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Fact #111790


Short story:

Eric Clapton of The Cream is busted in Buffalo Springfield member Stephen Stills' home in Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles, California, USA.

Full article:

Notorious fashion victim Eric Clapton can't have been amused to find himself wearing baggy prison-issue denims as he was bundled unceremoniously towards his cell, but at least the LAPD officers had allowed him to retain his stylish pink boots.

Just a few hours earlier, on the evening of 20 March, Eric had been jamming the night away at an uninhibited rock'n'roll soiree in the Topanga Canyon home of Buffalo Springfield's Stephen Stills. Cream were in California completing an American tour, and the Springfield were in the studios mixing their forthcoming single, Uno Mundo. With Clapton being one of Stills' guitar heroes, it was natural that the pair should fall together and repair to the house Stills occupied with his girlfriend Susan Hafey.

To the annoyance of local residents, Buffalo Springfield had been rehearsing in the secluded woodland house for several days. Complaints about late-night noise levels had already been made to Susan Hafey, and, on the night of Clapton's visit, at least one of those long-suffering neighbours phoned the police and complained about a 'noisy party'. With Springfield bass-player Bruce Palmer having been busted for the umpteenth time just a few days earlier, the police were more than happy to have an opportunity to check out exactly what was fuelling their revelry.

Towards ten that evening, shortly after Springfield drummer Dewey Martin had left the party, a patrol car containing two deputy sheriffs wound its way up the canyon towards 1174 Old Topanga Canyon Road. Although the house was set some way back into the trees, the racket was unmistakeable. It was about 10:15 when deputies Andrew Yobuck and Oscar Lowry rapped on the door. A few moments passed before the door opened, at which point, according to Yobuck, "the marijuana smoke just rolled out".

Inside, all hell was breaking loose. Stephen Stills was making an undignified exit through a bedroom window. A rather more clear-headed road manager, Chris Sarns, grabbed the dope stash and headed for the toilet. "The cops were coming in everywhere," remembers Springfields' rhythm guitarist Richie Furay. "They just swarmed in like a SWAT team." Despite his quick thinking, Sarns was apprehended in the act of flushing away the goodies, and the fourteen people remaining in the house were arrested on a charge of "being at a place where it is suspected marijuana was being used".

Down at the LA County Jail, says Furay, "We went through the whole routine of processing which was ugly - spraying us down, delousing us, getting our clothes and being taken to our cells." In Neil Young's case, this alarming and degrading procedure brought on an epileptic fit. It was at this point that Clapton, by far the biggest celebrity caught in the net, was separated from the others. "I don't know what happened to Eric," says Furay.

Stills, meanwhile, had made his way to Chris Sarn's house, from where he had been able to contact Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys who, in turn, had alerted lawyers and management for the band. Bail was set at the standard $1250 per person and, after an uncomfortable night in the cells, everyone was released. At a hearing the following month, all concerned pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace, the dope charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and small fines were imposed.

In itself, the incident made for a juicy but not obviously significant news item. It provoked a day of headlines in the Los Angeles press and then vanished as quickly as had come. But the bust proved to be the end of the line for Buffalo Springfield. Young had been threatening to leave for some while, Palmer had recently been deported, Stills had solo projects in mind and the Topanga incident crystallised everybody's feelings. Two Springfield gigs that weekend at the Kaleidoscope were cancelled, and it was agreed that they would officially bring down the curtain in early May.

But back in LA County Jail, exactly what had happened to Eric? As if the dodgy prison-issue denims weren't bad enough, when he was separated from the others, Clapton had found himself banged up with an intimidating trio of hardline Black Panthers. Over the course of the night, England's guitar God expended considerable time and energy convincing them that he was a bluesman with a deep, abiding love and respect for black music. And, under the circumstances, he must have found himself wondering if perhaps those pink boots weren't such a hot item after all.
(Feature by Johnny Black, Time Machine, Mojo Magazine)
Eric Clapton : I once spent the night in jail in America. I was busted for being in a place where smoke was being used. It was with Buffalo Springfield and they all got done.

Linda Stevens (friend of Buffalo Springfield) : They were partyin