My big bad Exile On Main St page

It’s been a few months now that I’ve been obsessed with Exile on Main St, the Rolling Stones record made in 1971, released in 1972, when I was three years old. Yes, it’s a great piece of gospel-rock-country-blues that I have just swallowed whole the way I would Dark Side of the Moon, Moving Pictures, and… I don’t know what else. Magic. So, here are a couple of CDs, a couple of books, a couple of DVDs… about that LP.



Exile on Main St (2010 extended CD) – It’s always beautiful when a double album (four sided, lots of flipping of discs) fits onto a single CD; now the band has resurrected some other songs from the sessions, a pre-Exile songs, and upgraded songs that were never given any further attention with new vocals, new harmonica, new guitar, or in some cases (perhaps) recorded entirely new songs outright. The Stones recorded Exile On Main Street primarily in the south of France, rambling sessions that produced 13 of the 18 tracks on this release (five pre-existed the Villa Nellcôte sessions). The band had approached recording with the goal of producing a single LP to follow up the colossal chart-topper “Sticky Fingers” that was just coming out in April 1971 as they were settling in Nellcôte (Sticky Fingers had been recorded in the summer and autumn of 1970 in Mick Jagger’s manor home Stargroves in the UK as well as other studios in the US); in the end, however, they had too many songs, and decided to put out a double album. In truth, it seems that they had enough songs for a quadruple album, and now – with the extended songs – Exile On Main St becomes a triple album.

The original songs are well known to all Stones fans; the popular legend is that this is the most-loved of all Stones albums. Most certainly, it is one of those “better-than-the-sum-of-its-parts” if it is weighed between the brilliant songs that it contains (and the wild, swampy atmosphere it exudes) and the fact that it contains nary a radio-recognisable single or standout crowd-pleaser other than the first single, “Tumbling Dice”, a nugget if there ever was one. Clearly, if the Stones had only made this album, it would have had an unstoppable, juggernaut, snortin’ life of its own.

To be precise, the album starts off with the snortin’ “Rocks Off”, which launches the double LP with a kick, a snort and a yelp, before taking the mood into the stratosphere about a minute in with magnificent horns provided by the legendary Bobby Keys (born on the same day as Keith Richards, but in Lubbock, Texas) and Jim Davis. No finer opening track has ever been conceived, even when the song wavers into burbling acid-trippiness (love the matter-of-fact lyrics too – “I was making love last night/With a dancer friend of mine”); “Rip This Joint”, besides being a splendid song title, is probably the fastest (ergo rip-snorting) song the band ever performed; incidentally, there is a nice version of the song on “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.” “Shake Your Hips”, a cover, is as swampy as a song can get, with freaky percussion, boogie guitar, Mick’s voice, some horns, and not much else. “Casino Boogie” is the weird imagistic song full of Mick and Keith interplay, with wonderful sax all over it, and some nice Mick Taylor slide with Keith interlaying, plus that cool honkey tonk piano from Nicky Hopkins, the eighth Stone. “Tumbling Dice” is the full production number with the full sassy background singers (the first time we hear them on the album, and they are here at their brassiest – we’ll get more of them on the new songs, as well as a demo of “Tumbling Dice” called “Good Time Women”), although actually only one is credited (meanwhile, four are credited for “Shine A Light”, the closing track); incidentally, there is a nice version of the song on “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.” “Sweet Virginia” is wild, wild country music with lovely guitar work. It is quite overtaken by Mick’s voice and the other drunken, shamboling singers that fall in with him in time (and that ever-present sax); incidentally, there is a nice version of the song on “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.” This is the song that has the “got to scrape the shit right off your shoes” line. “Torn and Frayed” is that sort of old, squirming bluesy, honky tonk song, with the cool distant Keith Richards background vocals, and Mick sounding like he’s from some other part of the world than Dartford, Kent. Mick Taylor’s guitar solo is wondrous, it glides slinky all over the song. “Sweet Black Angel”, the first song on this album I really fell in love with (I admit it – I didn’t like the album on first listening, since it was so “un-Stones”, but this hypnotizing little track reels you in with the first listen), with its doop-doop-doop feeling to it, and the cool and groovy crustiness of Mick Jagger. I’m curious about who really played marimba on the recording – the credits say it is someone called “Amyl Nitrate”. “Loving Cup” is full of grand piano, and a heavenly pleading tone to it, humbleness and a wicked drum thread that just zooms and zooms. “I’m the main who brings you roses… when you ain’t got nooooone!” It ranges the emotions from humility all the way to aggressive sexuality and dead-drunkenness. Sweet oblivion, thy name is “Loving Cup” (there’s an alternate version of the song, the “drunk” version, on the new release that is interesting). “Happy” is that wonderful song that has the really perfect Keith Richards vocals added to it – it could be the best song on the album, Keith’s best song with the Stones, or the best song that the Rolling Stones ever recorded. Heaven; incidentally, there is a nice version of the song on “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.” “Turd on the Run” is crazy, creepy janglo-rock with a shuffle beat and some “Midnight Rambler” harmonica. Splendid and turgid as its funk drones into a nutty post-production haze. “Ventilator Blues” is white-man blues at its craziest, going right down to the freaky percussion (what’s with the backbeat?), and the swelling horns that nearly sweep the song away, the call and response that is all call, and righteous shiftiness – in a song that is actually about the sweltering heat of the Nellcôte basement. OOH! “I Just Want To See His Face” is one of those weird pieces of psychedelia that you’d hear in a Jim Jarmush movie… except it’s the Stones, sounds coming out from here and there, you don’t know what it is or what it’s about. Is this what a drug trip is like? It’s gospel, but it’s not heavenly message that is coming our way! Or is it? Oddly, three bass players are credited, but only two guitarists. “Let It Loose” is a sort of weird little electric gospel number with several male voices floating in and out, six (!!!) backup singers are credited, although it’s Mick’s voice that cuts through it all (unlike the newer recordings, where the backup singers can overpower) and goes on and on (it is the longest song on the album. Drums, horns, voice; drums, horns, voice; drums, horns, voice… “All Down The Line” is real rabid rock ‘n’ roll, train-like, shooting along the tracks, with squeaky Mick Taylor lines, it’s a total party song with those rabid Keith Richards shots, the sassy singers, the saxes, and that screaming Mick; incidentally, there is a nice version of the song on “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.” “Stop Breaking Down” is wild whistling, great blues riffs, spooky squawks, and great Mick Taylor slide! This is as sweet as it comes, from this sweet, sweet Robert Johnson song. Before long it’s a battle between the two Micks, voice versus slide guitar, which is very high in the mix. Keith? Bill? Charlie? Who’re they? “Shine A Light”, unlike other songs, blends into the previous song, and begins with a piano and Mick’s voice, reminiscent a bit of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, going very gospelly with keyboards and piano, with plenty of lovely Mick Taylor riffs floating in and out like evening sun. Sweet, slick production. “Soul Survivor” ends the album with dirty blues, scruffy rock ‘n’ roll and sassy, sexy soul. The song really kicks out the jams in terms of ultimate mojo (Keith lends his voice to an alternate take on the second CD, demonstrating that this song is all Mick’s, especially in the ferocious second half, when Keith seems to lose his way/lose interest). That’s it – Exile on Main St.

