“Exile on Main St.” redux


Recorded during the blazing summer of 1971 at Nellcôte, Keith Richards’s seaside mansion in southern France, Exile on Main St. has been hailed as one of the Rolling Stones’ best albums, and one of the greatest rock records of all time. Yet its improbable creation was difficult, torturous, and at times nothing short of dangerous.

In self-imposed exile, the Stones—along with wives, girlfriends, and a crew of hangers-on unrivaled in the history of rock—spent their days smoking, snorting, and drinking whatever they could get their hands on. At night, the band descended like miners into the villa’s dank basement to lay down tracks.

All the while, a variety of celebrities including John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Gram Parsons stumbled through the villa’s never-ending party, as did the local drug dealers, known to one and all as les cowboys.  Nellcôte became the crucible in which creative strife, outsize egos, and all the usual byproducts of the Stones’ legendary hedonistic excess fused into something potent, volatile, and enduring.

This according to Exile on Main St.: A season in hell with the Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield (Cambridge: Da capo. 2006). Below, the complete album for your contemplation.

Related article: The Beatles’ white album

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One Response to “Exile on Main St.” redux

  1. Wow! Keith looks so young!! Such a brilliant band and Exile has to be one of the best albums they did ! They were so fresh at this point and it was a real turning point in The Stones sound!

    I heard that George Lucas was a cameraman on the 1970 documentary film about the Rolling Stones. There is a great moment in Stones in Exile, a new documentary about the making of Exile on Main St in 1971, when Keith Richards defines the essential difference in temperament between Mick Jagger and himself.

    “Mick needs to know what he’s going to do tomorrow,” says Richards, his voice slurring into a laugh. “Me, I’m just happy to wake up and see who’s hanging around. Mick’s rock, I’m roll.”

    On Exile on Main St, though, Jagger, for once, rolled with Richards. So, too, did everyone else involved, from Jimmy Miller, the producer, to Marshall Chess, the young Atlantic Records executive, to the rest of the group and their extended retinue of session players, studio technicians and hangers-on.
    Jamie Goddard
    The 1960s show