It was 35 years ago today (January 16th, 1980) that Paul McCartney was arrested in Tokyo, Japan for bringing 7.7 ounces of marijuana into the country. Fans were stunned at McCartney’s action seeing as how he had lobbied so hard to be granted a work visa to perform in Japan after Wings was turned away in 1975 due to his previous drug busts. McCartney made no effort to conceal the large plastic bag of pot; instead he simply placed it among his clothes in his suitcase.
Wings‘ 11 concerts — which were to be the second leg of a proposed world tour — were quickly canceled. McCartney, who was facing a seven-year prison sentence, was known in the detention center as “Prisoner Number 22” and spent his time in his eight-by-four cell exercising and reading science fiction books brought to him by wife Linda McCartney. Rather than accept special treatment, McCartney opted to bathe with the fellow prisoners during his nine-day stay behind bars.
George Harrison was the only former Beatle to formally reach out to the McCartney’s during the ordeal, sending an international telegram to the Hotel Okura for Paul and Linda stating: “Thinking of you all with love. Keep your spirits high. Nice to have you back home again soon. God bless. Love, George and Olivia.”
According to several legends John Lennon and Yoko Ono played a crucial role in the McCartney bust and release. According to one scenario, while heading West through New York City, McCartney called Lennon to share some of this “dynamite weed” he’d scored. Lennon blew McCartney off, but infuriated that the McCartney’s would be staying in the Presidential Suite at the Hotel Okura — where the Lennon’s stayed each summer — thus ruining their “hotel karma,” he complained to Yoko. According to several Lennon insiders, Yoko used her influence to tip off the customs department to the contents of McCartney’s suitcase. Others believe that it was Yoko who pulled strings in getting McCartney off the hook and deported — rather than jailed for the full seven-year term he faced for trafficking. McCartney was released from jail and immediately deported on January 25th, 198o.
McCartney on his 10 days in a Japanese jail: