The world woke up today to the news that Brian Jones, who recently had been not so much fired from the Rolling Stones as just cropped out of their group picture, had drowned in his swimming pool.

Or so the story goes. Over the years there have been many conspiracy theories about Jones’s death, and several investigations, but the official verdict remains “death by misadventure.”

Paul, George, and Ringo — who were in the studio today continuing to work on “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight,” of all things — must have quickly been made aware of Jones’s demise; the news might have taken a little bit to reach John in the Scottish hospital. I’m sure it made some impact, as he was a contemporary and occasional collaborator, but at this point in history it was probably relatively easy to shrug it off as an aberration. Like Syd Barrett, Jones had been gradually drifting off to the edges of the scene, and his actual death didn’t much surprise anyone.

In his Rolling Stone obituary, Greil Marcus said:

I woke up to hear that Brian Jones was dead and not more than a ripple of sorrow passed through the room. It was time for it, there was just nothing left for him to do. Become a Rolling Stone and die.

And Pete Townshend wrote this memorial poem:

A Normal Day for Brian, A Man Who Died Every Day
I used to play my guitar as a kid
wishing that I could be like him
But today I changed my mind
I decided that I don’t want to die
But it was a normal day for Brian
Rock and Roll’s that way
It was a normal day for Brian
A man who died every day

In a brief tribute published the following week, George Harrison wrote:

I don’t think he had enough love or understanding. He was very nice and sincere and sensitive, and we must remember him like that because that’s what he was.

As in life, Brian Jones was a pioneer in death; he was just the first on a long list of rock’n’roll casualties that would pile up over the next couple years. Raise a glass to him today, or more appropriately — since his cause of death was given as “drowning by immersion in fresh water associated with severe liver disfunction caused by fatty degeneration” — maybe don’t.

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