1. Rocks Off
2. Rip This Joint
3. Shake Your Hips
4. Casino Boogie
5. Tumbling Dice
6. Sweet Virginia
7. Torn and Frayed
8. Sweet Black Angel
9. Loving Cup
11. Turd on the Run
12. Ventilator Blues
13. I Just Want to See His Face
14. Let it Loose
15. All Down the Line
16. Stop Breaking Down
17. Shine a Light
18. Soul Survivor
Exile on Main Street
A rocking romp dripping in decadence. Made in Keith Richard's basement during a never-ending party of substance abuse
- May 1972
- Rock On Rock Recommends:
The whole album. Many Stones fans and music critics consider this their best album.
THIS Rolling Stones album has it all > rock, blues, country and soul > drenched in the ragged glory of one of the best kick-ass big bands ever partially assembled.
The sixth-month party/recording sessions at Keith Richard’s rented luxury villa Nellcote in the south of France are the stuff or rock and roll legend.
“When I was on heroin I learned to ski and I made Exile on Main Street”
> Keith Richards (1979)
PARTY ANIMALS: Session musicians, friends, family and hangers-on dropped by for an orgy of drugs, alcohol and music. It all centred around Mr Wasted himself > Keith “the human riff” Richards.
A lot of the backing vocals and even Mick Jagger’s singing was added later in the studio > but the basic tracks were bedded down in Keith’s humid basement, the Rolling Stones mobile studio plugged in.
It’s a full-frontal band sound, guitarist Mick Taylor’s slide and lead a perfect foil to Richard’s rough chords > plus the best rhythm section in rock > bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts > in full cry.
There’s the added deft touch of Nicky Hopkins and soul man Billy Preston on piano and keyboards, plus the horns of Jim Price and saxophone player Bobby Keys.
Exile on Main Street is rock and roll played to excess > Mick Jagger almost shouting to be heard over a raucous band.
FROM the riff-led charge of album opener Rocks Off, this is a band firing on all cylinders.
The solid sax of Bobby Keys > who would go on to become Keith’s drinking partner on tour for many years > is a highlight of this and many other Exiles tracks. Rocks Off contains the immortal line “She comes every time she pirouettes on me” > and for you night prowlers: “The sunshine bores the daylights out of me”.
Also rocking right out are roadhouse rant Rip This Joint > pumping along at a frantic pace > as does Turd on the Run [what a great title], a driving highway song with soulful Jagger harmonica.
Keith Richards takes over vocals on Happy, which captures his rock and roll spirit. This was Richards signature tune on stage for many years > before he decided to concentrate on being the troubled troubadour.
A pounding All Down the Line and metallic Soul Survivor complete the hard-rock rocks.
You can almost smell the bourbon oozing out of Sweet Virginia, a southern fried country rocker full of swagger > one of the Stones’ best songs. Good ol’ boy Bobby Keys [well, he is from Texas] lets rip with a sax solo > Jagger punches out porch harmonica amid acoustic guitars.
Blues stomp Ventilator Blues was said to be inspired by the lack of ventilation in the basement at Nellcote.
Tumbling Dice, the first single off the album, has a wonderful laid-back feel that draws you in > telling a gambler’s tale of love.
The country-tinged Torn and Frayed >Al Perkins on steel guitar, another good ole boy from Texas > also has an air of jaded defiance.
Stop Breaking Down > great slide guitar from Mick Taylor> delves back into the blues, albeit with a rock edge. Thankfully, it’s a musical genre the Rolling Stones have always held dear > and there’s few better than this one.
Exile On Main Street has two of the band’s best soul/gospel songs. Loving Cup is a giant of a song with uplifting piano, thumping drums and swinging horns. Let it Loose > soulful backing vocals > is just as good.
Acoustic Sweet Black Angel is in support of black American radical Angela Davis. Lyrics include: “The judge and jury walked out hand in hand.” (see Angela Davis report below).
The skip-beat boogie, duelling guitars of Hip Shake > original by rural bluesman Slim Harpo > and the laconic beat of Casino Boogie complete an album of magnificently murky rock and roll recklessness.
WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE KIDDIN’ MR HITLER
Keith Richards’ rented French villa Nellcote > where the Exile On Main Street album was largely recorded > had supposedly been a Gestapo headquarters during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II.
The band discovered floor vents in the shape of swastikas.
BURNT OFFERING A BIT ON THE PARSON’S NOSE
Keith Richards developed a full-on drug habit and one of his main shoot-up partners was country singer-songwriter Gram Parsons.
He died aged 26 from an overdose in September 1973 in Joshua Tree, California.
Friends stole Gram Parson’s body on transit at LA international airport to burn it in the desert, as had been Parson’s wish.
Always took candy from strangers,
Didn’t wanna get me no trade
Never wanna be like papa
Working for the boss night and day
Thank you for your wine California
Thank you for your sweet and bitter fruits
Yes I’ve got the desert in my toenail
And I hid the speed inside my shoes
“He (Gram Parsons) was my mate and I wish he’d remained my mate for a lot longer. It’s not often you can lie around on a bed with a guy having cold turkey in tandem > and still get along.”
> Keith Richards, from the book According to the Rolling Stone
SWEET BLACK ANGEL > ANGELA DAVIS
The Rolling Stones song Sweet Black Angel is about American activist and university professor Angela Davis, who was openly communist and aligned with the notorious Black Panthers of the 1970s.
California governor Ronald Reagan > a bad Hollywood actor who later became a bad US President > wanted Angela Davis removed as a teacher at the University of California (UCLA).
She went into hiding in 1970 and was put on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list > after being accused of helping an attempted courtroom escape in Marin County that ended with four people dead.
Angela Davis was facing trial charged with murder when Exile on Main Street was released. She was eventually acquitted.
> WRITTEN by MALCOLM LIVERMORE
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