Tuesday, May 12, 2009

37 Years Ago Today: The Rolling Stones release 'Exile on Main Street'

'Exile on Main St.' is an album by the English rock band The Rolling Stones released in 1972. Released as a double LP—and drawing on influences from rock & roll, blues, country and soul —Exile was initially greeted with lukewarm reviews, but is now widely considered among the band's finest work and one of the defining masterpieces of the rock era. In 2003, the album was ranked number 7, the band's highest position, on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.


'Exile on Main St.' is an album composed of outtakes and tracks written and recorded over the period of four years, from 1968 to 1972. On those earlier songs, singer Mick Jagger said in 2003, "...After we got out of our contract with Allen Klein, we didn't want to give him those earlier tracks," as they were forced to do with the songs "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses" from 'Sticky Fingers'. Most were recorded between 1969 and 1971 at Olympic Studios and Richard's Stargroves country house in England during sessions for 'Sticky Fingers'

By the spring of 1971, the Stones chose to abandon their home country of England to avoid the amount of taxes the British government expected the band to pay. The Stones would have to leave by April 5th, or the government would have seized their assets. After much consideration, the Stones chose to settle in France at Villefranche-sur-Mer, near Nice, where guitarist Keith Richards had rented Nellcôte, the "Gestapo headquarters during the Second World War," according to Richards, complete with swastikas on the floor vents. It was here that the Stones would begin work constructing their next album.

Recording began in earnest sometime near the middle of June. Bassist Bill Wyman recalls the band working all night, every night, from eight in the evening until three the following morning for the rest of the month. Wyman said of the times, "...not everyone turned up every night. This was, for me, one of the major frustrations of this whole period. For our previous two albums we had worked well and listened to producer Jimmy Miller. At Nellcôte things were very different and it took me a while to understand why..." By this time Richards had begun a daily habit of using heroin. Thousands of dollars of heroin flowed through the mansion each week in addition to a contingent of visitors that included the likes of William S. Burroughs, Terry Southern, Gram Parsons, and Marshall Chess (who was running the Stones' new label). Contrary to popular belief, Parsons does not appear on the album and was asked to leave Nellcôte in early July 1971, the result of both his obnoxious behaviour and an attempt by Richards to clean the house of drug users as the result of pressure from the French police.

Richards' steadily growing addiction began to inhibit his ability to perform, often leading the band having to record in altered forms without every member present. A notable instance was the recording of one of Richards' most famous songs, "Happy". Recorded in the basement, Richards said in 1982, "'Happy' was something I did because I was for one time EARLY for a session. There was Bobby Keys and Jimmy Miller... We had nothing to do and had suddenly picked up the guitar and played this riff. So we cut it and it's the record, it's the same. We cut the original track with a baritone sax, a guitar and Jimmy Miller on drums. And the rest of it is built up over that track. It was just an afternoon jam that everybody said, 'Wow, yeah, work on it'".

Suggested listening:

No comments: