Pop stars and fast cars. A recipe for trouble?

2 replies [Last post]
Chris Martin
Joined: 2011-08-20

In his recent blog Martin Buckley brought up the subject of Keith Richards and his accident in a Mercedes in 1969 and asked which model Mercedes it might have been,  This generated some further discussion, however as my library consists of not only car related stuff and C&SC mag's I was able to check on other versions of the story.

On page 269 of 'Life' Keith says: "I watched that thing (the car) roll over in slow motion three times..." which is a common enough phenomenon when the adrenalin hits.

Bill Wyman's account in 'Rolling With The Stones' reads; "In the early hours of 7 June, on their way home to Redlands from Olympic, Keith and Anita crashed on a bend of the A286 near Chichester, eight miles from Redlands. The Mercedes was later written off, but Keith escaped unhurt. Anita broke her collarbone and was taken to the aptly named St Richard's hospital in Chichester."

A more lurid account from 'Old Gods Almost Dead' by Stephen Davis states; "One night she and Keith were driving down to Redlands at top speed in a huge Mercedes Keith had bought. Supposedly a Nazi staff car earlier in it's life, it had already been smashed and repaired once during Keith's brief ownership since he liked to drive after a snort of heroin and then would nod off at the wheel. He did it again that night. The speeding car missed the turn at a roundabout, hit the curb, skidded off the road and down an embankment. Covered in blood and glass, Keith hid the dope, dealt with the police, and later got Anita to hospital, where they found her collarbone broken. Soon Keith was back at the wheel of the Blue Lena."

For those under fifty and probably not familiar with Stones lore, Anita is actress and long-term partner Anita Pallenberg, Olympic refers to their preferred recording studio in Barnes, south west London, and Redlands is the name of Keith's home at West Wittering in Sussex.

Coincidentally June 7th was also the day I attended my first major rock concert, when Blind Faith played Hyde Park and I seem to remember it was a fine day, so rain probably played no part in the accident.
(My second, even bigger rock show would be at the same place a month later for the Stones!)

If the car in question was in fact built in 1947 it could not then have been a "Nazi staff car" if it was built two years after the war had ended. Also, the 170V was not a particularly high performance car of the type favoured by sixties pop stars, and it is quite possible in the context that Keith was having a joke himself, and it was actually a later model, but whatever the car, if one falls asleep at the wheel and hits roundabouts or curbs then yes it would be quite possible to lose either steering, brakes or both.

The Blue Lena Bentley S3 seems to have survived several accidents, and even a spell as the Pink Lena following a repaint in the seventies, but it seems, it was later painted blue again. Valve Bounce suggested further investigation, and for Martin's next mission; let's have the Blue Lena featured in C&SC - the whole story.

On the subject of pop stars and accidents, a couple of years later George Harrison was driving near his home in Henley late one night, also in a Mercedes, and also ran over a roundabout, during an electrical black-out. He was discharged from hospital with stitches to a head wound, but Patti came off worse with broken ribs and concussion. I believe this was his white Mercedes 600; at that time they kept a pair of the 600 Pullman limo's at Savile Row, but George drove himself in one of the swb models.

Anyway I hope Martin doesn't mind but as the subject of pop stars and their cars should throw up many more tales I am copying this reply over to a new thread on the forum.

Chris M.


James Elliott
James Elliott's picture
Joined: 2011-03-11

Pop stars and fast cars. A recipe for trouble?

Not on their own, no. There is always a third element thrown in (drugs or booze) and that's where the trouble starts.

We had a few qualms when we ran the story about Ginger Baker and his Jensens a while back because, even though it was amusing in many ways, it did feel a bit like we were glorifying his recklessness and irresponsibility.

Then again, if that article demonstrated anything then it was that pop stars with interesting leisure pursuits are precisely the people who shouldn't be let loose in high-powered cars.

Similarly, we would be deluded if we ignored the fact that, just like every footballer's minor motoring mishap today, pop star incidents received a lot more media coverage a) because of their status and fame and b) because of the value of the car they tended to be trashing, and Joe Public doing the same simply wasn't news.

Maybe that has created a false, elevated impression that all rock stars spend all their time driving like idiots and crashing, but on the other hand I never read about Cliff Richard barrel-rolling a car because he was stoned out of his gourd.

Chris Martin
Joined: 2011-08-20

Not quite James.

50 / 50 on that theory. Sure there has been an element of misbehaviour with some suspects, but there is also just the plain danger of youngsters with too much money, who maybe passed their test in a Nissan Micra suddenly finding they have the dosh for a Zonda.

Ok, extreme case, but you see what I mean. Premier league footlballers are probably today's pop stars but the result is the same. Give a 20 year old from that background a 500+hp supercar and what do you expect to happen?

Anyway, luckily here in my Australian exile I do not get daily news reports of Wayne Rooney's latest indiscretion, and neither know nor care, but that story of the Beatles telling Ringo to ditch the Facel II before he hurt himself was probably true.

The blog Martin posted regarding Keith Richards did support your theory of illegal substances being involved, and Keith Moon had a bad reputation for his ability to park your Rolls, likewise Ginger Baker and his Range Rover or his Jensen. Further, Marc Bolan bought it in a Mini, AND he wasn't even driving!

Nevertheless inexperienced youngsters who have overdosed on sudden wealth (whether strictly from the world of showbiz, or otherwise) can be a recipe for trouble.

Chris M.