Tuesday is the well-documented release day for the newly remastered Rolling Stones classic album, Exile On Main Street. And, while much has been written recently about the album--the French recording location in the basement of Keith Richards' house (the Stones were trying to stay away from their home country due to harsh British tax laws), the drug-induced state of the band during the album's development, the assorted hangers-on at the French Riviera location, and the muddy audio quality--what's not been noted is where this double-LP fit in the Stones' history of more than two dozen studio albums.
In 1967 the Stones issued Their Satanic Majesties Request after a series of albums which had gone gold in both the U.K. and the U.S. Majesties was an album with split critical opinion--many dissed it as the Stones' effort to try to duplicate what The Beatles achieved with Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The uneven effort placed pressure on the band for their next studio album. The Stones came through with the much-anticipated Beggars Banquet (1968.) Banquet featured the anthem "Sympathy for the Devil" along with "Street Fighting Man"--both two of the best Stones songs ever--and went platinum in the U.S. The album marked the group's first efforts with Jimmy Miller, who would continue to produce their albums until 1973. And, it was the final effort of Brian Jones with the group.
Banquet also marked the beginning of the golden era of Stones' albums--Let It Bleed, which some consider the best of the group's studio recordings, was released in 1969--hitting double platinum--followed by the even more successful Sticky Fingers (1971) which went to #1 in both the States and U.K. and achieved triple platinum.
This string of three critically acclaimed and high-selling albums set the stage for Exile. The double-album, replete with post cards and poster in the packaging, continued the string of #1 albums in the U.K. and U.S. and stayed there for 43 weeks on the American charts, even though the dual disc only featured one hit single, "Tumbling Dice."
The albums which followed would continue, at least for awhile, the Stones' commercial success. But, the band deviated from its raw, R&B roots and drifted from pop-soul and funk (Goat's Head Soup) to covers (It's Only Rock and Roll) to disco (Some Girls.) Eventually, the group's success would be primarily based upon its stature as the best live rock-and-roll band in the world.
It was right after the original release of Exile when I first saw the Rolling Stones in person, at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, MO. And, it was that evening when I got hooked...and have since seen these performers--the best rock-and-roll band in the world-- a total of eight times. I can't wait to rush out and get the re-release tomorrow, knowing that it was this album, along with Sticky Fingers, which was the impetus for my love affair with the music and performances of these British rockers.