The new CD has new recording elements on all tracks, except for “Good Time Women” (a version of “Tumbling Dice”) and the Keith Richards-vocals “Soul Survivor”, with Mick coming up with new lyrics for the other eight tracks and harmonica on some of the songs (he had been absent a lot in Nellcôte as he was a newlywed at the beginning of the sessions, and his pregnant bride gave birth to Jade Jagger at the end of the sessions). Mick Taylor turned up to record guitar for “Plundered My Soul,” while Keith Richards added bits to “So Divine (Aladdin Story)”. The new CD starts off hauntingly – how do you top Exile on Main St? “Pass The Wine (Sophia Lauren)” doesn’t really sound like an old song – Mick is straining his voice the way he might have on “Under Cover (Of The Night)”, while the organ zooms, the groovy power of the background singers swells up, the ludicrous lyrics tease… and then the horns come in… and we’re back at Villa Nellcôte

(Jimmy Miller, who died in 1994, also makes an appearance here with a percussion credit, as he does on the fifth track, “Dancing In The Light”). The first song is a lot like the rest of the album, a mish-mash of various eras, more “Tattoo You” (which was formed of abandoned tracks rescued from many sessions, including one called “Start Me Up”) than anything else (but, then again, aren’t many Stones albums, including Exile On Main Street, mish mashes of various sessions anyway?). “Pass The Wine” has some good “Midnight Rambler” mouth harp on it, and plenty of sassy backup vocals, dirty lyrics, and Mick Jagger pawing at your girlfriend through your speakers. No redemption in 2010, son. “Plundered My Soul” sounds very new in all respects, but it has quite nice and Stones-y lyrics: “I thought you needed my loving, but it’s my heart that you stole/I thought you wanted my money, but you plundered my soul.” Wistful loser-ish, very post-fame Stones and not of the bright young Nellcôte era – not really. But fun nonetheless in a sneering ’90s Jagger-esque way. It’s a good song, I’m not sure it fits in with “Stop Breaking Down”. Played back-to-back you’d wonder what was going on. Some sounds are old, but most are new. “I’m Not Signifying” is the first real throwback to Nellcôtete, sneering lyrics, angular honky tonk piano, snazzy drums and leftover horns and sweet lead guitar, along with some latter day hot harmonica by Sir Mick. Real swamp, along with the righteous blues. This would have not felt out of place on the original album, with its freaky drum beats – the difference is that it comes in on a piano, not on a guitar (Keith’s) as most of the songs on Exile on Main St do (“Loving Cup” comes in on a piano, but it’s an exception). “Following The River” is the very strange song on the pack – it starts out with piano and Mick’s voice, then builds up to become the only tune with strings on it (the background singers sound like they just came from a session with Leonard Cohen). This cannot have any remnants of the Exile on Main St sessions on it!! “Dancing in the Light” is a funky rockin’ country number that gets pretty weird at the end, it sounds mock-sincere, stamped with patented Mick Jagger sauce. “So Divine (Alladin’s Story)” starts off with a riff that you think will be “Paint It Black”… but then it tricks you by becoming something else. After many listens, you kind of get used to it. The song, with new lyrics and guitar from Keith Richards, doesn’t at first appear to have anything left from the 1971 sessions, but then mystical horns pop in, with weird precision – great, groovy oriental howling. Nice music!

The real stuff comes from the four tracks at the end, and it’s probably no coincidence that the number of players (from three to six) on it are less than in the previous six tracks (up to 13). There’s an “alternate take” of “Loving Cup” that has a different Mick Jagger vocal over a different version of the song, which is apparently the marriage of two different outtakes (this makes this version of the song one minute longer than the album version). The song sounds drunken and bluesy, fuzzy, crazy, swampy, full of great Mick Taylor guitar, with sweet shamboling (that oh-so-Exile word again – here it means that instead of the tight Nicky Hopkins piano riff at the beginning, it’s a loose piano, some drums, and several sleepy guitars coming in during the intro) and some nuttiness around the “BZZZZ” part of the song. Great snarling backup vocals from Keith there, the elongated-ness of the song is superb. “Soul Survivor” with Keith singing to the same track as Mick did is pretty weird, as he’s so laconic, while Mick gave it everything he got (and at the end he does this weird “et cetera!!” thingy that just doesn’t work. But that’s okay, we still love you Keith. “Good Time Women” is a lovely, authentic song form the 1971 sessions that just squeals and grooves. Mick’s voice is low in the mix and Mick Taylor’s lead guitar jams ahead, dominating and pleasing women and men alike. It’s a lovely little number and a top lead single, total memorabilia from a glorious era. Final track, “Title 5″, is from sessions that pre-date Exile, probably from some time in 1967, and features only Keith, Charlie and Bill, fuzzing away with effects. It’s a sweet little rockin’ instrumental form an irrelevant era, tossing together with a lovely little CD full of scrappy shavings and tarted-up yarn. Love it all.

