George Harrison on How the Press Covered His Part in The Rolling Stones’ Drug Bust: ‘They Weren’t Ready to Bust a Beatle’

George Harrison was hanging out with The Rolling Stones‘ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards the night of their notorious 1967 drug bust. Although, George left the place right before police raided Richards’ home, Redlands. That didn’t stop the newspapers from adding him to their story.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards leaving prison in 1967.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards | Powell/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The News of the World and Sgt. Pilcher had a vendetta against pop stars

The Rolling Stones had many run-ins with the law. However, their 1967 drug bust is the most infamous incident. Mick Jagger sued the English publication The News of the World for libel. He didn’t like that the newspaper published sensational stories and him and his then-girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull. However, the publication didn’t want to be sued.

So, they teamed up with Sgt. Pilcher and his police force and organized the drug bust for Jagger and his bandmates. Police officers raided Redlands after Richards’ chauffeur tipped them off that a party had commenced.

In an excerpt of his book, Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones and Transformed Rock & Roll (per Rolling Stone), Fred Goodman wrote, “The raid came just as Richards and several others were coming down from an LSD trip.

“The contraband recovered was modest: there were a couple of roaches around the house; Jagger had a few amphetamines purchased from a druggist in Italy; and a friend, Robert Fraser, had heroin. But it was enough to get them hauled off to jail, and the tabloid News of the World made a meal of the bust, reporting with particular gusto that Marianne Faithfull, fresh out of the shower, had greeted the police clad only in a fur rug.

“Though the men were released on bail, it immediately became apparent that the government was serious about bringing a case for jail time against Jagger and Richards.”

Tabloids had a field day. One publication wrote that police had caught Jagger and Faithfull in a compromising position with a Mars bar.

Jagger and Richards stood trial and faced hefty sentences. However, some of The Rolling Stones’ fellow pop stars, including The Who, started a campaign encouraging fans’ support (per NME). Traditionally conservative newspaper, The Times, published an op-ed by William Rees-Mogg asking Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel? The article discussed unfair sentencing.

Authorities released Jagger and Richards after they spent a night in jail.

George Harrison on his part in The Rolling Stones’ drug bust

In a 1988 interview with MTV, George touched on his involvement in The Rolling Stones’ 1967 drug bust.

“It’s a long time ago now,” he said. “I think the story, how I heard it, was that there’s a newspaper in England called The News of the World. They printed a story about-it was really supposed to be Brian Jones, but they made a mistake and said it was Mick Jagger.

“So, Mick sued the newspaper so the newspaper decided that they weren’t going to be sued, they were going to get him or all The Rolling Stones, or whatever. So, they set up with the local police to bust his house and that night I happened to be there. I was there very late, three or four in the morning, and then when I left, they were all busted and put in jail.

“The newspaper had said another internationally famous pop star escaped moments before they closed in, which just goes to show they weren’t really ready to bust a Beatle at that point in time. They worked their way up, from Donovan up through The Rolling Stones and they waited to get The Beatles later.”

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George said Sgt. Pilcher framed The Beatles and The Rolling Stones

Eventually, the police busted The Beatles. George was the second Beatle that Pilcher busted following The Rolling Stones’ drug bust. Pilcher first busted John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their London flat in 1968.

He then raided George and his then-wife Pattie Boyd’s home, Kinfauns, in Esher in 1969, on Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman’s wedding day.

“He came out to my house with about eight other policemen, a policewoman and a police dog, who happened to be called Yogi – because, I suppose, of the Beatle connection with Maharishi,” George explained in Anthology. “They thought they’d have a bit of fun.

“They took us off, fingerprinted us and we were busted. It was written in the papers like a fashion show: ‘George was wearing a yellow suit and his wife Pattie had on…'”

Pilcher and his squad claimed they’d found a large piece of hashish in George’s shoe and took it with them to make sure prosecutors charged George. According to Beatles Bible, George said, “I’m a tidy man. I keep my socks in the sock drawer and stash in the stash box. It’s not mine.”

However, later, some celebrities started calling Pilcher out for framing them just to please the newspapers.

“Incidentally, the guy who did the busts in England in those times was later jailed for about eight years for planting dope on people,” George told MTV. Many people believed that Pilcher planted drugs at celebrity’s homes, but that has never been proven. Pilcher did go to prison, though. However, a judge sentenced him to four years for perjury in 1973.

George and The Rolling Stones’ drug bust might have been a pain in the neck, but they’ve become an interesting part of pop culture history.

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.