Grammy Nominations 2017
Music Legend Glyn Johns Recounts Mick Jagger's Close Call With Cops in His New Memoir
By now it was quite normal to have sessions go all night, a habit started by The Rolling Stones in 1966 while we were making Between the Buttons, with almost every session starting at 8 p.m. and going till 7:30 or 8 the following morning. On a Sunday afternoon in studio one at Olympic [in London], we were recording Mick Jagger’s vocal on “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” The track had already been recorded, so there was just Mick; [Stones manager] Andrew [Loog] Oldham; his driver, Eddie; me; and my assistant in the studio. I had set up an open-fronted vocal booth a third of the way down the studio, facing the control room. We had been working for about 20 minutes and Mick was getting close to the take that we would eventually use.
He had lit up a joint, so there was a haze of blue smoke hanging above him. We were in the middle of a take when much to our surprise the main door into the studio opened and two uniformed policemen gingerly entered. The studio was one floor above street level. The policemen had been on their rounds of the area on foot, had tried the front door of the building and, finding it unlocked, came in to check it out. There being no one on the ground floor, they came up the large stone stairs to check the rest of the building, opened the meat locker door handle and pushed open the large soundproof door, walking straight into studio one and our session. The door was positioned well behind the booth I had built so they could not see Mick, had no idea who they were intruding on and could only hear him singing. Mick in turn could not see them and was oblivious to their presence.
Andrew and I could see the boys in blue, and his reaction to the situation was remarkable, not only by the speed with which he reacted but by the extraordinary distraction he created to preserve Mick and himself from a certain bust. He asked me to stop the tape, with Mick in full voice. He told his ever-faithful driver Eddie to make a quick exit out of the back of the control room with his doctor’s bag full of various illegal substances, then immediately put the talk-back key down to the studio, politely asking if he could help the two bewildered coppers standing at the back of the room. This informed Mick that we had company, and it was not until he peered around the screens to see what the hell was going on that they realized who it was they had interrupted, and in turn he realized the significance of who was standing there and that this could be quite a serious problem.
Andrew was up and out into the studio before you could say “jackrabbit.” The policemen apologized for interrupting and explained how they happened to be there, thinking that the building might be being burgled. When Andrew saw how star-struck they had become he decided to have a little fun. After a brief, polite conversation, he asked if they had their nightsticks with them, and when the [sticks] were produced from down their trouser legs he asked if we could borrow them for a minute. Fascinated and somewhat overawed by Mick’s presence, they readily agreed. Andrew passed them to Mick, saying that we needed some percussion on the bridge of the song. The two nightsticks sounded similar to claves when banged together. The policemen stood to one side, I ran the tape, and Mick overdubbed their truncheons on the bridge. They seemed thrilled by the experience and, having a great story to tell their kids, left the building happy.
When they had gone, the front door was locked, Eddie was summoned, and we continued, finishing the song that evening. For some extraordinary reason, Andrew and Mick decided to keep the totally unnecessary sound of the truncheons being hit together in the mix. If you listen carefully you can just hear them.
Editor’s note: A year later, a Stones party was raided and Jagger was sentenced to three months in jail for possession of amphetamine tablets; Keith Richards was sentenced to a year for allowing marijuana use in his home. Both sentences were successfully appealed.
Photo courtesy Julia Wick