Co-founder, guitarist & multi-instrumentalist
for the Rolling Stones 1962-1969
Born February 28, 1942
in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England
Died July 3, 1969
Sun in Pisces, Moon in Leo
(click here for Brian's astrological profile)
There are some people who you know aren't going to get old. Brian and I agreed that he, Brian, wouldn't live very long... I remember saying, You'll never make 30, man, and he said, I know.
Brian was the inventor and inspiration of the Rolling Stones. The band would not have existed without him. He never received that proper credit during his life...
At the start of the Stones it was Brian who was the monster head. Brian was incredibly aggressive in performance. By then his hair was pretty long, and he had what was almost a permanent pout, crossed with a leer, and he used to look incredibly randy most of the time. He used to jump forward with the tambourine and smash it in your face and sneer at you at the same time.
In the beginning Brian ran the band. But he really wanted to be called the leader of the band. I didn't particularly want to be the leader of the band. There WASN'T a leader. But as we became more popular people took more pictures of me. And Brian would be jealous. Brian was jealous of everyone.
Brian wanted to be a pop star the minute he saw the Beatles. He got left behind in the crush and someone asked him for his autograph... Success went to Brian's head immediately. And the more successful we became, the more he thought it interfered with his compatibility with the band, the more he thought he was involved in a competition with me and Mick.
The thing about Brian is that he was an extremely difficult person. You don't really feel like talking bad about someone that's had such a miserable time. But he did give everyone else an extremely miserable ride. Anyway, there was something very, very disturbed about him. He was very unhappy with life, very frustrated. He was very talented, but he was a very paranoid personality and not at all suited to be in show business (laughs).
It was a 7 o'clock start, and we'd all be there sharp at seven. The one you could never depend on was Brian. He'd suddenly disappear for a few days, then he'd turn up again and want to get another rehearsal going. I never really trusted Brian - mainly because he was always telling you to trust him.
(By 1963-64), nobody wanted to be in the same car with Brian for any length of time. He began to feel as if he'd been eased out. He became difficult to live with. Brian, being Welsh, had always got a very obnoxious streak in him, and he used to be very tactless. So eventually they got sick to fuckin' death of him. He would change with the wind as well. Brian was very pretty, but a very silly boy really. In those days Brian was simply a very, very good guitar player, and he was very mercenary too, very keen on money... Brian was brought up in the worst possible way. He had a very good education, was very clever at school, but somewhere along the line he decided he was going to be a full-time professional rebel, and it didn't really suit him. So that when he wanted to be obnoxious, he had to really make an effort, and having made the effort, he would be really obnoxious. But his nature was really quite sweet. Brian was really quite a sweet person, but he took everything to excess... I don't want to be too hard on Brian. He was a very difficult person.
I fell in love with Brian - in love all the way. He was a great guy, you know. Talented, funny, and with the instant quality of Let's do it. Let's try anything.
He was quite a bully, you know? Like small guys are. He's a small guy, like when he got drunk, like what he would do if he felt threatened - that's when I knew trouble was coming - break a bottle on the table edge and put the glass in his pocket.
Mick and I being songwriters affected Brian a lot. It took Brian a long time to come to terms with that because it was very early on. After that he never regained any sort of status. He lost more and more interest as he went along. It got to the point where we were going in the studio and Brian had to play or learn a song that Mick and I had written. That would bring him down more and more. Brian's only solution became clinging to either Mick or me, which created a triangle of sorts. It was like Brian's open wound. Eventually, though, he became a sort of laughingstock to the rest of the band.
To be honest, Brian had no talent for writing songs. None. I've never known a guy with less talent for songwriting.
Brian was one huge gaping cry baby all the time: help me, talk to me, love me. Then people would try to do that, and he'd change. It was very rough. He was 6 years old all the time.
Brian was always ringing at all hours saying he couldn't make a session because he had a headache or whatever and his doctor said he should stay home. He'd always give me an official excuse. So I'd call Keith and tell him Brian's excuse. Another time, Brian would ring at 6:00 AM and ask me if Mick and Keith were mad at him. It was always important to Brian to be liked. He'd always apologize when he'd done something particularly awful like blow a meeting with his parole officer. How do you give psychiatric help to a Rolling Stone?
(H)e was different over the years as he disintegrated. He ended up the kind of guy that you dread he'd come on the phone, you know, because you knew it was trouble. He was really in a lot of pain. But in the early days he was all right, because he was young and confident. He was one of them guys that disintegrated in front of you. And he was all right, and he wasn't sort of brilliant or anything, he was just a nice guy.
