You either get it or you don’t. And if you don’t have hours of time to concentrate on “Exile On Main Street” you won’t. It’s not that it’s obtuse, it’s just that it doesn’t play to the audience. You’ve got to get into the right headspace to understand it. You have to leave the past behind, you’ve got to adjust for the experience you’re about to have. And what is that experience? One that is dark. Where the music is not competing with the internet for attention, where it’s still the most important art form, back to an era where Rock was not only king, it meant something, it drove the culture.
By Dave Robinson for The Lefsetz Letter
It’s hard to convey how big “Sticky Fingers” was, how it permeated the culture, burned its way into the consciousness of America. The party didn’t start until the needle was dropped on “Brown Sugar,” it was a Saturday night tradition.
Now aficionados will tell you the Stones’ best album is 1968’s “Beggars Banquet.” And it’s hard to argue with that, but “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man” were not as big as you think. They didn’t get AM radio airplay in an era when AM still ruled. You had underground FM in New York and San Francisco, but not everywhere. In other words, in most burgs you had to buy the album to hear them, and most people didn’t. That’s the dirty little secret of the Stones, their albums have never sold in prodigious numbers. Then again, neither have Bob Dylan’s. You see “Beggars Banquet” followed up the Stones’ answer to “Sgt. Pepper,” 1967’s “Their Satanic Majesties Request,” and despite having gems like “2000 Light Years from Home,” one of the first true stoner numbers, and “She’s a Rainbow” and “Citadel” and possibly the best Bill Wyman song ever, “In Another Land,” “Satanic Majesties” was derided as me-too, and notwithstanding the 3-D cover, most people neither owned it or knew it, so having a lack of momentum, despite stellar reviews, it took a while for “Beggars Banquet” to permeate the consciousness. As a matter of fact, “Beggars Banquet” is still permeating the consciousness. The Stones went from bombastic to simple, loud to quiet, became authentic and meaningful in a way they hadn’t been before, and you should know every lick on that album.
And then came “Let It Bleed,” a stone cold masterpiece whose every song is now part of the culture but did not feature a hit single. However, the group went on the road, they were billed as “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band,” and people believed it, and album rock was king, but still every show did not sell out.
Then there was Altamont, and the movie, and the live album “Ya-Ya’s” and the pump was primed for what came after. And that was “Sticky Fingers,” with its Andy Warhol cover with the zipper (which imprinted itself upon adjacent LPs). FM rock was soon everywhere. But the Stones did not tour “Sticky Fingers” in America. “Exile on Main Street” they did.
It’s hard to compare the hype of yore with the hype of today. In the days of old, if you had enough money and power, you could reach the whole world. And I mean THE WHOLE WORLD! Even those who cared not a whit about what you were promoting. Today it’s hard to reach almost anybody, and that which is perceived to be ubiquitous is not. Does everyone in America know a Weeknd song? No. But you can’t find a baby boomer who does not know “Brown Sugar,” utterly impossible.
So the Stones amped up the publicity. They were going on the road. Getting a ticket was the goal of every music fan extant. It’s not that they were expensive, it’s just that there weren’t that many of them. This is when the Stones still worked arenas, they didn’t have the confidence they could sell out stadiums. And there was no StubHub, there wasn’t even a secondary market in most places. You had to wait in line, and the odds of getting a ticket past the on sale date were essentially nonexistent, and most of those in line didn’t get a ticket either.
And in tandem with the announcement of the tour was the statement that the Stones would release a new album in conjunction, a double, “Exile on Main Street.”
If I thought really hard I could remember the name of that guy who’d graduated the year before, who came back to campus in his Buick convertible twirling the new Stones single on his finger. It was brand new, I hadn’t even heard it. “Tumbling Dice” had been released on the fourteenth of April. And when you dropped the needle you said…
Well it’s not “Brown Sugar.”
