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Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones

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The Rolling Stoness 1971 album "Exile on Main Street" freezes forever in time a moment when the band and their counterculture audience found ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones

Overall customer rating: 5.000
Spelvini

Throwing Stones

by Spelvini on Jun 11, 2008

For anyone who believes that the Rolling Stones begins and ends with the drive and presence of Keith Richards, this book will re-affirm your loyalty. At 258 pages Robert Greenfield's book ?Exile on Main Street: A season in Hell with the Rolling Stones? seems at once unbelievable, unfounded, perhaps even written under the influence. More than once in the early chapters the author delivers some incredible story that one of the Rolling Stones insiders has told him, only to pull the rug out from under his own feet by stating 'Maybe this happened and maybe it didn't', seemingly to indicate that memory can be really cloudy when affected by age, and drug-addled brain cells. We know we're in for it when we read Greenfield's credo: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend". In other words he will not confuse us with the facts. Like any self-respecting teller of tales, Greenfield continues "... in journalism, as in life, a great story always trumps the truth". As Greenfield later states: "We are about to embark on what will definitely be one very twisted journey through the past, where everything can only be seen through a glass darkly and even then may be nothing more than a fleeting silhouette of the truth". What a way to state ones' authority! Written with a style both lucid and suspect, Robert Greenfield begins his overview with phrases that draw us in and creates distance by stating that much of what he is saying may not be true. What a way to establish a rapport with a reader! But for those who listen to the album of songs Exile on Main Street, and have heard the rumors and propaganda surrounding the musical industrial entity know as the Rolling Stones, Greenfield's position makes complete sense. The author sticks largely to what he has culled from masses of personal interviews from those who are privy to the band's inner circle and also who are participants in much of the parties, which include drugs such as heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and other assorted illicit drugs. Given that the recollection of many of these first-hand folks may be clouded by time, and such, Greenfield squeezes a good bit of humor out of this report of how the Rolling Stones establish them selves in a villa in the south of France to record a seminal collection of songs to be titled Exile on Main Street. Fleeing mounting income tax fees from years past that bad management had neglected to address each member of the band owed about $250,000 dollars each for back taxes. Added to this, the band's relationship with Allen Klein who was still soaking up the bulk of royalties from sales, and also the relationship with Andrew Loog Oldham, the band was broke. It could be argued that Andrew Loog Oldham created the collective persona of the band that carried them to the top. Until they met him and jettisoned Brian Jones they were basically another English blues band. Oldham put Mick Jagger and Keith Richards together as main songwriters for the band, and they have been responsible for generating at least 40 chart-topping hit songs. But in 1970, when the band fled to France to hold up in the Villa Nellcote, and began a 24-hour party to accompany their writing and recording of a new album there was reportedly negative numbers in the band's account. What makes Greenfield's book so readable is that it details much of the legendary lore that has filtered down through the years about the band and this period in their development. Much of the humor, although buttressed by a roster of those who passed away from a series of drug abuses, comes from the outrageousness that any individual, or any band could live this way. Granted many of these folks are hanging with the band to share the drugs, but many are old friends and visit at the villa just for fun. Along the course of the story, the book introduces a collection of characters who arrive to bask in the glow Keith Richards emanates. Charisma is a drug to many especially those who can participate in the activities of a beloved talent such as the guitarist of the Rolling Stones. The Stones' motivation is to record an album to release so they can tour America to promote it and get paid enough to settle outstanding debts. Exile is a view of the very special way artists create in a post-modern society and definitely re-affirms that the true artist is one who is simultaneously inside and outside of the culture in which he lives. Keith Richards clearly is shown to be the driving force of the actual spine of the Rolling Stones musical value. Greenfield's book shows how Richards facilitates the leasing of the villa, the implementation of a mobile recording unit to set up a studio in the basement of the house, and most importantly the musicians steeping himself in heroin to the point of near death in order to create a genuine recording masterpiece know as Exile on Main Street. There have been other artists who have created within the sphere of drugs. Edgar Allen Poe and Fyodor Dostoevsky had a relationship with Opium, William Burroughs used heroin, and even Elvis Presley was abusing prescription drugs. Exile is a whirlwind of a tale. The two leaders of the Rolling Stones Jagger and Richards against mounting obstacles to save the band and their own lifestyle. Through it all, the book etches in Keith Richards' personality, his presence, leadership and facility at drawing together the necessary forces to create new product for the band and drive on to a tour of America in order to survive. Survival is the innate talent of the band. They have been together 40 years and still tour to record-breaking shows. Any fan will lap up the reportage of Greenfield with eagerness, because at this point much of it seems like so much water under the bridge, but a fascinating read.

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