Yesterday’s Parties: How the LSE Funded the Stones & Tom Driberg Courted Mick Jagger

Marianne Faithfull met Mick Jagger sometime at the start of her music career in 1964-5, and he wrote her first hit, “As Tears Goes By” (though they didn’t become a couple until 1966). Jagger was just fresh out of the (Fabian) London School of Economics, having got a grant to study there in late 1961 and staying on through to 1963. This two-year period was the same period in which the Stones grew into a known act, soon after to become “the vanguard of British rock and roll.” Before this, Jagger had been working in a psychiatric institution called Bexley Hospital, in the summer of 1961, where, by his own account, he learned invaluable lessons about human psychology, as well as losing his virginity to a nurse!

According to one story, Jagger ran into old schoolmate Keith Richards “coincidentally” on a train platform in 1961, on his way to LSE, and the rest is history. There’s a well-known anecdote—I remember hearing it from my sister as a teenager—about how Jagger kept on studying to be an accountant even while the Stones were taking off just in case it should turn out to be a flash in the pan. What’s considerably less well-known (the only source so far is the singer Sally Stevens) is that, besides giving Jagger a grant, LSE also bankrolled the Stones in 1963. Stevens reports a conversation from that year with Derek Bell, Gertrude Stein’s nephew: “[D]uring their first year, students at LSE were allowed to write a grant proposal for project funding from LSE.  According to Derek, Mick had written a good grant proposal, using the Rolling Stones as his business model, and asking for financial aid to buy equipment so they could improve their stage sound.  . . . Mick got some grant money from LSE which he bought gear with, after which he gave LSE the salute, and took off for the sky.”

Apocrypha or not, the Stones became the biggest band in the world, after the Beatles, and Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull became one of the most famous couples in rock and roll. Jagger also came to stay with Faithfull at Norman Glaister’s sexual and social experimentation community, Braziers Park, after his release from prison in 1967. If more evidence is required of overlap between popular culture, intelligence operations, and politics, Mick Jagger was associated for a period with the Labor MP and alleged MI5 (and possibly KGB, and even Church of Scientology) informant, Tom Driberg. Driberg was impressed with Jagger, having been introduced to him in 1965, and tried unsuccessfully over a number of years to persuade him to take up active Labor politics. Driberg belonged to one or more of the same groups my grandfather Alec Horsley belonged to, fraternized with Richard Acland, and was even briefly earmarked by Aleister Crowley as his natural successor for world teacher! (Driberg accepted an invitation to lunch with Crowley for the first of several meetings between them, at one of which Crowley nominated Driberg as his successor as World Teacher. Nothing came of the proposal, though the two continued to meet.) Even more ominously, Driberg (who fully embraced the social and cultural freedoms of the ’60s) enjoyed a lengthy friendship with the Kray twins, and in July 1964, both he and Lord Boothby (a well-known Conservative peer) were alleged to have been importuning males at a dog track and to be involved with a criminal underworld scene. Driberg and Boothby attended parties at the Krays’ flat where “rough but compliant East End lads were served like so many canapés,” according to Driberg’s biographer Francis Wheen. These parties (allegedly called “Pink Ballets”) were also (allegedly) frequently attended by Jimmy Savile.

It’s funny how much we take for granted as star-gazing outsiders. Faithfull and Jagger’s proximity to and sympathy for His Satanic Majesty (e.g., Jimmy Savile) may have been “no more” than that they frequented the same parties. But what sort of “parties” are we talking about?

Full piece and larger ongoing “Occult Yorkshire” series here.

Jasun Horsley

Jasun Horsley

Existential detective. Liminalist author. Movie autist in chronic confessional mode. You only think you don't know who I am.
Jasun Horsley
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