The packaging is okay – there are pictures all over the outer packaging, apparently replicating about 75% of the original packaging (the outer covers, the inner gatefold, and one of the two lLP slipcovers layouts). The 12-page booklet has 10 pages of pics from the Nellcôte sessions, including one that spreads over the folded-out front/back cover that shows basement loneliness and ventilator blues, while the centre-fold contains credits for both versions of Exile on Main St, helping us to see quite plainly that, even if Robert Greenfield’s book on the recording of the album claims that “Happy” was recorded with a wink and a grin near-spontaneously with a few Stones and sidemen on hand, the rest were added in anyway in post-production.



Rolling Stones, Live at the Marquee Club, March 26th 1971 – Coming off of 17 shows in nine UK cities, all cities but one double shows (with hardly a night off), the Rolling Stones prepared for their tax exile-ship (and the recording of Exile On Main St) by recording this concert video, which featured eight songs: Live With Me * Dead Flowers * I Got The Blues * Let It Rock * Midnight Rambler * Satisfaction * Bitch * Brown Sugar. Mick wears his baseball cap askance at the stop (eighties hip-hop already in the early seventies, Mick was), Bill Wyman’s bass starts out the cool set ,Bobby Keys resplendant on his sax, Keith hanging out by the amps, Mick Taylor lookin’ cool with his Gibson SG, probably the smallest stage the Stones have played in a while, Mick doing weird jogging actions off to the side, clapping like a madman, fast cutting on the video. Very happy to see Mick Taylor playing a Gibson SG this time around, since I play one too. “Dead Flowers” is so countriefied. Mick Jagger looks so happy. “I Got The Blues”, then “Let It Rock” with Keith doing the lead. Shots of the audience – horrific eyewear!! Another novel intro to “Midnight Rambler” (there were so many on this tour). Lots of Mick vs Keith shots, one shot has the two Micks and Keith in the same shot even! Weird fast-cutting “psychedelic” strobe segment in the middle, around the Mick Taylor solo. Crazy. Mick Jagger does the “go down on my baby” thing. Mick does a lot of clapping. There’s no reaction from the crowd – were they playing on a sound stage, with the crowd scenes edited in? We do see the crowd at the beginning and a the end, but it may just be a bit faked. Mick’s voice sounding raw in “Satisfaction.” Keith solos on “Bitch”, but it’s obvious he’s not as good a soloist as Mick Taylor is, as seen in the last song, “Brown Sugar.” Good night!

The whole 37:26 minute video can be found online here.



Stones in Exile – The documentary sets the scene, drifting along to the parts where the band is forced to go into tax exile to pay their back taxes, as they were being taxed 93% of their incomes, and they’d been fleeced by management, so they headed to the south of France to record in an infamous mansion at Villefranche-sur-Mer in the Côte d’Azur called Villa Nellcôte. Interviews with irrelevant celebrities, like some kid from Kings of Leon (?), and Benicio Del Toro (?). Don Was seems to have some perspective, at least, and so does Jack White (maybe). Great pics of a naked Keith lighting up a cig. Nice video clips of the Stones entourage getting off of an airplane, nice pics of the whole gang. Put a dress on a sphinx. Waterskiing in the South of France. Keith and Marlon. Keith with a big white sweater. Anita was the only one who could argue with the chef, Fat Jacques, there’s a pic of her holding a copy of the French version of Tintin The Black Island. According to Dominique Tarlé:

Every morning Keith would be up at 8:30 in the morning, ready to jump into his car, looking after his kid Marlon. Nobody knew the Stones in the South of France, so they were able to act and live normally, we would go to the zoo or the beach. In the afternoon, Anita would look after Marlon and Keith would play music. Every morning it would be the same. It was a normal way of life.

Keith dating Bianca. Mick posing with Keith’s guitar. Bill Wyman complaining about living in France, Charlie too, because they couldn’t get their British creature comforts there. Rare picture of Mick Taylor smiling. The late Jimmy Miller, the album’s producer, noted in a recording that the band chose convenience over sound and used Keith’s house. Brought in the BMC sound truck. Audio from recording sessions. Commuting around the South of France, Charlie lived six hours away. Gibson acoustic. Eight-man band with kids, and technicians. Can’t separate family life from professional activity in the tribes. Random images like album cover. Difficult recording conditions. Crazy entourage setup. “Mick’s rock, I’m roll,” says Keith. Marshall Chess with a nice mullet. Mick playing a Flying V. Jammin’. “As unrehearsed as a hiccup,” says Bobby Keys, “it wasn’t exactly spontaneous combustion.” A very nice blues jam with Mick and Keith going away, with Mick also playing guitar.

