Rock’s best kept secret: Tony King on life with John Lennon, Elton John and Freddie Mercury

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He held Mercury’s hand in hospital, retrieved Lennon from a cocaine escapade with David Bowie, and was upbraided by Keith Richards for smoking a joint. Now the Zelig of the music world is looking back

On the wall of Tony King’s flat in north London, there is a beautiful signed Andy Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe. There’s another inscription on the back, in a scrawl immediately familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of the Beatles: “To Tony with love, from one of your problems, love John.”

An abashed Lennon gave it to him after a particularly raucous night in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s: drunk and furious after an altercation with Phil Spector during the recording of what became his 1975 album Rock ’n’ Roll, Lennon had smashed up the house where he was staying. King, who was essentially managing him at that point, arrived to find windows broken, gold records shattered and the singer attempting to pull a palm tree out of the ground. He intervened and ended up pinning Lennon to the ground: “I never knew you were so strong, dear,” Lennon quipped.

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