50th anniversary of Rolling Stones' "insulting behaviour" outburst in Forest Gate.

Monday 16 March 2015

The Rolling Stones entered Forest Gate's history with a minor splash on 18 March 1965. We have pulled together some contemporary images and reflections of the events, below - in a kind of blog of the bog.

The band were passing through the area after a gig in Romford, and wanted to take a pee. Denied access to a toilet, three of them took matters into their own hands, and left their mark on the wall of a local service station.

Three of the group were subsequently arrested and four months later fined £5 each, at West Ham magistrates court, for "insulting behaviour".

Publicity shot of Rolling Stones in the summer of
 1965. Left to right: Keith Richards (saw "nothing"),
 Brian Jones (fined £5, with £5.5s costs),
 Mick Jagger (fined £5, with £5.5s costs), Bill Wyman
 (fined £5 with £5.5s costs for "insulting behaviour",
 not guilty of "using insulting language",
 Charlie Watts (sitting in the car, reading newspaper)

The Stones were reaching the peak of their popularity in the UK, at the time of the original incident and  were sitting at number 1 in the British charts with their double A sided hit - Play with Fire and The Last Time. They were chart-topping with (I can't get no)Satisfaction when they appeared in court in July 1965.

Christopher Sandford, in his The Rolling Stones: the first fifty years, provides a graphic account of the evening's events:

Sorry events on 18 March 1965 ... when the Stones wound up a two-week, 28-date tour of old Art Deco British fleapits with a boisterous performance at the ABC Romford. It was the town's first real rock concert the words entered the language alongside RIOT and ANIMALS in the next week's Havering Post.
Around eleven o'clock that night, Ian Stewart, was driving the Stones in Mick Jagger's new black Daimler up the A118 in to central London. Stu turned the car into Francis service station where, according to the attendant, 41-year old Charles Keeley, "a shaggy-haired monster wearing dark glasses alighted to enquire, "where can we have a leak here?"
Ian (Stu) Stewart; an original
 member of the Rolling Stones,
 but driver of the car on the
 night in question

Apparently struck by the phrase, Mr Keeley asked the Stones to move on. The forecourt wrangling then became noticeably bitter. Mick Jagger allegedly remarked, "We piss anywhere, man" a line that was taken up by Keith and Brian, who repeated it in 'a kind of chant', it was later said in court. Bill Wyman took the opportunity to relieve himself against a nearby wall.

A small crowd began to gather, and some of them yelled encouragement to Bill, while Keeley himself yelled the opposite, as Brian jumped up and down pulling his patented "Nanker" facial contortion. An honourable exception to the growing furore was Charlie, who remained seated in the car, apparently reading the evening newspaper.

It's perhaps not impossible to feel sympathy for the middle-aged petrol-pump attendant, whose premises had been so bewilderingly converted in the space of a few minutes from a quiet suburban retail outlet in to the scene of a pagan ritual.. After a bit, a dramatically bearded young man, referred to as Goatboy wandered over to politely ask (for autographs). Bill then asked what the fuck he was meant to sign it with.
Brian jumped up and down again, pulling the corners of his eyes down, while simultaneously sticking his little fingers up his nostrils. This went on until Bill returned to the car, which then accelerated away, one occupant - believed to be Keith Richards - making "a parting gesture with two fingers."
Summoned for insulting behaviour, Jagger, Jones and Wyman were each fined five pounds, with costs, when the case reached East Ham (it was in fact, West Ham) magistrates court on 22 July. Keith Richards, in his first ever appearance in the box was called as a witness. He testified that he saw "nothing happen" at the service station."

Poster for the Southend gig, the night
 before the Forest Gate incident
Stephen Davis, in his Old gods, almost dead provides a little more colour to events in the service station:
"They stopped at a service station, but the attendant took one look and told them to get lost. Mick gave him some lip and was told to get of the forecourt. "Get off my fucking foreskin", yelled Brian, pulling a repulsive nanker (face). "We'll piss anywhere, man", Mick said, and the Rolling Stones lined up, peed on the wall, marking their territory, and roared off into a defensive blast of naughty language and rude gestures. Someone got the plate number, and the incident was splashed all over the press. Months later, they were dragged to court, charged with insulting behaviour and obscene language, and fined five pounds each."

