Julie’s Been Working For the Drug Squad

Posted on February 2, 2012

Shelagh Fogarty on Radio 5 has really been getting under my skin lately, so as a consequence I have drifted on to having Radio 4 on in the background more and more lately, finding many really good documentaries and other items of interest in the process.

Even hearing how to make the perfect cup cake on Woman’s Hour is better than the self righteous middle class opinions of Shelagh Fogarty interviewing some toff who decided it was a good idea to sail his yacht in to the territory of Somali pirates, and I must confess I quite like the poorly acted plays and dramas as well.

So imagine how taken aback I was yesterday when I heard “Julie’s Been Working for the Drug Squad” by The Clash suddenly blasting from my laptop speakers. At first, I thought that I had accidentally pressed the wrong key and gone on to Itunes on my computer, but no, it was actually being played on radio 4!?

“Julie’s Been Working for the Drug Squad” is actually one of my least favorite songs by The Clash who conversely, happen to be one of my favorite bands. As a song, it all sounds a bit poppy and puerile in my humble opinion, in fact so much so that I have barely ever taken any notice of lyrics during 25 years it has featured in my record/cd/iPod collections.

However, hearing a little known punk song on Radio 4 is quite a unique experience, so I turned the volume up to try to find out what it was all about, and in the process I listened to a documentary on a subject I knew absolutely nothing about, but what a brilliant story it turned out to be.

I always thought that this song was a fictional number hurriedly penned by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones about a  friend getting busted for pedaling drugs, probably LSD considering the first line of the song features the words “Lucy in the Sky” a reference no doubt to the Beatles song Lucy in The Sky with Diamonds.

Little did I know the song was about Operation Julie (named after Police Sergeant Julie Taylor)  a drugs bust of biblical proportions that was carried out not in Miami, not in Amsterdam, not in Thailand, not even in London, but in a tiny village in the middle of Wales!!

This was an operation involving 28 under cover officers from across the country posing as hippies to infiltrate the gang that included the founder members, David Solomon, a psychedelic revolutionary author, and Richard Kemp, a chemist, who had first successfully synthesized LSD in 1969.

This was a huge organisation, with networks across the globe and hundreds of thousands of pounds stashed in Swiss bank accounts. Police raided 87 homes across England and Wales with over 120 arrests and at a stroke 90% (£6.5 million street value) of the LSD market had been wiped out, causing a price rise from £1 to £5 per tab in 1977. Wikipedia will tell you anything else you need know about facts and figures, of which there are many.

From Copper to Hippie-A Before and After Picture of a Policeman Who Went Undercover

I have never taken LSD (magic mushrooms did it for me) but research shows that it is non-addictive, is not known to cause brain damage, and has extremely low toxic levels, so where the problem lies with it, I am not too sure; it sounds good fun from what I have read.

Even more interestingly in 1950’s America before the Hippy era, as a prescribed drug it had a 50% per cent success rate in curing alcoholics, which compares pretty well to alcoholics anonymous who can only boast  around 10%. I wonder what the crime statistics relating to LSD are in comparison to alcohol abuse?

Surely a tab that brings out the creative and friendly nature in the human race is better than five pints of Stella and a punch in the face? After all, The Beatles were shit without it. Maybe it is a bit of my Mother’s hippy genes coming out of me, but thinking you can fly seems to be the main, albeit worrying danger of LSD, it is certainly not the menace to the rest of society that booze can often be.

Anyway, if you do bother reading up about Operation Julie and LSD (I really think you should you know) you will probably start coming to the same conclusion as me about this fascinating 1970’s drugs bust and soon start wondering why on earth no one has ever created the story in to what could potentially be an absolutely fantastic British film.

Then, if you scroll right to the bottom of the Wikipedia page you will see the following sentence….In December 2010, Welsh actor Matthew Rees bought the film rights to the book, Operation Julie: The World’s Greatest LSD Bust, by Lyn Ebenezer. It looks like some day soon, it will be a movie, one that could be, with the right producers, an absolute classic.

Legend has it that half the coppers were out of their faces for most of the time they were under cover, and many of them couldn’t stand the thought of going back in to a straight laced law abiding society and left the force. How funny is that?

For the record, I appreciate the  Clash song a bit more now, but I still don’t really like it, especially the line “You could have been a Physicist” surely it should say Chemist?

Anyway, such is the wonder of the Internet you can view the lyrics here or the actual song here and draw your only conclusions, but if you are new to The Clash, try the self titled first album or London Calling instead; they are far better. Avoid the last album called Cut the Crap at all costs, take the words Cut and The out of title and that sums it up nicely.

Radio 4, who’d of thought it….anyone know a good dealer? I have to try LSD just  the once, then write a blog whilst I am tripping.

I could be a genius, a 21st Century John Lennon perhaps?


8 Replies to "Julie's Been Working For the Drug Squad"

  • Richard
    February 2, 2012 (4:15 pm)

    Putting my Daily Mail reader head on Bob, there are no ‘Good’ drug dealers. Having said that, I do not read the Daily Mail anymore, so if you find one with LSD, let me know and we can fly off the SW coastal path!

  • Dave
    February 2, 2012 (4:59 pm)

    I think the late, great Bill Hicks said something similar “If you don’t think drugs have done good things for us, then take all of your records, tapes and CD’s and burn them.”

  • Nick
    February 2, 2012 (7:54 pm)

    Have to disagree with your view of Give em Enough Rope Bob. It was not as raw as the first but in my view much better. Obviously London Calling is in a class of its own but G e E R contains, in my view, some of their best work, including Stay Free a personal favourite and the anthemic I Fought The Law, which your readers should watch live on YouTube.

    • Bob Lethaby
      February 3, 2012 (1:48 pm)


      funny thing opinion, however, I have t o agree on Stay Free, probably my favorite Clash track as well. On my iPod listing “I Fought the Law” doesn’t come under “Give em Enough Rope” I am pretty sure it was an EP single along with White Man in Hammersmith Palais, though I could be wrong on that. I agree it is a great song but it only a cover version, Bobby Fuller sang the original. Drug Stabbing Time I find pretty dull and Tommy Gunn is average at best in my opinion as is Guns on the Roof. Maybe I will try it again one day, but I remain unconvinced after 25 years.

  • Sean OKeeffe
    February 3, 2012 (2:22 pm)

    I bought Give Em Enough Rope (Working Title “War and Pizza”) on the day of release and I Fought the Law isn’t on the UK version (it may well be on Foreign Imports). I was a bit disappointed in the album as it seemed a bit too poppy for my taste although Safe European Home rips along like a good ‘un. I think the production didn’t help when Bernie Rhodes (The Clash manager) employed Sandy Pearlman to produce the album. His claim to fame at the time was to have been the producer for Blue Oyster Cult, so it was a strange and unpopular decision at the time. The result was a smoother and perhaps Americanised production of the Clash, which probably was the idea.

  • Mick Noad
    February 10, 2012 (6:09 pm)


    I remember this story because of an ITV drama back in the 80s, I seem to recollect a large part of the story based in and around Newbury?

  • Bob Lethaby
    February 10, 2012 (6:37 pm)

    Probably correct Mick a the doc on Radio 4 said there was a lot of involvement with the Thames valley Police I guess with factories in London and Wales the M4 was pretty prominent.

  • Bob
    March 20, 2015 (10:51 pm)

    There was another song (might have been a B side) about Operation Julie. And ive been tryng to find it ever since. It starts with an old fashioned phone ringing. then you hear ` hey operator, get Julie on the line, tell Julie Im doing fine`
    Dose anyone know who song this ?

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