EXILE ON MAIN STREET
 

Recorded:
June 16-July 27, 1970: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
October 17-31, 1970: Rolling Stones Mobile Unit, Mick Jagger's home Stargroves, Newbury & Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
July 10-late July 1971: Rolling Stones Mobile Unit, Keith Richards' home Nellcôte, Villefranche-sur-mer, France
October 14-November 23, 1971: Rolling Stones Mobile Unit, Keith Richards' home Nellcôte, Villefranche-sur-mer, France
December 4-19, 1971: Sunset Sound Studios, Los Angeles, USA

Overdubbed & mixed:
November 30-December 19, 1971: Sunset Sound Studios, Los Angeles, USA
January 10-late January 1971: Sunset Sound Studios, Los Angeles, USA
February 15-March 1971: Sunset Sound Studios, Los Angeles, USA
March 24-25, 1972: Wally Heider Studios, Los Angeles, USA

Producer: Jimmy Miller
Chief engineers: Glyn Johns, Andy Johns & Joe Zagarino
Released: May 1972
Original label: Rolling Stones Records (on WEA)



Contributing musicians: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor, Nicky Hopkins, Ian Stewart, Bobby Keys, Jim Price, Bill Plummer, Billy Preston, Jimmy Miller, Al Perkins, Richard "Didymus" Washington ("Amyl Nitrate"), Clydie King, Venetta Fields, Sherlie Matthews, Jesse Kirkland, Joe Green, Dr. John (Mac Rebennack), Tamiya Lynn, Kathi McDonald.
 

Rocks Off
Rip This Joint
Shake Your Hips
Casino Boogie
Tumbling Dice
Sweet Virginia
Torn and Frayed
Sweet Black Angel
Loving Cup
Happy
Turd on the Run
Ventilator Blues
I Just Want to See His Face
Let It Loose
All Down the Line
Stop Breaking Down
Shine a Light
Soul Survivor
 


   

THE TITLE


(Main Street is in L.A.) You can see pimps, knives flashin', real inner city...
- Mick Jagger, 1972


We could record from late in the afternoon until five or six in the morning, and suddenly the dawn comes up and I've got this boat... We'd just jump in, Bobby Keys, me, Mick, whoever was up for it... We'd pull into Monte Carlo for lunch. Have a chat with either Onassis's lot or Niarchos's, who had the big yachts there. You could almost see the guns pointed at each other. That's why we called it Exile On Main Street. When we first came up with the title it worked in American terms because everybody's got a Main Street. But our Main Street was that Riviera strip. And we were exiles, so it rang perfectly true and said everything we needed. The whole Mediterranean coast was an ancient connection of its own, a kind of Main Street without borders. I've hung in Marseilles, and it was all it was cracked up to be and I've no doubt it still is. It's like the capital that embraces the Spanish coast, the North African coast, the whole Mediterranean coast. It's basically a country all its own until a few miles inland. 
- Keith Richards, Life (2010)
 
 









 
 

COVER


The front cover of the album is a photo (Robert Frank) took of a wall in a tattoo parlor in New York City. The wall is covered with photos of strange and unusual people. Frank filmed the Stones with a Super 8 amera, then made stills out of individual frames and composed the back cover to match his original wall picutre.
- Robert Greenfield, Rolling Stone, 1972

 
I did the inside. I said just use the track lists that we use in the studio. That was my input.
- Keith Richards, 2010







 
   
 
 

CREATION


Exile is really a mixture of bits and pieces left over from the previous album recorded at Olympic Studios and which, after we got out of the contract with Allen Klein, we didn't want to give him: tracks like Shine a Light, and Sweet Virginia. Those were mixed up with a few slightly more grungy things done in the South of France. It's seen as one album all recorded there and it really wasn't. We just chucked everything in.
- Mick Jagger, 2003


Some songs  - Sweet Virginia - were held over from Sticky Fingers. It was the same line-up and I've always felt those two albums kind of fold into each other... there was not much time between them and I think it was all flying out of the same kind of energy.
- Keith Richards


It wasn't made as an album, like you see it there (on the album sleeve). Some of it was made in London, at Olympic. Some of it was made in Mick's house in Berkshire. Then we went to France, and we finished it in L.A. It was just recording, and it was a way of using up old tracks. That's what we did in those days: just recorded. It kept you busy and out of trouble - as you've no doubt recently noticed (refers to Ron Wood's recent amorous troubles) - and it was stuff you could use later.
- Charlie Watts, 2009


It was frustrating, and it took quite a long period of time. A lot of the tracks were not made in the south of France. They were tracks we'd made or hadn't finished, or hadn't released on the previous album, Sticky Fingers, before we moved to France. Exile was recorded under a lot of difficult circumstances, and in what was not a very good recording place. It was a bit uphill. In retrospect, when I was forced to look at it when we were going to re-release the album, I saw that the time that we spent in the studio wasn't really that long. It didn't go on for years, and years and years. It wasn't - what was that Axl Rose album that went on for 15 years? (Chinese Democracy.) (laughs) Exactly! It wasn't Chinese Democracy. It was only six or seven months. And there were so many drug problems, and we had problems getting into the United States, so it was all sort of uphill and difficult. There were all sorts of other outside forces that were trying to take up time and energy. So that definitely made it more frustrating than just doing a record. And then we were preparing for a tour - and when we did the tour and the songs, everything was fine.
- Mick Jagger, 2010


Mick: I hope the (next) record isn't so long getting out.
Chess: No, got to get the next one out by September.
Mick: Have we (started it yet?) Haven't we done half of it?
Chess: No, chucked it all away.
Mick: Oh, have we? See what I mean? We'd done half of it four weeks ago and now we've chucked it all away. And where do we stand? You just turn up... (To Chess) It's ALL thrown away, the other?
Chess: Yeah.
- Mick Jagger & Marshall Chess (President of
Rolling Stones Records), April 1971


Yeah, (we're going to do the next album) right in me own basement, as it turns out. After months of searching I end up sitting on it.
- Keith Richards, June 1971