The Stones playing pool, Mick swigging from a flask. Jake Weber’s father was a race car driver, drug smuggler and adventurer, Jake was 8.5 years old at the time. Describes downtime and creative process. Picking away at guitars, the basement at night was the epicentre. Great picture of Jake with five classic Keith guitars – a flying V, the famous ampeg Dan Armstrong plexiglass guitar, an SG and a big Gibson ES-355. Swigging from bottles of Jack Daniels. A glimpse into the recording process. Andy Johns, recording engineer, noted that:

they would play very poorly for two or three days on whatever song. And then if Keith got up and started looking at Charlie, then you knew that something would go down. And then Bill would get up and put his bass at that sort of 84° angle, and you’d say “ah, here it comes, they’re going to go for it now, ha ha ha.” And it would turn into this wonderful, God-given music.

Some funky animation from still photos of Keith’s fretting hand moving, Bill’s bass shifting to an 84° angle (how did they do that?). The giant dinner, everybody gathered once a day. Jake’s function in life was to roll joints. A decadent life, everything was out in the open, this was the light before the moment of darkness. Charlie Watts: “everybody had a great time, but it was very stressful. You’re having a good time, but ready to go back home. The only one who wasn’t like that was Keith, of course, who was being supplied in his mansion, with his band downstairs, it must have been heaven for him in a way.” A real live rabbit in a tray next to the guitars. The anecdote of Keith in the bus saying “oh, I forgot something, we have to go back,” then he proceeded to simply drop a TV out of the balcony. Keith singing “Happy”.

Keith and the band address heroin. “With a hit of smack, I could walk through anything and not give a damn.” Keith’s voice heard more than Mick’s, until the end. “We always went to LA to finish our records. That was our modus operandi.” Keith: “It was kind of fun playing it to lots of musicians and friends in LA. It was interesting to get their input, because everything that went in at Nellcôte was a just bubble, really.” Mick: “We’d never made a double album before, so we were a bit naive  about it. It was just a bit too much work, considering that we’d had all these pressures, plus we were a bit burned on it.” Mick made “Tumbling Dice” out of a conversation with the maid, “Casino Boogie” had no lyrics, they were desperate so they used a cut-up method. This is illustrated with visuals. Beautiful. Description of the after-production at Sunset Sounds. Overdubs gave the songs a new twist. Little jams improve the original sessions. Awesome Robert Frank session footage of the band walking down the street, Mick Jagger yawning and stretching his face, and then it’s up on a billboard. Wild post-release pastiche of the media swirl of radio, billboard and magazine-cover (Rolling Stone), with a great “Rocks Off” images melange, Kasey Casem voce-over, playing with Stevie Wonder. Don Was: “Exile on Main Street dramatically altered the vocabulary of record-making. There are textures on that that no-one ever laid down before.” Irrelevant statements from Sheryl Crow, Martin Scorsese, Benecio Del Toro and others at the end.

Extended interviews:

Keith Richards: 33 minutes. Wanted to get started in the basement, then decided to keep it on, so much experimentation because of the sound of the various basement rooms. Dense sound down there. First month was touch and go, then it started to flow. Wanted to be a soul band, added horns with Bobby Keys and Jim Price. Two guys fitted into the size of the band, gave it extra texture and turned into a soul band. Bobby and Keith found out after many years that they had been born within hours of each other. Never intended Exile to be a double album until they realised that they’d recorded so many songs that they didn’t know which to cut.

According to Bill Wyman, the engineer and the producer and the band couldn’t see each other, and they had to communicate by voice, and it’s a miracle that it worked out, the whole band was only there 30% of the time, sometimes they were all there, except for Keith, who was just upstairs, despite Charlie coming five hours from where he lived, Bill and Mick Taylor coming two hours from where they lived, Bill coming one hour from where he lived. Mick Taylor was, musically, the better musician than any others in the band; he was young, and some of the things he had done were amazing, but he was incredibly boring onstage despite doing these incredible licks and solos.

Mick Taylor: he talks! Keith and Anita were mixing domesticity and art. Although the recordings were in the basement, there were constant power failures, and primitive and basic procedures. Ended up being a holiday resort for the Stones’ friends and all their friends, “and in the midst of all this partying, we were trying to make an album.â”

Anita: the guitars get the best seats. Kids are kids, they can sleep with any noise. They had a great attitude for adults, and the adults had to deal with them, especially Jacob and Charlie. Confronting adults and playing with them. Good vibe. A freeloading brigade. Anita became a bouncer as the freeloaders piled up, throwing everybody out. Moved from room to room. Weird sailor shoot-outs when they were in town. “It’s rock ‘n’ roll and drugs and sex, in that order.” Charlie bought an Edwardian villa, still has it. Keith is very easy to play with, very comfortable. Exile picked up a lot of stuff that was missed off of earlier releases.

An interview with Ronnie Wood: “I’d never played the songs, but I knew them. It hits the nail on the head whether the songs are mixed or not.”

Return to Stargroves: Jagger: completely, exactly the same. “I had this house for 1970 to 1975. It does have a lot of memories, because one of the reasons is that we recorded here, but it has other memories for me too, children, my parent, all that sort of thing, my brother lived here a lot. He liked it a lot, my brother, having this very large house. I don’t blame him.: Earliest recordings for Exile, such as Sweet Black Angel, were recorded there. “Old recordings, boring. Who gives a shit?”

Extra interviews: Sheryl Crow’s comments the best, listens to “Loving Cup” and “Sweet Virginia”. Will.I.Am is a moron. Kings of Leon guy, from Memphis, is too childish. Jack Black is savvy. Martin Scorsese is the only commentator of the same age as the Stones, maybe also Don Was, who talks passionately about the extra tracks, like “Sophia Loren” and the new mix of “Loving Cup.” Very expressive and passionate about the band.

Packaging is not that great – three-panel foldout booklet contains a pic of Charlie, a pic of Keith holding an acoustic, and a pic of Mick with a flying V guitar. The other side has a collage of Robert Frank pics. Through the transparent DVD case you also see a pic of Keith and the two Micks jamming.


Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones – Super ugly Nazi Stones logo up front, there’s darkness and some flashes, you slowly hear the Stones’ voices, then they come out, you notice the side-stage shot with Bill Wyman’s bass cord across it, Mick’s sparkle spots at the temples and the middle of the forehead, shirt knotted at belly (for some scenes – the show was recorded across four nights, so Mick “changed costume” repeatedly, there was no sense of costume continuity). Bobby Keys in full blow, Keith with shawl in Brown Sugar, fast cuting on band but the camera really lingers on the dynamic Mick Jagger. In “Bitch”, Keith is lead, Mick is rhythm, “Gimme Shelter” flatish, Mick Taylor wailing eventually. Where’s Merry Clayton? “Broken Fowers” is Mick and Keith at the same mic, Keith with dyed patches in his hair. Great Mick Taylor solo. Call from the audience to play “Sweet Virginia” (they would comply later in the evening). They play “Happy”, it gets huge applause. Why? Audience loves songs from the critically unpopular new release, “Exile on Main Street”, or would they simply have been anxious for something new? “Sorry you didnt’ get to see Stevie Wonder, they must’ve overslept.” Tumblin’ Dice’ sounds empty without the background singers. Mick whispering, “We’re gonna do a little tune up, can you hear us in the back?” Mick’s right wrist, nice bracelet. Love In Vain, Mick Taylor’s great slide guitars. Dumb cameraman angle with Bill’s cable stretched across it is all wrong. Mick Taylor’s stunning solo. “We’re gonna play a little acoustic guitar. Why aren’t you in church anyway? “Sweet Virginia” has two acoustic guitars with Mick on harmonica. Calls out Bobby Keys, fixes mic for him. Keith’s vocals, “Be it crack or smack, or…” You Can’t Always Get What You Want showing Keith riffing. Funky, big Down The LIne, sounds simplistic and bombastic. Mick Taylor’s slide. Bill Wyman statuesque, song gains bluster, Mick goin’ nuts. Swigs Jack Daniels (or is it tea?). Nice Mick harmonica work. Mick’s jumpsuit pajamas with red sash, Mick howling/fucking onstage. All in moody/creepy red lights. Charlie’s good tonight. Over 10 minutes. “Bye Bye Johnny”, Chuck Berry song. Very good funk/punk blues. Mick does onstage yoga, doing the upside down thing, then the crossed-legs thing. “Jumping Jack Flash” and good shots of Keith playing towards Charlie. Keith really cuts loose on last two classic tracks, “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Street Fighting Man”. Mick throws rose petals into audience and onto Charlie, who’s wearing a nutty rhumba shirt (hey, that’s nothing – check out Mick’s satin jumpsuits). There’s a rain of sparks and the crowd cheers. Indian rose petal blessing, playing Cat Stevens on PA after, no encore. Thanked John and Yoko and Cat Stevens and the Who in the credits. In the bonus material, you get to see a cool “Hip Shake”, with Keith singing along (as he often does), with him playing lead guitar. “Tumbin’ Dice”, no Keith backups, though. Bottle of Jack available, plus shot glasses, on full display. Keith and Charlie jam. “Bluesberry Jam” is Mick-less. There’s an interview with Mick on the Old Grey Whistle Test where he talks about the loose recording process, praises the collaborative process John and Paul had writing as a band (ironic?). No place in the UK has the energy that Madison Square Gardens has, although it is a good place to base yourself in – better than France. Mark Bolan is good, better even when he plays acoustic (is this a backhanded compliment?). Mick mentions maybe doing things outside of the Stones. Charlie’s rhumba shirt is from Western Costumes in LA, the band raided it for costumes and satin, anything. Mick goes on to talk about clothes, gold belts, and the beginning of glam. “Bye Bye Johnny” was super-fast, mad tempo, buildup to end, leads up to “Rip This Joint.” “Rocks Off” was in the set, but not in movie, Mick and guitar were both off tune. Shot for cinema, not TV or home viewing. Film styles different, static process, people wanter and out of frame, no attempt at clothing continuity either.

The packaging is okay, with a 36 x 36 fold-out that has band pics on one side, and a poster of a stage shot on the other side. Through the transparent DVD case you also see a pic of the band onstage.



Exile on Main Street, A Season in Hell with The Rolling Stones, by Robert Greenfield – There have been a few books written about Exile On Main Street, including some from survivors of the Villa Nellcôte sessions in the south of France from June 1971 to September 1971 (although the band shows up at Nellcôte around April 5th, 1971 – which is tax day in the UK and tax exile is the reason that they’re in France instead of the UK – and post-productions sessions in LA lasted from December 1971 to May 1972). But this, Spanish Tony’s tale, and a slim 33 1/3 volume of 175 mini-pages are the only ones that are in print.

Greenfield’s book approaches, with plenty of sass, the familiar story of how the Stones, in their heyday, went into tax exile on the advice of their blue-blooded banker Prince something-or-other, before it was popular, and suffered for it – in terms of loneliness, alienation, personal injury, death of loved ones, and freakish drug abuse and addiction – but, in the meantime, produced great art. Like the Stones In Exile DVD documentary, the book covers the tax exile, the house, the sessions, the entourage, the hijinx, the drugs, the LA post-production sessions, ultimately jumping to present-day by the end of the book (Greenfield has no choice – his Exile material only covers the first 199 slim pages, he needs to fill out the volume to keep it from looking too slim). But Greenfield uses other source than the Stones-endorsed producers of Stones In Exile do, some of whom are protected under the moniker “Stones insider” (we can guess who some of them are). For example, while it is true that he could have described Villa Nellcôte, which still stands apparently, by visiting it as you or I could, he then also describes what Keith sees as he wanders into Nellcôte on a day in April in 1971.

