To many fans of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Allen Klein is nothing but a one-dimensional villain. He’s the guy that swooped down at the legendary bands’ most vulnerable moments, somehow tricked these otherwise smart people into making him their manager and then took off like a thief in the night with all sorts of publishing and cash that he didn’t deserve.
In his fascinating new book, Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones and Transformed Rock & Roll, former Rolling Stone writer Fred Goodman makes a powerful case that the true Allen Klein story is infinitely more complicated. With unprecedented access to Klein’s complete archives and the full cooperation of his family (who had no editorial control), Goodman was able to finally tell the complete Klein story. Here’s an exclusive excerpt about his role in the infamous 1967 drug bust of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
Excerpted from Allen Klein © 2015 by Fred Goodman. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
On February 12, 1967, a small army of eighteen policemen descended on Redlands, Keith Richards’s recently purchased home in Sussex. 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.
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It was an obvious call to arms for [Andrew Loog] Oldham, who had to know that at moments of crisis, a manager proves his worth by taking charge. It was his job to devise a strategy, hire the proper legal and public relations firms, and defuse the situation. Instead, he abandoned his clients and fled to America. “I was out of there,” Oldham admitted. “I was already not dealing with a completely full deck, but if you have five policemen in your house, you’ve got a good reason to think you’re going to end up in jail. So I left the country.” It fell to Klein to pick up the slack. He flew to London and huddled with publicist Les Perrin as well as Joynson and Hicks, the Stones’ solicitors, to select a barrister for Jagger and Richards’s court case. Allen suggested the band leave the country to get away from the press, and they took off for an extended stay in Morocco. The situation had become even more complicated when News of the World incorrectly attributed a prior drug incident involving Brian Jones to Jagger, who demanded a retraction and threatened the paper with a defamation suit. Richards came to believe that Jagger’s threat against the tabloid worked heavily against them, as the paper’s best defense would be their conviction on the drug charges, and he later suggested the newspaper conspired with prosecutors in a “stitch up.”
Whether this was true or not, Jagger, Richards, and Fraser were all convicted at trial in June and sentenced to prison, Jagger for three months in Brixton, and Richards and Fraser for a year and six months, respectively, at Wormwood Scrubs. As incredible as the episode was, its least likely feature may have been the identity of their eventual savior. The day after sentencing, William Rees-Mogg, an editor at the conservative Times of London, published a scathing essay decrying the thinness of the case and the injustice and idiocy of the sentences. Inspired by Alexander Pope, the editorial, entitled “Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?” caused an outcry and forced the court to vacate Jagger’s and Richards’s sentences. Jagger, said to be devastated by the sentence, wound up spending three nights in prison, all of them, reportedly, in the infirmary.
Richards spent only one night in prison and said he was treated well by his fellow inmates, but he was nonetheless relieved to be out. He soon turned wryly philosophic. “The judge managed to turn me into some folk hero overnight,” he said. “I’ve been playing up to it ever since.” The day Jagger and Richards were released from jail, policeman Norman Pilcher, who’d already busted Donovan for drugs and would later target George Harrison and John Lennon, arrested Brian Jones for marijuana possession. Klein sent Perrin to bail him out and that evening invited Jagger, Richards, and Marianne Faithfull to his penthouse suite at the London Hilton to celebrate their release. Allen was at first stunned and then enraged when a package delivered to his suite for Marianne proved to contain a small box with a false bottom from which she produced a ball of hashish. Klein grabbed it from her, flushed the hash down the toilet, and tossed the box off the balcony. He couldn’t believe it — Jagger and Richards had just gotten out of jail! “You people are stupid!” he snapped. Marianne just pouted. “You didn’t have to throw it away.”