Daily Sketch (Wednesday, September 23, 1964)

Two members of the Liverpool pop group the Takers were in an East Berlin cell tonight, accused by Communist police of currency smuggling.

The two: Chris Huston, 21 year old lead guitar, and Brian Jones, 23, the group’s saxophonist.

The arrest came when the group, after a week of appearances in West Germany, went on a sightseeing tour of East Berlin.

With Chris Huston and Brian Jones were Geoff Nugent, 21, Jackie Lomax, 19, and drummer ‘Bugs’ Pemberton, 19.

At Checkpoint Charlie they were questioned by East German police for half-an-hour. Then Chris and Brian were detained – and the other three ordered back to the Western sector. There Geoff Nugent and ‘Bugs’ Pemberton told what happened…

Said Geoff: “Chris and Brian were taken into a little room at the checkpoint and the door closed behind them. The guards told us they had committed a very serious offence – bringing East German currency in from West Berlin. We didn’t want to leave the checkpoint without them and kicked up a fuss with the guards.

But they became very angry and threatened to arrest us unless we left.”

Said ‘Bugs’: “We were in a nightclub in West Berlin last night when we got talking to a couple of Germans. We told them we were going to East Berlin today and they offered us a lot of East German currency, cheap, to take with us. Chris and Brian bought about 200 East German Marks for 50 West German Marks. The men said it was alright and not to worry. They said it was no use to them because they couldn’t go the East Berlin anymore.”

As soon as the three arrived back the group’s manager, Ralph Webster, was called from his hotel. He went by taxi to the checkpoint to appeal to the guards.

But tonight he said: “I got nowhere with them. Then I went to the British Consulate in West Berlin, but they said nothing could be done because we have no diplomatic relations with East Germany.

Mr. Webster was told that the last case of this kind a Briton was held in an East Berlin cell for a week. Chris Huston’s home is in Rivington Road, Wallasey, Cheshire. Brian Jones lives in a Wallasey flat.

The group was due back in Britain today to launch their latest record, its title:

“If You Don’t Come Back”
Other headlines in the British newspapers told the same story:

Daily Mail (Wednesday, September 23, 1964)

Berlin Reds Hold Two Of The Takers

The Sun (Wednesday, September 23, 1964)

Two Takers Held By Berlin Reds

Daily Express (Wednesday, September 23, 1964)

Pop Pair are Held By Reds
Two members of the British pop group The Takers were held tonight by East German police at the Berlin Wall.

They had bought some East German money from a friendly German while sightseeing in the Russian sector of the city. And THAT made it ‘hot’ money. For the Communists strictly forbid the importing or exporting of their money across the wall. The two are guitarist Chris Huston, 21, and 23 year old Brian Jones, a sax player…

Yes, we really get you arrested at Checkpoint Charlie to publicize our Pye Records release of “If You Don’t Come Back”, and what a great experience it was!

You see, our manager had a friend, that he’d gone to school with, who worked for the International press agency, Reuters. He arranged to get hold of some East German currency, which was illegal to have in the West. It was decided that Brian Jones, our sax player, and I, being the two oldest in the group, would undertake the mission. The others would play an important supporting role.

The general idea was that we would cause a small but spirited commotion at the East German checkpoint because were taking in currency that was not supposed to be taken out of the Soviet Bloc country. Well, all that went well except that we didn’t anticipate just how upset the communists would with get with us.

The initial part of the scheme went as planned: we got ourselves ‘caught’, having put the East German currency, along with all our other money (including Monopoly money!), in our passports. When we hand over the passports the money fell out and we were ‘caught’! Brian and I were placed behind the counter, in the East German Passport Control trailer, guarded by two East German soldiers. The rest of the group were the other side of the counter shouting “Let our mates go, you commie thugs!” and other assorted insults. This really made the East German soldiers very angry and the rest of the guys were put in a half-track military vehicle and dropped off, back in the International Sector. From there, they high-tailed it back to the hotel to tell our manager the good news of our ‘capture.

Meanwhile, we were taken, under guard, to a military compound in East Berlin somewhere. We were put in a big room, that had one of those moveable room-dividers, and there we sat for several hours to meditate on our crime, no doubt. Suddenly, the door opened and soldiers carrying tables and chairs set up an ad hoc courtroom. Officers filed in and were ushered to two centrally positioned chairs. We were told that we were being charged with the crime of currency smuggling, a very serious offense in that part of the world. We were asked our names, addresses and the numbers on our passports (Now who the hell knows their passport numbers?)

The fun started when we were asked if we belonged to any political organizations. Fearlessly, I answered, the Salvation Army. Some whispered talk between the officers behind the table and soldiers standing behind me resulted in the back of the chair that I was sitting in being struck with a rifle butt. It scared the shit out of me, which was obviously the desired intent. The festivities came to an end shortly thereafter and now meek as lambs, we left to while the night away, sitting in the room, with a couple of guards outside the door. We were fed a couple of times, Bratwürst and coffee, and allowed to use the bathroom.

Next morning, everybody filed back in to tell us that we had, indeed, been found guilty of currency smuggling and had two options: be sentenced to jail or be deported after forfeiting all currency, of all denominations, that we had on us. This was a real, but acceptable drag, as I had around $2,000 worth of West German and English currency, having all my savings after the stint at the Star Club. They gave us an hour alone to decide! Hell, we didn’t need a minute – we wanted to get out of there, as fast as possible, but the added hour was just an extra ‘pay-back’ for our indiscretions.

What we didn’t know was that they had received an urgent communiqué, from the British Embassy or somewhere, saying that they believed that two British youths were being held on trumped up smuggling charges. They (the Commies) had already figured this out and their determination to make us pay for our mistake and for making fun of them was the reason for our overnight stay.

An hour or so later, we were put back in a military half-track with two escort cars and driven ceremoniously back the checkpoint and delivered to the International Sector. It was incredible to see all the soldiers and press turned out there. Pathé News type cameras were set up on the roofs of checkpoint Charlie, Western European passport control trailers. We came back to a heroes welcome! We were taken to nice hotel, nicer than the one we’d been staying at, and debriefed, as the official jargon goes, for a couple of hours by people from the embassy. They wanted to know what had caused the incident, what we were asked, what we told the East Germans and if we had been hurt or anything?

Next day, we were on a plane back to London, via Amsterdam, to find our pictures on the front page of every newspaper and all trimmings that such international notoriety can bring. Upon arriving at Heathrow we were asked to stay on the plane until all the other passengers had disembarked and then we escorted down the steps (no Jet ways back then) and into a waiting limousine that took us to be interviewed, yet again.

Not a bad bit of business, if I say so myself…

© 2004 Christopher Huston