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Music

How George Harrison escaped the infamous Rolling Stones drug bust

George Harrison was no stranger to drugs in 1967. Having embraced weed in the mid-1960s, Harrison began experimenting with LSD in his attempts to achieve spiritual enlightenment and ride the zeitgeist of the exploratory flower-power of the era. Acid had heavily influenced The Beatles’ music, most notably on albums like Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but they weren’t the only popular music act experimenting with the drug.

The Beatles’ closest pop competitors, The Rolling Stones, had embarked on their own psychedelic excursions by 1967. That year’s Between the Buttons proved that the blues rockers could handle the kaleidoscope of baroque pop and acid rock that was becoming fashionable at the time. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones were all LSD users at the time, and casual parties at their respective estates weren’t uncommon.

One of these parties at Richards’ Redlands home became infamous once police raided the house. Jagger, Richards, Marianne Faithful, and members of the Stones’ entourage were arrested for possession of recreational drugs, but the police just missed out on capturing another pop star in the commotion: Harrison.

In an interview with MTV in 1988, Harrison recalled that a libel case against The News of the World set the stage for the bust. “It’s a long time ago now,” Harrison recalled. “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 [pop stars using drugs] – it was really supposed to be Brian Jones, but they made a mistake and said it was Mick Jagger.”

“So, Mick sued the newspaper and the newspaper decided that they weren’t going to be sued, they were going to get him or all The Rolling Stones, or whatever,” Harrison added. “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.”

Harrison believed that the bust was completely set up in order to diminish the influence that musicians were having on the youth of the day. He also believed that the authorities came in only after he left, despite knowing that he was there, in order to specifically target The Rolling Stones.

“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,” Harrison opinioned. “They worked their way up, from Donovan up through The Rolling Stones and they waited to get The Beatles later.”

The general public was not aware of The Beatles’ drug use at the time. It was only when Paul McCartney confirmed the band’s use of LSD in an interview that June that scrutiny began to follow Harrison and his bandmates for using acid. By that point, Harrison was already beginning to trade in his drug use for more traditional ways of enlightenment, including Hinduism and Indian classical music.