Revisiting The Rolling Stones’ Unsurpassed "Exile On Main Street"
May 12, 2022 7:29 AM   Subscribe

Perhaps the new taxes prompting them to leave the UK were "burdensome". But the taxes were temporary, and the band still hasn't moved back.

Rock bands The Rolling Stones and U2 don't have offices in the Netherlands for tax-evasion purposes, but because of the "specific experience and expertise" the country has to offer, their management said to an investigative committee on Monday, reports.
NL Times, 2017
posted by PresidentOfDinosaurs at 8:23 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]

God I feel old now.
posted by octothorpe at 8:39 AM on May 12

Saw them in 1972 and the best song of the night was Sweet Virginia (although most memorable was perhaps opening act Stevie Wonder playing "Rockin' Robin.") Other standouts from this record are Rocks Off (especially when it gets psychedelic at about 2:12) and Keith singing Happy but a warning -‌- Mick drops the n-word in Sweet Black Angel !
posted by Rash at 8:41 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]

You too would see taxes as 'burdensome' if you hadn't paid them for seven years:
In 1968, Jagger had been introduced to Prince Rupert Loewenstein, a Bavarian aristocrat and merchant banker who, in his 40-year tenure as the Stones’ financial manager, would mastermind the transition from Rolling Stones Incarcerated to Rolling Stones Incorporated. Upon going through their books, Loewenstein had discovered something alarming: the Stones owed the UK government a potentially ruinous amount in unpaid taxes, and the band spent much of 1970 mulling over his suggestion of going into tax exile before the start of the next financial year. “I just didn’t think about taxes,” Jagger later admitted, “and no manager I ever had thought about it, even though they said they were going to make sure my taxes were paid. So after working for seven years I discovered nothing had been paid and I owed a fortune.”
But of course that was one of the many joys of having Allen Klein as your manager (as the Beatles would also discover).

/End derail. For the record (heh), always partial to All Down The Line, still a real banger.
posted by hangashore at 8:48 AM on May 12 [8 favorites]

I believe it was glinn who shared a link to a brilliant cover of Lou Reed's "Walk On the Wild Side" and I've been mesmerized by the performance

This cover of "Satisfaction" by Alice Phoebe Lou is also very good
posted by elkevelvet at 9:07 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]

Every Christmas Eve, the local indie rock club (The Casbah) has a show of only Stones covers called "Exile on Kettner". Because, if there's a guitar playing it's Christmas, obviously. I've never tried to go, supposedly it's always packed.

My favorite part of the album has always been "Ventilator Blues" rolling into "I Just Want to See His Face".
posted by LionIndex at 9:09 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]

I don't quite buy into the big critical re-appraisal for this in the last few years, it still sounds like a bunch of half-baked out-takes from Sticky Fingers. Which maybe isn't such a bad thing? But it doesn't really stand up to many of their other albums.
posted by ovvl at 9:28 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]

Agreed, ovvl.
posted by Rash at 9:31 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]

Maybe it depends on what you define as "last few years", but Exile has widely been considered their best album for quite some time - I remember a review of the CD remasters (that came out in the early 90s in down-scaled vinyl album packaging) in Rolling Stone that talked about the remasters being so good that you might think that Sticky Fingers was actually as good as Exile.
posted by LionIndex at 9:34 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]

"Exile" is my favorite rock & roll album. Even though its production was defined by massive drug use and band members beginning to physically separate from one another, it's the Stones at their spiritual peak. It's the band living up to their goals of paying tribute to and synthesizing American musical forms. They've been a lot of things over six decades, and many of those things haven't been particularly good, but every time I listen to this record, I get chills at the moments they captured. Those fuckers had soul.

@Rash, I'm jealous that you got to see them live in '72. On the nights when they clicked, they sounded incredible.

"Sweet Black Angel" is such a contradiction. On one hand, it's an earnest protest against the arrest of Angela Davis, and the band deserves credit for speaking out against that particular injustice. On the other hand, it reduces her plight and her agency by cramming it all into a kind of imitation 19th century swamp folk song full of archetypal characters.
posted by DeWalt_Russ at 9:59 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]

My favorite song from Exile is one that did not make the final cut, in fact it did not get completed. Title 5 never got vocals or, as far as I can tell, lyrics. I like it because it shows the Stones at the height of their powers... without Mick Jagger.
posted by dfm500 at 10:21 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]

Jagger studied finance at the London School of Economics. Like hell he "didn't think about" taxes.
posted by klanawa at 10:23 AM on May 12 [8 favorites]

When the 2010 reissue of Exile came out, I remember reading someone* saying that the alternative take of Loving Cup was the greatest thing they ever recorded, and I can't really argue otherwise. (Even though Beggars Banquet is my favorite Stones album by far.) It's loose and earnest and just gorgeous.

