Monday, 7 November 2011

Spanish Tony: Up and down with the Rolling Stones - The missing chapter

It is a little known fact that when Spanish Tony Sanchez, Rolling Stone Keith Richards former drug dealer, was writing his memoirs for his book, Up and down with the Rolling Stones, certain stories had to be omitted due to the downright explosive nature of the material.

Now, for the first time, this missing chapter can be revealed in it's full glory!

Robert Fraser and Spanish Tony Sanchez
In the early days of my friendship with Robert Fraser he often spoke of ‘problems’ he was having in his personal life. He seemed reluctant to elaborate, but as I got to know him better it transpired that these problems related to his penchant for visiting London’s casinos.  He had built up an extremely large debt and, as a result, some very heavy villains were after his blood. When he first spoke to me about this I don’t think it was because he felt I could help him in anyway, more that he needed a shoulder to cry on. I did feel a little flattered that he would bring me into his confidence like this and so, as I knew a few people so to speak, I took it upon myself to see what I could do on his behalf. Little did I realise at the time how the events of the next few days would change and shape my life completely. Little more could I have possibly guessed at the price these villains would extract to release Fraser from their vice like grip.

In the sixties I was working in Soho as a croupier and I had managed to build up a large number of underworld contacts. It transpired that Robert had been frequenting a casino in Knightsbridge owned and operated by the infamous and notorious Kray Twins.

Everyone I spoke to tried to dissuade me from interfering. The twins had an awesome reputation for violence and were universally feared. Despite this, I turned up at their offices and demanded a meeting with Ronnie and Reggie to discuss how we might come to an arrangement over Fraser’s debts. Initially I was told that they were far too busy to speak to me, but when I implied that I would turn up at their house I was granted a brief audience with Ronnie Kray. 

I was shown into a small office where I found myself face to face with one half of the most fearsome criminal partnership London had ever seen. I think he was amazed at my front by turning up like this, but Ronnie proceeded to explain the situation to me and showed me a file containing a number of bounced cheques that Robert had given the casino to cover his debt. Robert, whilst an undoubted genius as a gallery owner was a hopeless business man and whilst he may have written the cheques in good faith, he was, in reality, only exacerbating the situation. The Krays thought Robert was playing games with them and, I believe, would have cheerfully strung him up by his testicles if they had met him in person. 

I must admit I was regretting becoming involved at this stage and it was at this point that I first heard Ronnie’s suggested solution. I was flabbergasted. It was simply beyond belief.

It transpired that Ronnie and Reggie had met the Beatles manager Brian Epstein at a gay club in London and had discovered that not only was Epstein gay, but that Epstein was also building up large debts at their casino. They also knew that Robert Fraser was good friends with the Beatles themselves.

The twins had decided that the Beatles cash cow was too big to ignore and that they would like to grab a slice of the action for themselves. The plan was simple. The twins would write off Fraser’s debt if he could deliver to them the Beatles on a platter. 

No suggestion was made to me as to how this was to be achieved exactly, only that I was to tell Fraser that this was the deal. I thought it was nuts and that Fraser would go crazy, but I could hardly tell the Krays this, so I took the suggestion back to Robert Fraser.

When I arrived at Fraser’s that evening it was clear that he had already smoked a few joints and the first thing he did was to offer me one and also some cocaine. It was clear that the stress of being pursued by the most ruthless villains in London was playing heavily on his mind. Fraser always spoke with a stutter, but it seemed to me to be even more pronounced than ever. However, when I told him the terms of the deal, rather than shout and scream as I expected he was actually rather calm and even more bizarrely, appeared to think that this may actually be possible.

I knew Fraser had a close relationship with Paul McCartney, but less so with John Lennon. I don’t think he knew George and Ringo at all well, but he was smart enough to appreciate where the power lay within the quartet, and that however close he was to McCartney he could not do this without involving Lennon.

McCartney at this time was the only one of the fab four still living in London. He had recently moved out of Jane Asher’s parent’s house and had set himself up in St John’s Wood. From here he was playing out the role of the hip young London man about town. He was incredibly keen not to be seen as this cheeky young Liverpool lad, the working class mop-top. He was aspiring to much greater things and was moving in London’s avant-garde circles. McCartney had helped to fund the launch of the International Times newspaper and the Indica Gallery and it was his association with the likes of John Dunbar and Barry Miles that had brought him into Robert Fraser’s orbit.

