A documentary by Nick Broomfield is always to some extent about Nick Broomfield. He has cultivated an image as a gonzo filmmaker, striding into shot holding a boom microphone, headphones clamped over his ears, and in the politest possible way provoking chaos. ‘Unfortunately it comes very easily to me, to be slightly out of control,’ he confesses.
His previous adventures have included getting on the prickly side of South African white supremacist Eugene Terre’Blanche, striking up a strange rapport with the convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos on death row in Florida, claiming to have worked out who killed the titular gangsta rappers in Biggie & Tupac, and provoking a firestorm of legal threats from Whitney Houston’s estate with his varnish-stripping portrait of the singer, Whitney: Can I Be Me?.
But there’s no glimpse of microphone, headset or indeed Broomfield himself in his latest film, The Stones and Brian Jones. It’s a riveting examination of the photogenic, fair-haired musician who was the original leader of the Rolling Stones before he was pushed aside by the burgeoning double act of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Jones died in July 1969, aged 27, seemingly from a combination of drugs, disillusionment and exhaustion. Having initially been the Rolling Stone who received the most fan mail and the most feverish attention from teenage girls, he has been relegated by history to a mere footnote. ‘He barely got a mention in that series of Stones films that was done for their 60th anniversary last year,’ Broomfield notes.
One reason Jones became sidelined was that he lacked the songwriting gifts that allowed Jagger and Richards to create one of the greatest song catalogues in rock’n’roll history. Nonetheless Jones made some vital musical contributions. He experimented with the open guitar tunings he learned from the American bluesmen, and passed on the knowledge to Richards.