28 July 2010

The Making of "Exile on Main St.": "Stones in Exile" (2010)

My ex-wife is a very opinionated lady. Back when we were together, she was never afraid to take a stand on some issue that was her view and often hers alone. And so it was when we got down to discussing Rolling Stones albums. Her view was that everything after Let it Bleed was a formula album. I never agreed. Exile on Main St. is by far my favorite Stones album, but until the release earlier this year of Stephen Kijak's documentary Stones in Exile, I had no retort other than "I don't agree!" Now, with this documentary, I do.

Stones in Exile, filled with recent interviews, rare photographs and excerpts from the notorious, unreleased documentary of the Stones' 1972 tour, lays to rest any notion that there was anything formulaic about the recording of Exile on Main St. The controlled chaos of the core recording sessions at Keith's villa NellcĂ´te in the the south of France is well documented here. Marathon 12 hour jam sessions extending over months with songs evolving as the sessions progressed is no recipe for "formula album". Quoted in the October 1997 issue of Guitar magazine, Jagger put it this way:
Just winging it. Staying up all night ... It was this communal thing where you don't know whether you're recording or living or having dinner; you don't when you're going to 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.
Jagger may not have been having much fun, but the result is an unparalleled rock/blues/country/soul document. So check out Stones in Exile and get a taste of how Exile on Main St. got made. It might even convince my ex-wife that this was no formula album.


whiteray said...

I've said several times that the Stones' run from "Beggar's Banquet" in 1968 through "Let It Bleed," "Get Your Ya-ya's Out" and "Sticky Fingers," and ending with "Exile on Main St" is the greatest sequence of five albums by any group or performer in the rock era. (Not that I think anyone - save perhaps Frank Sinatra - did any better before then; I just don't feel qualified to comment decisively on the pre-rock era.)

Paco Malo said...

whiteray, you're the first person I've read that has had the sense to included "Ya-Ya's" in this sequence. Your absolutely right.

We can only wonder if the unreleased live album from the 1972 tour promoting "Exile" would have been a 6th entry on that list.

Thanks for your comment.