Skip to main content

Drug busts, guns, car crashes, fights, fires… these are Keith Richards' greatest scrapes

Keith Richards arrives at Marlborough Street Court, London with girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, 27th June 1973
Keith Richards arrives at Marlborough Street Court, London with girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, 27th June 1973 (Image credit: Frank Barratt)

Despite his narcotic adventures over the years, Rolling Stones icon Keith Richards claimed in the early 80s that he had only ever missed one tones gig, blaming a “dodgy burger”. 

More recently the Stones have twice had to reschedule tours because of Keith’s mishaps, but the reasons have been relatively mundane: In 1998 he fell off a ladder while “trying to retrieve a book” in the library of his Connecticut home, suffering damage to his ribs and chest. And In April 2006 he famously fell out of a coconut tree in Fiji and injured his head. He later apologised for “falling off his perch." 

What follows is a breakdown of Richards' more memorable mishaps, where it could have all gone so terribly wrong but somehow didn't. 

Alt

1964

Keith is involved in a fight with a group of Americans who’ve been throwing insults and questioning the Rolling Stones’ sexuality in a restaurant at Heathrow Airport. One of the Americans is knocked out but no charges result.


1967

Keith’s home at West Wittering, Sussex, is raided following a tip-off by the News Of The World. Police find “various substances of a suspicious nature” and a young lady (later revealed to be Marianne Faithfull) clad only in a rug. Keith refuses to turn off the record player when asked, but agrees to turn it down. 

But then someone puts on Bob Dylan’s Rainy Day Woman, which does not diffuse the situation. Keith is later found guilty of permitting his house to be used for the smoking of Indian hemp, fined £500 and sentenced to one year in prison. His conviction is quashed on appeal.

Keith Richards is escorted through a crowd near Chichester Magistrates Court

Keith Richards is escorted through a crowd near Chichester Magistrates Court, Chichester, England, May 27, 1967 (Image credit: Mark and Colleen Hayward/Getty Images )

1971

Following a minor traffic accident in Beaulieu in the South of France, where the Stones are recording Exile On Main Street, Keith pulls a toy gun belonging to his son Marlon on the local harbour-master, who pulls a real gun and calls the police. The incident is smoothed over when the local mayor is invited to Keith’s house, Nellcôte, for supper and given some autographed albums.


1972

In May Keith and Mick Jagger are accused of assaulting a photographer at Warwick Airport. No charges result. In December French police search Nellcôte and find quantities of heroin, cocaine and hashish. Keith and Anita Pallenberg, his common-law wife, are later given a suspended sentence. 

Later that month Anita is arrested at Keith’s Jamaica home on drug charges and held in custody. He wants to fly out of the country immediately but fears that Jamaican police may be waiting for him. Anita is later released, allegedly after $12,000 is paid to an “intermediary”.


1973

Police raid Keith’s house in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea and discover Chinese heroin, methadone, Mandrax, brass pharmaceutical scales, an antique shotgun and a .38 snub-nosed Smith & Wesson revolver, both unlicensed. He is fined £205, while Anita receives a conditional discharge. 

That night, celebrating the verdict, Keith sets fire to his room at the Londonderry House hotel. The following month, he and Anita narrowly escape a fire that destroys Redlands, their country house in Sussex.


1975

Keith is arrested for illegal possession of a knife in Fordyce, Arkansas. The case is later dismissed.


1976

Keith crashes his car on the M1 after a Stones gig at Bingley Hall in Stafford. Police find “suspicious substances” in the car and his jacket. In court Keith claims that the jacket could have belonged to any member of the Stones or their entourage. He is fined £750 plus £250 costs for possessing coke but cleared of possessing LSD.


1978

In March Keith and Anita are busted by the Canadian Mounties in a Toronto hotel room. Keith is charged with trafficking 22 grams of heroin – an offence carrying a minimum seven-year prison sentence. Anita is charged with possession of heroin and hashish. 

After failing to have the trafficking charge reduced to possession, Keith opts for a jury trial in October. The trial is delayed for two days when he fails to appear. He later explains to the judge that he was waiting for his trousers to come out of the dryer. The judge expresses surprise that “a man of your stature has only one pair of pants”. 

Keith is found guilty and given a suspended sentence. The judge orders him to continue his heroin addiction treatment in New York and perform a concert in aid of the blind within six months. He plays two concerts in aid of the Canadian National Institute For The Blind in April 1979. Keith spends the next three years undergoing medical treatment in the United States under threat of criminal sanctions. 

In December 1983 he marries Patti Hansen on his 40th birthday. In 2006 Keith says he had stopped taking drugs – not for health reasons but because they weren’t strong enough. The following year he claims to have snorted his father’s ashes. The story that is later denied and then re-confirmed, although he continues to deny that the ashes were mixed with cocaine.

Keith Richards getting out of his car after court appearance in 1977

Keith Richards returns to his hotel after appearing in court in Toronto in 1977 (Image credit: Erin Combs/Getty Images)

Classic Rock is the online home of the world's best rock'n'roll magazine. We bring you breaking news, exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes features, as well as unrivalled access to the biggest names in rock music; from Led Zeppelin to Deep Purple, Guns N’ Roses to the Rolling Stones, AC/DC to the Sex Pistols, and everything in between. Our expert writers bring you the very best on established and emerging bands plus everything you need to know about the mightiest new music releases.