Keith Richards Busted: Stone's Future Cloudy

Tour Problems Predicted

Keith Richards Marlon Rolling Stones
Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns
Keith Richards and son Marlon at the Hilton Hotel in Brussels, Belgium on May 6th, 1976.
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Toronto — Keith Richards' view from the Harbour Castle Hilton is the slate gray Toronto harbor. Across that bleak expanse is a low line of trees illuminated by the winking lights of Island Airport. Onto that small airstrip-whimsical and not-so-whimsical rumors circulate in the hotel's corridors — Ahmet Ertegun or some other record industry mogul will swoop down in a company jet and, in a lightning-fast, Entebbe-like raid, wrest Keith and the rest of the Rolling Stones from the firm grasp of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Right now, Keith Richards' future is just as bleak as the view from his window. The Mounties always get their man, and they damn sure have him.

Keith, who claims to be 34, arrived from London with Anita Pallenberg and Keith's son Marlon at Toronto International Airport on February 24th. Keith and the other Rolling Stones came to Toronto for a recording session to complete a live album of their 1975 Tour of the Americas and to begin work on a new LP. Anita was carrying 28 pieces of luggage that seemed to make the customs inspectors curious. In one bag they found ten grams of what they called "high-quality hashish." In another bag they unearthed a spoon that, according to their lab tests, contained traces of heroin. (A close Stones source said that Keith was "groggy at the airport and, when their luggage was being searched, actually thought that it was record company people who had come to the airport to help him. He had no idea it was the RCMP.") Pallenberg, 34, was arrested and immediately released on a "promise-to-appear" notice.

The Mounties didn't give up there, however. Three days later an unspecified number of Mounties and Ontario provincial policemen swarmed into the Harbour Castle, bearing a search warrant with Pallenberg's name on it. It is rumored that someone within the hotel had tipped off the Mounties, but it took them approximately 45 minutes of stomping around to locate Keith's room (Anita had no room of her own, contradicting the warrant). In one of the bathrooms in Richards' suite the Mounties found one ounce of what they labeled "high-quality heroin with a street value of $4000."

Richards was immediately arrested and subsequently released on $1000 bond. Anita Pallenberg was rearrested and released without bond. She appeared March 3rd in Brampton Court (which has jurisdiction over the airport district) and her case was remanded for ten days. Both her passport and Keith's were seized, so neither can legally leave Canada until their cases are resolved. Richards was to appear March 7th in the local court in Toronto on the extremely serious charge of trafficking in heroin — the penalty for which in Canada is from seven years to life imprisonment.

At Old City Hall, which was surrounded by almost 500 would-be spectators, Richards was hit with another charge. A substance taken from his hotel room had been determined to be cocaine, and Richards was ordered to reappear in court on March 14th.

The current atmosphere in Canada is not a sanguine one for someone accused of trafficking in heroin. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police often book people on trafficking charges rather than on possession, and in the month of February 1977 there were 282 charges in Toronto and Brampton for marijuana offenses. Obviously, drugs worry Canada. The day Anita Pallenberg appeared in court, two local men were sentenced to five years in prison for conspiring to traffic speed. They had been arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1973.

The Stones people are not taking the situation lightly. The defense team is not even attempting to claim that Richards was framed. "One tactic of defense," according to a close Stones source, "may be that the warrant had only Anita's name on it." "Keith Richards is not an addict," another source said. "We think we can get Anita off with a fine and a slap on the wrist, but the thing with Keith is much more serious. He could get a life sentence. We can't figure it. We had no trouble getting the Stones into Canada, but we might have a hell of a problem getting them out again."

The Stones' manager, Peter Rudge, declared an absolute moratorium on the press seeing the Stones, talking to them or attending their recording session here.

Another source insisted, however, that Rudge was taking rather than giving orders. Mick Jagger had come in to take control, and he was deciding what would be done and what would not be done.

Jagger arrived in Toronto on March 3rd, stopping first in New York when his child Jay had an appendicitis scare. Mick flew in from L.A., where he had been working on signing the Stones to an American record company deal (the Stones have just signed a worldwide agreement with England's EMI, which does not cover the U.S. or Canada). But the stakes in the bidding war, whose participants have included RSO records, MCA and the Stones' current company, Atlantic, may have changed. A band's ability to tour inevitably affects album sales, and one veteran of the booking wars says, "There are a lot of places that aren't going to want them now — the South especially." One British rock manager who has dealt with foreign tours said, "It's not just North America. It's Japan, Australia and the whole Far East too. That's it."

Neither Atlantic chairman of the board Ahmet Ertegun nor MCA president Mike Maitland were available for comment on whether Richards' bust would affect their interest in the Stones. But RSO spokeswoman Annie Ivil announced, "On March 2nd, 1977, RSO Records withdrew a $1 million offer to the Rolling Stones for their recording rights to the U.S.A. after protracted negotiations. The personal affairs of the band had no bearing on the thinking of the company. The decision was made strictly on commercial terms."

As far as a postbust Keith Richards being admitted to the U.S. is concerned, the situation is serious and worsening. John Ordway of the U.S. State Department said that there are "certain types" of foreigners who cannot obtain visas through normal State Department channels, and this includes those convicted on any type of drug charge. Waivers are possible and have been granted in a limited number of drug cases. Verne Jervis, press officer for the U.S. Immigration Service, confirms that this has been true for Richards in the past. "Mr. Richards has obtained waivers on prior convictions enabling him to tour the U.S. with his band," Jervis said. "Obviously, the more offenses you pile up, the harder it is to get a visa."

And there's the rub. Richards was convicted only a few months ago on cocaine possession in Aylesbury, England, and fined $1275. On July 7th, 1975, Keith was arrested for illegal possession of a knife in Fordyce, Arkansas, and released on bail of $160. On October 17th, 1973, Richards and Anita Pallenberg were given suspended sentences for 1971 drug parties in Ville France Sur Mer. They were fined $1100 each. Also in 1973 Richards pleaded guilty to possession of heroin and marijuana and was fined $492. The fine also covered his guilty plea to illegal possession of a revolver and a shotgun and ammunition. Obviously, the court brouhaha will make entry into the U.S. very difficult.

The story in Toronto was that the Stones were to do their live recording in a joint called the El Macambo on Spadina Street. I dropped in at the El Macambo one night when the Stones were supposed to be there and found it to be a bad copy of a New York speakeasy from the Twenties — and all I got were ringside seats to watch the band April Wine play for several hours. (The Stones were spending most nights rehearsing at Cinevision in Lakeshore, a suburban film studio.)

However, on Friday night, March 4th, the Stones actually showed up at the El Macambo to record live sessions. Margaret Trudeau was in the crowd and word was that Pierre Trudeau was on his way. All media were banned on Rudge's direct order.

Meanwhile, the vast lobby of the Harbour Castle Hilton is packed with irate London journalists who cannot get interviews with anyone and think they are missing the story of the century: Keith Richards getting a life sentence. What they are forgetting is that this might very well be the end of the Rolling Stones — as we know them.

This is a story from the April 7, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 236: April 7, 1977
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