Stoned is the word that might describe (the band at the time). (Laughs) It's the first album Mick Taylor's on, really (sic). So it's different than previous albums, which had Brian on them - or Brian not on them, as the case may be. It was a difficult period, because we had all these lawsuits going with Allen Klein. We had to leave England because of tax problems. We had no money and went to live in the South of France - the first album we made where we weren't based in England, thus the title.
- Mick Jagger, 1995


We hadn't intended to record in my house. We did look around for studios around there once we'd all decided that was what we were going to do - but although there are plenty of very good French recording engineers now, at that time in the South of France in the early 1970s, there weren't too many. There were no studios with good rooms to work in, the equipment was shabby and nobody felt comfortable in any of the places we looked at. I had this basement, which was really very ugly, but it was the biggest one of all the houses we had down there, and we also had our own mobile recording truck. So we said, Why don't we just forget about looking for a studio. Let's bring in the truck and work around the problems; at least this way we don't have to ask interpreters every time we want to turn it off or on.
- Keith Richards, 2003


We figured there's gotta be some decent studios in Cannes or Nice or somewhere around there, even if it was Marseilles. But we checked them all out, and it was pathetic.
- Keith Richards, 2010


The beginning, the first month, was probably a little bit touch-and-go whether we'd actually pull it off. But then it started to flow and, as I say, we said Well, we don't need to go anywhere else, we can do it all here. And I said, Oh great, in that case I'll stay, I'll unpack!
- Keith Richards, 2009


Recording at my place (Villefranche-sur-mer, France) was a necessity. The idea was to find another place to record like a farmhouse in the hills. But they couldn't find anywhere, so eventually they turned around and looked at me. I looked at Anita and said, Hey, babe, we're gonna have to handle it. Anita had to organize dinner sometimes for something like 18 people. We redid the basement kitchen into the studio.
- Keith Richards, 1979


I remember Gram Parsons sitting in the kitchen in France on day, while we were overdubbing vocals or something. It was crazy. Someone is sitting in the kitchen overdubbing guitar and people are sitting at the table, talking, knives, forks, plates clanking.
- Andy Johns, 1979


You know, a lot of the record was made in a big house, in a sort of big social circumstance. It wasn't made in a studio. Making records in a studio can concentrate you - in a studio, you're just going to do one thing. It makes it more finite. You've got a deadline and that sort of thing. When you move into a house and you don't have a deadline - the process, the whole thing, and all the people, it's just a longer piece of string. It's the same with film - they just don't really want to stop. It's such a good time. Why would you want to stop? You need someone to say, OK - that's it, now. And we weren't doing that ourselves, so it probably went on a big longer than it needed to.
- Mick Jagger, 2010


We made this documentary film about the making of Exile, and I had to sort of think it through, what I thought the story was, to tell the director what I think it was... (T)o say it was all difficult is bullshit. It wasn't difficult. It was mull of mad acvivity, creativity. Yeah, there was outside trouble of all different nature, it was a time of change - but what time isn't? People getting married, like me, other people having loads of children. A lot of things happened. It was like a three-year period, you know?... (I)t wasn't all bad. Some of it was fantastic. It was very full of incident, but it wasn't all angst, when you see the photographs everybody's having a wonderful time. You can paint it as this degrading experience, but it really doesn't look like that when you look at it. There were definite moments of ailment and despondency, but it really wasn't like that when you look at the footage, the pictures, the things that people said, the interviews they gave... (W)hen you saw a picture, it was full of children and families and so on, in this recording situation, which we'd never had before. It was not at all like the life of the Rolling Stones to have children - it was a completely new ewexperience. So that's very different, you know, and much more mature, if you want.... There were at least three children being born during this period. So that was very lovely, and different, at that time. It was a wonderful period, a very creative period, but it also had its problems, some of them practical, some personal, and so on.
-Mick Jagger, 2010

   
We cut at least thirty tracks in France. Mick was close to becoming a father and kept skipping off to Paris to see Bianca, which left Keith to lay down the rhythm riffs. On many of the tracks, Mick came in later. It was mid-summer on the Riviera when we cut most of the album and very humid and very hot working in the basement studio. Guitars didn't stay in tune and it was often difficult to get a really good drum sound. Many of the actual songs came quite late on. We had an awful lot of rhythm tracks with no songs written to them.
- Jimmy Miller, 1972


The recording at Nellcôte is what I really remember about Exile On Main Street, because the other tracks on the album were off-cuts, which we took down there and overdubbed. The drums were recorded down in the wine cellar. I had just moved to France and I used to have to drive from where I lived, through Nïmes and Aix-en-Provence to where Keith was. In those days they didn't have the autoroute; you can do the journey in four hours or so now, but in those days it was a six-and-a-half or seven-hour drive along these little raods. I couldn't do it every day, playing and then going home, so I used to have to live at Keith's but he was always upstairs and I'd be out in the day.
- Charlie Watts, 2003


I used to leave on a Monday morning, get to Keith's in the evening, and then leave on a Friday night and go home. Keith was very comfortable to live with. Nellcôte was like a nightclub, but a very cool one. It wasn't all shouting and everything. Keith used to read books and sleep in the sun. He still does the same thing. He reads great, thick books and then nods off. Then he wakes up and carries on. He loves the sun. He did then, too. He would always have jeans on and his top off.
- Charlie Watts, 2009


I remember it was like trying to make a record in the Führerbunker. It was that sort of feeling you know - it was very Germanic down there for some reason. Swastikas on the staircase. And also, like all basements, it had never been used for anything. So basically it was a dirt floor and some concrete. It somebody got lost, there'd be a little trail of dust in the darkness... It was a labyrinth, in actual fact. It was a concrete labyrinth, subdivided here and there, and we would go around testing to see which one had the best echo or was the best sound for a particular instrument. That sort of thing. But it was also sort of like the netherworld. Upstairs it was fantastic. Like Versailles. The south of France in the summer - la, la, la. Beautiful. Who could ask for anything more? But down there, it was another thing. It was Dante's Inferno... I was living on top of the factory. It saved the trips to the parties - you just went upstairs! You didn't have to worry about going from the studio and saying, Where are we going to hang now? You went upstairs and there it was - a great French villa, people are passing by, and everybody's jolly. It's a breath of fresh air, to go up and have a drink. It was a wird feeling going up from the basement and into this very beautiful sort of villa. It was a piece of work, that place. 
- Keith Richards, 2010