Whenever the phone went at 2:00 AM, I'd always know who it was. He'd spend perhaps an hour, talking to me about some tiny thing that was on his mind. As soon as he'd rung off, he'd ring straight back and talk for another hour about the same tiny thing. Then he'd ring back AGAIN, horror-struck to think he'd woken me up. Next morning, I'd discover I was one of half a dozen people Brian had been ringing up through the night.
The main thing that pissed us off with Brian was that he didn't pull his weight with the band. He insisted on playing his popstar bullshit. It wasn't just himself he was fuckin' about. He was fuckin' the BAND about as well. When we were working without any breaks we were considerate to Brian. But there came a time where one had to be absolutely shitty to Brian. But we were not shittier than he had been to us over a much longer period. No one had the patience or the strength to put up with it anymore.
Brian, in many ways, was a right cunt. He was a bastard. Mean, generous, anything. You want to say one thing, give it the opposite too. But more so than most people, you know. Up to a point, you could put up with it. When you were put under the pressures of the road, either you took it seriously or you took it as a joke. Which meant that eventually - it was a very slow process, and it shifted and changed, and it is so impossible to describe - but in the last year or so, when Brian was almost totally incapacitated all of the time, he became a joke to the band. It was the only way we could deal with it without getting mad at him. So then it became that very cruel, piss-taking thing behind his back all the time.
(T)here was always something between Brian, Mick and myself that didn't quite make it somewhere. Always something. I've often thought, tried to figure it out. It was in Brian, somewhere; there was something... he still felt alone somewhere... he was either completely into Mick at the expense of me, like nickin' my bread to go and have a drink... He'd do something like that. Or he'd be completely in with me trying to work something against Mick.... He was a little insecure. He wouldn't be able to make it with two other guys at one time and really get along well... (H)e was a big whisperer too, Brian. Little giggles... you don't meet people like that. As he went along, he got more and more fragile and delicate. His personality and physically. I think all that touring did a lot to break him. We worked our asses off from '63 to '66, right through those three years, non-stop. I believe we had two weeks off... (F)or cats like Brian... He was tough but one thing and another he slowly became more fragile. When I first met Brian he was a little Welsh bull. He was broad and he seemed to be very tough... Eventually, it caught up.
Brian was in a terrible state for ages after Anita, but then Brian was always in a terrible state, wasn't he? He was always losing out, every way. He so wanted to be - not that they're normal, but he so wanted to have a normal happy life, every way, without any hangups. But it never worked out. And he would never reach out for what he wanted.
Brian's trouble wasn't musical. There was something in him that meant that if things were going well, he'd make sure it screwed up. I know the feeling: there's a demon in me, but I only own up to having ONE of them; Brian probably had 45 more. With Brian it was all self-consuming pride. If we'd been living in another century I'd have been having a duel with the motherfucker every single day. He would stand on his little hind legs about some piece of bullshit and turn it into a big deal - You didn't smile at me today - and then he started to get so stoned, he became something you just sat in the corner.
He was one of those people that are a bit of a hypochondriac and also a bit of a worrier. He was highly intelligent, very articulate. But he was sort of on the edge all the time. He could be the sweetest, softest, most considerate man in the world and the nastiest piece of work you've ever met. Opposites all the time. He'd flit from one to the other. He wouldn't give a shit for anything and then he'd worry about the slightest detail.
He got much nicer just before he died, the last few years of his life, but I felt even sorrier for him for what we did to him then. We took his one thing away, which was being in a band, I felt.
Brian was... enthusiastic, insightful, intelligent, and a good musician with a very nice side to him. But I don't think he was really cut out to be famous. He hated to be misquoted in the papers, for instance, and all those things you have to get used to if you want to be famous, which he did. When he became famous, he realized he didn't like it, but by then it was really too late.
When I met him I liked him quite a lot. He was a good fellow, you know. I got to know him very well, I think, and I felt very close to him; you know how it is with some people, you feel for them, feel near to them. He was born on February 28, 1942, and I was born on February 25, 1943, and he was with Mick and Keith and I was with John and Paul in the groups, so there was a sort of understanding between the two of us. The positions were similar, and I often seemed to meet him in his times of trouble. There was nothing the matter with him that a little extra love wouldn't have cured. I don't think he had enough love or understanding. He was very nice and sincere and sensitive, and we must remember that's what he was.