I mean that was our expectation, the Stones were on a roll. And the track made it all the way to number 7 on the “Billboard” chart, but it wasn’t everywhere, and wherever it was it was there for a relatively brief time. It was a stumble.
As for the double album…
Most people had no idea who Robert Frank was, they had no context to aid their perception of the cover. And there were postcards included. And you dropped the needle and…
You didn’t get it.
There were four sides. Which made it harder to digest, even though those four sides ultimately fit on one CD. There was not that single to carry you through. If you were addicted to records you played it, and you weren’t eager to play it again, there was so much other good music out there to listen to, and as I say all the time, you can only listen to one record at one time.
But John Hughes had gotten tickets for the Kansas City show. He was in line in the analog era and everybody had been given a number, and he wasn’t going to make it, so he changed it, it was just written on a piece of paper, and when it was called…he and another guy sidled up to the ticket booth, there was a momentary exchange of words, and then they were both sold tickets. And I bought an airline ticket to go. John was always testifying about K.C., which was seen as backward on the east coast, he was dying for us to come, and I did, and I must say everything is up to date in Kansas City, as it is in Minneapolis, not every Midwest metropolis is a backwater.
So in preparation for the show, I had to know “Exile,” front to back, who knows what they’d play from it, and in a cavern, which all the arenas were in 1972, if you didn’t know the tune when they played it you oftentimes didn’t recognize it. And ultimately five of the fifteen songs were from “Exile,” my memory is refreshed by setlist.fm, which didn’t exist back then, you went blind, or maybe I should say deaf.
So I set to listening to “Exile” on headphones, front to back, doing nothing else, just listening. And I still didn’t get it. I mean “Sweet Black Angel” was good, “Sweet Virginia”…this was back when swearing on records was still controversial, there were two versions of the MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams,” but it wasn’t until the very last song that I got it, “Soul Survivor.”
It’s the changes. But mostly it’s the machine gun guitar. And it was definitely the music, because the words were nearly impenetrable. This was a big story back then, how the vocals were so low in the mix. It wasn’t until the Virgin remaster, or maybe it was the Columbia one, that the words emerged, and believe me, there was no genius.com, never mind LyricFind, etc. And, oh yeah, listening now I forgot to mention Nicky Hopkins’s piano work, back when he was on all the elite albums.
If I hadn’t been hooked by “Soul Survivor” I’m not sure I would have dropped the needle on “Exile” again, but loving the final track I played it a few times to confirm my love, to satiate my desire, and then I started off at the top once again. And this time it took me to side three to get hooked by another track, “Let It Loose.”
Now this is not a song you ever heard on the radio, ever. You had to own the album to know it, and those who did tended not to play it, I know from conversations back then. The album immediately shot to number one but as soon as the summer tour was over it faded, very very quickly.
And it’s funny how a track is a personal favorite. If anybody else recognizes it you remember, like when Don Was featured “‘Til I Die” in his Brian Wilson movie. Anyway, there was a letter to “Rolling Stone” back then, when the magazine was still the bible, when it still had a fold, and the writer testified as to the background singer at the end of “Let It Loose,” how he wanted to marry her or something, and I resonated. She was hung out there alone at the end of the song, the rest of the track faded away, and she was singing like she was nearly dying, like the words coming out of her mouth were vital, she certainly was not thinking about a cosmetics deal.
And now knowing two tracks, I kept listening, and other cuts revealed themselves, and I went to the show with John and I remember dancing in the aisle with some girl and I also remember “Midnight Rambler” being the highlight of the show, with the scarves and the light changes and…if you’ve seen the Stones you know what I’m talking about.