Good sound in the cellar. It was a HUGE cellar, it wasn't a little place. I think I was in a sort of cold bunk a bit. But it was a good sound for drums, the drums are great.
- Charlie Watts, 2009


The basement was like a labyrinth of concrete and brick cubicles - not really separate rooms, more like stables, stalls. Charlie's round the corner in the second cubicle on the left, Bill's over there in that one, someone else is under the staircase. I could see Charlie's left hand flicking away. I would never rely on headphones; as long as I could see that I knew that we were in time.
- Keith Richards, 2001


There were all these little subdivisions in the basement, almost like booths. So what would happen was that, for a certain sound, we'd schlep an amp from one space to another until we found one that had the right sound. Sometimes the guitar cord wasn't long enough! That was in the beginning, anyway. But once we started to work there, my little cubicle became my cubicle, and we didn't change places much. But at first, it was just a matter of exploring this enormous basement, saying, What other sound is hiding 'round the corner? 'Cause you'd have weird echoes going on. Soemtimes we wouldn't be able to see each other even, which is very rare for us. We usually like to eyeball one another when we're recording.
- Keith Richards, 2010


There was this stairway that came down from upstairs, and it turned - at the bottom of the stairwell it turned and there was a room. It was probably 9 foot square, maybe 10. That was where we recorded. And it used to get so hot in there that the condensation used to run down the walls and all that. My bass amp used to be under the bloody stairs, out round there. The horn players used to be down the corridor, in the kitchen, when they were doing things, or vocals. And it was all, like, spread, we couldn't see the engineer and he couldn't see us - Andy Johns, and Jim Miller the producer, they couldn't see us... And it was just like an oven. Add it was not very conducive to making music really. And it's a bloody miracle we did.
- Bill Wyman, 2009


It was a dirt floor. You could see somebody had walked by, even after they disappered 'round the corner, because there'd be a residue of dust in the air. It was a pretty thick atmosphere. But maybe that had something to do with the sound - a thick layer of dust over the microphones.
- Keith Richards, 2010


There was no air down there. There was this one little tiny five- or six-inch fan in a window up in the corner that revolved about 20 times a minute. It was just dreadful.
- Andy Johns, 2010


It wasn't a great environment for, like, breathing. Mick Taylor and I would just peer through the murk at each other and say, OK, what key is it in? It was very Hitleresque - the last day days of Berlin sort of thing.
- Keith Richards, 2010


Keith and Mick Taylor were using these fabulous Ampeg amplifiers, with just two 12-inch speakers, but they were like 300 watts or something ridiculous. It was SO LOUD. So I had to build little houses for both of the guitar amps.
- Andy Johns, 2010


You'd sort of jam an acoustic guitar into the corner of one of these cubicles and just start playing and you'd hear it back you'd think, that doesn't sound anything like what I was playing, but it sounds great. So you started to play around with the basement itself, aiming your amplifier up at the ceiling instead of like normal.
- Keith Richards, 2001


(A)s weird as it was to record there, especially at the beginning, by the time we were into it, within a week or two, it was totally natural. There was no talk amongst the band or with Jimmy Miller or the engineer Andy Johns, what a weird way to make a record. No, we've got it. All we've got to do is persevere. 
- Keith Richards, Life (2010)


The sessions used to go on and on, night after night. Drums and guitars were in one room, the piano was in another, and the brass was done in the hallway. We had to have closed-circuit television monitors to see what was going on.
- Nicky Hopkins


Actually, there were only four cuts that I wasn't on. Out of twenty tracks, Mick made a mistake with the credits on two of the cuts... We tend to fill in for each other, and the bass is easy to fill in for. If Charlie wasn't there it'd be difficult. If Mick isn't around he can always add his vocals the next day. If Keith isn't there - as he isn't on many tracks - he can overdub his parts later. I can never overdub, because you've got to get that rhythm track down with bass and drums together. So I'm at a disadvantage in that my instrument has to be present to build the foundation whether I'm there to play it or not. Yet if someone has filled in for me, I can't change it or overdub later on. Often when that happens I shift over to another instrument like keyboards or synthesizer.
- Bill Wyman, 1981


Sometimes we'd get two tracks in a night down there. And then there'd be other times when we 'd be three days on one song... (W)e'd generally work for four days a week, five at a push. But the weekends were generally off. 
- Keith Richards, 2010


Jimmy (Miller) did an incredible job, especially under those circumstances. We had no control room. We had a mobile truck outside the front door. So every time we had a playback, it was like a ritual. And after a while you'd be down in the basement and say, Do you want to hear that back?, and we'd all look at each other and say, Nah. We couldn't take the stairs anymore. So we'd say to Jimmy, What do you think? And he'd say, I think it's a good one, and they'd say, OK, and then you'd tramp up the stairs and check it out. It was a weird way of making a record, but it proved it can be done almost anywhere. It's much easier these days, actually. Gien the equipment that was available in 1971, it was quite a feat.
- Keith Richards, 2010


The whole band was running all their gear off of the truck. And somebody had the bright idea that to save Keith money, we'd tap into the electric supply out in the street so it wouldn't show up on his bill.
- Andy Johns, 2010


It was like a big transformer thing, but if the voltage dropped below a certain level it would all just cut off. I mean, it's France, man. They were still using horses to plow - a TELEPHONE CALL would take half an hour. Apart from the fact that everything would go out of tune every two minutes because of the heat, then you had to deal with the electricity going down - and this would be when they were actually playing in tune. For the first time in four hours.
- Keith Richards, 2010


I also think (the guitar interplay between Mick Taylor and myself on the album) was because we were writing songs on the spot. So I automatically fell into doing the chording and figuring out the whole thing, which gave Mick Taylor a freedom. He just came up with line after beautiful line. What a player, man.
- Keith Richards, 2010


