THE ROLLING STONES -
1967 AND "THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST"
In 2012 I was involved with what I thought was a splendid project for an e-book, "50 Years: The Rolling Stones - Views from the Inside, Views from the Outside". The idea came from a German company called the interview people. Even to me who absolutely needs his books to be made of paper, cardboard and glue, this seemed a great concept: 50 years Rolling Stones, ergo 50 chapters, one chapter per year - and the main content would be contemporary press stories, interviews and reports from that year. These snippets and in-depth articles were a great way to transport us into the past and give us a flavour of the times, I thought. My task was to supply an introduction for each year to place the goings-on in the Stones camp in a wider musical and social context. The book was to come in two volumes of around 1000 pages each. Volume 1 was published in June 2012, volume 2 was scheduled for release in early 2013.
Things didn't quite turn out as we had hoped. In fact, the whole enterprise became a lesson in how difficult it is to be noticed in the anglo-saxon market without either the muscle of a large corporation behind you, or being part of a word-of-mouth "scene", or having a mountain of cash for PR work. I did interviews with Mexico and Texas, Dubai, Australia, and many other places. And still the sales figures were so pitiful that the publishers ditched volume two (I got up to 1997 with the writing), and even volume 1 is no longer available. A shame. I enjoyed my work, and who knows, maybe one day I'll finish the book just for the fun of it...
Anyway, here's one of my favourite chapters from it.
On 2 January, Ian Stewart got married. On 4 January, the Speakeasy, a late night club for music people, was opened in Margaret Street at the back of Oxford Circus (the Who wrote a song about it, "Speakeasy"). On 5 January, Jimi Hendrix appeared on the television show Top of the Pops and performed "Hey Joe". On 11 January, he played a showcase at the Bag O'Nails club in Soho with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Brian Epstein, the Who's Pete Townshend and John Entwistle, the Small Faces, Donovan, the Animals, Georgie Fame, several members of the Hollies, Eric Clapton and Bill Wyman all in attendance. In Vietnam, an intensive new war campaign against the Viet Cong was launched by American and South Vietnamese forces.
On 12 January, the Rolling Stones released their latest single, "Let's Spend the Night Together". If it is possible that the band by that stage were so wrapped up in their own world, that they truly failed to grasp just how provocative such a title would be in the eyes of many people, their manager, at least, seemed to have an inkling that they might encounter some turbulence as a result. Upon his suggestion, the single was released as a so-called ?double-A-side?. This meant that DJs who found the title offensive were "officially" entitled to turn the record over and play "Ruby Tuesday" instead. Both tracks, "Let's Spend the Night Together" and "Ruby Tuesday", continued the development towards the new stylistic diversity and emotional depth the Rolling Stones had embarked on with Aftermath. The first A-side was an orgiastic call to sexual arms, served up on a hard-edged bed of driving, riff-based rock'n'roll. The other A-side, a paean to Keith Richards's free-spirited ex-partner Linda Keith, showed the band from a remarkably tender, lyrical and lusciously melodic side.
Predictably, "Let's Spend the Night Together" brought headline writers and outraged guardians of the nation's morals out in force. Their anger turned into rage on 22 January when nine and a quarter million television viewers became witnesses of yet another blatant act of nice-people-baiting. On that day, the Rolling Stones were guests on the vastly popular variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium. The tradition of this family show dictated that at the end, all participating acts assembled on a revolving platform to put on their best cheesy Sunday grin and wave goodbye. The Rolling Stones had no intention of following the rules. Mick Jagger told the show's apoplectic producer to "fuck off", with Keith Richards adding that it was just "this kind of shit" they had been fighting against "for five years". Oddly, their manager sided with the producer, causing a major row which ended only when Oldham took flight.
