Book Review: “The Stone Age: Sixty Years of the Rolling Stones” — A Tabloid Take

By Adam Ellsworth

The Stone Age is only about the gossip, to the point where even when something (potentially) true comes along, it still reads like trash.

The Stone Age: Sixty Years of the Rolling Stones by Lesley-Ann Jones. Pegasus Books, 386 pages, $28.95.

A little less than halfway through The Stone Age: Sixty Years of the Rolling Stones, there’s a chapter titled “Redlands.” As far as Stones abodes go, Keith Richards’s UK residence would likely be no better known than Mick Jagger’s Stargroves — and probably less known than Richards’s temporary French home base Villa Nellcôte — were it not the location of Mick and Keith’s infamous 1967 drug bust. Of course, that would be the infamous drug bust that involved the Mars bar, but you already knew that.

Okay, obviously there wasn’t actually any Mars bar, and even if there was, said confection was far, far from where it was alleged to be found. There really was a fur rug with nothing underneath it save Marianne Faithfull’s porcelain skin, but that’s no hanging matter, nor is it a capital crime. Truth be told, the raid on Redlands was a fairly sedate affair. The police were tipped off (naturally), they knocked (so polite), and they were let in (such manners). That no riotous rock ‘n’ rollin’ was underway when they arrived was more confusing than incriminating. In fact, if it weren’t for the long hair and the joss sticks (oh, and the fur rug of course), the whole thing wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary at all. However, there was that tip about the drug use, so an investigation had to be held, and substances were unsurprisingly found.

A month later (and the drama that occurred during that month is its very own story), Mick was charged with possession of amphetamines, while Keith was hit for allowing his home to be used for the use of marijuana. Redlands guest and art dealer Robert Fraser was also charged, as was one Acid King David, who had mysteriously flown the coop. The trial began June 27 (very literally the first week of the Summer of Love), and it lasted three days total. In the end, all defendants were found guilty, with Mick sentenced to three months in Brixton Prison, and Keith and Groovy Bob getting 12 and six months respectively at Wormwood Scrubs.

As would have been expected, the sentences unleashed outrage from the band’s fans and fellow musicians. Less anticipated was the support Mick and Keith (sorry, no-one was thinking about Robert Fraser) received from the “Establishment.” Any thinking Brit, regardless of their political leanings or musical taste, could tell that these punishments were a farce. William Rees-Mogg, editor of the Times, gave voice to this line of thought in his famous “Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?” editorial.

On the bright side, none of this unpleasantness lasted long. Mick and Keith (and Bob!) were sent to their cell blocks on June 29. On June 30, the Glimmer Twins (but not Bob) were free on bail, pending appeal. That freedom was made official and lasting at the end of July.

Any good book on the Stones will tell you all of this and much more. I didn’t even mention the involvement of the gutter News of the World, or Keith’s legendary, “We are not old men. We are not worried about petty morals” comment during his cross-examination. Unfortunately, The Stone Age is not one of those good books. It touches on some of the above, but in no great detail and without any true insight. The entire point of there even being a Redlands chapter of the book seems to be so author Lesley-Ann Jones can argue that the the Rolling Stones — Mick and Keith specifically, of course — are at least partially to blame for half a century of drug addiction in the United Kingdom. Then she can dive into allegations that our runner Acid King David was responsible for the tip that led to the Redlands raid, and that he did so on instructions from British Intelligence.

On the first point, perhaps I’m being naive. Perhaps the British Isles are filled with people who would have been on the straight and narrow were it not for the pernicious influence of those goddamn druggies in the Rolling Stones. I’d counter that assumptions like that led to Mick getting three months for nothing more than possession of some pep pills (which, by the way, weren’t even his. They actually belonged to Marianne Faithfull). I know one thing for certain: I’ve been listening to the Stones for most of my life and the most devious thing they ever inspired me to do was to buy a “Who the Fuck is Mick Jagger?” t-shirt. I guess I’m just lucky.

The Rolling Stones performing in 2015. Photo: Wiki Common

As for that Acid King David conspiracy theory, it goes like this: in early 1967, struggling Canadian actor David Snyderman was detained at London’s Heathrow Airport for drug possession. Rather than be deported, he was turned over to MI5 and/or MI6, who, at the direction of the FBI’s COINTELPRO dirty trick squad, told him that if he got members of the Stones busted, his own drug charges would disappear. Orders received, Snyderman worked his way into the band’s inner-circle, was present at Redlands, called the police, slipped out of the country, and the Stones never saw or heard from him again.

On the one hand, this is an absolutely insane thing to believe, or to even bother writing about. On the other, it is very likely true. Or at least partially true. I have my doubts about the FBI/MI5/6 part (not that such plots were beneath those agencies), but that Acid King David tipped the police seems all but certain. Regardless of what I think, The Stone Age is hardly the first book to propose this theory. Philip Norman’s excellent 2012 tome Mick Jagger puts forth the exact same story.

But what reads like an outlandish, yet plausible, tale in Norman’s book is just one more piece of sensational gossip in Jones’s. The Stone Age is only about the gossip, to the point where even when something (potentially) true comes along, it still reads like trash. To give credit where credit is due, when Jones knows for certain an old rumor is false, she says so (even she admits there was no Mars bar). And as long as I’m giving credit, kudos for how much ink is used on the women in the band’s orbit, who were mistreated at best, and outright abused at worst. Other than that, The Stone Age is a tabloid take on the Rolling Stones. No substance. No satisfaction.

Adam Ellsworth is a writer, journalist, and amateur professional rock and roll historian. His writing on rock music has appeared on the websites YNE Magazine,, Online Music Reviews, and Metronome Review. His non-rock writing has appeared in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, on Wakefield Patch, and elsewhere. Adam has an MS in journalism from Boston University and a BA in literature from American University. He grew up in Western Massachusetts, and currently lives with his wife in a suburb of Boston. You can follow Adam on Twitter @adamlz24.

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