I think (the integrated horn section is) another one of the beauties of the album. The fact that the horns are actually playing with the band. There is something to be said for having it all in one room. Bobby (Keys) and Jim (Price) were amazing, 'cause they had to make up their parts virtually on the spot. The songs were coming out two or three a night. Sometimes I'd lay an idea for a song on them at the end of a session, early in the morning, so they'd have it in their heads by the time they got back the next day. There were only two of them, a sax and a trumpet, but Jimmy played great trombone as well, so we'd double them up until they became a section.
- Keith Richards, 2010


I think we always wanted to be a bit of a soul band as well. And horns - ... it just gave us that extra texture that we'd been looking for.
- Keith Richards, 2009


I supposed we had the band there, the WHOLE band there, probably 30%, 40% of the time. The rest of the time it's just bits. Bobby, me and Charlie, and Mick hadn't come, Mick Taylor didn't come. And me, Charlie and Keith, so we'd work on something. Next day, Keith wouldn't come because Mick wasn't there, so then Mick'd come and he'd see Keith wasn't there, so next day HE wouldn't come. And sometimes we'd all get there to do a session and Keith wouldn't even come, he was upstairs sleeping. Charlie had come five hours, you know, me and Mick Taylor had come two hours, Mick had come an hour, and Keith's upstairs, he didn't come down to the session. And it was like madness.
- Bill Wyman, 2009


Time to Keith was a very loose thing. It was a very small t-i-m-e because it meant - he was like he's now. Keith's time - I don't mean his playing time but his time of getting up and going - it's quite normal for Keith to work from sort of late in the evening till, you know, three o'clock the next afternoon. And Mick works from eight at night to twelve at night and goes home. So as a drummer you're in the middle of doing it all. That's why it was good at Nellcote, I lived there 'cause you could do that. It didn't matter when I wanted to bathe, you know... With various other things going on, you might not work for two days and then do a whole two days without sleep.
- Charlie Watts, 2009


We've not finished the album, we've just cut 20 tracks. Since July. Plus we've got about 28 others... The studios (at Keith's home) are not that great. OK, but not really good. It's TERRIBLE. I don't like it. Like it's too hot in the summer. I can't hear anything down there. We cut some nice things, but we'll mix it at Island (Studios) or some place.
- Mick Jagger, September 1971


(We were j)ust winging it. Staying up all night... Stoned on something; one thing or another. So I don't think it was particularly pleasant. I didn't have a very good time. It was this communal thing where you don't know whether you're recording or living or having dinner; you don't know when you're gonna play, when you're gonna sing - very difficult. Too many hangers-on. I went with the flow, and the album got made. These things have a certain energy, and there's a certain flow to it, and it got impossible. Everyone was so out of it. And the engineers, the producers - all the people that were supposed to be organized - were more disorganized than anybody.
- Mick Jagger, 1995


Probably 10% of whatever you heard (about the myths surrounding the album) is anywhere near it - all that debauchery and that kind of crap. We didn't have time! (laughs) We were fucking making a record. We were turning out two or three tracks a night sometimes. There was little time for debauchery. I'm not saying it never, never went on. But we working... (But o)f course (drugs were) bloody well (part of the process). Are you kidding me? That was normal fuel. Of course drugs were around.
- Keith Richards, 2010


People like to think Nellcote was chaotic, but some of the sessions at Olympic in the '60s were INCREDIBLY chaotic. Full of people hanging out and, you know, being a disaster. Being a lot of fun, but sort of deficient as a recording machine. Maybe some of the sessions at Nellcote were like that, and some were just really good solid workdays.
- Mick Jagger, 2010


It was a very difficult recording environment. Well, in some ways it was very difficult, in some ways it was very interesting... In that period, there were always a lot of people. That wasn't new. But it did sort of reach new heights... There were obviously loads of drugs used in the sessions, but everyone had different drug habits. They weren't all the same. And people who take drugs tend to hide their drug habits from other people. You don't always know what people are taking. But there were a lot of drugs. There were loads of drugs.
- Mick Jagger, 2009


(Mick's hangers-on complaint is) all in retrospect. It was probably the fact that Gram Parsons was around. Mick didn't like me to have other friends. I was supposed to be married to him. I never felt that way, quite honestly, because I mean... who's hubby? But Mick had a possessive thing about that. I don't think there were any more hangers-on (at Nellcote) than if we were cutting it in L.A. or London. It depended if they were his hangers-on or mine. If they were his hangers-on, they were cool.
- Keith Richards, 2009


(Gram Parsons would) be playing upstairs. When I wasn't in the studio, Mick and I would be playing with Gram. I think Gram really did not want to intrude. I think he really deliberately didn't want to push himself forward in any way as being part of the record. I think he just wanted to watch how we did it and how we were going to get out of this thing. I think it was a just a matter of respect, really... I think the only way it could have happened is if we said, Hey, Gram. We need another guitar here. But Gram's a gentleman, and he saw we knew what we were doing and didn't want to be distracted. 
- Keith Richards, 2010


The fact is that Mick spent most of his time during Exile away, 'cause Bianca was pregnant; you know, (sarcastically) royalty is having a baby. So what I am supposed to do? I'M supposed to be making an album. But I never considered it MY album.
- Keith Richards, 1979


I think that was Keith's album. Mick was always jumping off to Paris 'cause Bianca was pregnant and having labor pains. I remember many mornings after great nights of recording, I'd come over to Keith's for lunch. And within a few minutes of seeing him I could tell something was wrong. He'd say, Mick's pissed off to Paris again. I sensed resentment in his voice because he felt we were starting to get something, and when Mick returned the magic might be gone.
- Jimmy Miller, 1977


We were constantly having to adjust to various situations that interrupted the recordings, such as Mick's marriage, and then the birth of Jade, which took him away from work. There were constant problems getting to and from the house, and then finding that other band members didn't turn up that night - which was often. Then there was Keith's erratic behaviour during the recordings, due to drug problems.
- Bill Wyman, 2010


I don't really get th(e Exile is Keith's album myth). Mick was incredibly involved. Look how many songs there are. And he wrote the bulk of the lyrics. He was very involved. I don't think I was putting in more than anybody else. Charlie was amazing. Everybody was in great form.
- Keith Richards, 2010


