Exile on Main St. -- The Rolling Stones, June 17, 1972
Rolling Stones 2900
Producer: Jimmy Miller
Track listing: Rocks Off / Rip This Joint / Casino Boogie / Tumbling Dice / Sweet Virginia / Tom & Frayed / Black Angel / Loving Cup / Happy / Turd on the Run / Ventilator Blues / Just Wanna See His Face / Let it Loose / All Down the Line / Stop Breaking Down / Shine a Light / Soul Survivor
June 17, 1972
When the Rolling Stones were recording Sticky Fingers, "the vibes weren't too heavy," says Andy Johns, one of the engineers who worked on the album. Yet the Stones' next album, Exile on Main St., "was a whole other trip altogether," he says, as hard drug use began to take its toll on the band. Nonetheless, the Stones continued to roll through a creative high point, even if it was through a drug-induced haze. As the title suggests, the album was recorded while the Stones were in exile in the South of France to escape high taxes in their native U.K. Most of Exile was recorded in basement of guitarist Keith Richard's Nellcote villa with the Rolling Stones mobile unit. "It was not easy to record there," says Johns. "There were these funny little rooms and the vibe there was very weird. The electricity kept going on and off and everything kept going out of tune, because it was so humid. It was recorded during the spring, summer, and fall."
Toward the end of the sessions, Johns discovered what may have been causing some of the bad vibes. "The house had been the headquarters of the Gestapo when the South of France had been occupied," he says. "The air-conditioning ducts in the floor were in the shape of swastikas. I imagine that downstairs in the basement, where we recorded, was where they would interrogate prisoners.”
A few songs were left in the can from previous sessions, including “Sweet Virginia” and “Black Angel," which was recorded during the Sticky Fingers sessions at singer Mick Jagger's Stargroves estate. Says Andy Johns, "At the time, the working title was 'Bent Green Needles,' which I'm sure was Keith's idea of a joke." That track was recorded in a large room. "I remember putting Mick Taylor's amp in the fireplace with microphones up the chimney."
The album opener, "Rocks Off," was "particularly good. That one really Johns says. "'Stop Breaking Down” was one of “the best blues things they ever did," he adds. "[Mick] Taylor played brilliantly on that."
The biggest hit from Exile, "Tumbling Dice" which reached number seven, was also one of the most difficult songs to record. "That was a marathon tracking date," Johns says. "That went on for about two weeks. They would just sit and play the intro riff over and over for hours and hours trying to get the groove right. We must have done 150 or 200 takes."
In all, Exile, the Stones' first two-record set, took a year to complete six months to record and another six months of mixing at Sunset Sound in Hollywood. "At that time, nobody took a year to make a record," says Andy Johns. "We were supposed to start at 6 p.m. every day, but nobody would even plug anything in until midnight. Because it went on for so long, there was a feeling of being in the trenches."
Jagger's wife Bianca was pregnant during the sessions. She gave birth to her daughter Jade on October 21, 1971. "She kept calling and hassling Mick, and Keith was pissed off about that," Johns says. "And Anita [Pallenberg] and Keith were fighting, because everyone was at their house for months and months. It drove her up the wall."
Adding to the complications and tension was the drug use. "There were a lot of drugs," says Johns. "But there was also a lot of fun. We had a blast. We were living in the South of France, everyone had plenty of money, everyone was young, and the Stones were making amazing music at the height of their powers."
THE TOP FIVE
Week of June 17, 1972
1. Exile on Main St., The Rolling Stones
2. Thick as a Brick, Jethro Tull
3. First Take, Roberta Flack
4. Manassas, Stephen Stills
5. Joplin in Concert, Janis Joplin