Stones in Exile
In 1972, The Rolling Stones were rich superstars. They had been on the top
of the charts for nearly a decade. Their primary competition – The Beatles
– had just broken up a couple of years previously. The Stones had finally
worked their way out of an unfair first record contract and while they were
currently in a bit of a pinch, soon the money was going to come pouring in.
However, due to the British tax laws, they had to leave their homes in
England just at the time that they were starting work on their first
two-record set, a group of songs which has been called their finest work,
Exile of Main Street.
While the idea of a 93% income tax is of course obscene, it’s a little bit
hard to feel too sorry for a bunch of famous young millionaires living in
gorgeous villas in the south of France, surrounded by women, drugs and
hangers-on, and recording in a huge villa in the Riviera town Villefranche
Believe me, I’ve stayed in that gorgeous little village and the fact that
they got anything other than sightseeing and sunbathing done is a testament
to the Stones’ work ethic.
Exile on Main Street. The band, their friends, lovers and
collaborators discuss the details of the time spent living in France and
working on the recordings – well at least as well as they can, much of the
memory is a little hazy due to rampant drug use. This hour-long documentary gives extraordinary access to the sessions that
However, I suppose that your interest in this little slice of Stones lore
depends somewhat on your feelings about the classic platter that is being
Honestly, I personally feel that while the album had some truly great
moments, it also had way too much filler. It certainly did not contain many
of the band’s legendary singles; the only two tracks that even marginally
charted were “Tumbling Dice” and “Happy.” In my opinion, two albums that
led up to Exile – Let it Bleed and Sticky Fingers –
were overall much better records with infinitely more memorable songs.
That said, there is a great deal of fascinating fly on the wall footage of a
band at the height of their creative powers. It is fun to see these guys in
their prime, working and playing and sightseeing through the South of France
(for my part, I would have preferred a little more footage of Villefranche,
but that’s me) and eventually flying off to the funkier confines of early
70s Hollywood to finish the project up.
Stones in Exile
works quite well
as a musical time capsule and a detailed look at an album that – even if you
are not the biggest fan of, like me – certainly did become a cultural
milestone. The band is forthright and interesting in talking head
interviews, though some bookending interviews with an odd assortment of
artists who followed in the Stones’ footsteps (including the likes of Sheryl
Crow, Jack White of the White Stripes, will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas and
actor Benicio Del Toro) seem like mostly unnecessary fluff.
However, this may be the one of the most intimate portraits we have gotten
of the world’s greatest rock band – particularly during the nether-region
between the disillusioning tragedy at Altamont and sell-out a few years
later with “It’s Only Rock and Roll” – and for that alone Stones fans should
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: June 24, 2010.