I think the Keith relationship thing wasn't bad at all... Yeah, it was fine. I don't think it was an issue here. Keith might tell you differently, but I mean, as far as I could see - obviously we had disagreements about the songs, but that was normal. If you all think exactly the same, that's not how any band works, as far as I can see. What I can see, from looking at all  this stuff, is that the biggest problems were a change of management, and problems with visas and general kind of practical problems. Tax problems, money problems due to all these previous things that had gone on that I don't really want to elaborate on. Too boring. But there was an accumulation of practical problems that had to be constantly dealt with, and my experience is when you're wrangeld with people, with the tax people, it takes an enormous amount of energy. Yeah, it pulls you away from the craetive process. And it's just very tiring and annoying and constantly invading your creative space to get all this together...
-Mick Jagger, 2010


I did (write most of the lyrics last), but some of the tunes on there were from a previous session. I hate to puncture people's ideas. Most of them were written in a very short space of time but a couple were done earlier.
-Mick Jagger, December 1992


Exile was a double album. And because it's a double album you're going to be hitting different areas, including D for Down, and the Stones really felt like exiles. We didn't start off intending to make a double album; we just went down to the South of France to make an album and by the time we'd finished we said, We want to put it all out. We could have cut it in half and released a single album and then made another one, because double albums were very unpopular with record companies: the fact that you have to charge more is just one of the reasons why you shouldn't make a double album.
- Keith Richards, 2003


Stylistically, Exile being a double album, it had a lot of different styles on it. It really ran the gamut of what the Rolling Stones' interest was at that point. It's funny that while you're doing it you don't realize it quite as much. I don't think that when we did Exile we were trying to do every different style. We all thought it was a very hard-rocking album. When you actually listen to it, it's got a lot of different things on it.
-Mick Jagger, December 1992


Jimmy (Miller) was brilliant. At the height of his talents. And Glyn and Andy (Johns) - what a couple. In some ways so alike, in others so different. Glyn was the right guy at the right time for that element of controlled chaos. And Andy, though he was pretty young then, nothing seemed to faze him. They handled the whole thing very well under difficult circumstances. It sounded like making a record under bombardment.
- Keith Richards, 2001


At the time Jimmy Miller was not functioning properly. I had to finish the whole record myself, because otherwise there were just the drunks and junkies. I was in L.A. trying to finish the record, up against a deadline. It was a joke.
-Mick Jagger, 2003


Listen, if you believe Mick, you'll believe anything. Once again this is the difference between Mick and me. His recollection is quite honestly bullshit. The only things we did in L.A. were things like, you know, We need three chicks to sing back-up on Let It Loose. Or we need a fiddle player. I mean, just extras. You see, the reason Mick says that is because he doesn't think his vocals are loud enough. But lead vocalists never think their vocals are loud enough. I would never take Mick's recollection of anything seriously. If Mick says that we just took a load of 'grungy' stuff out of France, and really made the record in L.A., that's bullshit.
- Keith Richards, 2009


L.A. was a huge contrast. It was weird taking the tapes from that basement and playing it in real studios. Just trying to adjust and, What have we got here? Is it going to sound terrible? But guys would come dropping in just to listen from other sessions, so we started to feel real good about it.
- Keith Richards, 2001


In those days, you couldn't really split apart who did what. (Mick and I) were both incredibly involved in laying down the tracks. And by the time we got to L.A., we kind of already knew what we wanted. We knew the record so well by the time we went in to do the overdubs. So I can't go with any of the This is Mick's and that was Keith's bullshit. When we made records, Mick and I were tight.
- Keith Richards, 2010


Not all the lyrics were written in a Nellcote environment. That doesn't mean they're not about Nellcote. But a lot of them were written later in L.A. and they don't reflect the Nellcote thing at all. A lot of them are about going on the road, which was actually what was going to happen next. With Tumbling Dice, there's an outtake I've found that has completely different lyrics. It wasn't until we got to L.A. that I rewrote them. The original lyrics were crap. So it was nothing to do with the original experience of recording the album, if you see what I mean.
- Mick Jagger, 2009


I don't think (we were writing about a hangover from the '60s). I really can't see it. Especially as it straddles such a long period. The only sort of slightly, vaguely conscious decision that we could've made is that it was going to be quite a tough-sounding album. Not too much sentimentality or ballads or anything like that. In fact, there aren't any ballads. There's no soft edges about Exile on Main Street. Even the slow songs - Loving Cup is kind of getting there, but it's not Angie. Shine a Light is very tough. It's a very tough record. I don't think that speaks to anything historical, or letting-go-of-a-decade or anything like that. I don't think we thought because it's in the '70s, it's got to be different. I certainly don't remember that. But there's an inherent feeling that it's sort of tough and hard.
- Mick Jagger, 2010


The fact that the Beatles had (released a double album) probably gave us a sense of, Oh, there is a precedent. But our point was that we'd put down this body of work and when it came to chopping it down to one album, nobody could agree on which songs to cut. After a while, Mick and I looked at each other and said, This is impossible. How about a double? This is all one piece. It's gonna be unique just because of where it was recorded and the way it was recorded. We sort of nodded at one another and said, Let's go for it. Which gave us hell from the record company: Aw, the public hates double albums, and all of that. But we insisted.
- Keith Richards, 2010


Mixing a double album was different than mixing a single album. So we were going into uncharted territory. Mick and I would look at one another and say, How many more songs to go? mopping our brow, so to speak. But I can't remember it being that difficult. I think we were so intimate with the tracks by then that, listening to the overdubs and mixing, it just put the icing on the cake. I remember it as being a very joyous couple of weeks. We were all on top of it. Jimmy Miller, all of us - we all knew what we were doing. It was just a matter of watching it fall into place. It was one of those rare things: a perfect mixing session.
- Keith Richards, 2010


