Hard drugs have claimed or ruined so many lives, including those of musicians, that it becomes a true marvel when certain people appear impervious to the ample negative effects of substances like heroin and other opiates. So when legendary Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards not only survives, but thrives while using, it’s easy to shake your head in disgust – but hard not to stand back in awe.
This week in 1977, Richards suffered perhaps his most high-profile bust involving his longtime heroin addiction, which he has since kicked. The Stones were in Toronto for their tour when Canadian police busted Richards in his hotel room with enough heroin to charge him with “possession of heroin for the purpose of trafficking.”
That type of charge carried up to a seven-year prison sentence. Authorities eventually realized Richards was just out of his mind and looking to inject himself with as much heroin as possible, so they reduced his charge to mere possession.
It was at that point where Richards agreed to enter rehab in the U.S., but attempted to devise an escape plan that he would hatch once he arrived at the airport. Unfortunately for him, enough people were waiting for him (and probably anticipating some kind of escape attempt) that he had no choice but to go to the rehab facility.
He was eventually tried for his heroin charge in October of 1978, when he plead guilty to possession. In addition to probation and continuation of rehab, the courts forced Richards to perform a benefit concert. He performed two, both with the Rolling Stones.
Richards had long been off the junk, but for a while wanted to just stay on it. After all, he continued to make great music with the Stones during his addiction, so fans weren’t exactly complaining. He rejected methadone clinics, as he explained in Victor Bockris’ biography of him: “The only reason it goes on like it does is because there’s incredible amounts of money being made off these clinics. I mean, they’re just a rip-off.”
We’re just glad the addiction didn’t derail his life or career the way it has for countless other musicians and people in all walks of life. But the guy’s almost 70 years old and he looks like he’s 170. The stuff obviously took a toll on him physically, and should never be recommended for anyone. But the fact that Richards’ guitar playing never really took a dip during his time as an addict is nothing short of remarkable.
BONUS Cops and Rockers: Jefferson Airplane Fined for Swearing
The Jefferson Airplane and singer Grace Slick don’t exactly have the same legacy of debauchery as Keith Richards, but they are known for one incident that now sounds silly and antiquated. Slick cursed on stage during a concert in Oklahoma City on February 27, 1970, earning the band a $1,000 fine – which if you adjust for inflation would total nearly $6,100 in 2013 dollars.
The laws were drawn up because of – surprise, surprise – Jim Morrison, who had recently had his infamous incident in Miami where he exposed himself to the crowd. Morrison’s crime would still be new these days, but cursing on stage? If they could still fine performers for that would there even be music anymore!?