The Brian Jones Trip
Foundation Stone by Graham Ride
I think this book is rubbish. After Elvis Presley died there came a slew of books by people who claimed to be Elvis Presley's best friend. These books always demeaned the other known people in Elvis' intimate circle of friends and usually described a scene in which Elvis took the author aside and told him or her "You know, you're the only one here who never asked me for anything!" Yeah, right.
Our hero, Brian Jones, once known as a bit of a loner and a guy nobody liked, may someday catch up with Elvis in the best friends cum soul mates department. For years it's been Pat Andrews and Nicholas Fitzgerald, then the long dead Anna Wohlin revived in the 1990's to tell her tale of Swedish meatballs and murder in the Sussex countryside. Now, Graham Ride (previously a foot note in Golden Stone, where the name is mentioned once as that of an architectural student roommate of Brian's) has reappeared this millennium to tell his story. He claims that he was not only Brian's best friend and soul mate, but his blues guru as well, months before Brian's known mentor Alexis Korner entered the picture.
It is commonly reported that Brian fell from grace with his own university bound teen-set and ended up hanging around coffee bars and jazz clubs, where he met 15 year old waitress Pat Andrews and jazz fan Richard Hattrell. These two, now both involved with the Brian Jones Fan Club, have for many long years been the most quoted sources of information about Brian's youth before he left Cheltenham in March 1962, at the age of twenty, to join the blues scene in London. In this latest book, former soul mate Pat (well, according to herself) and abused roomie Dick get a rather brusque shove to the background, as Graham relates the way he educated his buddy Bri away from Brian's shallow jazz snobbishness and into the real thing, the electric blues.
Graham, a newcomer to Cheltenham, meets Brian after Brian has been kicked out of his parent's home, and the friendship lasts for ten months, ending abruptly when Brian leaves town to join Alexis and the historical record begins. This book is not exactly a page-turner, as Graham and Brian sit around playing records, making small talk and reading liner notes aloud to each other for most of the book. Brian confides virtually nothing to his soul mate about his private life, and most of the biographical details about Brian have been previously reported either in books like Stone Alone or on the internet, particularly in a 'Questions for Pat Andrews' session held on the Like a Rolling Stone message board years ago. New material is generally unconvincing and seems to be either watered down or hyped up versions of situations from earlier books. For example, it has previously been reported that Pat Andrews' mother once attacked Brian with an umbrella when he came knocking on the door. I believe there are already two versions of this scene, and now we get a third. According to Ride, he and Brian were on the Promenade when Pat's mother attacked Brian with an umbrella, and then she attacked Graham, and Pat's sister joined the fray as well. New info or recycled old info? I think the latter.
Foundation Stone, like previous books on Brian, has an all too predictable case of what I call the "yet syndrome", as Graham records that Brian seemed hard, yet he was soft; he was into socialism, yet he was a Capitalist; he seemed to love Pat, yet he couldn't love anyone due to poor parenting; his harmonica playing was fairly ordinary, yet remarkable; some girls thought Brian was handsome, yet others didn't, and so on.
And as always, this newest book aims to 'set the record straight', only this time not about what happened in the swimming pool, but about what streets Brian lived on (you'd think that would be the Cheltenham - based Fan Club's department!) and, more so, to chronicle in excruciating detail the first time Brian heard this song or that. Mr. Ride seems to have a tape recorder-like memory, yet it is completely unlikely anybody would remember this kind of stuff.
At this point, I lose all interest, and I strongly feel this book is just a pandering effort to sucker Brian fans, although targeting a different group - the pretentious blues wanker males- than the usual guileless enraptured females. Wank away, boys!
There is something for the ladies here, though, which I mention only because I'm a woman and I like this kind of stuff, and I know it will be discussed on the boards IF people don't listen to me and buy the book. Graham claims that while Brian was trying to win back young Valerie (previously mentioned in Stone Alone), who had borne Brian's child but put it up for adoption, Val falls for Gray and eventually the two marry. Now, this seems to ratchet the little Jones bastard kiddy count up to six, because Valerie tells Graham that while nobody really knows about her pregnancy, which was kept hidden, Brian's mother told her mother that Brian had previously gotten another school girl pregnant. Therefore, Graham tells us, he knows that there were three Cheltenham girls that Brian got pregnant, the first girl, name unknown, Valerie and then Pat. Graham pretends to be unaware of the 23 year old married woman, also from the Cheltenham area, that gave birth to Brian's only 'known' daughter, "Carol" (also mentioned in Stone Alone). So, that would make four pre-1962 pregnancies (plus two to come). Since Val's pregnancy was hidden, this other schoolgirl would be the one whose condition caused a scandal. I wouldn't get too excited about this though, because Graham offers absolutely no evidence for any of his unlikely story, including the marriage to Valerie.
In conclusion, don't waste your money , unless your ultimate fantasy is to sit around the bachelor pad, spin blues albums, and read liner notes with Brian Jones. For that type of fan, this book is the one you've been waiting for!