Jimmy (Miller) was SORT of there, but he was burnt out too. I'm not saying I recorded the tracks poorly, but the sound was unusual, shall we say. And Mick was sort of driving me up the wall. One night I said, Look, man, I can't fucking tell what this is going to sound like on the radio. He went, Well, let's have someone play it on the radio. So he hires a limousine with a phone in it - obviously, this is long before cellphones - and I'm in this bloody great Cadillac limo with Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards, and it's all on me now because ANDY mentioned the radio. And Mick picks up this telephone and says, All right, have him play it now. And we hear, Hey you folks out there, we have a surprise for you, blah blah blah blah blah blah. The song finishes - I think it was All Down the Line - and Mick looks at me and says, What do you think, then? I say, I can't really tell. Well, I'll have him play it again. So he gets on the phone - Have him play it again. This is power, right? And it's very surreal for me. I mean, is this really happening? I'm only 21... (Mick eventually told me) I've had it with this bloody record. Here's the tapes, there's you, there's the mixer. You got two days. And I sat there without splitting for two days and mixed the rest of the album on me own pretty much.
- Andy Johns, 2010


I want the snares to CRACK and the voices to FLOAT... It's tricky alright. You think you've got the voices sussed and all of a sudden, the backing track sems so... so... ordinaire. (To Andy Johns) (The cymbals) sound like dustbin lids.
- Mick Jagger, March 1972, during
mixing of Tumbling Dice (in Rolling Stone)


Have you heard? They're at it again. They decided to remix the whole album. Been up 31 hours so far I hear. (Laughs) Always happens. The more you mix, the better it gets.
- Keith Richards, March 1972


Trying to get the track order down was murder, actually (laughs). I'd be sending cassettes to Mick in the middle of the night - putting my version of what the order should be under his door. I'd come back to my room and there'd already be a cassette under my door with his version of what it should be. Hey, Mick, that's pretty good, but you've got four songs in a row in the same key. We can't do that! You'd come across all these weird little problems that you never thought of. It was like making a jigsaw puzzle. By the time I got the final version, I didn't give a shit anymore.
- Keith Richards, 2010


We made one side very up-tempo, you know, it was like... really, really fast, very dancy. And the other side is a bit more relaxed and the other two are just a mixture.
- Mick Jagger, April 1972


Sometimes it's the hardest part of making an album it's, like, OK, what order do the songs come in? And, like, you kind of get used to listening to them, like jumbling them up kind of thing. And saying, Well that one works nice off of that. And you kind of work it like that...  Sometimes (it's) a good track but it doesn't seem to work coming out of that track, or going into that (track)... It's quite a process. We were successful, I suppose (laughs), in that respect, that it is - it hangs together well. And that's an important thing with a record. You can have the same record, the same songs, but if they're in a sort of order sometimes it can jar and not quite hang together, you know. And that's the difficult thing: you've made a great record and you know it's good stuff, but will it hang together? So with Exile I think we did it.
- Keith Richards, 2009








 
 
 
 

APPRECIATION


This new album is fucking mad. There's so many different tracks. It's very rock & roll, you know. I didn't want it to be like that. I'm the more experimental person in the group, you see I like to experiment. Not go over the same thing over and over. Since I've left England, I've had this thing I've wanted to do. I'm not against rock & roll, but I really want to experiment... The new album's very rock & roll and it's good. I think rock & roll is getting a bit... I mean, I'm very bored with rock & roll. The revival. Everyone knows what their roots are, but you've got to explore everywhere. You've got to explore the sky too.
- Mick Jagger, September 1971


It was cut during the summer and we'll be touring this summer, so it all fits in. It's a summer-y album and very commercial, I think... It's a double album, like Electric Ladyland. God knows there was enough in that for a year's listening... I expect, too, that eventually there'll be a live album coming out of the tour.
- Mick Jagger, March 1972


We just wanted to play quick songs, you know, very rock and roll, and have very... kind of dancy, commercial, memorable tunes.
- Mick Jagger, April 1972


I don't know what (record reviewers) want. We put together a side you can listen to in the morning or fall asleep to late at night and it says, Side two is the only one without a barrelhouse rocker. Well, I mean, you can't please everyone, can you? Actually there's several nice things in it. It's only that they're always waiting for another Let It Bleed... God, when that one came out, the critical reaction was no better than lukewarm.
- Mick Jagger, June 1972


When the record came out it didn't sell particularly well at the beginning, and it was also pretty much universally panned. But within a few years the people who had written the reviews saying it was a piece of crap were extolling it as the best frigging album in the world.
- Keith Richards, 2003


Critics always like to give the Stones bad reviews. One day they're going to be right. They just haven't been right so far, because we always manage - I don't mean to be conceited, but we always manage - to come up with the goods, and the public seem to like it and buy it. Then three years later the reviewers turn around and say, Yeah, that was a great album, after saying at the time, It was a load of old shit. Most of them did that with Exile, and came back and said it was probably one of the greatest albums or packages that the Stones had ever put out. So what? (laughs). I don't care what they say anymore.
- Bill Wyman, 1982


I'd like to have a single album compilation of my favorite Exile on Main Street tracks, though I still feel that the amount of material we had at that point warranted a double album, even if they are always too long.
- Keith Richards, 1973


Well I did like Exile very much. It was like four single-sided albums - hopefully something for everyone. It wasn't really meant to be played all at once.
-Mick Jagger, 1978


It's a wonderful record, but I wouldn't consider it the finest of the Rolling Stones' work. I think that Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed were better records. They're more compressed. You know, when you put a double album out, there's always going to be something that could have been left off and would have made it maybe better. But, you know, Exile... its reputation just seems bigger now than it was back then. I remember it didn't sell well at the time, and there was only one single off it (sic). And we were still in this phase where we weren't really commercially minded; we weren't trying to exploit or wring dry the record like one would do now, with a lot of singles. I mean, we weren't really looking at the financial and commercial aspects of it. But the truth it, it wasn't a huge success at the time. It wasn't even critically well received. I think if you go back and look at the reviews, you'll see I'm right. It mostly got very indifferent reviews. And I love it now when all these critics say it was the most wonderful thing, because it's a lot of those same guys who, at the time, said it was crap! Anway, I think Exile lacked a bit of definition. I'm being supercritical, I know, but the record lacks a little focus.
- Mick Jagger, 1987


