The Stones were in top form on their legendary 1975 Tour of the Americas, and for a good reason: “[It] was fueled by Merck cocaine
Richards wrote in his memoir, referring to the ultrapure pharmaceutically manufactured form of the drug. “It was when we initiated the building of hideaways behind the speakers on the stage so that we could have lines between songs. One song, one bump was the rule between Ronnie and me.” Richards also had a supply of heroin that was cut into lines and hidden amid the amplifiers, along with heroin-laced cigarettes — or “dirty fags,” as they were known. Things went fairly smoothly until Richards and his cocaine supplier, on a detour to get some good barbecue, were arrested in Arkansas. But they called in some favors, paid a $162 bail and were soon back on the road.
Exile on Main Street. Heroin brought with it the usual problems of supply and demand, and the usual retinue of shady characters and criminals, both local and from nearby Marseille. Villa Nellcôte was such an open house that, one day in September, burglars walked out of the front gate with nine of Richards’s guitars, Bobby Keys’s saxophone and Bill Wyman’s bass in broad daylight while the occupants were watching television in the living room. “That’s how loose and stupid it was out there,” says Wyman.
The crime was reputedly carried out by dealers from Marseille who were owed money by Richards. The nocturnal goings-on at Nellcôte were also starting to attract the attention of the local populace and the increasingly suspicious police force. “The music was so loud, really, really loud,” Pallenberg remembers. “Sometimes I went to Villefranche during the day and you could hear the music there. And it went on all night.”
The Toronto mess. On February 27th, 1977 that Keith Richards was arrested in Toronto for possession of heroin. Richards, who was in town to perform with the Rolling Stones at the El Mocambo Club for their upcoming concert album, Love You Live, was awakened by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who found five grams of cocaine and 22 grams of heroin in his room, among other substances. Richards was charged with “possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to traffic.”
Richards recalled being awoken by the officers smacking him conscious so that they could formally arrest him: “That took them about two hours to drag me out — pow, pow. I woke up with, like, rosy cheeks. ‘Oh, he’s awake: You are under arrest!’ (Laughs) ‘Oh, great!’ I looked at the old lady and I said, ‘I’ll see you in about seven years, babe.’”
Although Richards was eventually released on $25,000 bail, due to the trafficking charge, he faced a minimum seven-year prison term if found guilty. Richards, who due to his growing and public drug use had been on the wrong side of the law since 1967, was now facing the most serious criminal charge of his life.
He eventually received a suspended sentence after the court concluded that Richards did not bring the drugs into the country, but rather purchased them while in Canada.
During the trial later that year, a blind woman and die-hard Stones fan privately appealed to the judge and explained how Richards had always looked out for her when the band was on the road in Canada, making sure she was safe and cared for, and often helping find her a ride home after the shows.
Further more the trial became a circus show and hot handling problem for the judge. Matter of fact Margareth Trudeau, canadian Prime Minister’s Wife, use to hang around with the Stones in their hotel, hardly dressed or better, always half naked. Charlie Watts, he remembers it as being a “pretty serious” situation. To complicate matters, Wood was simultaneously having an affair with Margaret Trudeau.
Playboy House. In 1972, on a tour stop in Chicago, Richards and saxophonist Bobby Keys were invited to stay at the Playboy Mansion by Hugh Hefner and nearly set it ablaze while doing drugs in a bathroom. “Bobby says, ‘It’s smoky in here,’ ” Richards recalled in Life. “And then a little later there’s a thumping at the door, waiters and guys in black suits bringing buckets of water. They get the door open, and we’re sitting on the floor, our eyeballs very pinned.” The house was saved, but, as Richards notes, Hefner would relocate the Playboy Mansion to Los Angeles.