Outside Nellcôte’s great front doors, gravel skitters beneath the wheels of the car as it comes to a stop. Keith gets out with Marlon, followed by Jo [Bergman] and Shirley Arnold. Before anyone can knock, the young French couple who have been hired to look after the cooking and the gardening come to welcome the new lord of the manor. Although they do not have very much English, the French couple are nothing if not polite, extending their hands to Keith in smiling welcome. “Nice,” Keith says succinctly, looking over their heads at his new home.

Looks like a scene from a movie. But while Greenfield likes to be coy about his sources are, his source of this very specific description here would have to be either Jo Bergman or Shirley Arnold, who he names more than once in books where barely anyone else was present… or it could also come from his own rich imagination. We get several scenes like this throughout the book (neither Berman nor Arnold are listed among his eight interviewees at the back of the book, nor are any of the actual Rolling Stones). A major source for the book was Tommy Weber, a semi-aristocratic race car driver, socialite and drug smuggler who, along with his wife Puss, forms a significant part of the backdrop of the Exile sessions, and his two sons Jake and Tommy (Jake, later an actor, appears in the Stones in Exile DVD as an I-was-there interviewee) who were Tommy’s drug mules and joint-rollers – sad but true. Weber’s soap opera is part of the dynamics of the goings-on at Nellcôte, not the least because his institutionalised wife Puss had had an affair with Anita Pallenberg, and subsequently committed suicide when she found out she’d be barred from leaving the country on account of her mother’s machinations. Yes, free spirits all – the body count began with Puss and piled higher and higher among the Stones’ free-spirited and hard drug-taking cohorts and colleagues.

The madness includes Mick Jagger’s wedding in France with Bianca Jagger, and all of the celebrities that showed up, including (a badly junk-sick) Eric Clapton, Paul and Ringo of the Beatles (who didn’t talk to each other), and several other big names, all in one charter flight over. The impromptu jam at Mick’s wedding reception – which Keith passed out at, the only time he ever missed a Stones gig apparently – must have really been something. The tale recounts Keith’s re-entry into heroin following a strange episode where someone may have had sex with Anita while everyone else was passed out in the same bed; the re-entry may also have been due to emotional trauma around a gun incident with some harbour toughs/cops and an Italian tourist Keith and Spanish Tony had a car run-in with (an incident Keith describes differently in his auto-biography Life than Greenfield does here), but is more likely the result of a go-cart wreck where Keith flips his vehicle and scrapes along the surface on his back, removing several layers of skin (he was on prescribed and medically-applied morphine after that to kill the pain, which quickly led to self-medication with heroin).

He also mentions in great detail an anecdote of Paul and Yoko visiting Nellcôte that he seems to have gotten from Anita Pallenberg herself. But the times were catching up to them and casualties within their entourage of friends include Madeleine d’Arcy, a girlfriend of Tommy Weber’s who got badly strung out on heroin and died young, Michele Breton, who had been in Performance with Mick and Anita and who eventually drifted around the drug world, then sold her passport and all her possessions in Kabul in order to support her morphine habit. Then there are the Gettys, the richest and most fashionable couple in the world among the hippies, who invited the Stones and the Beatles to their palace in Marrakesh. Talitha Pol Getty, after having an affair with aristocratic drug dealer to the stars Jean de Breteuil (he supplied Jim Morrison with the heroin that killed him), died of a drug overdose, as did de Breteuil. Photographer Michael Cooper, whose pics from theNellcôte sessions adorn the pages of this book, visited after his wife died of an overdose; eighteen months later he went the same way. Then there’s a rediculous story involving Tommy Weber and Timothy Leary: “On Christmas Day, Tommy was waiting for them in Cairo at the pyramids when Leary and Harcourt-Smith were arrested in Kabul and returned in custody to the United States.” Huh?

Greenfield describes the crazy recording van that was used to record Sticky Fingers, as well as “Sweet Black Angel”, which appeared on Exile, that was eventually used in lieu of using an actual French recording studio, none of which were up to scratch at the time. The first two weeks of jamming produced no music worth using, and then Keith would stay upstairs through whole parts of the sessions, spacing out with his guitar or mellowing out with junk, with even Mick scared to go up and bring him down to continue work. Weird tales of Keith being jealous of and even publicly humiliating Mick Taylor, their young new guitarist, for being a better guitarist than him, or of Mick Jagger hitting on Mick Taylor’s wife Rose just to piss him off; then there was Mick Taylor’s descent into heroin use himself, and the eventual divorce. Greenfield notes several cases of Mick Taylor being too scared to get out from under the blankets to be with his bandmates, especially Mick Jagger, who was in pursuit of his wife, and he then quotes Anita Pallenberg saying “you know, Jagger’s bisexual.” So, seven weeks went by with no songs recorded. Seven weeks in the south of France with youth, drugs and beauty to enjoy, not to mention a mansion, powerboats, and other toys.

The band, at this point, began phasing out Jimmy Miller as a producer, having learned to do what he did (they thought that the could do the same to engineer Andy Johns, but they had to bring him back in after trying to fire him. Great anecdotes of Bill Wyman’s eccentricities, switching from cigarettes to joints in order to quit smoking, taking pictures of nude sunbathers by telephoto lens while beautiful women from the entourage were nude sunbathing nearby, or asking women if he could photograph their breasts, constantly chronicling stuff. Keith cutting “Happy” with Bobby Keys on sax and Jimmy Miller on drums. Claims that Keith preferred self-service to having sex with the stunning Anita Pallenberg.

