Classic Rock Review

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Up And Down With The Rolling Stones by Tony Sanchez (1979)


Pretty much any book about the Rolling Stones in the 1970s, such as Robert Greenfield’s book on Exile on Main St, will mention Spanish Tony (he’s also named in the toilet graffiti on the cover of the Beggar’s Banquet album).

Tony Sanchez knew the Rolling Stones in swinging London in the 1960s, meeting first Brian Jones, and then the rest of the band, their hanger-ons and girlfriends, various other rock stars like John Lennon (who used to badger him for drugs) and Eric Clapton. Sanchez is often described as the Stones’ favourite drug dealer, although Sanchez never admits to dealing drugs, preferring to describe himself as someone who used to help the Stones get their drugs (while eventually also becoming a junkie himself). The book was likely ghost written by someone else, as it seems unlikely that Tony himself would have had the skill to turn some of the better phrases and descriptive passages of the book himself, or the socio-political commentaries that litter the book. First published in 1979, but updated to include Ron Wood’s wedding in 1985 and Bill Wyman’s marriage and divorce in 1989 and 1993 respectively, the book has a lot of overlap with Bill Wyman’s Stone Alone, published in 1991. Some reports say that Sanchez died in 2000.

The book contains very little information about Sanchez’s background, other than that he really was Spanish, and that he had cousins and other family members involved in organised crime; a wife and a child are mentioned. He also only appears in two of the many photos in the book. Sanchez apparently, ran the Rolling Stones’ night club Vesuvio for a time, before becoming Keith’s hired man. Otherwise, the whole book is about the Rolling Stones.

Not so many real revelations here, other than some description of the bands’ dabbling in the occult and black magic, with Anita Pallenberg especially becoming involved in curses. Sanchez claims that she once mopped up the blood of a man who was dying after being hit by a car, using the rag with the dried blood to curse others – seems that the blood of a man dying of violence having powerful magical qualities. He also tells strange tales of Kenneth Anger, who hung out with the band at one point, teleporting in and out of their meetings (Sanchez also tells weird tales of Aleister Crowley’s life, including his battle for control of a magical society from head warlock Samuel Mathers). According to Sanchez, the phrase “Get Yer Ya-Yas Out”, the title of the Stones’ live album of 1969, “is based on a phrase which recurs regularly in African Voodoo”.

Then there is the rise and fall of so many strange relationships (both Anita and Marianne Faithfull sleeping with at least three of the Stones – Brian, Keith and Mick… surely they would have slept with Bill too, though, right?), a few weddings, great bits about the power of Bianca Jagger, Brian’s wooing of Jerry Hall away from Bryan Ferry and their eventual Hindu wedding in Bali. He also talks about Brian Jones’ secret passion for buses, with an encyclopedic knowledge of bus models, sometimes sneaking out to go bus spotting, even going so far as to buy full buses for his collection! Sanchez writes a bit about Mick Taylor, although he derides him as having “about as much character as Bill Wyman (and you can’t have much less than that)”, putting down both Stones in one shot. Incidents that are described in Greenfield’s book on Exile on Main St and in Keith’s book Life are also mentioned here, in slightly different forms. Greenfield has open contempt for Sanchez in his book, but Sanchez only mentions Greenfield neutrally. Sanchez describes Keith and Anita as regularly turning people on to cocaine, and the linked drug heroin (when cocaine brings you up too high, you need heroin to bring you back to sanity), adding to the pile of 1970s junkies.

The interesting parts of the book are where Sanchez talks about the state of mind of the Stones, and how they were dealing with their increasing fame and power, and also how their lives became a combination of severe persecution by legal authorities and immunity to the law. One example Sanchez gives is that of Keith Richards on one US tour being supplied by the tour’s sponsors with a steady supply of pure pharmaceutical heroin so that he wouldn’t need to chase it from outside parties, any one of which could be sent from a US authority intent on busting the band. In other busts the band “got lucky” and police didn’t prosecute, nor did they get thorough searches any more in the 1970s. Sanchez has great descriptions of the madness surrounding the 1967 drug trials, and offers one interesting quote from Mick Jagger:

In the year 2000, no one will be arrested for drugs and those sorts of things. It will be laughable, just like it would be laughable if people were still hanged for stealing sheep. These things have to be changed, but it takes maniacs obsessed with individual microcosmic issues to bring it about. I could be ever so obsessed about the drugs thing, and if I really worked hard at it, I might speed up the process of reform by perhaps ten years or five years or perhaps only six months. But I don’t feel that it’s important enough.

Well, obviously it was important enough to ramble on about. But it’s now well past the year 2000, and Jagger’s prediction hasn’t come to pass. Sanchez also says that Jagger was at one point nearly tempted to enter politics and run for a Labour party seat, but decided against it and remained a rock `n’ roll ringleader preaching entertainment and potty humour instead of revolution.

One area where Sanchez diverges from Wyman is in matters of money, and it seems that Mick and Keith and Bryan had millions at their disposal in the 1960s, while Wyman contended that management choked off any real money. But maybe it was different for Brian, Mick and Keith.

The book is still full of typos, despite having been published by many different publishers in various editions over the years (you’d think that they would have cleared these up by now). Early on, Sanchez calls Keith Richards “Richard” instead of Richards, then he talks about the “Rolling Stones roch and roll circus”. When recounting the death of Gram Parsons, he talks about the crazed fan, Philip “Kafuran”, who snatched Parsons’ body, although the fellow’s name was Kaufman. Weird.

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Book Up And Down With The Rolling Stones by Tony Sanchez | , | Leave a comment