Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why Exile on Main Street Isn’t a 10 and Other Absurdities of Life (AM9)

No studio; a guitarist who probably should have died; another who did; a singer who never showed; wrong decade – there was no way Exile on Main Street would ever even materialize, let alone end up the quintessential Stones album . There are those who say the Stones had to wait for the Beatles; when they were out of the picture, it’d all be Stones. That may have been the case, but this wasn’t how you went about it. Was it?

The Rolling Stones’ 1972 double album was never intended to be a masterpiece. Nobody even liked it. Yet. Nobody liked the cover. It was too long. It was too sixties. But Exile wasn’t by the band that would usurp power when the Beatles abdicated. No, Exile was what the Stones were really about, liquor, drugs and women, and not what the press and fandom hoped for or expected.

The Stones weren’t cuddly like the Beatles, not that the Beatles were all that cuddly, but they’d had the sense to create a legacy they’d ditch while still boys.  By ’72 the Stones should have known better.

Separatated from record company influences, the Stones decided to record at Keith Richards’ fabled house, Nellcôte in Villefranche-sur-Mer, using their mobile recording unit (immortalized in the Deep Purple song “Smoke on the Water” - “the Rolling-truck-Stones thing just outside”).

So, no, there was no way Exile on Main Street would ever be a ten.  In the long run, though, it had something going for it, something that came out of all that consequence: it had inconsistency. Nothing says rock 'n' roll like inconsistency. 

Indeed, Exile is wrong on every level – yeah, we covered that – then what is it that 42 years later has so many critics mesmerized?  Everything, all of the above, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.   Exile is the definition of rock n roll; part genius, part too high to show up.  On the AM scale, Exile gets a 9 for only one reason: that flat, muddled production – simply put: too much Jack. Don't think I'd have it any other way.

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