Looking Back On George Harrison’s 1969 Drug Bust
Words by Riley Fitzgerald
Graphic by Press
On March 12, 1969, George Harrison’s Esher estate was raided by a London drug squad.
Occurring the same day as Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman‘s wedding, the raid was part of a wider effort to indict several high-profile performers on drug charges.
(Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, and fellow Beatle John Lennon had also subject of similar raids.)
Leading the sting was Detective Sergeant Norman Pilcher, a notorious figure who had made a personal mission of pursuing high profile targets.
“[Pilcher] came out to my house with about eight other policemen,” George Harrison shared in the Beatles’ Anthology book, “and a police dog, who happened to be called Yogi – because, I suppose, of the Beatle connection with Maharishi. They thought they’d have a bit of fun.”
George Harrison’s wife at the time, Pattie Boyd, would later recall the raid in her autobiography Wonderful Tonight.
“Suddenly I heard a lot of cars on the gravel in the drive,” she recounted, “far too many for it to be just George.”
“My first thought was that maybe Paul and Linda wanted to party after the wedding,” Boyd continued. “Then the bell rang. I opened the door to find a policewoman and a dog standing outside. At that moment the back-doorbell rang and I thought, Oh, my God, this is so scary! I’m surrounded by police.”
Boyd rang Harrison, who was at the Apple Corp London offices at the time and urged him to come home.
George promptly returned to find his house turned upside down.
And, to further add insult to injury, members so the drug squad who had long completed their search were now watching television in his living room and helping themselves to tea from his pantry.
Several members of the task force were too starstruck to approach George Harrison directly.
But Pilcher, much less reserved than his peers, promptly informed the Beatle he was under arrest.
Searching the residence, the authorities found no less than 120 joints.
If this was not sufficient the heavy-handed Pilcher would also notoriously claim to have found a large clump of hashish in one of Harrison’s shoes, something the Quiet Beatle vehemently denied.
“I’m a tidy man,” he shared in one 1969 statement. “I keep my socks in the sock drawer and stash in the stash box. It’s not mine.”
George Harrison would also later contend the 120 joints were planted, the drug squad had never found the actual stash.
Charged with the possession of illegal drugs, George Harrison and wife Pattie Boyd were transported to a local police station for fingerprinting and processing.
The pair were then released on bail, though not in time to attend the McCartney wedding.
Appearing before a local court on March 31 the pair would plead guilty of possession of cannabis.
Satisfied that what had been recovered was strictly for the pair’s personal use the court and fined each of them £250 and 10 guineas.
As with John Lennon, these minor charges caused no small amount of grief for Harrison when applying for visas in the United States in the following years.
Pilcher, the architect of the raid, would later be imprisoned for four years in 1972 following the revelation that he routinely planted drugs upon his victims.