Forty Years Ago, Keef Was Busted for Smack in Toronto and the Rolling Stones Almost Died

On February 27, 1977, the RCMP paid a visit to Keith Richards’ room at the Harbour Castle Hilton (now the Westin) after the band performed at the El Mocambo. What happened next almost led to the death of the Rolling Stones. From Ultimate Classic Rock.

Keith Richards has made a lifelong habit of flirting with disaster and coming out on the winning end, but he’s had a few close calls along the way. On Feb. 27, 1977, he suffered one of his most infamous brushes with the long arm of the law.

In Canada with the Rolling Stones to record some live dates at the El Mocambo in Toronto, Richards met with trouble immediately; after he and partner Anita Pallenberg got off the plane — upon which Richards had indulged in heroin — authorities were waiting to search both of them, and ended up hauling her off to the hoosegow. “I took a hit on the airplane and somehow the spoon ended up in Anita’s pocket,” Richards wrote in his Life memoir. “They found nothing on me at the airport, but they found the spoon on Anita and busted her.”

After nabbing Pallenberg, according to Richards, the Canadian police “bided their time” building their case against him. Alleging that they staffed his hotel with an array of undercover officers and illicitly intercepted the stash he’d sent ahead, he described a massive sting operation in which policemen dressed as waiters finagled their way into his room, where he was zonked out after staying up for days and getting high. Finally managing to get Richards awake — as he wryly noted, “you have to be conscious to be arrested” — they hauled him in.

“Meanwhile they’d found my stash. And it was about an ounce. Quite a lot,” he wrote. “No more than a man needs. I mean, it wouldn’t feed the city. But obviously they knew their s—, like I knew my s—, and it was clearly not the Canada smack. It had come from England. I’d put it in the flight case.”

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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