Taken on the beach at West Wittering, a small seaside resort in Sussex, the photograph shows a young Keith Richards giving a friendly hug to a man he knew only as ‘Acid King David’.
As his nickname suggested, the Rolling Stones’ mysterious new hanger-on possessed an encyclopaedic knowledge of all the newest strains of LSD, combined with an almost magical ability to procure them. For Richards, that was reason enough to embrace anybody, but the friendly smile of the ‘Acid King’ in that picture, taken on a cold Sunday afternoon in February 1967, belied the intent of a man who was far from all he seemed.
He had joined Richards, Mick Jagger and various of their entourage for a weekend at Redlands, Richards’s pretty half-timbered cottage, just a few miles away from West Wittering. This chocolate-box country residence seemed bizarrely at odds with Richards’s hard-living vagabond image, but its name was about to become synonymous with one of the most notorious drugs busts in rock ’n’ roll history.
Many lurid details would emerge from the Redlands raid.
Most famously, there were reports that the police had discovered Mick Jagger’s then girlfriend Marianne Faithfull in a compromising position with a Mars Bar. This story, pure invention as it turned out, has overshadowed a far more intriguing detail of the case.
As I have discovered, while researching a new biography of Mick Jagger, the Redlands raid was part of an extraordinary plot, orchestrated by our own MI5 and the FBI and designed to put an early end to the Rolling Stones’ career.
The details were revealed to me by Maggie Abbott, a British film agent based in Los Angeles.
During the Eighties, she befriended an eccentric figure named David Jove, producer of one of the earliest cable television shows, and the host of numerous fancy-dress ‘happenings’ at his cave-like studio in West Hollywood.
After swearing her to secrecy, Jove confided that his real name was David Snyderman and that he was the man known to the Rolling Stones as ‘Acid King David’.
And any doubt about this is dispelled by photographs of him in various of his strange avant-garde productions.
Although he is camouflaged by facepaint, his short curly hair and sensitive cheekbones are unquestionably those of the weekend guest photographed with Keith Richards on West Wittering beach a few hours before the bust.
In January 1967, according to the account he gave Maggie Abbott, Snyderman was a failed TV actor, drifting around Europe in the American hippie throng with Swinging London as his final destination.
At Heathrow Airport he was caught with drugs in his luggage and expected to be thrown into jail and instantly deported.