No less an authority than the Archbishop of Canterbury felt compelled to condemn the group for their "decadent" behaviour. The conservative daily newspapers - the Daily Express, the Times and a host of others - professed themselves disgusted by the Rolling Stones' mockery of something that all decent people regarded as fine entertainment. As Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Anita Pallenberg flew off to Munich to visit director Volker Schlöndorff on the set of A Degree of Murder (Pallenberg starred in the film, Jones composed the soundtrack), Marianne Faithfull merrily added her own contribution to the controversy by proclaiming on the BBC that "marijuana was perfectly safe, you know", and that LSD was "perhaps" more important than Christianity. "I'd like to see the whole structure of society collapse," she added for good measure.
With the new drug laws in place, and the debate about the pros and cons of drug use raging, it was only a matter of time before the Sunday gossip paper, News of the World, would at last discover pop stars and drugs as a source of circulation-boosting tales of scandal. Thus, on 29 January, the paper published part one of a series of stories about drugs in the music business. Donovan was once again the first to have his lifestyle examined in detail. This was followed up one week later with a lurid exposé of the LSD parties the Moody Blues regularly held, apparently, in their house in Roehampton (Decca label mates of the Rolling Stones, the Moodies started off as a rhythm & blues band before mixing classical music with rock and releasing their influential, bestselling album Days of Future Past in November 1967). In the same story, the reporters described how they met "Mick Jagger" in a Kensington club, how he swallowed six Benzedrine tablets in front of their very eyes, and how he proceeded to lure a couple of young women home with him in order to sample the piece of hash he had shown them. Unfortunately, the journalists had mixed up their Rolling Stones. It wasn't Mick Jagger they had spoken to, it was Brian Jones. Jagger, who had been extremely careful never to consume drugs in front of people he didn't know and trust as friends, was incensed. Appearing in a television talk show that evening, he announced he would sue the newspaper for libel, officially instigating the process two days later. When it became clear that the Rolling Stones might once again "get away with it", the anti-Stones feelings in certain circles reached fever pitch.
Seemingly unconcerned about these developments (and maybe just a little deluded, too, about the impregnability of the anti-establishment fortress Rolling Stones), Keith Richards invited Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull and a few assorted friends down to Redlands the very next weekend. The plan was to initiate Jagger into the joys of LSD with a slightly gentler type of acid called "White Lightning". The group made its way from London on Saturday evening after a recording session. The next morning, they all imbibed their "trip" and enjoyed a leisurely day by the seaside. In the afternoon, George Harrison and his wife arrived for a visit. The guests at Redlands had no idea that something was amiss but the News of the World was ready for revenge. The paper had used a large wad of cash to persuade Richards's driver to act as a spy. Over the whole weekend, the driver kept the paper informed about the goings-on in the house. The paper, in turn, passed the information on to the police.
Shortly after the Harrisons had left, the police ? nineteen officers in all ? raided the house. In the pocket of a green jacket belonging to Mick Jagger they found four pills, in a jacket belonging to art dealer Robert Fraser they discovered another eight dodgy capsules, and 24 white tablets that turned out to be heroin. George Harrison later voiced his suspicion that the police, knowing that he and his wife were in the house, had delayed the raid until they had left. In his opinion, they wanted to avoid any complications arising from embarrassing a global star who, with his MBE, was an important establishment figure himself. The Rolling Stones, on the other hand, had set themselves up as the very opposite of the Beatles and they needed to be taught a lesson.
To get away from it all, Keith Richards, Brian Jones (after a long period of separation, the two guitarists had rekindled their friendship of late) and Anita Pallenberg set off for Morocco. First they flew to Paris. Tom Keylock, Keith's new chauffeur, followed by road in his brand new Bentley ("Having the car was already heading for trouble," comments Richards, "breaking the rules of the establishment.") In Paris, the mood of the party took a turn for the worse when Jones and Pallenberg had a fight over the latter's refusal to give up her acting career for the Rolling Stone. Having been joined by Deborah Dixon, a Texan model who was an old friend of Pallenberg's, they drove South. The tension in the car was made worse by Jones's continuous complaints about how bad he was feeling. As they approached Toulouse, Jones insisted that he was brought to a hospital, where he was promptly diagnosed with pneumonia.
