LONDON – R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck told a jury Wednesday he had no recollection of his alleged drunken behavior during a trans-Atlantic flight. Prosecutors said he overturned a breakfast cart and scuffled with crew members.
Buck, 45, said one of his last memories of the British Airways flight from Seattle to London last April was downing a sleeping pill with a glass of wine.
"I recall ... there were bright lights overhead," said Buck, as he described waking up in a police cell at London's Heathrow Airport.
"I wasn't really awake. I had this fear I had had a heart attack and was in a weird hospital in Disneyland. I don't mean I was seeing characters or anything like that. I was just struggling to get conscious," he added.
Buck, who lives in Seattle, denies charges of being drunk on an aircraft, assault and damaging British Airways crockery. He is being tried at Isleworth Crown Court in west London.
Prosecutors say Buck, who had been traveling to Britain to promote the Georgia band's album, "Reveal," drank about 15 glasses of wine in the first three hours of the flight. They say he became increasingly unruly, staggered up the aisle of the Boeing 747 and at one point got stuck between two seats.
As his behavior worsened, prosecutors say Buck mistook a service cart for a CD player and tussled with crew members, covering them with yogurt.
The guitarist, who insists he only had three glasses of wine, told the court he was horrified when he realized he was in custody.
"It was like something out of a novel. I can't begin to describe the feelings I had," he added.
Buck said although he could not remember having his fingerprints taken, he could recall looking at the inked tips afterward and experiencing a sense of "terror."
He said he was overcome with shame when he was told of his alleged actions. "To me it was just incomprehensible. ... I have never been in trouble before. ... I will go miles away to avoid confrontation. I really don't like it," he told the jury.
Capt. Tom Payne said he was so concerned by the rock star's conduct he called a flight deck crisis meeting to discuss what to do.
"I had a conversation with the crew to decide the best course of events at that time, taking into account where we were over the ocean and how long we had to fly," Payne said.
"We could divert to the nearest airport, drop him off or press on and call the police. I decided to press on."
As the guitarist's behavior deteriorated, Payne said he was forced to present Buck with a so-called "yellow card," a written warning to behave.
"But when I served the document, he took it, tore it into pieces and dropped them on the floor," he said.
Payne said he had not been able to understand a word of the star's "slurred" speech.
The trial continues Thursday.