So when I went to college we had what was called “winter term.” Middlebury College had the 4-1-4 system, which it still does, even though the 1 is a bit shorter and they now call it “J-Term.” And during this four and a half week period you took one course, intensively. And all the courses were different. And as we b.s.’ed in the dorm we decided the best way to make it through winter term was to teach your own course, that only met in the morning, so you could ski every afternoon, and skiing was the most important thing, that’s why I went to Middlebury, and I’ve got to say all these years later skiing is the one thing I still do from college, passionately. And I talked about teaching a course on rock music. And I decided to follow through. And I did, teach my own course on rock music, and the final…you had to write a paper on one of three songs, one being “Sail On Sailor,” from the Beach Boys’ “Holland,” which had just came out, and I think there was an Allman Brothers number and…
Now let’s start with the first side of “Exile On Main Street.” Because you always start with the first side. You initially play that the most, because traditionally that’s where acts put the best songs and it is side one, after all.
And at this late date I still don’t get “Rocks Off.” So it’s aggressive and noisy, but it’s far from memorable. It’s not something you hear once and need to hear again and again and again. It’s just another Rolling Stones album track, albeit with great horn playing from Jim Price and Bobby Keys. Even when I hear it on SiriusXM today I change the channel, not that they play it much.
The second song on side one is “Rip This Joint.” I always saw this placement as the replication of a live show. The band opens with “Rocks Off” to set the tone and then it amps up the energy with the blisteringly fast rock and roll heritage number “Rip This Joint.” And “Rip This Joint” is a ten as a palate cleanser, a levitation of the energy, and it’s not exactly a throwaway, but it’s not a ten.
And smack dab in the middle of side one is “Shake Your Hips.” This is where “Exile” really begins. “Shake Your Hips” sounds not quite like anything the Stones have done before, it’s not made for the radio, it sounds like where it was cut, in a dark, dusty basement in France. It’s a Slim Harpo song, not that most people knew who Slim Harpo was, but the Stones came up on delta blues. But “Shake Your Hips” is part of “Exile On Main Street” and nothing more. It’s a mood, an attitude, there’s no issue of money, it’s nearly hermetically sealed, and that’s its magic, as well as “Exile On Main Street”‘s in its entirety.
And then comes “Casino Boogie.”
“No good, can’t speak, wound up, no sleep”
This is the first time we experience that “Sticky Fingers” magic. Although less obvious than it was on that 1971 album. It’s the sound of the opening guitar, which leads into a riff, that once it enters your brain you need to hear again and again, like shooting heroin. It’s the magic of the Stones, from their middle period, when Mick Taylor was in the band. Taylor was key to the renaissance, sure they did good work thereafter, but without Taylor the band was not the same, it was like losing your dominant hand and trying to masturbate with the other. You can get to the end result, but it’s just not the same.
“Casino Boogie” was a secret song. I never heard anybody talk about it until this century. But it’s been my favorite on “Exile” for quite a while. Not that there’s really that much to say about it, I realized this when the class papers came in.
“Tumbling Dice.” It’s a classic. And in this case, just like with the Eagles’ “Desperado,” you’ve got to credit Linda Ronstadt, who was in the middle of her incredible seventies run, which still does not get enough acclaim.
Ronstadt belted in a Jaggeresque voice, there was a rollicking piano from a honky tonk and all the faders were turned up to ten and by this point every hamlet in America had an FM rock station, and Ronstadt’s “Tumbling Dice” got airplay the original never did, and over time people have gravitated back to the Stones version. Which still does not capture the hypnotic feeling of Ronstadt’s take, but live…
The next time the Stones went on tour, in ’75, it was still in arenas, and a ticket was even harder to come by. But stunningly, a friend of my sister, a nerd who’d suddenly become hip with therapy, scored them, she’d lined up at the Forum. And our seats were in the lower bowl at the back and they were actually pretty good and this was the tour with the petal opening stage, back when you had to go to see it, experience it, this was before YouTube, we’d read about it, but when you were there…
And the Stones are better today. Last time I saw them, at the Rose Bowl, they were very consistent. But they used to be more like the Grateful Dead…it would take them a while to lock in, for all cylinders to fire and to go speeding down the highway, and then they’d lose the mojo, but that half hour in the middle of the ninety minute show, whew!