I think Exile was a hangover from the end of the '60s.
- Mick Jagger, 1987


Well, funnily enough, this year I've listened to (Stones albums) more than ever, because they all came out on CD... (T)he ones that impressed me were the ones I always thought were superior - Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed. And Sticky Fingers. And Exile. There's so much stuff on Exile that even I'm surprised. I can't even remember all of it: Oh yeah. Did I write that?
- Keith Richards, 1987, asked about his
favorite Stones albums


My favorite two Rolling Stones records during the period I was with them, are Exile On Main Street and Sticky Fingers.
- Mick Taylor, 1993


It's a bit overrated, to be honest. Compared to Let it Bleed and Beggars Banquet, which I think are more of a piece, I don't see it's as thematic as the other two. I'm not saying it's not good. It doesn't contain as many outstanding songs as the previous (sic) two records. I think the playing's quite good. It's got a raw quality, but I don't think all around it's as good.
- Mick Jagger, 1995


I don't often play Stones stuff but if I see a copy of Exile hanging about, I nick it and play it. I still love that record very much. I would say there is the best of the Stones in there - up till now... I've no doubt that one day we'll put out an Exile outtakes album.
- Keith Richards, 2001


Every time I (choose my favourite Stones album), I keep thinking about the ones I'm leaving out. It's like babies. But if I've got to pick one I'll say - and you can take it with a large dose of salt - Exile. Because of its amazing spirit, the incredible amount of enthusiasm and screw-you-ing, You can throw us out but you can't get rid of us.
- Keith Richards, July 2002


We went back to our roots with Beggars Banquet and then we just continued in that way. I don't see a lot different in Exile on Main Street from the two albums before or the one after it, actually, Let It Bleed (sic). They're all my favorite albums, those four albums are my favourites of all the career. I think that's when we were at our peak musically, inventively, creatively. And onstage we were dynamite, you know. No one could come near us onstage, no one.
- Bill Wyman, 2009


Beggars Banquet and Exile (are my favourites), but if you want one I'll stick with (Exile).
- Ron Wood, July 2002


The stuff I was writing and the music I was doing in the '70s, which is basically when I was on smack (heroin), I couldn't have done better straight. And maybe I wouldn't have done as well straight. Music and drugs - I don't really correlate one thing with the other. One is what you're putting out and the other is what you're putting in. I never felt any different about my music because of it.
- Keith Richards, 2002


It's a funny thing. We had tremendous trouble convincing Atlantic to put out a double album. And initially, sales were fairly low. For a year or two, it was considered a bomb. This was an era where the music industry was full of these pristine sounds. We were going the other way. That was the first grunge record. Yes, it is one of the (Stones') best.
- Keith Richards, September 2002


To me, Exile on Main Street was probably the best Rolling Stones album as far as the connection between the band members. We were coming up with song ideas like crazy. And the ideas were catching on. Everybody was going flat-out.
- Keith Richards, 2010


We kind of expected (the mixed reviews) just from the fact that it was a double album. First of all, the record company wanted to cut it in half. So we said, Oh, this is not looking good. But also we insisted, No, this is what we did. This is Exile On Main Street, and we insist that it's a double album. So it kind of got a slow take-off, but ever since then, it's been up there... I would put it up there with (our best albums). It's very difficult for me to pick my babies apart, you know? But, Beggars Banquet, Exile, Sticky Fingers, Let It Bleed - I mean, it was part of that period where we were really hitting it, you know?
- Keith Richards, 2010


It was a bit overwhelming, I think, for anyone who wasn't a major fan. It was a very eclectic album. It had lots of little departments. It was a big spread, not just in terms of length, but also being spread over time. It hasn't got any unity of time and place. I know people talk about Nellcote, but only half of it were recorded there. The rest was recorded in other places, over longer periods, with other influences. So it's got no unity. It's got a very sprawling identity.
-Mick Jagger, 2009

The thing about Exile is that everyone loves it, but I don't really know why. There aren't any real hits on it, apart from Tumbling Dice. And although it's great to listen to, it isn't that great when you try and play songs from it. There are a lot of tracks on that double album, and only a handful of songs youcan perform: Tumbling Dice, Happy, All Down the Line and Sweet Virginia, which is a nice country tune. So there's a good four songs off it, but when you start to play the other nineteen (sic), you can't, or they don't work, or nobody likes them, and you think, OK, we'll play another one instead. We have rehearsed a lot of the tunes off Exile, but there's not much that's playable.
-Mick Jagger, 2003


Exile On Main Street is not one of my favourite albums, although I think the record does have a particular feeling. I'm not too sure how great the songs are, but put together it's a nice piece. However, when I listen to Exile it has some of the worst mixes I've ever heard. I'd love to remix the record, not just because of the vocals, but because generally I think it sounds lousy... Of course I'm ultimately responsible for it, but it's really not good and there's no concerted effort or intention... As long as people like the album, that's fine. It's just that I don't particularly think it's a great album.
-Mick Jagger, 2003

 
I think it still holds up its own. Torn and Frayed I kind of liked. I LOVE Sweet Virginia. And All Down the Line was a killer for me, to be able to pull that off.
- Keith Richards, 2010


Everybody has different tastes. I'm not saying it's my favorite, either. I just think that it's unique and that it stands the test of time damn well.
- Keith Richards, 2010


(W)hen people started saying, Is this your favorite album? I was one to say, Well, I don't think it really is. I'm a great fan of Sticky Fingers. This is a very different album 'cause it's so sprawling. It doesn't contain a lot of hit singles for instance. Over the years a lot of the songs have been played onstage and they've acquired another life. So it's a very different kind of album than Sticky Fingers or Let It Bleed in that way. The production value is different. It's just a different vibe. But, I  mean, there are really great things on it... I always had a lot of respect for it. It was difficult, because people didn't like it when it came out. I think they just found it quite difficult because of the length of it. People didn't access it quite so easily at the time. It got kind of mixed reviews. People found it a bit impenetrable and a bit difficult. Everyone said, It's my favorite, it's my favorite, I love it! and I said, Well, it's not mine. It was just a sort of toss off remark and it's come back to haunt me, really.
-Mick Jagger, 2010

   
You never want to deny people their favorite album. But I would always just be slightly - I was just being annoying, you know? It's not really my favorite, it's your favorite. But who knows? I don't really have a favorite. There's a lot of great Rolling Stones albums. Exile is the longest, and it's got the most songs, so you've got more to choose from. There's lots of songs we've done over the years and still do onstage, but others we've really never done onstage, too.
-Mick Jagger, 2010







   
 
 
 


REVIEW EXCERPTS


A tremendous set which skilfully uses all the accepted musical mechanics of rock & roll.

