The reissue of the Rolling Stones’ definitive album Exile On Main Street promises to not only bring a classic to a new generation, but also brings a whole album's worth of lost material to light for the first time in 40 years.
First released in 1972, Exile was recorded while the Stones were at the peak of their powers. They had survived the death of founding member Brian Jones, escaped jail, the tax man and the horrors of Altamont.
The desperately joyful and narcotic-fuelled Exile emerged from the mayhem and remains one of, if not the band’s finest album.
Its recording is the stuff of legend: the Stones and their entourage decamped to Nellcôte, a sprawling villa overlooking Villefranche-Sur-Mer in the South of France. A recording truck was parked outside connected to the damp cellar which served as a studio.
They were joined by such notorious, influential and doomed characters as William Burroughs, John Lennon and Gram Parsons. And while Keith raised hell in his Jaguar and in his speed boat (aptly christened 'Mandrax'), Mick Jagger entered high society via his marriage to Bianca Pérez-Mora Macías.
Although like all legends, this is something of a myth: Exile was actually the product of a series of recording sessions held over three years and in three countries.
As Jagger revealed to Rolling Stone: “Exile was recorded over quite a long period. Some of it was recorded in Olympic Studios in England, some was recorded in France, and then there was stuff done in L.A. The first recording was Loving Cup in 1969, and then the last sessions for Exile were done in 1972.”
He used the same time frame while discovering lost material for the reissue, a time frame that saw the band produce albums Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers, “that period where we were really hitting it, you know?”, says Richards.
'It has a certain vibe to it that you couldn't replicate if you tried' – Keith Richards
The original double album comprised 18 timeless tracks, including Tumbling Dice, Happy, All Down The Line and Shine A Light, and was released to lukewarm reviews, although the band were not surprised.
“We kind of expected that just from the fact that it was a double album,” says Richards. “Also, it's the first album with no particular single on it, you know? There was no Brown Sugar or whatever. We made it as an album, rather than looking for a hit single.”
The reissue adds 10 ‘new’ songs, Following The River, Plundered My Soul, Dancing In The Light, Pass The Wine and alternate versions of Loving Cup and Soul Survivor.
With producer Don Was at the helm, Jagger added some percussion and vocals while Richards added guitar tracks to two songs but was otherwise reluctant to meddle: “I really wanted to leave (the songs) pretty much as they were. I didn't want to interfere with the Bible, you know. They still had that great basement sound. It has a certain vibe to it that you couldn't replicate if you tried.”
So what can you add to a double album that’s generally described as sprawling? Quite a lot as it turns out: as well as the 10 bonus tracks, the super deluxe edition contains vinyl, a DVD of a new feature length documentary Stones In Exile and a souvenir booklet including 50 photos by 'photographer in residence' Dominique Tarlé.
The reissue is out on Universal in the UK on May 17, while the rest of the world will have to wait until May 18. Listen to the original album at The Stones's official site.