So they were playing “Tumbling Dice” and…
If you listen to Ronstadt’s take you’ll find the ending is hypnotic, you can’t help but nod your head, well the Stones did it first, and they did it so well that night back in July of ’75. I’ve never forgotten it, it unlocked the song for me, and looking it up on setlist.fm…I can see it was song ten of twenty two that evening.
Which brings us to side two.
“Sweet Virginia” stuck out, because of the s-word. It was a slow country number, a paradigm the Stones had executed before, but they’d done it better before.
But then comes “Torn and Frayed.” Here we have that legendary “Exile” sound I referenced on “Shake Your Hips.” Only “Torn and Frayed” is a b-number when it comes to the totality of “Exile On Main Street,” but it’s not a button-pusher, it always feels good.
As does “Sweet Black Angel.” Which the press told us was about Angela Davis when revolution was still something we thought about, and we thought would come from the left, we couldn’t fathom it coming from the right:
“What’s Happening to America? A Theocratic-Fascist Revolution – When a Fanatical 30% Suddenly Seizes Control of Your Society, It’s Called a Revolution”: https://bit.ly/3w6SARM
And this wasn’t a revolutionary subject for dyed-in-the-wool credible rockers, Bob Dylan had put out “George Jackson” the year before, but the Stones wrote and recorded a better song, and its acoustic feel penetrated and the song was far from maudlin, “Sweet Black Angel” is a winner, but compared to what comes after…
“Loving Cup.” This is where “Exile On Main Street” truly starts.
“Loving Cup” is majestic in a way nothing that comes before it on “Exile” is. The Stones have entered the middle of the show, they’re together, that melding of rock and soul, that groove that made them famous, it’s all there. But in this case, it’s not written for the radio, I’ve never heard it over the air, whether AM or FM. It was written for listeners, who got all the way to the second side.
And “Loving Cup” has got great changes, and great horn parts and once again, the magic of Nicky Hopkins. And as good as the number is, it’s the minute long outro that seals the deal, with the piano and horns blasting and Mick and the backup singers testifying in the midst of it all.
But once again, it’s another act that made “Loving Cup” legendary. In this case “Phish.” I remember seeing the band at the Forum decades ago, b.s.’ing with their manager John Paluska, and I hear something in the background…IS THAT LOVING CUP?
It most certainly was, and it’s become a staple of their shows. It’s almost associated with them more than the Stones. Well, that’s an overstatement, but Phish fans are true believers and they spread the word.
Which brings us to side three.
This is the heart of “Exile,” disc two, this is what made the band’s reputation, this is the essence, the marrow, not that the first record does not have its highlights, sometimes transcendent, but the second record…sides three and four have no clinkers, they’re all winners, and it took a long while for people to get there, to realize this, being stuck on the first disc, with the radio tracks of the time, except for side three’s opener, which got a ton of airplay, which has become Keith Richards’s signature song…
I NEED LOVE TO KEEP ME HAPPY!
Keith is doing more than croaking. It’s his best vocal. And the words are honest. “Happy” is a blending of what came before, from the fifties, all the way to the seventies, with an outro shorter than the one in “Torn and Frayed,” but magical nonetheless.
Also, if you listen for the first time in a while, you’ll be stunned how young, energetic and fast “Happy” is. This was before Keith became so dark, not that he was lovable. Sure, we all knew he had heroin issues, at least after his arrest in Canada five years later, but his yin was not as far away as Mick’s yang, not at this point.
As for “Turd On the Run”… This is the fully-jelled “Rip This Joint” from side one. It sounds like it exists in outer space, at least high in our atmosphere, it hearkens back to the fifties, but there’s more in the track than they used to put in in the old days, the track is saturated, and between that guitar part and the harmonica…who knows exactly what this is, you just know IT FEELS RIGHT!