My role in this plot was to ensnare John Lennon and bring him within Fraser’s grasp. Robert would invite me regularly to his flat in Mayfair and I found myself smoking cannabis and snorting cocaine with a fashionable set including the likes of Keith Richards, Brian Jones and their friend John Lennon. Because I knew how to obtain most things, including illegal substances, I soon became a trusted associate and this was how I knew I could trap Lennon.

John was soon calling almost daily to see if I could get hold of dope for him. Lennon was rapidly becoming the archetypal junkie. Although he didn’t live in London, he had a huge pad in leafy Surrey, he was finding himself having to come in to town daily to score and when he needed to score it was my number he always rang first. Through his escalating drug problem I had a direct route to the most powerful, famous and influential pop star in the world. Through me, Robert Fraser also had access to Lennon, however, as Robert knew only too well, pop stars, particularly junkie pop stars are notoriously flaky and unreliable.

Therefore, it was decided the next step would be to introduce a minder. Someone to take care of John. Robert thought he knew who could provide this service.

Yoko Ono was an up and coming Japanese artist who Robert knew and who was hosting a show at the Indica gallery. Ono had been in London awhile, and contrary to the now perceived history, she knew precisely who the Beatles were and how influential they had become. She had taken to hanging around outside Paul McCartney’s house and had been in the habit of ringing his doorbell at all hours. Whether she was just keen to gain their patronage or she had a long standing plan to capture a Beatle for a husband I do not know. Certainly though, through her, Robert thought he had the ideal candidate to ‘look after’ John Lennon.

Robert arranged for John to attend Yoko’s exhibition before it officially opened and persuaded her that it would be prudent to pay John some special attention. I wasn’t present, however, whatever happened was clearly to John’s liking and the rest is history. More importantly though, Robert now had John in his pocket. He could control both his love life and his drug habit. Through this he could drip feed ideas to John in the same way he could do directly to Paul.

Robert was becoming increasingly influential in the eyes of Paul McCartney and this can be demonstrated perfectly by Robert’s influence over the cover of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP. The Beatles had initially commissioned the Dutch psychedelic artists The Fool to design the sleeve. Robert, however, managed to convince Paul that the design would date very quickly and that they should bring in an established artist to design the sleeve. Robert then arranged for the pop artist Peter Blake and his wife Jann Howarth to work on the design.

The sleeve they designed has become one of the most famous and internationally recognisable record covers of all time, a true icon of the 1960’s. The concept, as declared at the time, was that the Beatles had been asked to come up with a list of their heroes, of people they admired, to adorn the sleeve. Whilst this is partially true, what is not known is that the cover has a far deeper and more sinister meaning.

Robert had become friends with the American film-maker and occultist, Kenneth Anger. Indeed, Fraser often arranged viewings of Anger’s films at his flat. Anger had introduced both Robert and Paul to the works of his great hero, Aleister Crowley, the famous English occultist.

Anger, through his long time involvement with the occult had been initiated into a secret organisation of Crowley’s, known as the OTO, or Ordo Templi Orientis, or Order of the Temple of the East . This involvement in something so secretive and seemingly dangerous appealed hugely to not just Robert but also to Paul, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as well as Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg.

Accordingly, Anger, smelling like so many others the financial possibilities that the Beatles and the Stones could bring, was only too happy to initiate them all into Crowley’s club. McCartney and the Stones lapped it all up, whether it was the promise of obtaining secret knowledge, the opportunity to become greater lovers or simply the involvement in something so ‘naughty’, they all, to a greater or lesser extent, would be shaped by the occult for quite some time.

For the Beatles it was only really McCartney for whom this had any appeal. John, though interested in religion, only really worshipped himself and drugs at this stage. George Harrison was too involved in Eastern mysticism and Ringo was just too down to earth to get caught up.

For Paul and Robert, the involvement became overwhelming and accordingly they just could not resist inserting references to it in the album sleeve. Aside from the obvious inclusion of Crowley as one of their ‘heroes’, there are numerous references to freemasonry as well as hidden messages. Robert intended it to be a treasure map of clues for those who already had the knowledge to decipher. It was a statement to those in the know that said ‘we know what you know’.

Key to all of this was the fact that Brian Epstein had been hugely opposed to the sleeve in this form. Once he, and the bigwigs at EMI, had seen a draft version there was a co-ordinated attempt to get the Beatles to change their minds. The legal people at EMI had major reservations about the inclusion of these famous faces, but despite some last minute exclusions, the Beatles and Robert got their way. For Robert this was a hugely important shift of power, away from Epstein and towards him.