Once the album is done, the band goes on tour. They start off in Vancouver, playing most of the songs from Exile, but eventually settling on “Rocks Off”, “Happy”, “Tumbling Dice”, “Sweet Virginia”, “All Down The Line” and “Rip This Joint”, leaving off “Loving Cup, “Torn and Frayed” and “Ventilator Blues”. The 1972 US tour, also known as the Stones Touring Party tour, was a 29-date odyssey that started in Vancouver in early June, and ended with four nights in Madison Square Gardens in late July. Greenfield recounted the proceedings from this tour in another book, called Stp: A Journey Through America with The Rolling Stones, while it was also documented in Robert Frank’s controversial Cocksucker Blues (the full 95-minute film can be viewed here, by the way), and the four nights in Texas were captured in the 1974 concert film Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones, which was released on DVD in 2010.

Greenfield quickly jumps into a middle time, such as telling anecdotes of Jake Weber running into Mick Jagger by chance, recreating what seems like the entire conversation of Mick brushing off Jake, who had been eight years old when Mick knew him at Nellcôte. “As is his wont when confronted by someone from his past, Mick said, ‘Oh, right…. That was a long time ago, wasn’t it?’” There’s phrases like “Bill Wyman recently noted, ‘Keith used to say Mick’s a lovely bunch of guys.’” There’s a great recount of how Ameriquest sponsored the band’s A Bigger Bang tour, back in those heady sub-prime mortgage days when the sub-prime people had more money than ever; another passage describes the contortions of the Superbowl concert (where the lyrics “come” and “cocks” were censored in order to “preserve the virgin ears of more than a hundred and forty-one million viewers who had never before heard these particular lyrics, despite all the records the band had sold”), and another describes a reunion with Marshall Chess, the one-time CEO of Rolling Stone Records, who meets the band backstage. Keith shows off the area where the band does meet and greet with rich big shots, or where they strike a deal for campaign fundraising with Arnold Schwartzenegger and his circuit. Awesome to read about the women in Rio who had t-shirts that said “MICK JAGGER – FACA UM FILHO ES MIM”, which means “Mick Jagger, put a baby in me.”

The book is far from perfect: despite not being able to interview a single interview with one of the Rolling Stones, the author also has the annoying habit of inserting things that only a Stone would know, think or feel. He also, on many many occasions, refers to Mick Jagger with his full name, or parses Who and Beatles lyrics as part of his text. He’s also infamously guilty of referring to “Jumping Jack Flash” as being on an album that it wasn’t a part of (getting lots of slag in the Amazon reviews for that). But, if we take the proceedings with a grain of salt, it does make for an informative, if patchy read.



Life, by Keith Richards – This book is reviewed elsewhere in this blog, but I can at least revisit the pages he deals with Exile on Main Street, right?

Keith mentions the recording and release of Exile on Main Street, and its subsequent tour, over about 14 pages in the book in the second half (the first half of the book is his childhood, and early pre-heroin days as a Stone), and most of Chapter Eight is about the Villa Nellcôte era and the Exile on Main Street gang, as well as the release of the album and its subsequent Spt (Stones party tour) extravaganza. He describes the over-grown garden, the mirrors and twenty-foot ceilings and marble columns and grand staircases, where there was grandeur after the shabbiness of Britain. Bill ended up hanging out with Marc Chagall at the time. He describes his feeling, developed over time, about Bianca Jagger (very smart, very powerful – “if she’d had a sense of humour I’d have married her”), but Mick had just met her, gotten her pregnant, and she gave birth to their daughter Jade, all during the Exile on Main Street sessions; Mick was torn. Keith talks about the big bag of pure heroin that he bought from Fat Jacques that kept him and Anita and many others going from June to November that had to be mixed 3 parts heroin to 97 parts lactose or it would kill the user. There were tales of parties, of boating off to Italy for breakfast after an all-night session recording in the basement, of the navy coming into town and Villefranche filling up with hookers and drugs. Keith describes writing song s like “Rocks Off”, Happy, “Ventilator Blues”, “Tumbling Dice” and All Down The Line” quickly, with five-string open tuning. Songs that never made it onto the album (or the 2010 expanded and revamped re-release) had titles like “Head in the Toilet Blues”, “Leather Jackets”, “Windmill”, “I was Just a Country Boy”, “Dancing in the Light”, “Bent Green Needles”, “Labour Pains” and “Pommes de Terre”. “Happy”, of course, was recorded in only four hours, with only Keith from the Stones there playing bass and guitar and singing, with Jimmy Miller on drums and Bobby Keys on sax. The influence of Gram Parsons is in “Dead Flowers”, “Torn and Frayed”, “Sweet Virginia” and “Wild Horses.” Great pretentious quotes about drugs like “But that perception of time – Einstein is pretty right: it’s all relative.” Keith describes his work ethic, being in the studio mixing for days on end, a taskmaster, throwing moods so he’d be able to go off and shoot up, not letting up, being thoughtless and not telling people he was going off for a while, always operating on Keith Time. There is the tale of the drug bust, and the escape to LA to master the tracks, add chorus, backup singers, or extra percussion (on page 339 he admits that the album “wasn’t even that highly rated when it came out”, but then says that “it always had incredible reviews”). He explained that the double album format seemed at first like it would be the kiss of death that so many record company executives had said that it would be… “but then it just kept going and gong and getting bigger and bigger.” Keith had a perverse sense of responsibility – he didn’t want to be a junkie on tour as arrests would have band’s fate: “the idea of putting the whole tour on the line because I couldn’t make it was too much.”