“When your spine is cracking…”
“Ventilator Blues” was the third track that revealed itself to me on “Exile” back in ’72, after “Soul Survivor” and “Let It Loose.”
The groove is so tight and focused, it’s like it was cut by a machine, but this was before that was possible. “Ventilator Blues” is gritty in a way the Top Forty is not, in a way the Stones had moved away from, and the outro is akin to “When the Levee Breaks” from Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, it feels like you’re being hit over the head with a ball-peen hammer over and over again and it feels so good, and you don’t want to stop it, and the ending goes through changes, different instruments featured, it’s like you’re at a rehearsal in that Riviera basement, however much tighter, there’s nothing loose about “Ventilator Blues.” I mean I sing the opening line to myself all the time, it gets me in a groove, in a good mood.
“I Just Want to See His Face” took a while to enter the public consciousness, people now talk about it, but it’s the heart of “Exile On Main Street,” the keyboards, the drums, the bass, and then Mick and those ethereal background singers singing about Jesus. You don’t know whether they’re praying or screwing in the studio, all you know is you suddenly feel relaxed, warm all over, in a way that only music can do. The Stones do the religious south, gospel, better than any American rock act. And I’ve got to single out Bobby Whitlock, for his electric piano playing, so soulful, then again, he comes from Memphis, where they don’t play too much, just what’s right.
And then comes “Let It Loose.” And when it ends, when it gets quiet, when the needle enters the runout groove, when it returns to its perch, when you hear the silence you wonder where you are, you don’t quite fit into the regular world, you can only drop the needle on “Exile” once again. (This is back when we’d all stopped stacking records, word had spread that it ruined them, and they were our most treasured artifacts.)
“All Down the Line” is a ripper. They should have started the album with this instead of “Rocks Off.”
“You can’t say yes and you can’t say no”
All you can do is go along for the ride. And it’s got the power of a freight train. Every player is integral, and every person delivers at a ten level. Once again, Nicky Hopkins on the ivories. And Price and Keys on horns. And then there’s that change…
“Won’t you be my little baby for a while”
It’s like someone turned up the dial to eleven! Meanwhile, Mick Taylor continues to wail on the slide. It’s a concoction, a Baskin-Robbins sundae. Take out any single part and it no longer works.
“Stop Breaking Down”…that freight train has stopped and it’s now starting to roll again, you can feel it, that slow repetitive groove. And Mick’s vocal is exquisite, but it’s Mick Taylor’s slide guitar that is the cherry on top. It’s a Robert Johnson cover, but the Stones have made the song their own, by throwing a number of elements into the fryer, and once again the band is tight in a way they usually weren’t live.
The title of “Shine a Light” is now known by all rock fans, after all it was the name of the Stones concert movie from 2008, but the most memorable event that night was the slip and fall and ultimate death of Ahmet Ertegun. What people don’t know about Ahmet is he had a dignified appearance, wearing a suit, but he could exist, play in the gutter just as easily. “Shine a Light” is a melange of what came before, a bit of gospel, stinging guitar, rich backup vocals, and once again an extended sped-up outro which adds spice to the slow beginning of the number. Once again Mick Taylor adding the special sauce on slide.
And then we’re back where we started, with “Soul Survivor.”
And there’s “Exile On Main Street.” Unlike the blues records that underpin it, it’s never been unavailable, out of print. It’s been there for everybody to consume, remastered as the band took its catalog from one label to another, but that does not mean it ever got its victory lap. There was no TV show, no radio weekend, it was just a time bomb waiting to be discovered and blow you up.
The ’72 tour ended. The Beatles were gone, the Rolling Stones were the undisputed rock champs, if for no other reason than they continued to exist. Fifteen months later they put out the confounding “Goats Head Soup.” By this time the Stones were front and center, everybody was paying attention, everything they did made news. We heard about “Star Star” for nearly a year in the rock press, and this was it? Johnny Winter ultimately made “Silver Train” his own, I loved “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker),” Billy Preston’s key work made it irresistible from the very first note, but the rest was…serviceable. Sure, “Angie” was a hit in a way nothing on “Exile” was, and we kept hearing it was about Angie Bowie, but really…seemed pretty sappy to me.