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the Newham Recorder's account of the events (in their post-trial edition of 25 July), was a little more restrained:

Newham Recorder 25 July 1965

Magistrate raps three 'Rolling Stones' - insulting behaviour fines
Three members of the chart-topping Rolling Stones pop group, who were alleged by the prosecution to have urinated against the boundary wall of a London garage, were each fined £5 at West Ham, London Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Bill Wyman, 23, bass guitarist, Mick Jagger, 21, singer and Brian Jones, guitarist and harmonica player were all found guilty of using insulting behaviour 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.
The Chairman of the Magistrates, Mr AC 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."
Mr Kenneth Richardson, prosecuting, said Wyman, Jagger and Jones stopped at the Francis Service Station, Romford Road, Forest Gate, late on March 18. Wyman used disgusting language in asking an attendant if he could use the toilet.

Westgate House, on Romford Road,
 currently situated on the site of
 the "insulting behaviour" incident

After being told the toilets were being reconditioned and being refused permission to use the private toilet, they urinated against the boundary wall of the service station "without taking steps to conceal this act."

He added: "They assumed they had the right to treat the property of others with the utmost contempt".

Wyman, in evidence, said the group did not have time to go to the dressing room after a show at the Romford Odeon because they had to rush out to avoid the fans. When they could not find a toilet at the garage they got back into their car and drove off.
Jones and Jagger also denied using insulting behaviour. Jones said he had been laughing at the attendant's childish behaviour. He was not too aggressive.
Jagger said he had "never been in a bad enough mood to want to hit anyone." The group were very happy about having a record at the top of the Hit Parade. He had been "to nearly every country we could make money in" and had never been in trouble with the police."

The West Ham Magistrates Court register for the period sits in the Newham archives, today.  Below we reproduce extracts relating to their case, from July 1965.

West Ham magistrates court register for July
 1965 (1)
Court details of offences of William
 George Wyman, Michael Philip Jagger,
 Lewis Brian Jones (Newham archives) (2)

Court details of fines of William
 George Wyman, Michael Philip Jagger,
 Lewis Brian Jones (Newham archives) (3)
Unfortunately, we have been unable to track down a poster for the Stones show on the evening of their Forest Gate splash, but we have traced one from the previous evening's show, in Southend (see above). It was part of the 28-date tour referred to, above, and shows that on it they were supported by The Hollies and Dave Berry.

And, what of the Francis service station? It was located at 176-180 Romford Road, but is now long gone. In its place, today sits the Westgate House residential care home, pictured above.

Doubtless some of its residents will recall the previous incarnation and infamy of their current abode.

The Wyman version

Bill Wyman was always regarded as the Stones' in-house archivist and he provides perhaps the most detailed account of the incident and its aftermath in his 1990 memoirs Stone Alone. Below we quote, directly from it, as "an insider's", although inevitably self-justifying, account of the incident:

It was a perfect concert, a fitting end to a very strong tour. We were all in a great mood. At 11.10, with excellent police security, we rushed straight off stage, jumped into a car before the fans could leave the theatre and headed back to town. Twenty minutes later, I needed to use the toilet, so we pulled into the Francis Service Station in East London. I asked the attendant if I could use the toilet. He said 'There isn't a toilet.' I replied 'This is a big garage, and there are service bays and showrooms, so there must be one.' He said, 'There isn't, so get off my forecourt.'
Absolutely bursting to go, I returned to the car, where I explained what had happened. Mick took my hand and said 'Come on Bill, we'll find you a toilet.' Then Mick, myself, Joey Page and Brian returned to the attendant and asked him once more if we could use the toilet. He started screaming at us, 'Get off my forecourt! get off my forecourt!'

A fuller view of Westgate House, many
 of whose residents doubtless recall
 the case of the leaking Stones.

Brian suddenly started dancing around pulling a 'Nanker' face and singing 'Get off my foreskin!' The attendant once more told us to leave. We walked across the forecourt into the adjoining side road, went about ten yards up this road and proceeded to pee against the wall. We returned through the forecourt, yelled a few insults at the attendant, got back into the car and continued our journey.

