as we conclude this look back on February 28, 1942.

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