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Reference Library: Sgt. Pilcher

From: balbuena@newstand.syr.edu (Miguel Balbuena)
Newsgroups: rec.music.beatles,soc.culture.british
Subject: Pilcher's Long and Winding Road
Date: 23 Oct 1996 02:21:43 GMT


Sergeant Norman Pilcher was the head of one of Britain's police drug squads -- dubbed Sergeant Pilcher's Lonely Heart Club Band (TM) -- in the late sixties. The unit was made up of human and canine law enforcement officers. Pilcher's favorite marijuana-sniffing dog worked under the code name of Willie. Willie's true identity remains undisclosed up to present due to national security reasons.

In early 1966, Pilcher and Willie had a meeting in the War Room located at Scotland Yard to devise a strategy for wiping out once-and- for-all drugs from Britain. The meeting ended up with Pilcher and Willie signing a secret blood pact by which they vowed to wreck the drug-using rock counterculture threatening to take over Britain. Willie signed the agreement by stamping his right front pawprint on the document. The rationale behind the blueprint concocted in the meeting was that rock stars were popular icons worshipped by the fans and were promoting drug use by the copycat effect. The plan was the brainchild of Willie, who, needless to say, did not get along with cats.

In the case of synthetic drugs such as acid and speed, which are odorless and thus undetectable by Willie and his colleagues in the pack of sniffing dogs, Willie deemed necessary to conduct strip searches on the suspects, including, of course, going through their most intimate body parts -- under Pilcher's close personal scrutiny -- just to make sure they were not hiding drugs in there. According to Willie's logic, this slight infringement on individual rights was a small price to pay for the benefits of launching an all-out war to root out drugs from Britain. It has to be mentioned that Willie came up with this brilliant idea while high on sniffing the tails of the other gung-ho canine cops.

About this time, the newspaper 'The Daily Mirror' was waging a campaign against rock stars, lashing out at them for the moral ''decadence'' associated to the explosive mix of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll that the publication attributed to them. The Sergeant began to toy with the notion that by terrorizing these celebrities he would become a celebrity in his own right and there would be Pilcher's groupies and fan clubs. To attain his goals, the Sergeant started out by keeping the rock community under strict surveillance through a full network of snitches. Next he equipped his squad with some battering rams so as to pound the doors of the places of those attempting to resist his authority.

As a warm-up, the squad targeted the singer Donovan -- of ''Mellow Yellow'' fame --, who was considered to pose a serious menace to civilized life in Britain. The Sergeant busted him on drug charges. Willie was rewarded by Pilcher for being the squad's lethal weapon during the raid. The Sergeant gave his pet a pat on the back and Willie reacted by wiggling his fluffy tail. No doubt that there was a chemistry sizzle that never fizzled between Pilcher and Willie. The love between these two characters got as far as a feeling between a man and a dog can get. Since Donovan's arrest got a lot of press attention and TV exposure, Pilcher thought that this media coverage had turned him (Pilcher) into the ultimate celebrity. When he learned that Rolling Stone Keith Richards was planning on throwing a wild party at Redlands, Keith's house in West Sussex, and he (Pilcher) was not on the list of celebrities invited to the party, the Sergeant sent Willie to paw deliver a note to Richards demanding his (Pilcher's) inclusion on the list on the grounds that the Sergeant had already achieved celebrity status and wanted to be surrounded by kinky party-girls. Keith told Pilcher through Willie to bug off. Upon being communicated Richards' response, Pilcher got pissed off and decided to make it to the party anyway by carrying out Operation Rolling Shield and Operation Rolling Storm, designed to bring about havoc to the Rolling Stones. Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War was nothing compared to Operation Rolling Storm.

Operation Rolling Shield started off when the Sergeant threw on the floor some bones with the pictures of the Rolling Stones glued to them so that Willie could sharpen his fangs with them. It appeared that Pilcher was trying to condition the fierce Willie in a stimulus-response pattern similar to that of Dr. Pavlov and his dog.

