Brian Jones: Death of a Rolling Stone
"Paint It Black"
Anna Wohlin believes that Frank Thoroughgood killed Brian Jones, but by her own account, she did not actually witness the murder. She was in the house on the telephone when it happened. She claims that Thoroughgood threatened her twice afterward — at the police station on the night of the incident and five days later at the coroner's inquest — urging her strongly not to implicate him.
Wohlin writes in her book that Thoroughgood "sidled up to her" outside the East Grinstead police station and said, "'Don't forget to tell them it was Brian who wanted me to come down to you, not me… The only thing you need to tell them is that Brian had been drinking and that his drowning was an accident. You don't have to tell them anything else. I left Brian to go to the kitchen and light a cigarette and I don't know any more than you… There's no need for you to tell the police that you saw me in the kitchen. Just tell them we pulled Brian out of the pool together."
In researching his book on the Stones, author A.E. Hotchner tracked down two men who believe that they witnessed the murder. Nicholas Fitzgerald was a good friend of Brian Jones in 1969. He and a friend had shown up at Cotchford Farm at about 11 p.m. on the night of July 2. Seeing that the pool lights were on, they went around to the back of the house instead of going to the front door. Coming through the bushes, Fitzgerald saw three men standing by the pool. They were dressed like "workmen," and one was down on one knee, pushing the head of someone in the pool under the water. A man and a woman were standing at the other side of the pool, and this man seemed to be directing the action. One of the three workmen jumped in and "landed on the back of the struggling swimmer." Before Fitzgerald and his friend could do anything, a "burly man" with a cockney accent threatened them and drove them off.
One of the laborers who worked for Thoroughgood at Jones' home at the time spoke to Hotchner on condition of anonymity. The man is referred to as "Marty" in the book. "Marty" claimed to have been there when it happened, along with a few other members of the work crew who had brought their wives and girlfriends. At least two of the laborers resented Jones for his wealth, his pretty women, and his air of superiority around them. The men started horsing around in the pool, harassing Jones and preventing him from getting out. They held him under, and the women, who were impressed with his celebrity, pleaded with the men to leave him alone. This enraged them further. Things got out of hand, and Jones was drowned. "Those guys got carried away," Marty said, "and I wouldn't say what happened was an accident."
According to Anna Wohlin, years later the Stones' chauffeur Tom Keylock got Thoroughgood to sign a deathbed confession, a document that has never been published. On the night of Jones' death, Thoroughgood had called Keylock to tell him what had happened, and Keylock went directly to Cotchford Farm. According to Wohlin, Keylock took control of the situation. The Stones' press agent Les Perrin arrived next, and he was the one who found Jones' inhaler by the pool. Wohlin claims that in the days after Jones' death Perrin had offered her money to keep silent and not talk to the press. He eventually persuaded her to sign an agreement stating that if she gave any interviews, she would say nothing that could harm the reputations of Brian Jones or the Rolling Stones. The agreement also gave Perrin the right to review any article written based on an interview with her before it was published.
Why, she wondered, were the Stones' management so worried about bad press? Brian Jones was out of the band. How could his death harm them? Were they trying to protect Thoroughgood? If so, why?
Whether Jones' death was the result of Thoroughgood becoming enraged as Wohlin claims, or his crew letting their resentment get out hand as "Marty" claims, why did Perrin go to such lengths to put his spin on the story? And how did it come about that Jones' home was ransacked, his most valuable possessions stolen, when Tom Keylock was supposedly keeping an eye on things?
Were the Stones' handlers afraid that Thoroughgood's connection to their organization would point the finger of blame back at the band? And what became of Frank Thoroughgood's deathbed confession? If he had indeed confessed to the killing himself, why wasn't it ever released to the public to put all doubts to rest?
The Stones had been planning a free concert scheduled for July 5, 1969, in London's Hyde Park where they would debut their new hit single, "Honkey Tonk Women." After they learned of Jones' death, they considered canceling the event. Some band members felt that it would be inappropriate to perform when Brian Jones wasn't even in the ground yet. Charlie Watts, however, suggested that they go ahead with the concert and dedicate it to their old friend.
On an unbearably hot and humid afternoon, the Stones took to the stage, surrounded by blow-ups of Brian Jones. Mick Jagger read "Adonais," a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley in honor of their former lead guitarist. Jagger's delivery was hardly inspiring, and the crowd was more interested in hearing music than mourning. As the band went into their first number, Tom Keylock opened several cardboard boxes, releasing 2,000 white moths in memory of Jones. Unfortunately the effect was less than expected. Most of the insects had perished in the heat; those that survived flew a few feet and crash dived into the crowd. Between the oppressive humidity and the somber mood, the Stones couldn't seem to get it together that day. Most agree that it was one of the worst concerts the band has ever given.
Five days later Brian Jones' remains were put to rest. Mick Jagger and his girlfriend Marianne Faithfull did not attend the funeral because they were scheduled to start work on the film Ned Kelly in Australia. Reportedly the producers of the film had threatened legal action if Jagger and Faithfull did not show up on schedule.
Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg must have had their own reasons for staying away. After all they had been through with Brian, perhaps it was just too painful to bear.