The Rolling Stones – [DVD]

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

In the grand scheme of rock n' roll history, there are a couple of records that many delineate a listener's taste in music and a significant number of them rest in the catalogues of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. For The Beatles, the biggest of big splashes were Sgt. Pepper and “The White Album” but, on the flip-side of that coin and handily balancing it is one record: Exile On Main Street. The releases of those records each had a very polarizing on both music and fans of it in general in their respective times; it was almost as if proclaiming an affinity for one precluded appreciation for the others – like enjoying The Beatles meant a dislike for The Stones and vice versa. The Beatles, no matter how much acid they might have dropped or illegitimate children the band members may have sired, will perpetually appear as the fresh-faced and polite boys that every mother loves. The Stones, conversely, remain a little more real; they have always been a little rougher, a little scruffier and a little more human, and have had the reputation that they'd love your mother if she'd have them.

Anyway, back to history. By 1971, times were changing. In '71, the acid wave had crested, The Beatles had run their term, the hippie movement had failed and Hunter Thompson had left Las Vegas and was gearing up to hit the campaign trail. Glories were fading furiously an even The Stones had gone to ground; having taken residence in France to evade a grotesque and unfair tax discrepancy in the UK. They began working on new music with no particular aim to put together a new album per se, simply to get some songs down for possible examination later but what they ended up with were the beginnings of an incredible effort that remains a thoroughly unique album in the context of both its' time as well as for the band's catalogue. It is classic both for its' design and for the stories behind its' creation, and Eagle Rock's presentation of the Stones In Exile documentary attempts to sum it all up as neatly as possible – but what's also revealed early in the DVD's run-time is that there were more factors to the making of Exile than most fans were privy to before. A lot of bad money and a succession of bad deals were circulating around The Stones at the time of Exile, and that was one of the reasons they evacuated to France.

Being away from their comfort zone and away from most of the amenities the band felt like they required to work effectively (the recording studios available were less than adequate) all played a role in the finished product of Exile On Main Street. In the end, the album was recorded in a mobile studio set up next to Keith's house in France and extra musicians showed up regularly so the atmosphere was very light and loose; it was chaotic and occasionally frustrating but, as the DVD progresses, one gets the impression that it was a hell of a lot of fun. As the film unfolds still further, viewers get a sense of what was driving the work of Exile (it was very much Keith's record from a working standpoint, because multiple takes of many of the songs characterized the sessions) and the chaos of the sessions was integral to it. No one knew what might come out of the whole endeavor, but stopping or reigning anything in seemed ridiculous – so they just rode it out and it because a work of genius by accident. The same was true when the band reconvened in Los Angeles to finish the record off too, as the film illustrates toward its' close.

In the case of Stones In Exile, a production style similar to the sessions for the album dominates the footage. The film shoots in nineteen directions at once; bits of commentary from individuals not directly related to the band (including Francis Ford Coppola) and interview segments bleed together with the statements of the band, disembodied, connect the dots of footage decades old – yet the whole melange/mess comes together in such a way that viewers begin to feel as if they intimately understand the interior workings of Exile On Main Street, even though they haven't actually heard a complete song at any point in the DVD's runtime, nor have they really been offered any hard technical knowledge on the record. Stones In Exile is an emotional and psychological exercise done incredibly well; it is a portrait of a time, place and work that gives all the images and, in the end, you feel like you understand the record completely – even if you don't know it.



Stones In Exile
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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