We considered the incident closed, but two days later the Daily Express ran a story that surprised us. Mr Eric Lavender, a customer who had been at the service station, said there was an 'incident which led to him and a mechanic reporting two members of the of group to the police. Mr Charles Keely, on duty at the garage as night breakdown-mechanic, said it was about 11.30pm when a big black car pulled up and a long-haired type wearing dark glasses got out'.

'After an incident, he told the people with the car to move off. 'Mr Lavender told them their behaviour was disgusting,' he said, ' and they started shouting and screaming. They went back to the car and I took a note of the number.' Mr Lavender was quoted as saying that if the police did not prosecute, he would press for a private prosecution. Later a Metropolitan Police spokesman, confirming that an incident was reported, added 'It is believed that members of the Rolling Stones were involved. Inquiries are in hand.'

Three months later the case reached East (sic) Ham Magistrates Court, London. Fifty policemen were on duty outside, where a crowd of nearly 300 surrounded the gate leading to the court and waited behind a police cordon on the pavement across the road. Inside the spectators' gallery was packed with about sixty teenage fans, three policemen standing either side of the gallery.
Mick, Brian and I were summonsed for insulting behaviour. I was further charged with using obcence language. We were allowed to write down our addresses, to keep them secret from the fans. We denied using insulting behaviour by urinating against a wall and pleaded not guilty. Charlie and Keith, who had come for moral support, listened from the back of the court.

Prosecuting, Kenneth Richardson said, 'If the magistrates were satisfied that the disgusting behaviour had taken place, it was no great crime, but it was regrettable behaviour, and the three might themselves agree in time. They are well known to certain sections of the public, and it is wrong that they should show such disregard for the feelings and morals of others.'
Magistrates' Chairman AC Morey asked Keely: 'You have talked about long-haired monsters. Did that influence you in bringing the charge?'
Keely:'The conception of long-haired monsters did not influence my decision to complain, although it might have started the ball rolling. It made me determined not to let them go to the staff toilet.'
I told the court, ' We finished two shows at the Romford Odeon at 10.45. We didn't have time to go to the dressing room after the show, because as soon as the curtain fell, we had to leave the stage and rush to the car to avoid fans.'

Brian, giving evidence, said, 'We drank only Coca-Cola and tea. We were very happy because we had had a great night. I was not aggressive. We were laughing a lot because Mr Keely's behaviour was so comical. We are rather more mature than that.'

Mick said, ' I think we were at the top of the hit parade at the time and we were discussing our forthcoming American tour. We had every reason to be happy. I've never been in a bad enough mood to want to hit anyone. We have played in many places from Texas to Miami, to Helsinki, and this is the first time we have been in any trouble with the police..' Keith also gave evidence and said that he saw no incident at the service station.

The wall in question - baptised by
 three Stones, according to Bill Wyman
Our defending counsel, Dale Parkinson said, 'This is a trivial case, and you are making a mountain out of a molehill.'
We were all found guilty of using insulting behaviour, whereby a breach of the peace may have occurred. We were each fined £5, and ordered to pay 15 guineas costs. We all gave notice to appeal.
I was also found not guilty on the other charge of using obsence language. The magistrates' chairman said, 'Whether it is the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, or anyone else, we will not tolerate conduct of this character. Because you have reached the exalted heights of your profession, it does not mean you have the right to act like this. On the contrary, you should set a standard of behaviour which should be a moral pattern for your large number of supporters. You have been found guilty of behaviour not becoming of young gentlemen.'

Brian said later, 'We've always had a wild image. We built ourselves on the fact. Groups like the Hollies envy our image a little. The garage incident was grossly exaggerated. The kids in court were amused by an incident blown up out of all perspective. It may do us some harm, but I doubt it. There's always America.'
Charlie said, 'I kept out of trouble. I was asleep in the back of the car, man.' After the hearing, we were smuggled out of the court, and driven back to town. The episode did us no damage with our fans and might even have persuaded a few people that we were human!


  1. My Dad was on duty at the court and I found three photos of him online, he also got all the bands autographs for me but the book has since been lost

  2. That's a shame. I once threw out a letter signed by Boris Johnson. But nothing like that!


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