Despite his narcotic adventures over the years, in the early 1980s, Rolling Stones icon Keith Richards claimed he only missed one ton gig, blaming a “dodgy burger”.
More recently, the Stones have had to reschedule tours twice due to Keith’s accidents, but the reasons were relatively mundane: In 1998, he fell from a ladder while “trying to pick up a book” at the library of his Connecticut home, causing damage. sustained his ribs and chest. And in April 2006, he famously fell from a coconut tree in Fiji and injured his head. He later apologized for “falling off his stick.”
What follows is a rundown of Richards’ more memorable accidents, where things could have gone horribly wrong but somehow didn’t.
Keith is involved in a fight with a group of Americans who insult and question the sexuality of the Rolling Stones at a restaurant at Heathrow Airport. One of the Americans is knocked out, but no charges follow.
Keith’s home in West Wittering, Sussex, is robbed after a tip from the News from the world† The police find “several substances of a suspicious nature” and a young lady (later revealed to be Marianne Faithfull) dressed only in a rug. Keith refuses to turn off the turntable when asked, but agrees to turn it down.
But then someone attracts Bob Dylan’s Rainy day woman, which does not scatter the situation. Keith is later found guilty of allowing the use of his home to smoke Indian hemp, fined £500 and jailed for one year. His conviction is overturned on appeal.
After a minor traffic accident in Beaulieu in the south of France, where the Stones are shooting Exile in the main streetKeith pulls a toy gun from his son Marlon on the local harbor master, who pulls out a real gun and calls the police. The incident is ironed out when the local mayor is invited to Keith’s house, Nellcôte, for dinner and given some autographed albums.
In May, Keith and Mick Jagger are charged with assaulting a photographer at Warwick Airport. No cost result. In December, French police search Nellcôte and find amounts 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 the Jamaican police might be waiting for him. Anita is later released, reportedly after $12,000 was paid to a “middleman”.
Police raid Keith’s home in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea and discover Chinese heroin, methadone, Mandrax, copper pharmaceutical scales, an antique shotgun and a .38 blunt Smith & Wesson revolver, both unlicensed. He is fined £205, while Anita is released on parole.
That evening, in honor of 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 home in Sussex.
Keith is arrested for illegal possession of a knife in Fordyce, Arkansas. The case is later dropped.
Keith crashes his car on the M1 after a Stones performance at Bingley Hall in Stafford. The police find ‘suspicious substances’ in the car and his jacket. In court, Keith claims the jacket may have belonged to a member of the Stones or their entourage. He is fined £750 plus £250 charges for possession of coke, but acquitted of LSD possession.
In March, Keith and Anita are arrested by the Canadian Mounties in a hotel room in Toronto. Keith is charged with smuggling 22 grams of heroin – a crime that carries a minimum prison sentence of seven years. Anita is charged with possession of heroin and hashish.
After the human trafficking charges are not returned to possession, Keith opts for a jury trial in October. The trial will be delayed for two days if he does not appear. He later explains to the judge that he waited for his pants to come out of the dryer. The judge expresses his surprise that “a man of your stature only has 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 give a concert for the blind within six months. He plays two concerts for the Canadian National Institute For The Blind in April 1979. Keith spends the next three years under medical treatment in the United States under threat of criminal penalties.
In December 1983 he married Patti Hansen on his 40th birthday. In 2006, Keith says he stopped using drugs — not for health reasons, but because they weren’t strong enough. The following year, he claims to have sniffed his father’s ashes. The story is later denied and then reconfirmed, though he continues to deny that the ashes were mixed with cocaine.