Today (July 22) in London’s History – Rolling Stones Partners in Crime

On July 22nd, 1965 three Rolling Stones were found guilty and sentenced. This Today in London History podcast tells the tale.


London calling.

London Walks connecting.

London Walks here with your daily London fix.

Story time. History time.

The Stones couldn’t get no satisfaction at the Francis Service Station in Romford Road, Forest Gate, East London.

So they took matters into their own hands.

Ok, it’s July 22nd, 1965 and three members – if members is the word – of the notorious pop group have been found guilty at West Ham Magistrates Court. Found guilty and fined £5 each. They were also ordered to pay 15 guineas in costs.

I somehow don’t think the bad boys of Rock ’n’ Roll were fussed in the least. In six weeks’ time their record Satisfaction will be topping the charts.

The guilty three were Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman and Brian Jones.

And I’ll get to their crime in a minute.

But first let’s savour how the Times – the top people’s paper – handled the story. In a word, fastidiously. In a phrase, with pursed lips, turned up nose, evident aversion and world-class euphemism.

I’ve long been an admirer of English euphemism. Nobody does it better. Think of that phrase – you see it all the time – “helping police with their enquiries.” Translation: they’ve got a suspect, the police are questioning him about a crime but they haven’t charged him yet.

Well, here’s how the Times tiptoed round the story in its first pass.

The headline was Three ‘Rolling Stones’ Accused. The name of the group – was of course in inverted commas.

Opening graf reads: “Three members of the Rolling Stones pop music group, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger, and Brian Jones have been summoned for allegedly using insulting behaviour.”

“Insulting behaviour.” Oh my goodness. What could that be?

We’re really none the wiser in the next and final paragraph, “The action arises from an alleged incident at the Francis service station in Romford Road, Forest Gate.”

So we’ve got “insulting behaviour” and an “alleged incident.”

Here’s what happened. 

The Stones had to pee. Pulled over into the Francis Service station forecourt. Wyman was said to have used disgusting language in asking an attendant if he could use the lavatory. 

It was over half a century ago so God knows what the young Mr Wyman said, but I imagine it was something like,  “hey, me and my mates have got to take a piss, can we use the bog.”

And – sure enough – sod’s law kicked in. The attendant said, “no you can’t, it’s being reconditioned.”

A weak return of serve which the Stones massacred. No, make that liquidated. By way of hitting their unplayable winner, the three of them ambled over to the boundary wall of the service station and reconditioned it. Yes, that’s right they urinated against it.

And worse, they did so, I’m quoting now, “without taking steps to conceal this act.” I’m not quite sure how they were supposed to do that. Look furtively around to make sure nobody was looking? Or one of them screening the view by taking up a position behind the leak guitarist and holding his coat open to shield his modesty. 

Silly, silly, silly. 

The question that sprang to my depraved mind was, is the Francis Service Station still there on the Romford Road? Is the boundary wall still there? If it is, it could become a rock mecca. The Rolling Stones peed here. 

Anyway, the upshot – in addition to being hammered with that £5 fine and court costs – the three Stones were found guilty of using insulting behaviour whereby a breach of the peace may have occurred.

More euphemism there, right? Can you hear how that fudges it? “A breach of the peace may have occurred.” The dictionary definition of a breach is an act of breaking or failing to observe a law, agreement, or code of conduct. I’m guessing that magistrate didn’t have any choice but to fudge it. I can’t imagine that there’s a law that says if you’re going to wee against a wall do it in a discrete and tasteful manner or face the fury of law. 

The magistrate did give the Stones a good wigging. He said, “just because you have reached the exalted heights of your profession, this does not mean you have the right to act like this.” You can imagine how that was received.

In his defence, Wyman said the group did not have time to go to the dressing room after a show at Romford because they had to rush out to avoid fans.

That was July 22nd, 1965. This is July 22nd, 2022. Whizzing on the wall now just a distant memory for the wizened wastrels. 

And for a fade out. Yeah, sure. The hundreds of teenagers who were in the public gallery and outside the court. And the more than 20 police who had to be drafted in to control them. Says it all, doesn’t it?

And a Today in London recommendation? Has to be Adam’s Rock ’n’ Roll London Walk on Friday afternoons at 2 pm. Goes from Tottenham Court Road Tube Station. Adam doesn’t just guide, he brings his guitar and troubadours. In the words of a lovely walker from Austin, Texas, “it’s like having your own personal rock star for a tour guide.”

You’ve been listening to the Today in London History podcast. Emanating from – home of London Walks, London’s signature walking tour company. London’s local, time-honoured, fiercely independent, family-owned, just-the-right-size walking tour company. And as long as we’re at it, London’s multi-award-winning walking tour company. Indeed, London’s only award-winning walking tour company.

And here’s the secret: London Walks is essentially run as a guides’ cooperative. 

That’s the key to everything. It’s the reason we’re able to attract and keep the best guides in London. You can get schlubbers to do this for £20 a walk. But you cannot get world-class guides – let alone accomplished professionals.

It’s not rocket science: you get what you pay for. And just as surely, you also get what you don’t pay for. 

Back in 1968 when we got started we quickly came to a fork in the road. We had to answer a searching question: Do we want to make the most money? Or do we want to be the best walking tour company in the world? You want to make the most money you go the schlubbers route. You want to be the best walking tour company in the world you do whatever you have to do to attract and keep the best guides in London – you want them guiding for you, not for somebody else. Bears repeating: the way we’re structured – a guides’ cooperative – is the key to the whole thing. It’s the reason for all those awards, it’s the reason people who know go with London Walks, it’s the reason we’ve got a big following, a lively, loyal, discerning following – quality attracts quality.

It’s the reason we’re able – uniquely – to front our walks with accomplished, in many cases distinguished professionals: barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, archaeologists, historians, criminal defence lawyers, Royal Shakespeare Company actors, a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won the Guide of the Year Award)… well, you get the idea. As that travel writer famously put it, “if this were a golf tournament, every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide.”

And as we put it: London Walks Guides make the new familiar and the familiar new.

And on that agreeable note…come then, let us go forward together on some great London Walks. And that’s by way of saying, Good Londoning one and all. Nothing to add except… Welcome back! You were sorely missed. See ya tomorrow.

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