Some years later an interesting and totally unexpected by-product emerged from the coded references on the Pepper sleeve, as well as from the backwards recordings that the Beatles loved to include in their songs. A crazy story emerged that Paul had been killed in a car crash and that his place in the band had been taken by a look-a-like. The remaining Beatles and Epstein, so the story went, all colluded to keep the story from the fans, fearing that the ensuing outpouring of grief would be too much for some fans to take.

The story further stated that clues to Paul’s death could be found on the covers of various Beatles records starting with Sgt Pepper and that eerie messages proclaiming his death could be uncovered if you played certain records backwards.

Whilst there was absolutely no truth whatsoever in this story, whoever started it could never have known how they had inadvertently nearly stumbled upon two, similar, but unrelated incidents that had been carefully and skilfully removed from Beatle folklore.

As most fans know, the cover of Sgt Pepper depicts a funeral. In McCartney’s original imaginings this represented the spiritual death of the old ‘mop-top’ Beatles, to be replaced with the new, non-touring, psychedelic version. Indeed, waxworks of the Beatles from Madame Tussauds were used in the cover photo to visualise this idea.

What isn’t known though is that the cover is also a funeral for a friend. In a story strangely similar to the one that would emerge concerning Paul’s alleged death, a friend of his and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Tara Browne, had been killed in a car crash when he smashed his Lotus into the back of a lorry at high speed early one morning.

Tara was a wealthy young socialite, part of the Guinness brewing dynasty and a member of the so-called swinging London scene. He and Paul had been together that night and had been indulging in some LSD – not supplied by me I should add – when they decided to go out for a race in their respective motor cars. LSD and powerful machines should not be mixed and there was to be tragic consequences for young Tara and his female companion that evening, Suki Potier. 

Whether it was the drugs, the testosterone, or a combination of the two we will never know, but at one point on their manic race through the streets of London Tara completely failed to notice a red light ahead and ploughed into the back of the turning vehicle. Tara was killed instantly although Suki survived. Tara apparently swung the car towards him to save her.

The details of this incident have been widely reported, both at the time and since, but what has never come out is that McCartney was present at the crash. Paul, despite his drugged state, quickly realised that he could not be found at the scene and removed himself with great haste.

The event left huge psychological scars on McCartney and as part of his penance he included the funeral scene on the Pepper cover as his personal tribute and remembrance to his dead friend. The incident is further recalled in the lyrics of ‘a day in the life’, though the true seeds of their inclusion lie in the sinister events of 7th January 1967.

It was now some months since my initial meeting with the Kray twins and whilst they were, to a certain extent, prepared to play a waiting game, they were also not universally well known for their patience. I had been summoned once again and I had managed to persuade them that matters were moving on. I hoped I had managed to assuage their fears, however, I was still dispatched to deliver a strict message to Robert to deliver the goods quickly or face the inevitable consequences. 

Having delivered both the sinister warning and a consignment of pharmaceutical delights to Robert, I left him and his man-servant and lover Mohammed to go over to Pauls where they were to meet up with Keith, Mick, Brian Jones and Robert’s friend Christopher Gibbs. 

I thought no more of them and knowing they were otherwise engaged I returned home and spent the evening in bed with Marianne. It was the following day that I learnt that the group had decided to leave Pauls on a whim and head off to Keith’s place in West Sussex. Apparently at some point on the journey the brakes on Robert’s black mini copper failed and the car, and Mohammed, who had been driving it, had smashed straight into a lamppost.

Fortunately, the rest of the group had for some bizarre reason all squeezed themselves into Paul’s green mini cooper and were all safe and sound. Robert had continued on to Redlands, Keith’s house, but the implications hadn’t escaped him. For this to happen so soon after the Krays warning were a clear sign that the car had been tampered with, and though Mohammed escaped with only a few bruises, who knows what might have happened had Robert and perhaps some of the Stones also been in the car.

Clearly, news of this latest car accident found their way to John Lennon, as it was on this same night that he wrote the lyrics to ‘a day in the life’, a song that graphically tells the story of the Tara Browne accident. Curiously, a sanitised and inaccurate version of this tale of mini coppers found its way into one of the Beatles monthly magazines. I have no idea why they printed this story but I have often wondered if it served as the catalyst for the later rumours of Paul’s supposed death?

Robert was very shaken up by this incident and his behaviour was increasingly irrational after this point. Indeed, what happened next, though widely known and reported at the time, has a darker and hitherto unknown edge. 