Cocksucker Blues – The film begins slow and languid, with people coming into the frame: Mick, Bobby Keys, Keith Richards, Jim Price, with good lighting. Keith is strumming his Telecaster, does a little boogie. Mick jamming in a rhumba shirt, the band is jamming, the camera is on Charlie. Marshall Chess tells the story how “Cocksucker Blues” got its name, with songs like Dr John’s “How Much Pussy Can You Eat”? The song “Cocksucker Blues” plays, Mick is on the piano, then he storms off, Keith looks great playing piano standing up. Mick masturbating, Mick poolside, rolling doobs briefly, shattered table. Flms his cover pics billboard passing by in car. Interspersed cuts. Mick explains in an interview that, from the new album, he particularly likes “Sweet Virginia” and “All Down The Line” and “Ventilator Blues”. Weird conversation between the interviewer, Mick and Keith:

Have you thought about writing a hit for Chuck Berry?
No, I never have actually, we ain’t been gettin’ on too well recently.
He writes for himself, he’s got his equilibrium.
He’d probably like a hit, but it’s probably other people’d do it.

Pan around entourage. Great editing – Keith and Bobby chilled out on Air Stones, hear band intro, flashes of them in plane is discongruous with the music. Radio interview/intro bits over airplane scene with naked girls. At 17:12 we see Bill Wuyman with his own camera, grinning sheepisly when caught on Frank’s, there’s some on-plane sex, an in-air orgy is going on. Someone’s getting a blowjob. A roadie in a “Cocaine” t-shirt that looks like the Coca Cola logo. Rare bit of Keith at 23:00 being very Captain Jack Sparrow. Before show talking about gig, then coming off after the show (seems as if the gig never happened, that the backstage life is more important – only 15 minutes of the 94-minute film show any of their songs). Encore time. Snortin’ coke, black girls. “I thought it would be good, because they’re so good, but I didn’t think it would be this good.” Yeah, check out 31:00 as “Midnight Rambler” goes on! Mick howling in yellow jumpsuit then white jumpsuit. Mick attacking stage. “It’s not possible to get addicted to cocaine because it’s too expensive. The camera doesn’t lie, am I right, Bob?” Stoned groupie. Mic man did cocaine. Girl with syringe! Camera in mirror Keith nodding. Ahmet Ertagun there. High society backstage after rock ‘n’ roll blitzkrieg – Andy arrives, Truma Capote also. Some woman vocalist hanging out with the band hits a beautiful long sustain before someone puts a leaf in her mouth. Big kiss between Tina and Mick. Gay designer and Bianca and Mick on Mick’s birthday in cavernous suite. Band members driving around. “Getting away from the 39 people” Mick. Old coot with guitar at gas station. Playing pool with which blues legend? Mick brings out Stevie Wonder. Mick looking old with his hunch-backed short steps, Stevie’s “Uptight” jam morphs into wild “Satisfaction”. Wild funk ruckus, 30 people onstage, including topless black woman. Mick dancing with Stevie, who throws pie into audience (footage over several nights as there’s a costume change for Stevie Wonder). Girl after sex. Boys playing cards and listening to country – Keith, Bobby, Jim. Mick Taylor walks into room with three nude people to smoke a joint and have an intellectual conversation (we hardly ever heard him speak in those days, so it’s a treat) in Indiana. Mick watching himself on TV as he orders room service. Pregnant groupie shoots up. Shadowy corridor. Mick and socks. “Getting rid of Leroy.” The mentality of those people.” Bouncers in halls. Triple mirror shots – white man talking jive, fixin’ in another hotel room. Tomb of the unknown junkie, made of discarded spikes. Excederine commercial and Charlie. Drugs OTC or otherwise. Keith and Bobby tossing a TV out of a hotel room window (like Ozzy and everyone else). Dick Cavett? Charlie and makeup. Mick dressing up in a jumpsuit, backstage preparations. Mother on acid, she wants to see the Stones, Life’s already half-wrecked, could jump off a bridge, they took her child away because she was on LSD. “She was born on acid. It blows my mind.” Ends with big flashes, perp march. Keith and handler, Wiliam S Burroughs quoting “Brown Sugar.”

Australian tour documentary – Focussing on a short-haired Mick Jagger, shows the band playing “Brown Sugar”, then gets into intros: Leslie Perrin, PR manager, Peter Rudge, tour manager, Nickie Hopkins, Keith Richards (“he won’t live to 70″), Bill Wyman (“perhaps he’ll be the first to leave the Stones”), Mick Jagger’s bodyguard Leroy Leonard, Mick Taylor (“Jagger treats him gently, he seems rather fragile”) and Charlie Watts. They note that there no screaming girls outside the hotel. Interviews with hot chick rock fans, “we don’t go out to the airport to see the band any more, we just listen to the music; that was a long time ago like with the Beatles.” Interview with Patrick Stansfield, production manager, with shots of roadies setting up. Clip of the band playing “Bitch” in the mid-afternoon sun. Cool interview with Keith: “I’ve always felt more sexual than political; I could never get very worked up about Edward Heath.” Media insists that there’s a rumour that someone tried to smuggle pot into the country. “Who? What kind?” In the press conference, talk of Australia joining Southeast Asia. They harp on the fact that there’s no really big news during this visit, other than Mick’s bedsheets being auctioned for A$400. Leslie Perrin interviewed, quite dull of course (he’s a PR man). The documentary appears to end 33 minutes into this 50 minute documentary. They then play “Love In Vain” to video from the Gimme Shelter movie. Looks like there was more footage at the end of the “documentary” showing what may be unreleased footage from the Madison Square Gardens concert that was shown in part in Gimme Shelter. At the end, there’s the band playing “Walk The Dog” on a TV broadcast, with Brian Jones, and a few other songs.

Pictures from the Exile on Main Street sessions – Famed French photographer Dominique Tarlé was on hand at Villa Nellcôte to take pictures of the band hanging out and recording, out of which he published a huge out-of-print coffee table book in 2001. The book may not be available, but the pictures are gathered at several spots on the web, including here.

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