In February, 1967, tipped off by the magazine 'The News of the World' that the party was reaching its climax, the police proceeded with Operation Rolling Storm by besieging Richards' house right after Beatle George Harrison had left the premises. This was because Pilcher had a special operation in store for George, operation that will put him (Pilcher) again in the intense spotlight, therefore increasing his chances of being on the guest list of upcoming celebrity parties.

Minutes later, Sergeant Pilcher's Lonely Heart Club Band's onslaught bore fruit as they, led by their mad attack-dog Willie, were able to storm Richards' residence while the stereo was playing the awesome sounds of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band, which had become the police squad's official anthem. Pilcher's hint of unleashing the foam- drooling and rabid-looking Willie -- who had built a solid reputation of going directly for the jugular -- was enough to persuade the Rolling Stones to surrender unconditionally given that they were not too happy with the prospect of having Willie's muzzle in their throats. Willie's piercing teeth probably were no good for their vocal cords. The cops found a completely naked young woman (enticingly referred to in press reports as the carpeted ''Miss X'') under a fur rug and allegedly high on pot, and a Canadian drug dealer named David Scheidermann in possession of marijuana.

At the trial -- which lasted June 27 through June 29, 1967, at West Sussex Quarter Sessions -- the judge directed the jury to disregard Marianne Faithful's (Baroness Erisso's daughter) evidence that she had not been smoking pot at the time. In the courtroom, Richards denounced Scheidermann -- who had mysteriously vanished in the haze after the strike -- as an informant planted in order to entrap the Rolling Stones. Keith was sentenced to twelve months in prison plus 500 pound costs for the crime of having been the host of the party. Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser were convicted of possession of pep pills legally bought in Italy. Mick got condemned to be more time in jail than Fraser because the Rolling Stone was a popular idol while Fraser was considered to be an ''anonymous young man.''

Pilcher was disappointed with the result of his paramilitary offensive against Redlands. He had worked so hard and only two Rolling Stones had fallen prey to the Sergeant's determination. It was outrageous that the remainding three official Rolling Stones were able to walk away scot-free. Willie, hell-bent on getting them with a vengeance, thought that it was quite obvious that Brian Jones (guitar), Charlie Watts (drums) and Bill Wyman (bass) were part of a criminal conspiracy since they were members of the rock band too. The Sergeant got a partial satisfacion when Brian was apprehended for drug possession the very same day as Jagger and Richards' case court appearance. During Operation Rolling Storm, Willie had managed to retain Jones' scent in the back of his mind and, later on, when Pilcher put him on the lose, lo and behold, the dog used this piece of information to hunt Brian down.

After this, Willie, who was the brainpower behind the police drug squad, mapped out the next steps to keep his master Pilcher in the limelight. Willie decided that the time had come for including all the Beatles on the police's hit list. The final showdown between Sergeant Pilcher's Lonely Heart Club Band and the Fab Four was planned to occur by the police taking on the Beatles one at a time instead of the group altogether.

Next year, John Lennon got word from Don Shorter that Pilcher was out to get John and Yoko Ono, and that a police raid in the flat where the couple lived was imminent. Yes, indeed, you know, three weeks after John received the warning from Shorter, Sergeant Pilcher's Lonely Heart Club Band, again led by their mascot Willie, ransacked in the morning of October 18 the flat at 34 Montague Square, London W.1., owned by Ringo Starr but the temporary home of John and Yoko, who was pregnated at the time. The forty-strong police force overpowered John and Yoko, and claimed to have discovered 219 grains of cannabis resin in the ensuing search. After being taken into detention to the Marylebone Lane Police Station, the artists were also charged with obstructing the police in carrying out the search warrant.

For a short while John and Yoko stayed at their lawyer's, Nicholas Cowan, house located at 35 Redcliffe Road, West Brompton, London, and on the next day, at Marylebone Magistrates' Court, they were released on bail until their court hearing date slated for November 28, 1968. Hours after having been set free, Yoko had to be rushed to Queen Charlotte's Maternity Hospital, where the doctors confirmed that she had suffered a miscarriage. Some observers blamed Pilcher and his timing of his operation for this mishap.