February 1967 was the time of the so called ‘Redlands Bust’, the incident at Keith’s house that would ultimately cement the reputations of both Mick and Keith as wild living rock-stars, and that would propel Marianne’s reputation into the stratosphere with the, untrue, stories concerning her being clad in only a fur rug and her predilection for strange goings on with Mars bars. It would all end some months later with the imprisonment of Mick, Keith and Robert. Mick and Keith’s sentences would later be overturned on appeal but Robert would serve six months and, it would for him, be the beginning of the end in both a professional and mental sense.

I wasn’t present at the time and though I had some deep suspicions about what went on, I must admit, I would never have guessed the reality of what occurred. The party itself had been fairly standard fare for the time and given the personnel involved. The cast was a large and varied one with different characters coming and going throughout the day. Indeed it was these comings and goings that initially pricked my sense of suspicion.

George Harrison and his wife Patti Boyd had been there with some other minor players in the Beatle entourage, Tony Bramwell I believe, and it was their disappearance, far too conveniently, immediately prior to the arrival of the police that got me thinking that someone there had tipped the police off.

It was not until some years later though, when tempers had cooled and memories dimmed did I discover the truth. Even then I have to admit I was furious as I had been enlisted, along with another villain and associate of the Krays, David Litvinoff, to attempt to extract confessions from certain parties present at the time that they had tipped off either the police or the press.

That we failed to elicit this information was not a surprise as this was yet another example of Roberts addled thinking and attempts to cover his tracks.

The story he later told me, was that, he had come to the realisation that he was going to be unable to extract the Beatles from the stewardship of Brian Epstein and deliver them to the Krays after all. Despite all his efforts, schemes and manipulations the Beatles had, much to his chagrin and consternation, an attachment and loyalty to Epstein that Fraser could just not fathom out or undermine.

This being the case, he knew his head was very much on the block as the Krays would want their pound of flesh. He knew that the antics of both the Beatles and the Stones was driving the establishment wild and the police would like nothing better than to take them down a few pegs. The problem as far as the Beatles were concerned, was that having awarded them MBE’s, the establishment had, in essence, made them one of their own. The Stones on the other hand with their dirty, hard living reputation were fair game and once Jagger had begun libel proceedings against the News of the World, a British Sunday tabloid, for making false allegations about him, then the gloves were truly off.

Fraser, somehow, spotted an opportunity in amongst all this. He decided to inform the News of the World about the goings-on at Redlands and the illustrious cast, knowing full well they would act upon this. Having ensured that any trace of Beatle had been removed, the police moved in.

Whether he fully appreciated the extent of the police zeal to prosecute those involved, I don’t know, but I can only assume that the risk of a custodial sentence was a risk he was prepared to take. After all, Robert was an intelligent and highly educated man who normally was fastidious about the storage of his narcotics. To have been found in possession of heroin was a wildly reckless thing to do given that he would surely have had ample opportunity to dispose of it.

One can only assume that he thought that by being arrested he would seem above suspicion. Indeed, if that were his plan then it worked extremely well. Rumours of a traitor abounded, many of them put about by Robert himself, but at no point was Robert ever considered to be the culprit.

I am not sure that Robert ever truly considered the realities of a prison sentence; however, as a device to get the Krays off his back it worked admirably well. The decision to involve Litvinoff in the post event retribution circuit was a touch of genius as Robert would have known he would report back to the Krays. This served to add a perfect layer of authenticity to the story, and the ensuing prison term, if nothing else, took him out of circulation.

If this stunt got him out of the mire with the Krays, then he must have had a heart attack when he heard, whilst incarcerated, of Brian Epstein’s demise. Epstein, unaware of the attempts to wrest from him control of his greatest asset, had continued to gamble away huge sums at the casinos. Meanwhile, as a prelude to their gaining control of the Beatles, the Krays had begun blackmailing Epstein. Presumably all part of their plan, it sucked Epstein into a catch 22 situation. Needing more money to pay off both his debts and his blackmailers, Eppy would gamble larger and larger sums in an attempt to get lucky on a mammoth scale. He became increasingly dependent on alcohol and speed as he burnt the candles at both ends and ultimately, though a bolt from the blue, his death should not have come as a huge shock to anyone.

Whether it was caused by suicide, as officially recorded, or simply made to look that way, neither I nor Robert knew. However, Robert Fraser was the never the same man again.


  1. I can see a lot of truth in this if it weren't for the fact that forensic comparisons have been done between pre "66" and post "66" Paul photos and there is a difference in them.

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