(*Just looked it up, it was Ben Ratliff in the NYT.)
posted by miles per flower at 10:27 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]

I don't quite buy into the big critical re-appraisal for this in the last few years, it still sounds like a bunch of half-baked out-takes from Sticky Fingers. Which maybe isn't such a bad thing? But it doesn't really stand up to many of their other albums.

It's been my favorite since at least 1979, so either I was really ahead of my time at the age of 15 or it's been well regarded for a long time.
posted by octothorpe at 10:35 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]

There are two kinds of great rock albums, Perfect Albums and Brilliant Messes. To wit :

Perfect Albums : Abbey Road, Rumors, Sticky Fingers
Brilliant Messes : The White Album, Tusk, Exile on Main Street
posted by panama joe at 10:47 AM on May 12 [21 favorites]

My favorite song from Exile is one that did not make the final cut, in fact it did not get completed.

Also great : So Devine (Aladdin Story), which, interestingly, was covered by the band Death In Vegas (with the band's permission) before being released by the Stones (with newly-written lyrics) as part of the Exile remasters.

I'd actually heard it first on a bootleg long ago, which I guess also must have been where Death In Vegas heard it.
posted by panama joe at 10:53 AM on May 12

I prefer Sticky Fingers and Some Girls to Exile. The first two, I can listen to end-to-end multiple times. Exile I need to dip in and out. Its is a 'brilliant mess' like @panama Joe says.

And I love Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out too, from this period.

The one thing I want to see is that 'banned' documentary 'Cocksucker Blues'.
posted by indianbadger1 at 10:57 AM on May 12

I don't quite buy into the big critical re-appraisal for this in the last few years, it still sounds like a bunch of half-baked out-takes from Sticky Fingers. Which

the last few years?

People have been arguing Exile is the best Stones album ever since at least ... 1972. Song for song, I don't buy that argument. It's hard to beat Let It Bleed in that regard. But as a whole (and it really is a whole bunch of drug fuelled rock, blues, country, gospel, soul, everything all mixing and merging and messing together) -- I really do feel it's their best. It's the certainly the one I've come back to the most over the years ... ever since 1972 when I first heard it, twelve years old and just starting to emerge from my bubblegum phase, realizing that albums could be more than just collections of songs. Happy and Tumbling Dice were the tracks you heard most on the radio, but Sweet Black Angel also got a fair amount of play for some reason (probably a b-side), and that's the one I dug the most. Unlike anything I'd ever heard before and yet it somehow made perfect sense.
posted by philip-random at 11:05 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]

I am about a year older than this album and I don't think I have ever heard a single song off of it despite the Stones being a staple of rock radio for the entire time I was listening to that. Or maybe I have and just never really noticed them.
posted by egypturnash at 11:20 AM on May 12

It's mostly not really radio friendly although I have heard Happy and Tumblin' Dice on the radio more than once.
posted by octothorpe at 11:28 AM on May 12

I tried taking a pilgrimage to Villa Nelcote on a bike ride once and never quite found it exactly. Perhaps the current owners do not want to advertise the fact. I too have a weak spot for Let it Bleed and Some Girls but this album has such a consistent vibe that never gets old. Sweet Virginia is Stones country at its best.
posted by St. Oops at 11:53 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]

I have always been of the opinion that the best albums of the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones were their first double albums --- the White Album, Blonde on Blonde and Exile on Main St, respectively.

I, too, was lucky enough to see them from across the Coliseum in 1972 in Seattle and remember Tumblin' Dice especially. Jagger had these silver teardrops painted on his temples by the corners his eyes -- you could see the flash in the spotlights even without binoculars. Which we luckily had.
posted by y2karl at 11:58 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]

I don’t want to live in a world where taxes are the most notable thing about the album with Shine A Light on it

Ah well may the good Lord shine his light on each and every one of you and thank heavens for the Stones’ 68 - 72 output
posted by lumpy at 11:59 AM on May 12 [5 favorites]

@indianbadger1, it's on youtube
posted by brujita at 12:47 PM on May 12

Vocals are mixed too low. Wrecks the album. Best Stones album: "Flowers". No really.
posted by Modest House at 1:01 PM on May 12

Like hell he "didn't think about" taxes.

Jagger was still under 30 at the time we're talking about and living a life that did involve quite a lot of extreme fun. I don't find it remotely unlikely that worrying about taxes would slip down his list of priorities.
posted by Paul Slade at 1:31 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]

I love the Rolling Stones (my very first purchased album was Some Girls in Traverse City on the day it was released) and I love this album, but Godstar always pops into my head whenever I thing about the Stones.
posted by NoMich at 1:53 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]

Interestingly, the French gouvernement will gladly accept artwork from the estate of famous artists, in lieu of monetary payment for tax obligations.