- New Musical Express, May 1972


An album that might take a few listens but is rich with Stones power and movement.

- Sounds, May 1972


There are songs that are better, there are songs that are worse, there are songs that'll become your favorites and others you'll probably lift the needle for when their time is due. But in the end, Exile On Main Street spends its four sides shading the same song in as many variations as there are Rolling Stone readymades to fill them, and if on the one hand they prove the group's eternal constancy and appeal, it's on the other that you can leave the album and still feel vaguely unsatisfied, not quite brought to the peaks that this band of bands has always held out as a special prize in the past.... Exile On Main Street is the Rolling Stones at their most dense and impenetrable. In the tradition of Phil Spector, they've constructed a wash of sound in which to frame their songs, yet where Spector always aimed to create an impression of space and airiness, the Stones group everything together in one solid mass, providing a tangled jungle through which you have to move toward the meat of the material... One consequence of this style is that most of the hard-core action on the record revolves around Charlie Watts' snare drum. The sound gives him room not only to set the pace rhythmically but to also provide the bulk of the drive and magnetism. Another is that because Jagger's voice has been dropped to the level of just another instrument, burying him even more than usual, he has been freed from any restrictions the lyrics might have once imposed....

Happily, though, Exile On Main Street has the Rolling Stones sounding like a full-fiedged five-into-one band. Much of the self-consciousness that marred Sticky Fingers has apparently vanished, as well as that album's tendency to touch every marker on the Hot 100. It's been replaced by a tight focus on basic components of the Stones' sound as we've always known it, knock-down rock and roll stemming from blues, backed with a pervading feeling of blackness that the Stones have seldom failed to handle well... (T)alking about the pieces of Exile On Main Street is somewhat off the mark here, since individually the cuts seem to stand quite well. Only when they're taken together, as a lump sum of four sides, is their impact blunted. This would be all right if we were talking about any other group but the Stones. Yet when you've been given the best, it becomes hard to accept anything less, and if there are few moments that can be faulted on this album, it also must be said that the magic high spots don't come as rapidly... Exile On Main Street appears to take up where Sticky Fingers left off, with the Stones attempting to deal with their problems and once again slightly missing the mark. They've progressed to the other side of the extreme, wiping out one set of solutions only to be confronted with another. With few exceptions, this has meant that they've stuck close to home, doing the sort of things that come naturally, not stepping out of the realm in which they feel most comfortable. Undeniably it makes for some fine music, and it surely is a good sign to see them recording so prolifically again; but I still think that the great Stones album of their mature period is yet to come. Hopefully, Exile On Main Street will give them the solid footing they need to open up, and with a little horizon-expanding (perhaps honed by two months on the road), they might even deliver it to us the next time around.

- Lenny Kaye, Rolling Stone, July 1972


The Rolling Stones are into a new thing: music. Well, that's not quite fair, because they've always been more than competent, but Exile on Main St. does tend to bury Mick Jagger's vocals in the band's sound and stress the group's eclectic musical abilities at the expense of words and messages. Which is too bad; we miss Jagger's mean, smartass trenchancy in most of these tunes. The zingers are on the jacket covers, in photos of assorted freaks, in penciled notes (I gave you the diamonds, you give me disease) and in the montages of Mick and the band. In the process of exposing the black roots of the Stones' music (Gospel, blues and boogie), the album shows how well the Stones can play in a variety of styles. Shake Your Hips is a dark, heavy-sounding boogie with a fine ricky-tick riff; Gospel comes on strong in Just Wanna See His Face and Shine a Light; there are good vocal tracks, like Let it Loose with Clydie King, Vanetta Fields, Dr. John, et al.; and the straight-ahead rockers, such as Soul Survivor, were never better. But where are the Stones of yesteryear?

- Playboy, September 1972


The Rolling Stones: Exile On Main Street. Incontrovertibly the year’s best, this fagged-out masterpiece is the summum of Rock ’72. Even now, I can always get pleasure out of any of its four sides, but it took me perhaps twenty-five listenings before I began to understand what the Stones were up to, and I still haven’t finished the job. Just say they’re Advancing Artistically, in the manner of self-conscious public creators careering down the corridors of destiny. Exile explores new depths of record-studio murk, burying Mick’s voice under layers of cynicism, angst, and ennui: You’ve got a curtthroat crew / I’m gonna sink under you / I got the bell bottom blues / It’s gonna be the death of me.” A +.

- Robert Christgau, Consumer Guide, 1972


The Stones still have the strength to make you feel that both we and they are hemmed in and torn by similar walls, frustrations, and tragedies. Exile is dense enough to be compulsive: hard to hear, at first, the precision and fury behind the murk ensure that you'll come back, hearing more with each playing. What you hear sooner or later is two things: an intuition for nonstop getdown perhaps unmatched since The Rolling Stones, Now!, and a strange kind of humility and love emerging from a dazed frenzy. If, as they assert, they're soul survivors, they certainly know what you can lose by surviving. As they and we see friends falling all around us, only the Stones have cut the callousness of '72 to say with something beyond narcissistic sentiment what words remain for those slipping away. Exile is about casualties, and partying in the face of them. The party is obvious. The casualties are inevitable... When so many are working so hard at solipsism, the Stones define the unhealthy state, cop to how far THEY are mired in it, and rail at the breakdown with the weapons at their disposal: noise, anger, utter frankness. It's what we've always loved them for.

- Lester Bangs, Creem, January 1973

 


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