With Keith Richards having somehow cheated death for another year this week (happy birthday Keef!), dodging all sorts of drug, gun and tree-branch-related maladies to make it to 73, it’s the perfect time to be celebrating The Rolling Stones and all of the insanity that’s continued to follow the band around for decades.
They’ve had a lot of wild times, but perhaps few wilder than the band’s infamous Spring ’76 tour, which saw the classic lineup embark on a whirlwind tour of Europe – one that’s being remembered this New Year’s Eve at the Yarraville Club as a special group of Melbourne talent join forces to bring the tour back to life for a one-of-a-kind dinner show.
In the spirit of a Stones-themed NYE bash, we’re looking back on just a small handful of the ridiculous moments that saw various members of the group (mostly Keith, let’s be honest) push the boundaries of good taste and take the party a little too far.
The Rolling Stones at the peak of their powers in ’76
Keith Snorts His Dad’s Ashes
One of the most infamous incidents of all, of course, was the rather unfortunate fate that befell Keith’s dearly-departed father Bertrand. I mean, what a headline, as plastered across New York’s Daily News: “I snorted my dad”.
In 2007, four years after his father’s death, Richards reportedly gave U.K. publication the NME a bizarre account of his recent escapades. “The strangest thing I’ve tried to snort? My father,” he told the mag, before explaining his actions. “He was cremated, and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow.” Of course.
It was later passed off as a joke by management, but Richards went into a lot more detail in his book Life. “As I took the lid off of the box,” he told them, “a fine spray of his ashes blew out on to the table. I couldn’t just brush him off, so I wiped my finger over it and snorted the residue.”
So, more of a compassionate gesture, then. Either way, Keith claimed there was no harm done. “My dad wouldn’t have cared, he didn’t give a shit.”
Ronnie Wood’s Baby Shower
When Ronnie Wood found his way into the Stones in ’75, he was a perfect fit in a band with some very differing personalities, and he and Keith in particular became fast friends. While Ronnie was always down to indulge Keith in his various habits, he did have one request when his wife Jo invited Keith to the couple’s baby shower: no drug-taking in front of mother.
Keith, to his credit, held fast to this agreement throughout the affair, waiting for his moment to shine. As soon as dinner was over and mum had left, he proceeded to sling a large bag of coke on the table, exclaiming “Now for dessert!” Not a fan of tea cake, Keith? We can only imagine what wholesome gift he got the couple for their shower – perhaps a baby mobile adorned with syringes?
An Acid-Fuelled Road Trip With John Lennon
As detailed in his memoir Life, Richards delved into the world of psychedelic drugs pretty heavily in the late ’60s, and no doubt a lot of it ended up forgotten. One trip, however, stood head and shoulders above the rest for Keith, and that was his multi-day binge with none other than John Lennon.
Apparently cruising around the English countryside and stopping off at various party hotspots like Torquay (of Fawlty Towers fame), things got pretty wild as they basically drove (or were driven) around in circles for a couple of days, visited Lennon’s wife Cynthia at their country house, and… well, that’s about all they can remember. Not the wildest weekend, sure, but we’re content with the image of two rock legends cruising around the countryside high as a kite.
Years later, the pair met up in New York, with Lennon reportedly asking Keith “What happened on that trip?” Keith, for his part, didn’t seem to have many answers.
Ronnie Wood’s Near Miss
A bit of a darker tale (and that’s putting things into perspective) as Ronnie Wood described a brush with death in his autobiography as a result of his dalliances with freebasing – ie smoking – cocaine. A very deep hole to go down, Wood claims that drummer Charlie Watts would head over to his house to keep an eye on him for hours at a time as he stayed lost in his own world.
Wood had a particularly scary near miss one night as a massive fire descended on his house and, having been up for five days, Ronnie was in no state to be comprehending his dire situation. Thankfully his chauffeur arrived at the house to save their skins, but he was greeted with a less grateful reception than he may have expected, shouting at them “The fucking canyon’s on fire!” only to be met with a mumbled “Yeah, okay…”
The poor chauffeur had to practically drag them to their feet as the sky blackened with smoke outside, and they hastily snatched up some guitars and paintings. Miraculously the fire had darted off in a different direction at the last minute, saving Wood’s house, and he later found out just how lucky he was, as the fire had claimed hundreds of houses – including Neil Young’s – and several lives.
The moral of the story? Tip your chauffeur.
Dwarves And A Mars Bar
Another acid-related story, this time concerning a sudden appearance of a pack of blue dwarves. Back in 1966, Keith was enjoying a few quiet cocktails at his newly-purchased Sussex estate with Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful in attendance, only to hear a knock on the door.
Opening it, Keith was greeted by what he believed to be “a whole lot of dwarves” – in reality, they were police who were investigating reports of a drug-fuelled party. Sure, Keith was drugged up to the point that he mistook the police officers for Snow White’s mates, but Keith insists that the story was an absolute tabloid beat-up.
The pair were arrested and, by the time the story reached the papers, it was told that Keith had been consuming a Mars Bar that was being held by Faithful in a rather… creative fashion. Keith, for his part “a scene of pure domesticity”.
“How the Mars bar got into the story,” Richards says, “I don’t know. It shows you what’s in people’s minds.” All we know is, maybe domestic life isn’t so boring after all?
The Rolling Stones NYE party kicks off at Yarraville this December 31st with Nick Barker (The Reptiles), Grant Cummerford (Jeff Lang), Shane O’Mara (Paul Kelly), Ash Davies (The Models) and Justin Garner (Nikka Costa) taking to the stage to relive the Stones’ classic ’76 European tour. Tickets on sale now.
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