‘News of the World’ Screwed The Rolling Stones, Too
News of the World shut down last week amid revelations of predatory, corrupt journalism. Forty-four years before it was hacking into voicemails of missing kids and terror victims, it was using the same stunts on The Rolling Stones.
News of the World was one of the world’s oldest broadsheet newspapers, founded in 1843. Last week Rupert Murdoch shuttered the paper amid a giant phone-hacking scandal. The paper, it seemed, had crossed a line over which there was no return. It had hacked into the personal voicemails of a kidnapped girl and erased old messages, giving her parents hope that she was still alive and muddling the investigation. It had done the same with terror victims—all in pursuit of catchy headlines.
The scandal begged comparisons to the disingenuous way another of Murdoch’s media outlets—Fox News—distributes information as “news,” and prompted many to speculate whether the News of the World shutdown would ultimately topple the entire Murdoch empire.
The tabloid had long relied on celebrity gossip for its bread and butter, however, and in reality News of the World had been practicing this kind of predatory journalism long before Rupert Murdoch entered its equation.
Keith Richards’ autobiography “Life” tells the story of the first time the Rolling Stones got seriously busted for drugs. It was 1967, two years before Murdoch had acquired the paper.
Richards had thrown an acid party with a few guests at his house in the country. Toward the end of a long trip, still flying high, a banging on the door revealed a squadron of cops, equipped with search warrants:
“The bust was a collusion between the News of the World and the cops, but the shocking extent of the stitch-up, which reached to the judiciary, didn’t become apparent until the case came to court months later. Mick had threatened to sue the scandal rag for mixing him up with Brian Jones and describing him taking drugs in a nightclub. In return they wanted evidence against Mick, to defend themselves in court. It was Patrick, my Belgian chauffeur, who sold us out to the News of the World, who in turn tipped off the cops. …I’m paying this driver handsomely, and the gig’s the gig… But the News of the World got to him.”
Of course, the minute the cops had collected the evidence and got the bust on the books, News of the World was right there with the scoop and first to print with a juicy gossip news headline.
News of the World was engaging in scandal journalism long before the technology of phone hacking. How far back? Probably pretty close to its 1843 founding.
It’s worth noting, however, that of all the confessions and tidbits in over 500 pages of “Life,” Keith Richards’ memoir made the most headlines when it released for suggesting somewhere along the way that Mick Jagger has a small penis, but large testicles. There’s no denying audiences have a taste for scandal—papers wouldn’t sell it if we didn’t buy it.
Still, the phone hacking was going too far. And as for The Stones—this was The Rolling Stones. Is nothing sacred?
After invading private lives and causing serious harm, it must be a vindication for Keith and Mick to see this paper’s predatory greed forced to eat humble pie.