Omni Daily Crush: "Exile on Main St."
I'll say this up front: As of today, the average customer review for Robert Greenfield's Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones is about 2 1/4, with many one-star reviews citing arrogance, cliché, and a generally nasty tone. I can't disagree with any of these assessments; in fact, they are often (if not completely) fair and apt. I don't care. This book is a 100% guilty pleasure, flaws and hyperbole notwithstanding. And anyway, who's to say that a scratched lens isn't the best medium to examine the Rolling Stones and their messy masterpiece? The Stones themselves are arrogant, they borrowed heavily from the bluesmen who preceded them (though their recasting is far from clichéd), and they set a generally nasty tone with all the drugs, sex, infighting, and belligerent behavior.
So dial your inner reading voice to a sneering English accent* and sway back to 1971, when Keith Richards (in "exile" with the rest of the band, fleeing a tsunami of taxes) rented the massive, past-its-prime Villa Nellcôte in the French Riviera, and marked it as the best place to record the follow-up to Sticky Fingers. Things don't go well: the house is hot and weird--especially in the basement where the makeshift studio is assembled--and an endless stream of beautiful enablers, local parasites, and epic drug abuse impede progress. Keith crashes cars, Keith crashes go-carts. Keith disappears into the forbidden upstairs rooms for hours on-end. Keith sings country songs with Gram Parsons on the porch. Keith is spirited around the banks of Lake Geneva in the business end of an ambulance, critically sick with the DTs. Mick responds with impromptu vacations with Bianca, his new socialite bride. The band waits, sweats, records, and waits.
Greenfield's book isn't a blow-by-blow account of how each song was created--who wrote what, who played that, etc.--but a leer into a hermetically sealed universe of excess and entitlement, soap-operatically free of consequence until the gendarmes emerge to burst the bubble. In the end, the most remarkable result was the creation of any record at all, especially one that falls into most critics' lists of the best 15-20 ever made. Also, Keith hates peas.
Recommended for Stones junkies. People who like The Rolling Stones Exile on Main St. (33 1/3) by Bill Janovitz and Exile: The Making of Exile on Main St. by Dominique Tarlé might also like it. (The hardcover edition of Exile on Main St.: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones is also available at a bargain price, while supplies last.)
* I have no idea if Greenfield is English, but this is what worked for me