STONES IN EXILE, a documentary by STEPHEN KIJAK

 |   |  2 min read

STONES IN EXILE, a documentary by STEPHEN KIJAK

Keith Richards once offered a neat observations of Mick Jagger: "Mick's a lovely bunch of blokes."

Jagger, by all acounts, has that uncanny ability to switch his langauge and accent depending on who he is talking to: with the turn of his head he can go from plum-in-mouth when chatting with a lord or lady to a Jamaican accent if the next person is a Rasta from Kingston.

He's also mercurial his beliefs.

"Mick never looks back," says Charlie Watts -- and yet here are Mick and Charlie back at Olympic Studios and Mick's old house Stargoves where almost four decades ago they worked on the music which became their classic Exile on Main Street double album.

And Mick, who has always professed to not like the album much (the vocals are too buried) and can't understand all the fuss, now seems to have come around and is happy to participate in this two hour-plus doco about the fraught period of that album's birth.

Fleeing Britain's taxman and the on-going harrassment for drugs, the Stones headed off to the south of France where, as self-styled tax exiles, they would try to record a new album.

The time in Richards' hired home of Nellcote where the sessions took place has now passed into history and notoriety. As one French photographer (who came for an afternoon and stayed six months) says, just around the corner you had Marseilles which was the drug gateway to France from North Africa and the other way was Italy with the Mafia. This was a dangerous and tempting place for Richards to be.

This fascinating documentary -- with lots of footage and stills from the time, interviews with all the main participants, and the soundtrack of outtakes -- doesn't deny the drug and alcohol intake. But it more sensibly focuses on the difficulties of making music in a country where you don't speak the language and no one (other than perhaps Keith, saxophonist Bobby Keys and engineer Andy Johns, the latter two lapping up the sun, fun, hedonism and atmospere) much liked being there.

Bill Wyman complains you had to import everything from PG Tips and Branson Pickle, Watts bought a house seven hours drive away so ended up crashing at Keith's, Jagger married the pregant Bianca in the middle of it all and had to keep poping back to Paris where she lived, the "studio" was a small and hot basement, the horn players had to set up in the hall, there were kids and hangers-on . . .

Yet the resulting album -- with imporant overdubs at Olympic later -- redefined the Stones: there was a swampy mix of old blues, Dr John-style voodoo, touches of country and gospel, classic riffery . . .

There is the widespread belief that the album baffled critics and was widely dismissed but that's not entirely true: Rolling Stone magazine certainly didn't get it, but many other writers did. It serves to narrative better to have the album misunderstood or dismissed however. 

Someone observes it was a look back at their deep past (Keith and Mick's love of blues and country as teenagers) and also a way forwaard.

Regrettably though the Stones never again revisited the tenor and mood of Exile on Main Street. Within a few years they were back to mainstream studios and much more crisply produced music. The woozy, bluesy and sun-soaked, drug-induced mood of the Exile sessions retreated into the past.

But this was a singular period for the Stones and this engrossing film -- which includes concert footage from their subsequent tour, as well as extended interviews with the main players in the bonus footage -- is an insight into a period of bohemian decadence, and the making of exceptional if very different music from a band that, against all the odds, survived.  

Share It

Your Comments

hunter - Jun 14, 2010

so cool! can't wait to see it :-)

Jeremy - Jun 15, 2010

Looking forward to seeing inside the legend of Nellcote too. It worries me a little that Mick seems to have taken charge of (and stamped his mark on?) the re-release of what was essentially a Keith driven album. Hope the DVD isn't too much of "the world according to Mick".

post a comment

More from this section   Film articles index

THE SOUND OF HER GUITAR, a doco by BILL MORRIS

THE SOUND OF HER GUITAR, a doco by BILL MORRIS

This charmingly low-key, often movingly honest documentary about New Zealand singer-songwriter Donna Dean takes her from a childhood in a state house in Glen Innes under blue Pacific skies (she... > Read more

U23D CONCERT MOVIE: Even Better Than the Real Thing?

U23D CONCERT MOVIE: Even Better Than the Real Thing?

From where I hear it, the last couple of U2 albums have been a musical retreat from their innovative albums of the early 90s such as Achtung Baby and Zooropa, the only albums by them I have ever... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Albert King: Born Under a Bad Sign (1967)

Albert King: Born Under a Bad Sign (1967)

By the time Albert King started recording the music which would appear as his seminal Born Under a Bad Sign album, he'd been around and seen around for so long he'd reached a point – at... > Read more

Nikki Sixx: A very dim light (1991)

Nikki Sixx: A very dim light (1991)

To tell truth, out of the many hundreds -- indeed thousands -- of musicians I have interviewed very few have been downright stupid. Sure some fumbled for words, others said slightly... > Read more