When John Lennon almost arrested Brian Jones with a prank

At the start of the 1960s, escaping anything related to The Beatles was nearly impossible. Storming out of their native Liverpool, the Fab Four were known for their radio-friendly approach and John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s fantastic songwriting, cranking out one hit after another as if it were second nature. Though many things came quickly to the band once they became famous, one of Lennon’s constant problems revolved around his driving ability.

Throughout the first half of the ‘60s, Lennon didn’t have a proper driver’s license, never passing his test until he wrote the song ‘Ticket to Ride’ from Help. Though Lennon was used to being driven everywhere, chances are his insistence on not wearing his glasses played a significant role in why he never bothered to try to learn how to drive.

Once Lennon did get behind the wheel, though, he knew he didn’t want to have a traditional fancy car. Buying a Rolls Royce, Lennon gave it a paint job for the ages, coating the car in yellow and red paint to create a watercolour extravaganza, including various psychedelic flourishes to evoke the summer of love.

Around the same time Lennon was workshopping his new car, their rivals, The Rolling Stones, were going through their reinvention. After years of playing second fiddle to their Liverpool counterparts, Mick Jagger and Keth Richards had become a big enough group to compete with their partners, creating phenomenal singles like ‘Paint It Black’ and ‘Under My Thumb’. While Brian Jones was the instrumental engine behind the group, he almost was in danger of his life when he came across Lennon on the street.

Having spent some time working on the car, Lennon had fitted his Rolls Royce with everything he could think of, putting a record player in the back and managing to hook up a speaker to the top of the car, which he would use to yell at oncoming cars or mess with his friends. One such occasion came when he saw Jones in the car ahead of him.

As Paul McCartney recalled in The Beatles Anthology: “We were in John’s Rolls, and we’d just come from his house in Weybridge. Suddenly, we pulled up behind Brian Jones, sitting quietly in the back of his Austin Princess. John was a very funny guy, and he shouted through the microphone: ‘Brian Jones, do not move! You have been under surveillance — you are under arrest’”.

While the joke may have been in jest, it was no laughing matter for Jones. Prior to the stunt, Jones had been notorious for his former bandmates’ drug busts, making them the nastier counterpart to what the Fab Four were doing. Soon enough, Lennon would also find himself on the wrong side of the law, getting charged with marijuana possession in 1968, marking the only time he was ever charged with a crime.

Then again, Lennon’s driving skills did little to help his self-preservation. As the sessions for the group’s final album, Abbey Road, began, Lennon was in shambles after recovering from a massive car crash involving himself, Yoko Ono, and his son Julian Lennon while on vacation. Although Lennon walked away needing to get a few stitches, his days as a rough-and-tumble driver were about to become a thing of the past.

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