“It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll” hit higher peaks, but was less consistent. The title track was a legitimate hit and the cover of “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” is arguably the band’s finest, at least it’s my favorite, it’s even got an energy and zing the original doesn’t possess. And there’s one certified gem, a killer that was rarely talked about but has been anointed over the past couple of decades, “Time Waits For No One,” which could be the best showcase of Mick Taylor’s guitar work, his cementing as a foundational member of the band, but soon after that he quit, and the Stones have never been the same since.
1976 saw the thrown-together “Black and Blue,” with the disco number “Hot Stuff,” which seemed a sell-out, and the hit “Fool to Cry,” neither of which appealed to me, but the record did include a stone killer, “Hand of Fate,” with Wayne Perkins on guitar, and the criminally overlooked “Memory Motel,” which seemingly nobody knew until Dave Matthews duetted with Mick on it and it was released on a live album and radio not only played it, they never stopped.
The year before the band toured stadiums with their temporary guitarist Ronnie Wood, on loan from the Faces, where he did such good work with Rod Stewart, but Wood was and still is too similar to Keith and that something extra Mick Taylor added was sorely missed.
Now Taylor made a guest appearance on the 2013 tour, and if you saw it, he may have looked puffy, no longer the golden-haired young thing, but when he wailed on “Midnight Rambler” it was the highlight of the night.
’78 brought “Some Girls.” Which was very good, just not as good as everybody said. I mean compared to “Exile”…
But at this point the Stones were still together, disco was raging, you needed to believe in someone, and many people did, believe in the Stones that is.
This is when everybody who believed the Stones were too dangerous in the sixties glommed on. Bought overpriced merch. And ever since then it’s been an endless victory lap. As the band loses members. As Mick and Keith and now permanent member Ronnie carry on.
Not that there hasn’t been good, great work done. Most especially “Steel Wheels.” The band was fearful they’d missed the wave, were no longer relevant, they employed Q Prime to help them, in any event “Steel Wheels” resonated with the marketplace, the tickets sold and the Stones maintained their place at the pinnacle of rock and roll.
Not that anybody goes back and listens to “Steel Wheels” anymore. The cognoscenti are all enamored of “Tattoo You,” which I don’t understand. It does start with “Start Me Up,” a classic Stones opening killer cut, unlike “Rocks Off,” albeit a bit obvious, and I like “Little T&A” but thank god for the death of MTV, I don’t think I could watch that video for “Waiting on a Friend” one more time.
And now the Stones have stopped putting out albums of new material, they put out a blues project, but that’s not the same thing. So as a result…
What we’ve got is the classics.
Now to the hoi polloi, that means “Satisfaction” and “Brown Sugar” and the rest of the obvious children. That’s all they think they need. But those more interested in the music than their image have never stopped spinning the old records, and the one they knew least, not by heart, was “Exile On Main Street.” And now, fifty years later, instead of being considered a detour, an art project cut by tax exiles, most people, at least those who care, consider it their best.
Because they had fifty years to listen to it. And “Exile” takes a long time to reveal itself, to understand. You’ve got to commit. And word started to spread how great “Exile” was and that brought new listeners in, both old and young, and one thing’s for sure, you can’t get this sound anywhere, else, not even from the Stones, who ultimately became more obvious, nearly a cartoon jukebox. Then again, when you go to see them they’re the antithesis of their brethren in the classic rock world. They’ve got no secrets, no hard drives, no slew of ringers replicating the records, rather it’s not a whole hell of a lot different than it was fifty years ago. A group of scruffy now old men, shouldering the instruments one more time, looking for the groove. They start out rough, but there’s always a point in the show where they lock in, and they truly become the world’s greatest rock and roll band. But this all happens in stadiums, whereas a lot of this music, especially on “Exile On Main Street,” is made for your bedroom, listening on headphones. And, in truth, the Stones don’t even get any respect anymore, I saw them perform “Sticky Fingers” at the Fonda and it was fantastic, but when the numbers ended and Mick strode to the mic…the audience didn’t listen, they talked amongst themselves, they thought they were more important.
