Recorded during the blazing summer of 1971 at Villa Nellcote, Keith Richards’ seaside mansion in the south of France, Exile on Main Street has been hailed as one of the Rolling Stones’ best albums — and one of the greatest rock records of all time. Yet its improbable creation was difficult, torturous...and at times nothing short of dangerous. In self-imposed exile, the Stones — along with wives, girlfriends, and a crew of hangers-on unrivaled in the history of rock — spent their days smoking, snorting, and drinking whatever they could get their hands on. At night, the band descended like miners into the villa’s dank basement to lay down tracks. Out of those grueling sessions came the familiar riffs and rhythms of “Rocks Off,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Happy,” and “Sweet Virginia.” All the while, a variety of celebrities-John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Gram Parsons among them-stumbled through the villa’s neverending party, as did the local drug dealers, known to one and all as “les cowboys.” Villa Nellcote became the crucible in which creative strife, outsize egos, and all the usual byproducts of the Stones’ legendary hedonistic excess fused into something potent, volatile, and enduring. Here, for the first time, is the season in hell that produced Exile on Main Street.
Exile on Main St.