When the Rolling Stones Were Fined for Peeing on a Gas Station
Given the severity of some of the scandals that would later rock the Rolling Stones, facing a five-pound fine for peeing on a gas station wall seems fairly minor. But in the mid-'60s, their career was just taking off — and it was a whole lot easier to scandalize the British public.
The incident in question occurred March 18, 1965, when bassist Bill Wyman announced during the ride home after a London concert that he needed to relieve himself. The band pulled into a gas station, where members found themselves rebuffed after Wyman reportedly offended the attendant by asking, "Where can we have a leak here?"
The attendant, a 41-year-old man named Charles Keeley who later described Wyman as "a shaggy-haired monster wearing dark glasses," told the Stones bassist that he didn't have a bathroom — which, given the size and purpose of the building, the band found hard to believe. As Wyman later recounted in his memoir, "Absolutely bursting to go, I returned to the car, where I explained what had happened. [Mick Jagger] took my hand and said 'Come on, Bill, we'll find you a toilet.' Then Mick, myself, Joey Page and [Brian Jones] returned to the attendant and asked him once more if we could use the toilet. He started screaming at us ..."
At this point, Jagger allegedly quipped, "We'll piss anywhere, man," supposedly prompting some of his fellow Stones (not including drummer Charlie Watts, who later insisted, "I was asleep in the car, man") to repeat that line in a chant while relieving themselves on the gas station wall. According to guitarist Keith Richards, the police were on the scene almost immediately.
"There we are, up against the wall, spraying away. And suddenly this guy steps out," wrote Richards later. "And a cop flashes his torch on Bill's c--- and says, 'All right. What you up to then?' And that was it. The next day it was all in the papers. Bill was accused, and Brian was accused of insulting language. Because what they did them for was not peeing but for trespassing."
Other reports indicate that the Stones were nabbed not by an officer at the station, but because someone wrote down their license plate number as they sped away jeering at Keeley. Either way, his account of the band's rude behavior was backed up by a customer that happened to be at the station at the time, who told police he'd "press for a private prosecution" if charges weren't filed and was said to have provoked the group's members by telling them their behavior was "disgusting."
The resulting hubbub didn't slow the Stones' meteoric ascent. By the time they appeared in court in July 1965, they were at No. 1 on the U.K. charts with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," and although the rules of British decorum were still so strictly enforced that certain members of the upper crust continued to look down on the band members for years to come, they didn't face much more than slaps on the wrist: According to the Newham Recorder, the band's day in court ended with a minor fine and a stern tongue-lashing from the magistrate.
"Bill Wyman, 23, bass guitarist, Mick Jagger, 21, singer and Brian Jones, guitarist and harmonica player were all found guilty of using insulting behavior whereby a breach of the peace may have occurred. Wyman was found not guilty of using insulting language to the annoyance of passengers.
The three were also ordered to pay between them a total of 15 guineas costs," notes the Recorder. "The Chairman of the Magistrates, Mr. A.C. Morey, told them: 'Just because you have reached the exalted heights of your profession this does not mean you have the right to act like this.'"
"The episode did us no damage with our fans and might even have persuaded a few people that we were human," chuckled Wyman in his book, while in his Life memoir, Richards added a footnote to the story that might help explain why the guys were caught in the first place.
"The thing with Bill is -- and this is one of the best kept secrets in the Rolling Stones -- that he has probably got one of the biggest bladders in human existence," said Richards. "When that guy gets out of a car to take a pee you know you aren't going to move for 15 minutes. I mean it's not the first time it happened to him. To my knowledge, Bill has never done one in under five minutes."
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