But truly it’s neither the audience nor the band that counts, but the music. And it’s hard to get the same hit these days. No one is as big as the Stones yet everybody is playing for world domination. But when the Stones were truly dominant, they did the opposite, they went inside, they made a record not for the hit parade, but for…themselves? Or was it just that this was their job and this was all they could do, make another album? And believe me, it was different, but we’ve still got “Exile On Main Street,” not remixed, occasionally remastered, but essentially the same album, the same music it was in 1972. And I won’t say when you listen to “Exile” you’re jetted back to that year, rather you’re jetted into the stratosphere, or plowed into the earth, where you’re alone except for this music surrounding you.
You either get it or you don’t. And if you don’t have hours of time to concentrate on “Exile On Main Street” you won’t. It’s not that it’s obtuse, it’s just that it doesn’t play to the audience. You’ve got to get into the right headspace to understand it. You know, like being the new kid at summer camp, or going to college that first September, you have to leave the past behind, you’ve got to adjust for the experience you’re about to have.
And what is that experience?
One that is dark. Where the music is not competing with the internet for attention, where it’s still the most important art form, back to an era where rock was not only king, it meant something, it drove the culture.
Is anybody exiled on Main Street anymore?
Hell, in many communities Main Street has been hollowed out by Walmart and Amazon.
And the losers of society get no attention. We’re not all in it together. As far as wisdom…that comes from some influencer online. There’s no truth. And I’d say that we need an emotional rescue, but that’s another track I never loved. Still, you can go down the proverbial rabbit hole with “Exile On Main Street,” and it’s a better adventure than you can find at Disneyland or any theme park. And unlike the rides there “Exile” sticks with you, it’s not momentary. And there’s an hour of it to digest. And most people don’t listen that way anymore, but maybe you do.
And if you pay your dues, do the work, you’ll become a member of a club, who can talk about the individual tracks, who you can feel the magic with. And it’s still not that many, but those who truly know know just like the Beatles in “Get Back” the Stones were not trying to create a masterpiece, it started out as bits and pieces, there was no big plan, and as a result of taking endless risks they ended up with something that’s neither obvious nor mannered, but something that is human, that in the end is inexplicable, but explains so much.
After “Exile” it wasn’t only the Stones who became more commercial, but rock music in general. “Exile” is the end of what once was, but lives forevermore. Longer than almost everything that came thereafter. They don’t even make the records the same way, almost no one could afford to.
I guess it’s a splitting of the amateurs from the professionals. You call yourself a rock music fan, even better you call yourself a Stones fan, but until you understand and know “Exile On Main Street” you do not have your degree.
This is a sound you can’t get anywhere else. It may not set your mind free, but it will get you thinking.
And I’m thinking right now.
I’ve dedicated my entire life to this music. And not only me, there are tons of us out there, certainly in Southern California, but truly all over the world. They may be doctors, they may be street sweepers, but the most important thing to them is this sound, it defines their life, it makes it worth living. And there are a number of albums in the pantheon, and “Exile On Main Street” is one of them. Fire it up and go back to the era locked on tape when giants ruled the Earth, when being a rock musician made you royalty, as rich as anybody in America, with the ability to take life on your own terms. When the lifestyle was secondary to the music. When the money was important but not the defining characteristic of your career. When you could strike gold or end up exiled on main street, but never gave up, you still tried, because it’s not only rock and roll but EVERYTHING!