Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Brian Jones: Death of a Rolling Stone

Morocco

Just as the Beatles had found spiritual rejuvenation in India under the guidance of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Rolling Stones found peace under the sheltering skies of Morocco. Unlike the Beatles, the Stones did not seek out the wisdom of a guru in Morocco. It was the otherworldly nature of the country that appealed to them. Their creative juices flowed there — as did the availability of drugs ranging from kif (the native blend of black tobacco and marijuana) and majoun (a candy made from honey and hash paste) to speed and morphine. Morocco was also far from the media madness in England, and in February 1967, the Stones needed shelter from the latest onslaught of bad publicity brought on by a drug bust at Keith Richards' home, Redlands. Jagger and Richards were both charged and scheduled to be tried in June. If convicted, they would be facing long prison sentences and cancellation of their record contract. The end of the Rolling Stones was suddenly a very real possibility.

On the advice of their handlers, the Stones decided to disappear for a while in the hopes of getting off the front pages. In late February, Mick Jagger flew to Tangier. Richards, Jones and Jones' girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, decided to drive to Morocco in Richards' Bentley, which was nicknamed the Blue Lena. Longtime Stones retainer Tom Keylock chauffeured, ferrying the car from England to France and picking up his passengers in Paris. They planned to drive through France and Spain, then cross over to Morocco at Gibraltar. But what promised to be a pleasant escape from the maelstrom turned into a new whirlwind of trouble. And this time it was personal.

Jones had been in a jolly mood as the trip began. For once he was not the one in the spotlight. Sipping brandy, smoking joints and cuddling with Pallenberg in the backseat, Jones was looking forward to his 25th birthday the next day, February 28. Jones and Pallenberg wore their straight blond hair exactly alike in Prince Valliant cuts with long bangs down below their brows. In photographs they bore an unsettling resemblance as if they were brother and sister. Jones, who was reputed to be monumentally self-centered even when sober, was apparently oblivious to the sexual tension building in the Blue Lena between Pallenberg and Keith Richards.

Brian Jones (Associated Press)

On the second day of the trip, Jones became ill with a respiratory infection and had to be hospitalized in Toulouse, France. The French doctors insisted that he stay for a few days, so he told his friends to go on and that he would meet them in Tangier as soon as he was well enough to travel. He spent his birthday alone in the hospital as the Blue Lena continued on. With Jones gone, Richards and Pallenberg couldn't contain their feelings for one another. As Stephen Davis writes in Old Gods Almost Dead, driver "Tom Keylock could barely keep his eyes on the road because Anita and Keith were making love in the backseat."

A few days later a demanding telegram from Jones found its way to Pallenberg. He wanted her to return to Toulouse and help him get back to London where he could complete his recovery. Torn between Richards and Jones, Pallenberg sadly boarded a plane in Mirabella, Spain, to attend to her boyfriend. As the plane departed, Richards confided in Keylock that he was confident she would be back.

He was right. Less than a week later, Pallenberg, Jones and Marianne Faithfull flew from London to Madrid, intent on meeting up with Jagger and Richards in Tangier. But Jones' good mood had vanished, and his paranoia had kicked into high gear, having picked up on Pallenberg's feelings for Richards. As the trio made their way toward Gilbraltar, Pallenberg took Faithfull aside whenever Jones was out of earshot to ask what she thought of Jones in comparison to Richards. They stopped at the Rock of Gibraltar to see the famous monkey colony. Jones, who was on LSD at the time, played his tape recorder for the monkeys who shrieked and fled in fear. Jones was so upset by their reaction he started to cry. Faithfull had a bad feeling about what would happen next.

Marianne Faithful (Associated
Press)

One of Jones' missions on this trip to Morocco was to hear the reclusive Master Musicians of Jajouka who played on rustic pipes. Their music was reputed to have therapeutic qualities. The Master Musicians lived in the hill country south of Tangier, and Jones had met an ex-pat avant-garde artist named Brion Gysin who had been to Jajouka many times and had brought select friends into the hills to hear the musicians. Jones was eager to go, hoping to record them and release their healing music as an album. Gysin was hesitant to agree to anything, having had a bad experience taking Timothy Leary to hear the Master Musicians. Leary had offered LSD to the young boys of Jajouka, which Gysin considered a sacrilege. To him, Jajouka was a pure and sacred place that should not be spoiled by outsiders. Jones, Jagger, Richards and Pallenberg visited Gysin at his home in Morocco, and Jones made it clear that he wanted Gysin to take him to Jajouka. Gysin wasn't sure he wanted to risk another Leary-type incident, so he suggested taking them all to Marrakech instead where they could hear some equally interesting indigenous music.

Bachir & Mustapha Attar, Jajouka musicians

The next day they all moved into the Hotel Marrakech in the shadow of the city's fabled red walls, and Jones suffered a meltdown. In his hotel room, he confronted Pallenberg with her infidelity, shouting that he could see that something was going on between her and Richards. Fed up with Jones and his turbulent mood swings, Pallenberg admitted to her affair with Richards, throwing it in Jones' face. Blinded by hurt and rage, Jones beat her more severely than he had ever beaten her. She fled from their room outside to the pool where she did nothing to hide her bruised face.

Keith Richards (Associated Press)

That night as Richards played electric guitar by the moonlight, Pallenberg went back to the room and took sleeping pills, hoping to get some rest while Jones was out. Later that night he burst into the room and woke her from a sound sleep. He was high on acid and had two Berber prostitutes with him. He wanted Pallenberg to join them in a foursome. Pallenberg refused, and Jones had a tantrum, trashing the room. Pallenberg grabbed her belongings and spent the night with Richards.

For Pallenberg and Richards this was the last straw. Jones was such a destructive presence they simply had to get away from him. They decided to go back to London and abandon Jones in Morocco.

The next day Tom Keylock took Brion Gysin aside and told him that a planeload of British journalists was heading for Marrakech to ambush the boys. He asked Gysin if he would take Jones out of the way to hear music so that he wouldn't have the opportunity to say something stupid to the reporters. Gysin obliged, escorting Jones to Jma al-Fna, the Square of the Dead, where Jones was dazzled by the array of street performers and musicians including snake charmers and acrobats. He was particularly taken with the drum-playing, kif-smoking Mejdoubi, the holy fools of Marrakech. When Gysin finally got Jones back to the hotel that night, they found that everyone had left for London, including Richards and Pallenberg. The invasion of the Fleet Street reporters was a lie. Alone and paranoid, Jones got on the phone and tried to get some answers, but no one would tell him where his friends had gone. But even though he was high, Jones could see the reality of the situation. Jagger and Richards had taken his band away from him, and now Richards had taken his girlfriend. Jones broke down into uncontrollable tears and needed a sedative to sleep that night.

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