Said works enter the cultural patrimony of the French people, and are often enjoyed in French museums by many in the public.

Not sure this is directly relevant to the Stones or U2, but to quote Derek Smalls, there are solutions to all problems. And I think we know what they are.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:25 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]

Do we?
posted by box at 3:03 PM on May 12

Jagger studied finance at the London School of Economics. Like hell he "didn't think about" taxes.

I've studied linguistics, but when I'm drunk I can't word good.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:13 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]

And I studied geography and I get lost constantly.

Just let me dunk on the funny-looking man who sings bad and steals money from the government, OK?
posted by klanawa at 3:28 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]

I remember when I was a DJ on college radio in the early 2000s, with a late Sunday night time slot. I played Loving Cup somewhere around 1am and got a phone call: "Who is this? This is AMAZING".

I was kind of shocked that the caller couldn't tell it was the Stones, but whatever, we're all exposed to different things at different times in life.
posted by TrialByMedia at 4:59 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]

the great thing about great music is it doesn't really matter when you stumble into it, as long as you do ... eventually. I envy someone who, for whatever reason, has never encountered Exile. Maybe they've heard a couple of songs. Maybe they've heard nothing. But suddenly now here it is, fifty years after the fact, still entirely alive and virulent and wanting to party with you ...
posted by philip-random at 6:02 PM on May 12

Really mostly a Beggars Banquet person here. Although to be honest, I really don't "get" the Stones. And I'm okay with that. They've done great music that is basically inescapable and I don't find them irritating. But they aren't a band a listen to albums from. Except for occasionally Beggars Banquet.
posted by hippybear at 6:57 PM on May 12

In the 00s, I worked with a lot of alt-rock boys who were rather provincial in their tastes. If it wasn't in that world of Telecasters and three minute songs, it wasn't worthy to these purists. I blew so many minds just handing off to them Kink Kronikles and Exile. Paradigms were broken, worlds were blown apart.

The Virgin remaster of Exile from the 90s remains the best. Just enough blur and swagger in the mix, a little more bottom, and Jagger is much clearer. Seek it out and then play it LOUD.
posted by Ber at 7:50 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]

Just dropping in to note the existence of the Pussy Galore version/deconstruction of this album. Carry on.
posted by zoinks at 11:18 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]

OK, I'm going to be honest here and if it costs me my record nerd card, so be it.

I've tried for years to see what everyone else sees in Exile and while I don't think it's a bad album, I just can't see it as equal in quality to (let alone superior to) the three albums that preceded it (Beggar's Banquet, Let it Bleed, and Sticky Fingers).

It's got some great songs and it's stronger than anything the Stones produced afterward for quite some time (if ever..) but out of 18 tracks there are at least five or six that I can barely remember from listen to listen - they elicit little more reaction than a vague recollection that "oh yeah, I've heard this someplace before.." In fact, I'm listening to it right now, Soul Survivor is the track that's playing, and ten minutes from now I'm sure I'll have forgotten the particulars again and will remember it only as vaguely Exile-flavored second-disc filler. It certainly is not an epically memorable closer in the way that You Can't Always Get What You Want or Moonlight Mile are.

In my opinion it starts strong and then peaks somewhere in the run from Tumbling Dice to Sweet Black Angel but there is simply too much mush in the second half to justify the claims of those who consider it the Stones' peak. I expect others will disagree vehemently and I've tried to see their point of view but I just don't get it.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:19 PM on May 12 [5 favorites]

Keith Richards said he learned how to play tennis while on heroine when they were in the south of France.
posted by DJZouke at 5:16 AM on May 13

No, I’m with you Nerd of the North. I’m old enough to remember when everyone underrated this record and when everyone overrated it. Albums (and bands) go in and out of fashion. To me it’s all slightly murky and slightly lethargic, which makes it interesting and sometimes very powerful, but not something I wish to listen to that often.
posted by argybarg at 6:35 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]

Listened to it yesterday for the first time in a while and I still love it.
posted by octothorpe at 8:11 AM on May 13

I've never been a Stones fan, my answer to the question "Beatles or Stones?" has always been "Kinks".

But, a few years ago, out of some sense of obligation to be more familiar with such a big chunk of rock history, I plowed through the entire Rolling Stones oeuvre over a period of a few weeks (well, I mean, I stopped sometime around the mid 1980s output, I'm not a masochist).

Exile on Main Street is the only album that still gets occasional play from me.
posted by the bricabrac man at 10:19 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]

my answer to the question "Beatles or Stones?" has always been "Kinks".

Ditto, and likewise Exile is probably my fave Stones album. Probably related somehow.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:56 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]

I once had a dream where Goats Head Soup was their best album. It's not bad.
posted by ovvl at 6:13 PM on May 13

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