the observer Sat 06 June 2009
On 2 July, it will be 40 years since the Rolling Stones' Brian Jones drowned, at the age of 27, in his swimming pool. Despite the drugs and alcohol in his blood, enough mystery surrounds his demise to excite conspiracy theorists. This well-researched biography (originally published in 1992, updated to coincide with the anniversary) thoroughly explores the murder and manslaughter angles, fingering as the potential villain Frank Thorogood, a builder with whom Jones had fallen out and who supposedly confessed to the crime on his deathbed in 1993.
Received wisdom has it that Jones was a considerable musical talent whose destiny was decided by his difficult and fragile character. Driven but self-destructive, and not always likable, he was described by the Kinks' Ray Davies as "unable to live in the real world". His vanity was such that he hogged the bathroom even more than Mick Jagger and was given the nickname "Mr Shampoo".
Although Laura Jackson's portrait is at times over-indulgent, it is true that Jones gave the Stones their all-important anti-establishment edge. The others grew into their naughtiness but he was trouble from the start. He'd fathered three children by different mothers before the Stones had even made it out of first gear and he walloped Anita Pallenberg when she left him for Keith Richards.
Jones was a star when the route to the top had still to be charted and the very thing that enabled this ascent - the relentless pursuit of his own agenda - also pushed him towards the sidelines. From 1966 onwards, the band's stratospheric success required a more ruthless adherence to task and this is when Jones began to be left behind.
In dealing with Jones's death, Jackson dutifully sifts through the witness statements but, in spite of the lack of convincing evidence, remains unshaken in her belief that it was intentional ("Brian's murderer was never brought to justice"). This gives the closing chapters the feel of an unfinished game of Cluedo.