Exile On Main Street

The Rolling Stones

Let's take a giant step back in time. I was walking by the cut-out bin in a department store when suddenly I noticed a copy of the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street – a special double LP with a full set of trendy postcards packaged inside of a B & W collage comprising war-torn photos of circus freaks and performers amidst candid shots of those disemboweled and scruffy-looking jesters known as the Rolling Stones. The year was 1972, the record had only been out for a couple of months, and I scored it for a remarkable $3.27. Almost immediately, I sensed something was wrong. But when I got home and threw it on the turntable, the only justifiable I reason I could think of was that the low price must have been a clerical error.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Exile On Main Street was not an initial hit for the Stones. Even as “Tumbling Dice” barnstormed the charts, the album it came from was dismissed by a lot of critics and fans as nothing more than a sprawling mess. I guess I was just too young to understand. With bounce-off-the-wall rockers like “Rocks Off” and “Rip This Joint” leading the way, I thought Exile was the greatest thing since Machine Head. Only after a few more measured listenings, when I finally tired of the novelty behind the chorus of “Sweet Virginia,” did I realize that this was to be the last stroke of pure, unadulterated genius we would EVER get from the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.

Recorded in a basement in the South of France, Exile On Main Street is an intoxicating melting pot of gospel, blues and country. With the toss and turning guitar work-outs by Keith Richards and Mick Taylor, the firm rhythm section of Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, smoothly rounded out by Nicky Hopkins’ saloon-styled piano and Bobby Keys’ shimmering sax solos – Mick Jagger is free to vocally meander through a field of rich and vibrant soundscapes. Collectively, the Stones dodge bullets while they swing through “Loving Cup” and leap tall buildings in a single bound while cruising “All Down The Line.” Alternately, they manage to keep a stiff upper lip during “Shine A Light.” And while I churn through my Exile CD and take notice of the $3.27 original I still have in my collection, I can’t help but notice how this album remains as feverishly delicious upon each subsequent feeding.

~ Shawn Perry

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