Exile On Main Street: The Rolling Stones' Best Album Is Released In 1972

By | May 10, 2020

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Left: Cover art of 'Exile on Main Street.' Right: Mick Jagger on stage in 1972. Sources: Amazon.com; photo by Robert Knight Archive/Redferns

A great Rolling Stones album born out of chaos -- such is the story of Exile On Main Street. On the run from the British government and evading a particularly nasty business agreement, the Stones went into exile in France. When they returned to public life they did so with the most beloved album of their career.

Recorded during a dark time filled with sex, drugs, and bad vibes, the album is the sound of Keith Richards searching for a fix and Mick Jagger trying to keep the band out of debt. During the band’s stay in France there were drugs, fist fights, speed boats, and debauchery. If something could go wrong, it did.

Somehow in this melee of psychosis the Rolling Stones recorded the album that the band was working towards for their entire life; a distillation of rhythm and blues, honky tonk, and rock ’n roll, Exile on Main Street isn’t a collection of songs, it’s a force of nature.

The Stones escape to France

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source: the guardian

By 1970 the Rolling Stones were on the run. The specter of death hung over the band from their disastrous concert in Altamont a year earlier that ended with the stabbing of Meredith Hunter and the mysterious drowning of Brian Jones. The group was broke, they owed the British government gobs of money, and word on the street was that their assets were on the verge of being seized.

Rather than wait around to see what happened the Stones lit out for the south of France where they could live like outlaws and avoid the taxman. Mick went to Paris, Keith moved into Nellcôte, a villa in Villefranche-sur-Mer, near Nice, and the rest of the band settled in the south of France.

In France the twin driving forces of Mick and Keith separated, each with their own hole to fill. Keith was propelled by dope - the jolt he got from banging it, the need for more - while Mick was running on fumes, trying to keep the band working until they had a record in the can. Once the record was mixed the band could hit the road and the road meant money. First they had to survive France.