Leaving him to recuperate, the others travelled on. In Barcelona, Dixon had enough and returned to Paris. Somewhere between Barcelona and Valencia, literally behind their driver's back, Pallenberg and Richards could no longer resist the sexual tension between them. In Richards's words: "And suddenly we're together." Jones joined them in Marrakech as soon as he had recovered. Richards and Pallenberg kept it secret from him what they had been up to, but he seemed to sense that something was up anyway. There were more fights with Anita. In one of these he broke two ribs and a finger. After yet another nasty scene, this one involving the systematic humiliation of two local prostitutes as well as her, Pallenberg decided that enough was enough. Richards devised a ruse to make Jones leave the hotel. As soon as he was gone, they packed their bags and drove off. Not surprisingly, Brian Jones took it very badly that he had been abandoned in this manner. Richards thinks he never forgave him. As a consequence, Jones was even more isolated within the band. Luckily, there was the soundtrack for the Schlöndorff film. This allowed him to work without interference from band leaders he refused to accept, and rekindled his confidence in his own creative powers. He even began to take guitar lessons. His androgynous and colourful dress sense ? something he had picked up from Pallenberg and which in turn percolated through to Jagger ? became ever more dramatic that summer. It is perhaps worth noting here that in Britain, homosexuality was decriminalised only on 28 July of this year with the Sexual Offences Act 1967. Jagger's and Jones's androgynous get up and camp behaviour, too, would therefore have been widely regarded as an act of blatant, taboo-busting provocation.
In March, the Rolling Stones embarked on their next European tour, promoting the UK version of their new album, Between the Buttons, which had been released on 20 January. Continuing where they had left off with Aftermath, Between the Buttons was once again devised as an album, as opposed to the more or less coincidental series of singles and fillers once foisted on the fans under the guise of a pop album. Brian Jones deftly used his ever increasing array of instruments to give each track a different "colour". New influences shone through everywhere ? some passages sounded positively pastoral and folky. Recording the album had been mostly fun; the tour, however, was the most difficult yet. This time, the band did not just have to contend with riots, following the Redlands fiasco they also had to deal with unprecedented, demonstrative hostility at every border crossing they encountered. Everywhere, they were subjected to humiliating and time-consuming searches. The customs and immigration officers barely bothered to disguise their contempt for the band.
On 13 April, the Rolling Stones were the first major Western group to perform behind the Iron Curtain in Warsaw, Poland. They were so incensed by the violence used by the authorities to disperse thousands of fans outside the venue (as it turned out, the venue was filled exclusively with the offspring of members of the Communist Party) that they drove through the town the next morning, throwing out Rolling Stones records to any teenagers they spotted. Another exceptionally destructive eruption of teen euphoria occurred on 14 April in Zurich.
On 10 May, a crowd of six hundred turned up to see Jagger, Richards and Fraser enter Chichester Court for the first court hearing to decide what should happen next in regard of their Redlands charges. They were released on bail, with the date of the trial set for 22 June. On the same day, 10 May, Brian Jones's flat in Courtfield Road was raided. Dreading the future - a considerable part of which he thought he would spend in prison - Jones banished his fears with increasing quantities of Mandrax ("downers"). On 12 and 13 June, the Rolling Stones set up a session at short notice to record "We Love You", a thank you to their fans for the support they had voiced in the past few months. In a dangerous gesture of support ? they were expressly forbidden in their EMI contract to lend their voices to anyone else's recordings - John Lennon and Paul McCartney sang backing vocals on the track.
Brian Jones, meanwhile, turned up on 18 June at the Monterey Pop Festival where he introduced Jimi Hendrix to the crowd. Jones had recently renewed his attempts to wrest some degree of control of "his" band away from Jagger (Richards, however, makes it clear in his memoirs that he regarded Jones's claim that he, Brian, was the rightful leader of the band as quite ridiculous). He ordered their publicist to organise a few interviews for him and happily sat down to impart his views on the world. These turned out to be considerably more "political" (though definitely political with a small "p") than those of his band mates. "Our generation is growing up with us and they believe in the same things we do," he told the New Musical Express: "Our real followers have moved with us ? some of those we like most are the hippies in New York, but nearly all of them think like us and are questioning some of the basic immoralities that are tolerated in the present day society - the war in Vietnam, persecution of homosexuals, illegality of abortion, drug-taking. All these things are immoral. We are making our own statement ? others are making more intellectual ones." Jones was overjoyed by what he saw in Monterey.