On November 28, John pled guilty to possession of cannabis resin and was fined 150-pound-plus-20-guinea costs but both John and Yoko were found not guilty of obstructing the police. This conviction gave John trouble when he applied for visas to travel to other countries and later for permanent residence in the US. In an interview with Andy Peoples on a syndicated broadcast by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) two days before the Beatle's death, John explained the situation. According to his account, the previous resident, Jimi Hendrix, had left piles of drugs in the flat. When he found out that Pilcher was coming after him, John contended that he thoroughly and painstakingly cleaned up the premises of the stacks of drugs. The Beatle consequently raised the suspicion that the cops might had planted the cannabis resin in the flat.

John said that the thing was set up by Pilcher, who had called the press for some photos ops at the flat. In fact, reporters from the newspapers 'The Daily Express' and 'The Daily Mail' were there before the cops came. John asserted that the only reason he had pled guilty was because he thought that otherwise the British government would had deported Yoko since at that point they were not married yet. After John's plea, a police officer -- probably Pilcher himself -- told him, ''Well, we've got it now. So it's nothing personal ...'' The picture on the back of the jacket of the album 'Unfinished Music No. 2 -- Life with the Lions' is John and Yoko being dragged out of the police station. It is from a newspaper photograph. The next Beatle on Pilcher's blacklist was George Harrison. The Sergeant read in the press that Paul McCartney was getting married to Linda Eastman at Saint John's Wood Roman Catholic church on March 12, 1969. Pilcher believed that Paul's wedding would be a big headline- grabbing event and felt compelled to overshadow it by staging yet another highly publicized assault that same day in the morning. He thought that his visit to the Harrisons' estate, Kinfauns, located in Esher, south of London, would make banner headlines on the newspapers' front pages. This time the Sergeant tried to avoid the bum rap he had received for his handling of the John and Yoko case and chose to sweep the Harrisons' home while the couple were not there. George and Patti Boyd were nabbed by Sergeant Pilcher's Lonely Heart Club Band and charged with possession of marijuana after the Beatle and his wife had attended the 'Piscis' party thrown by Rory McEwen. Pilcher gave Willie a high five and a resonant ''Yes!'' for the accomplishment of snagging the couple.

An expert in this period, writing under the pen name of Mr. Mustard, labels Pilcher the consummate ''scam artist'' in his holy war to stamp out drugs from Britain. According to Mr. Mustard, George did have a lot of pot but not where the cops maintained to have found it. This makes sense since the Beatle lived fearing that Pilcher's troops could burst into his bedroom anytime -- even in the wee hours of the morning -- looking for drugs under the mattress or something. The lad probably kept his stash of pot elsewhere.

Anyway, on March 19, 1969, George and Patti left a court in Walton- on-Thames and paid a 500 pound fine for possession of drugs.

So far, the scoreboard read two Fabs down and two more to go: Paul McCartney and Ringo, whose hopes of avoiding being caught in Pilcher's dragnet were on life support at this point.

Unfortunately, for Pilcher's ambition of becoming Britain's poster boy, his reign of terror was shortcircuited as he set out to go to Paul's house on a search-and-destroy mission. As it was stated in Part 3 of the Beatles Anthology TV series, it was discovered that the Sergeant had committed perjury in court. Pilcher was sentenced to serve four years in prison for this crime. There were mixed reactions to this outcome. On the one hand, Ringo -- who had been scheduled by Pilcher to be the last Boy overwhelmed by his juggernaut -- exhaled a sigh of relief when he heard that the Sergeant had been put out of business. By the way, the order on the list was determined by Pilcher's perception of the prominence of each Beatle's drug use going from the most to the least. On the other hand, Willie got a little frustrated. He would had wanted to take advantage of Sergeant Pilcher's Lonely Heart Club Band's raid on Paul's house to hit on Martha, Paul's female sheepdog. Willie got interested in Martha after he listened to Paul's song ''Martha My Dear,'' included in the 'White Album.' Moreover, Willie expected Paul to write a song for him too.

It is totally ironic that the Sergeant wound up spending much more time incarcerated than all his victims combined. The bright side of Pilcher's career was that he might had indirectly promoted tours abroad by British rock bands, motivated by their desire to escape the Sergeant's zealotry in his crusade to eradicate the famed herbal jazz cigarrettes from Britain.


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