By the end of the 1960s, Brian Jones was a mess. The founding guitarist of The Rolling Stones was one of the most famous rock stars in the world, but his notoriety was starting to lead him down a darker path. Drug abuse caused Jones to become nearly catatonic in the studio, while constant pressure from the authorities caused him to become increasingly isolated. As tour manager Sam Cutler put it: “It was certainly no fun being Brian Jones.”
While his contributions to the band began to dwindle, Jones could still occasionally be counted on for some interesting moments on Rolling Stones songs. His Mellotron and sitar contributions to ‘Street Fighting Man’ added a necessary edge to the track, and while he didn’t add much in the way of guitar to ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, he was a part of the chorus that added the iconic “doo-doo” part to the song.
For most, Jones’ last notable contribution to the Stones’ canon was his slide guitar work on ‘No Expectations’. The Beggars Banquet track was recorded just as Jones was beginning to fade from the front lines of the Stones. As Mick Jagger remembered it, ‘No Expectations’ was the final time that Jones was alert, creative, and fully involved in a song’s creation.
“That’s Brian playing [the slide guitar]. We were sitting around in a circle on the floor, singing and playing, recording with open mikes,” Jagger told Rolling Stone in 1995. “That was the last time I remember Brian really being totally involved in something that was really worth doing. He was there with everyone else. It’s funny how you remember — but that was the last moment I remember him doing that because he had just lost interest in everything.”
“When he would show up at a session—let’s say he had just bought a sitar that day, he’d feel like playing it, so he’d look in his calendar to see if the Stones were in,” producer Jimmy Miller told Rolling Stone in 1997. “Now, he may have missed the previous four sessions. We’d be doing, let’s say, a blues thing. He’d walk in with a sitar, which was totally irrelevant to what we were doing, and want to play it.”
“I used to try to accommodate him. I would isolate him, put him in a booth and not record him onto any track that we really needed,” Miller added. “And the others, particularly Mick and Keith, would often say to me, ‘Just tell him to piss off and get the hell out of here.’”