The Monterey Pop Festival was undoubtedly the high point of the "Summer of Love". In the wake of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, several other groups of acid evangelists had formed. That summer, they all descended on the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, imparting their idealistic vision of how communal living, free love, a money-free bartering economy, the pursuit of spiritual studies and the "expansion of the mind" with certain types of drugs (heroin, for instance, wasn't considered one of them) would bring about a change for the good that would eventually turn the whole society upside down. On 14 January 1967, Michael Bowen, an artist, organised a "Human Be-In" in Golden Gate Park to start off this revolution. The Pop Festival was meant to build on that success and spread the word further across the world. John Phillips of the Mamas & The Papas wrote a song especially to advertise the event - "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" sung by Scott McKenzie became a massive worldwide hit. 30,000 followers of the revolution, by now called "hippies", turned up on the first day of the festival, 60,000 the next. Brian Jones timed his visit to this living hippie utopia with perfection. Shortly after Monterey, Haight-Ashbury could no longer cope with the influx of hippies. Hygiene, drug and health problems spread as quickly as crime. On 6 October the remaining "heads" of Haight-Ashbury staged a funeral ceremony to mark "The Death of the Hippie". The media widely, and perhaps deliberately, misread the intentions of the organisers, reporting that the "scene" had declared itself finished. The real message the organisers had wanted to spread was that their supporters should return to the places they came from and carry the new way of life into their old communities.
Across the USA, growing unrest led to a summer of high tension. The frustration of African-American communities in particular was reaching boiling point. Only three years had passed since President Johnson had abolished the last remnants of the old laws, which had differentiated between white and black citizens. Many whites, especially in the South, had objected to this move - they still resented it and behaved accordingly. Amongst blacks, the memory of legally established racism was raw, and the scepticism that anything had really changed was great. Impatience was growing, too, about the slow improvement of educational facilities, the employment situation, health services and living conditions in general. In 1967, the showing of the film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? about a mixed race marriage still led to fierce protests up and down the country. 26 men and women died that July during six days of rioting in Newark. There were also riots in Detroit, Tampa, Buffalo and other urban areas. The war in Vietnam, too, led to an increasing number of protests across the country.
On 27 June, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Robert Fraser were back in Chichester Court. The cross-examination lingered for a bafflingly long time over the fact that Marianne Faithfull ? who was accused of nothing - was wearing only a fur rug at the time of the raid (she had just stepped out of the shower when the police arrived and not had time to get dressed). The defendants were all found guilty. Jagger was given a three-month prison sentence for possession of amphetamines, Fraser - six months for possession of heroin, and Keith Richards -one year for allowing his "premises" to be used for the smoking of marijuana. Richards also had to pay £500 costs. The three were all handcuffed and led away. Richards and Fraser were taken to Wormwood Scrubs prison in West London, Jagger to Brixton. Jagger settled in the prison library and wrote the lyrics for a new song, "2000 Light Years from Home". Richards sewed a few post bags and spent the rest of the time befriending other prisoners. "The dreamlike world of pop music came down to earth when Jagger and Richards swapped their millionaire homes for prison cells," reported the Daily Mirror, unable to hide its glee. The News of the World bristled at the suggestion, voiced in court, that the newspaper had acted in collusion with the police in order to trap Jagger, so that he would have to drop his libel case against them (the News of the World was closed down by its owners in 2011 after it had been proven that journalists had illegally tapped thousands of telephone lines). Jagger and Richards appealed against the sentences and were freed on bail the next day. On 22 July, Keith Richards's appeal was upheld and Jagger received a conditional discharge (Fraser lost his appeal and completed his sentence).
Extraordinarily, the severity of the punishment turned public opinion in favour of the Rolling Stones. Support came from the most unexpected sources. The most famous was an editorial in the venerable establishment paper, the Times, written by the editor-in-chief William Rees-Mogg, no less. In a finely written, subtle piece he raised grave doubts that the two Rolling Stones were treated as fairly as "any purely anonymous young man", culminating in the immortal headline: "Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?" There was a widespread feeling that it hadn't been Jagger and Richards on trial for a clearly defined misdemeanour, but that they had been tried for their lifestyle. As it turned out, Marianne Faithfull suffered much more and much longer from the consequences of the raid than Jagger and Richards. Somewhere along the line ? most likely a salacious bit of gossip mongering amongst journalists and detectives in a pub ? a Mars bar had been added to the story of her, her nudity and her fur rug. Henceforth, she would be mercilessly lampooned as the rock chick with no shame. "I was a class traitor," she said, in an interview in October 2010. "I'm quite proud of that, actually, being a class traitor. I was regarded as a traitor to the upper class. For not keeping to their ideals. And they were so wrong. I was brought up very left-wing. My parents were both socialists. That was my background. The class system didn't work for me. Nearly everyone in music was working class at the time, and that was considered more honourable and true, I think. And maybe it was more honourable and true! But for me, they got it wrong. I didn't have any money. I didn't have a rich background. I wasn't slumming it. It was what I wanted to do. It may not have been what I wanted to do at the beginning, but I quickly got hooked. And I did want to be part of it. But after the 60s and in the 70s, I felt that nobody liked me. So I didn't like them either. And then with my record, Broken English, the perception changed. I could have stayed then, but I didn't want to anymore. The minute I could, I left. Fuck you, I'm out of here!"
On 5 July, Brian Jones admitted himself to the Priory for a two-and-a-half week long psychiatric assessment. He was accompanied, for support, by his new partner, Suki Potier. When he came out, recording sessions began at the recently opened Olympic Studios in Barnes, South West London, for a new album, Their Satanic Majesties Request. Brian Jones, still in the thrall of the music he had heard at Monterey Pop and the music of North Africa, which had fascinated him for a long time, was very happy with the direction these sessions took. He picked up all sorts of new instruments, including mellotron, sax and harp, and worked hard on creating new musical textures. According to Keith Richards, however, this was an album nobody wanted to make.
There was trouble on the business side of things, too. Even though they had had countless hit records and toured incessantly, all members of the band were constantly short of cash. Also, they had noticed that they no longer "created the headlines, they were ducking them". For this, they blamed Andrew Loog Oldham. They also accused him of harbouring ambitions to become Phil Spector in his domineering behaviour in the studio, and suspected he was now much more interested in running his own record label, Immediate Records. So, in September 1967, Oldham was sacked. Brian Jones's drug bust case went to court on 30 October. He pleaded guilty to the charge of possessing cannabis and allowing it to be used on his premises, but denied the charges of possessing cocaine and Methedrine. He was sentenced to nine months in prison, but set free on bail the next day, pending an appeal. The appeal was heard on 12 December. The sentence was set aside and Brian was put on probation for three years. An independent psychiatrist appointed by the court had told the judge earlier that Brian was in an "extremely precarious state of emotional adjustment" and had a "fragile grasp of reality". Meanwhile, the judge at the trial of Jagger and Richards held a speech at an official function. "We did our best - your fellow countrymen, I, and my fellow magistrates - to cut these Stones down to size, but alas, it was not to be, because the Court of Criminal Appeal let them roll free."
Their Satanic Majesties Request appeared on 8 December. It was the first Rolling Stones album to receive some decidedly unfriendly reviews. Keith Richards called it "a bit of flimflam". He was convinced the band was finished. He settled down contentedly in Redlands with a gigantic pile of records he had collected over the last couple of years and had never had the time to listen to properly.